State Senate bill would require most local candidates, elected officials to disclose campaign finances, personal income sources

Most local candidates would have to tell the public who finances their campaigns, under a bill Oklahoma legislators are considering.

Senate Bill 1745 also would require local candidates, elected officials and top school employees to publicly disclose the sources of their incomes.

The bill is awaiting a vote by the full House. It passed the House Rules Committee 6-0 on April 9 and the full Senate with a 40-0 vote on March 12.

(UPDATE: The House passed the bill 88-4 on Wednesday.)

Referred to as the Local Government Campaign Finance and Financial Disclosure Act, SB 1745 emphasizes that the conduct of campaigns for county, municipal, technology center district and independent school district elections “is a matter of statewide concern.”

“For the citizens of this state to be adequately informed regarding possible conflicts of interest, financial disclosure by candidates, elected officials and other officials of certain county and municipal governments is necessary,” according to the bill.

SB 1745 faced some early opposition, said Sen. AJ Griffin, one of its co-authors.

“The Oklahoma Municipal League and some city officials pushed back at first, but they’ve come to realize this is a good idea,” said the Guthrie Republican.

SB 1745 would require local candidates to follow the state Ethics Commission’s rules for statewide candidates.

“We’re just trying to get them all to be in the same language to be enforceable,” said co-author Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell.

The requirements would apply to elected officials and candidates for:

  • Countywide offices in counties with a population of more than 15,000;
  • Municipal offices in towns with a population of more than 10,000 and a general fund expenditure budget of more than $10 million in the fiscal year in which the municipal election is held; and
  • All technology center districts and independent school districts.

Each candidate would be required to create a campaign committee. Each political committee would be required to file a statement of organization.

Campaign committees and political committees would be required to file contribution and expenditure reports that would be public records.

Financial disclosure statements would have to be filed by all candidates, elected officials, and  school superintendents and district department heads “who have independent authority to make purchases.” Those public records would have to be maintained for four years.

A specially created division of the state Ethics Commission would enforce the financial disclosure and campaign finance reporting requirements. Its annual operating fund would consist of continuing state appropriations, late filing fees, fines from settlement agreements and fines assessed by district courts for violations of the statute. Any funds of more than $150,000 would be transferred to the state General Revenue Fund. Enforcement of the statute would halt when the operating fund fell below $100,000.

Other states require local candidates and officials to disclose campaign and personal finances, a Common Cause official said.

“Many cities and states and the federal government have laws that require disclosure of contributions, and that is a good thing because it’s important that the public know who or what is donating to elected officials in an effort to influence them,” said Mary Boyle, the nonprofit’s vice president of communications in Washington, D.C.

“It helps voters evaluate candidates and decide whether to support them or not,” she said.

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, SB 1745 would become effective Jan. 1.

 

Jessie Rainbolt
Public Affairs Reporting Student
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications

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