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Oklahoma lawmakers Thunder Up with help of lobbyists

In the first half of 2012, Oklahoma politicians accepted roughly $4,000 worth of Thunder tickets from lobbyists, according to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission data.
by Phillip O'Connor Published: July 21, 2012

For Thunder fans, the 2012 season was a magical ride that ended with the team falling in the NBA Finals.

For 37 politicians, it was a free ride, paid for by corporate lobbyists who spent about $4,000 hosting lawmakers at games throughout the year.

The information was included in reports filed Friday with the state Ethics Commission. Under new stricter reporting laws passed a few years ago, lobbyists now are limited to spending no more than $100 per lawmaker per year.

Leading the Legislature in number of Thunder games attended on a lobbyist's tab was Rep. Richard Morrissette, with four.

Morrissette was at the Chesapeake Energy Arena for games against the Lakers, Suns, Clippers and Kings. Lobbyist Don Williams hosted him to two games, once on behalf of the Oklahoma Wholesale Marketers Association and once on behalf of Bristow Rubber Recycling LLC.

Pat McFerron, a lobbyist with CMA Strategies, also took Morrissette to a game, as did the State Chamber.

Friday, Morrissette — whose committee assignments include economic development and the judiciary — defended his attendance, saying Williams was an “old friend” and McFerron “is also a friend, an acquaintance for many years.”

“They called and said, ‘Do you want to go,' and I said, ‘Sure,'” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “It was legal, it was reported. There's nothing to hide here.”

Asked why lobbyists would provide lawmakers with coveted tickets, Morrissette said, “I have no idea. I can't read their mind,” but added it would “absolutely not” influence his actions at the Capitol.

McFerron, who hosted politicians at three games, said he doesn't think he talked one word of policy to his guests during the games and based the invites on friendships.

Among the eight companies and associations McFerron represents are AT&T, the Oklahoma District Attorney's Association and Walmart.

“Quite frankly I would probably like to use them more for business, but I have a wife and kids who want to go to the games,” McFerron said. “The Thunder tickets are too valuable. I do use them ... but lots of times my family gets first veto power.”

Williams, a former state Democratic lawmaker from Balko, reported giving 13 tickets to 11 lawmakers for a reported value of $1,267. He reported the tickets were given on behalf of Oklahoma Wholesale Marketers Association, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administrators, Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools, Bristow Rubber Recycling, and Waste Management.

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by Phillip O'Connor
Enterprise Editor
O'Connor joined the Oklahoman staff in June, 2012 after working at The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a combined 28 years. O'Connor, an Oklahoma City resident, is a graduate of Kansas State University. He has written frequently...
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