WASHINGTON — Oklahoma's two freshman House members began the year with their campaign accounts nearly depleted, and one has more than $300,000 in debt, according to new campaign finance reports.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin, of Westville, whose victory in November made the Oklahoma delegation all Republican, had debts of $307,628 on Jan. 1 and only $23,102 in his campaign account.
Mullin's latest report to the Federal Election Commission shows $228,000 of the debt is owed to himself for personal loans made to the campaign. Federal law allows those loans to be repaid with future campaign contributions.
Nearly all of the remaining debt is owed to campaign consultants.
Freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, who knocked off Republican Rep. John Sullivan in last year's primary, reported having $16,540 in his campaign account when the year began.
Mullin spent more than $1.6 million and Bridenstine spent more than $760,000 in the two-year election cycle to win their seats, and they have time — and, now, the power of incumbency — to raise money for their next contests.
The latest reports cover a very short postelection period — Nov. 27 through Dec. 31 — when most lawmakers are still paying off campaign bills and haven't started raising money for the next race.
Lawmakers are often considered most vulnerable to challenges in their first terms, and being low on cash can make them more so. House members must run for re-election every two years. Bridenstine and Mullin have pledged to serve no more than six years.
Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, began the year — and the new election cycle — with $429,860 in his campaign account; Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, had $792,630; and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, had $158,668.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who is up for re-election in 2014, had $659,217 in his account when the year began.
Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat whose retirement last year paved the way for Mullin's victory in eastern Oklahoma, still has $518,705 in his campaign account, according to a report he filed with the FEC.
Boren, who is working for the Chickasaw Nation and has said he doesn't envision running for federal office again, would not be able to use the money to seek state elected office, should he decide to do so.
However, he can donate the money, and he has begun. He gave $150,000 to Seminole State College for a building to house student government offices. He also gave $2,000 in December to Sullivan to help the former lawmaker retire his debt.
Sullivan, a Tulsa Republican who represented the 1st District for a decade, had $11,725 in debts and about $5,000 in his account at the end of December. He received more than $18,000 in donations in December to help with his debt, including ones from American Airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.