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Oklahoma lawmakers put on notice by state Ethics Commission

Campaign funds need to be spent properly
by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: August 25, 2014

THE state Ethics Commission recently announced a settlement agreement with Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa. Scott agreed to pay a $3,000 civil penalty and make restitution in the amount of $8,273 after the commission found he had used campaign funds for personal use. The commission’s actions could have many state lawmakers looking over their shoulders, because Scott is hardly the only legislator suspected of such abuses.

The Ethics Commission found Scott used campaign funds to buy plane tickets for his children to join him at a legislative conference. In short, he turned a business trip into a family vacation, which is no crime, but then took things one step further by using campaign funds to cover the cost of his children’s travel.

Scott also used campaign funds to pay for maintenance of his personal vehicle, to pay for dry cleaning and to pay for new clothes. He used campaign funds to buy a cell phone. That last item is allowed — but only if the phone is used solely for campaign purposes. The settlement agreement notes the phone was the only phone Scott owned, meaning he was using it for personal use too. Likely as not, the phone was used primarily for personal use, yet it was funded by campaign donations.

Finally, the commission found Scott used campaign funds “to pay for expenses for which he had already received per diem reimbursements from the State of Oklahoma for travel and lodging during legislative session.”

Scott isn’t the first lawmaker caught misusing campaign funds. One of the most notable cases occurred in 2006, when then-Rep. Dennis Adkins, R-Tulsa, was caught using campaign contributions to pay rent to himself for a condominium he had bought in Oklahoma City. Adkins had borrowed $109,000 from a bank to buy the condo. He then leased it to himself and made those payments with per diem money and campaign funds. When that arrangement came to light in September 2006, Adkins had reported spending about $7,000 a month in campaign and office expenses — even though he was re-elected without opposition that year.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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