A rule is being suggested that would allow corporations and unions to give to political action committees formed to pay for independent campaign expenses or ads.
The state Ethics Commission discussed the proposal Monday. It has scheduled a public hearing on proposed rules Nov. 22 on the Oklahoma State University campus in Tulsa. Commissioners likely will vote in January which rules should be submitted to legislators for their review.
The proposal is an offshoot of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision, which threw out parts of a 63-year-old law barring corporations and labor unions from spending money in support of specific candidates.
The court opinion means a corporation and labor union can independently spend whatever it wants on a campaign as long as it doesn't coordinate the expenditures with a candidate or the candidate's campaign committee.
It left in place a ban on direct contributions to candidate campaigns.
Marilyn Hughes, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the Federal Election Commission since has issued an advisory opinion that corporations and unions cannot be prohibited from giving to political action committees that are formed to pay independent campaign expenses or ads. The amount they give cannot be limited, she said.
While the Supreme Court ruling didn't specifically address the issue, "it just makes sense that they could band together and give it to a PAC that was formed solely for that purpose and do the same thing."
The political action committee cannot give its contributions directly to a candidate, she said.
"Corporations cannot give to candidates' campaigns, period," Hughes said.
Corporations are allowed to give to ballot measures, she said.
In other matters, commissioners approved asking legislators to approve a $428,000 increase in new state-appropriated money for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts July 1. All but $50,000 would be for salaries of five additional employees. The $50,000 would be for moving and renovation expenses if the office is relocated from its basement location to other quarters in the state Capitol.
Commissioners have tried for several years to increase staffing; the agency is authorized to have six employees. The budget request seeks five additional positions — an auditor/investigator, an attorney, a legal secretary, a training specialist and an administrative assistant.
The board received $545,882, a drop of $28,731, or 5 percent, from the previous year.
Most state agencies had their funding cut this fiscal year because of decreased state revenue.