Â©Copyright 2010, The Oklahoman Rep. Randy Terrill is returning money donated to his 2010 re-election campaign after learning of apparent campaign finance violations. Terrill, R-Moore, has collected at least $5,000 for his 2010 campaign, but he hasn’t organized a campaign committee with the state Ethics Commission as required by law. "The buck stops with me,” said Terrill, 40. "It should’ve been done.” The discrepancy came to light after The Oklahoman began scrutinizing a $5,000 donation Terrill received from a state labor organization Terrill is a member of and has supported with legislation. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association’s political action committee gave him a $5,000 check last year that was labeled "campaign contribution.” The check was made out to Terrill individually — not his campaign. Terrill deposited the check Oct. 21 in an account for his 2010 campaign, according to a bank deposit slip provided by Terrill. State law requires candidates to register campaign committees with the Ethics Commission within 10 days of receiving $500 or more in donations. The Ethics Commission has no such record for Terrill’s 2010 campaign. Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes would not comment on whether Terrill violated the state’s campaign finance laws. Terrill described the discrepancy as "hyper-technical” and "a perfunctory paperwork problem.” He said his campaign issued a $5,000 cashier’s check last week to OPEA’s political action committee to refund the donation. Terrill’s 2010 campaign already has spent money. He said the campaign bought candy to throw out to people at a Halloween parade in Moore and Christmas cards for a campaign mailing. Hughes wouldn’t comment on whether those expenditures could complicate Terrill’s plan to return the money to avoid campaign finance violations. "Things like that could come up before the commission, and I cannot make a public comment,” Hughes said. Terrill is chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget subcommittee for Public Safety and Judiciary.
Over the limitPolitical action committees and other campaign donors often issue checks to individual candidates rather than to their official campaign committee name. No law prevents the practice. The confusion resulting from the Terrill donation has prompted OPEA to consider asking its political action committee to stop writing checks to individual candidates, OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger said. Because Terrill’s 2010 committee isn’t registered with the Ethics Commission, OPEA’s campaign finance report by default listed the $5,000 donation as given to Terrill’s 2008 campaign, which had earlier received the maximum $5,000 in donations from OPEA’s political action committee. OPEA officials said they weren’t aware of the discrepancy until reporters from The Oklahoman asked about it Thursday. "I caught the error,” Terrill said Thursday. "I self-reported it to the Ethics Commission.” Hughes said Terrill’s campaign first contacted the commission about the discrepancy Thursday. Terrill reported three donations from OPEA’s committee totaling $5,000 in his 2008 campaign finance reports, but did not report the $5,000 donation from 2009. OPEA’s committee reported the donation in its Ethics Commission filings. Terrill filed statements of inactivity showing no donations or expenditures to his 2008 campaign for all four reporting periods in 2009. However, he said Friday he received donations during that time and would file an amended report including those donations in his 2008 campaign report. Terrill said he doesn’t believe those donations were designated for his 2010 campaign, but that the donations would be returned if they were. Terrill also said he didn’t know how much money is in the bank account for his 2010 campaign. He also said he could not provide contributor statements that would show which campaign — his 2008 or 2010 committees — the donations were intended for. Ethics laws require contributor statements to accompany all campaign donations in excess of $50. The statements are not filed with the Ethics Commission, but committees are required to keep the statements for their records. Terrill and his wife, Angela, filed for personal bankruptcy in 2005, and the case was reopened in 2008 after questions arose about a personal loan Randy Terrill made to his 2004 campaign committee. Federal court records show Terrill paid off the final $11,304 in bankruptcy-related debt late last year. Bankruptcy trustee John Mashburn said last week Terrill’s bankruptcy is "about to close.”
Other givingOPEA’s political action committee’s campaign finance reports show it gave more than the $5,000 limit to two other 2008 campaigns. Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, received $6,500 from the committee, and a failed Democratic candidate for House District 95, Michael A. Walker, received $6,000. Pittman said there was confusion regarding monetary and in-kind donations for printing from the OPEA committee, and vowed Thursday to correct the problem. Barger said OPEA was aware of the committee’s "inadvertent” excessive contribution to Walker’s campaign, and has since asked him that the $1,000 be returned. Walker has not returned the money, and did not return a telephone call seeking comment.