Oklahoma lobbyists during the last legislative session have spent record amounts despite stricter rules aiming to slow the practice.
Lobbyists spent $437,500 on meals, drinks and gifts for Oklahoma legislators in the first five months of the year according to an Oklahoma Ethics Commission report.
That’s a 34 percent increase over last year, as Oklahoma Watch’s Trevor Brown points out in his June 17 article “Lobbyist Spending Nears Record Level,” and the second most ever reported following the $480,000 spent in 2017.
The Ethics Commission has tried to rein in forms of lobbyist spending, such as placing stricter rules on gifts that lawmakers and other state officials can receive.
Lawmakers in leadership positions were in the top 10 recipients:
Senate Assistant Majority Whip Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt ($2,926); House Judiciary Chairman Chris Kannaday, R-Oklahoma City ($2,769) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah ($2,612).
Oklahoma Watch published a database of legislators and the amount of money lobbyists spent on them, with the average lawmaker receiving $1,200. Stephens County legislators received the following in order of most to least: Rep. Toni Hasenbeck ($1,984.76); Rep. Marcus McEntire ($1,784.66); Sen. Paul Scott ($1,418.95); Chris Kidd ($811.69) and Brad Boles ($765.67).
The amounts spent could be on items like meals, beverages and gifts to making sure a lawmaker was at an event.
However, the bigger picture of spending does not include of of the aspects about events. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission does not require lobbyists report which attendee is pursued to events which all lawmakers or all members of a committee or caucus are invited.
The events cost lobbyists more than half of the total spent at $266,260.
The largest spenders on events, according to an Oklahoma Watch database, included the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma, AFL-CIO, IAFF ($25,127); Cox Communications ($23,410); Public Service Company of Oklahoma ($22,558); Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives ($21,284); and the Oklahoma Cable and Telecommunication Association ($21,162).