The Obamacare website's many failures have been a gold mine for comedians and political commentators, but Oklahoma has its own version of the Obamacare exchange: the Oklahoma Ethics Commission's electronic filing system.
The ethics software program is supposed to allow state candidates to electronically file campaign finance reports with ease. In theory, the public can then obtain that information simply by going online.
That hasn't been the case. Instead, Lee Slater, the commission's executive director, said candidates may file a report electronically, only to find later that their report wasn't recorded or posted online — much as those using an Obamacare exchange have been told to contact insurers to see if they actually enrolled in a plan once they log off.
The ethics system also fails to properly calculate the cumulative contributions an individual makes to a campaign — much as the Obamacare exchanges have failed to accurately determine citizen eligibility for federal subsidies, exposing some applicants to potential penalties down the road. Slater says the ethics software is so flawed it should be scrapped. As with Obamacare, ethics officials may have to resort to a paper process after the 2014 election cycle.
Clearly, the ethics software impedes public transparency regarding campaign donations and lobbyist activity. But replacing the system won't be easy. A new, functional program could cost $3 million to $6 million; the commission's total budget is less than $1 million. With lawmakers having less to appropriate next year, such a huge budget increase is highly unlikely, even though it would be a one-time expenditure providing a valuable public service.
Despite the similarities, there's one important distinction between the Ethics Commission and Obamacare: Slater admits the commission has a real problem. Barack Obama has yet to reach that obvious conclusion regarding his far more troubled, far more disruptive health care law.