Ethics panel bans leadership PACs
Rule may never go into practice, however
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted 5-0 Friday to ban state legislators from operating leadership PACs.
The new rule likely will never go into effect, though, because legislators are expected to reject it once their upcoming session begins in February.
House and Senate leaders have used leadership political action committees, such as the Senate Majority Fund, for years to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support favored colleagues in re-election efforts.
The watchdog agency considered the ban after state Auditor Gary Jones raised concerns last year.
“Good,” Jones said Friday after being told the rule had passed.
“It gives ... people ... an unfair advantage,” Jones said of candidates supported by leadership PACs. “You ought to have more of a level playing field.”
The rule specifically states no candidate shall establish, maintain, operate, finance, make decisions, file reports or be an officer of a political action committee.
It will go into effect at the end of the legislative session in May, unless rejected by the Legislature.
If such a rule had been in place last year, it likely would have restricted the now well-publicized successful effort by Republican state Rep. Chris Kannady to defeat more conservative GOP House members.
Legislators are expected to vote the rule down because it already is being viewed as another overhanded swipe at them.
The Ethics Commission and the Legislature have historically been at odds but the rift became particularly bitter in 2018.
Officials at the Ethics Commission accused legislators last year of deliberately cutting the agency’s funding because stricter rules had been imposed on their conduct.
“The retaliation ... is unconscionable,” one ethics commissioner complained.
Legislators, in turn, lashed out at the Ethics Commission. Last year’s Senate president pro tem, Mike Schulz, called it a “rogue” agency.
Also Friday, the Ethics Commission put off voting on a proposed rule about indirect lobbying. The proposal would establish disclosure requirements.
Community activists and others at the meeting Friday spoke out against it as a threat to their rights to free speech.
A marijuana advocate vowed to be the first in line to file a lawsuit if it was adopted.
The Ethics Commission will take up the indirect lobbying proposal again at a special meeting Jan. 25.