Special-Interest Group Gifts Keep Rolling In

Plenty of meal, drinks, Thunder tickets, and gifts were given to Oklahoma policymakers this year. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission reports 195 lobbyists gave $344,000 worth of gifts from January through May. More than 90 percent of these were given during the legislative session. This is up nearly $30,000 from last year’s amount and more than double the previous year when they had stricter lobbying laws. Only two legislators didn’t accept gifts this year.

Lobbyists also spent money on meals and events for the entire Legislature. State officials, including Governor Fallin, received hundreds of dollars worth of gifts.

The disclosure rules at least let us know who is paying for favors in the Legislature. Even state employees lobbying for their agencies must report their gifts. But there are still some reporting gaps from lobbyists with multiple clients who don’t need to show who they’re representing when buying meals or gifts.

There is nothing illegal about any of this. At least its out in the open where it should be. But stepping back and thinking about what this all means leads to a sense of the dubious. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s gift giving to influence law and policy making. Gifts mean access and influence for special interest groups. The more you’ve got to give, the more you can influence. Think about the millions of dollars spent on lobbying in D.C. It might start small at the state level, but by the time you get to the nation’s capitol it starts to take on this rotten egg kind of smell!

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