Dank Proposes Sweeping Ethics Reforms

OKLAHOMA CITY (September 24, 2007) - State Rep. David Dank (R-Oklahoma City) said today he will file a bill that would ban in-session legislative campaign contributions, prohibit shadowy transfers of campaign funds between political action committees and ban the use of campaign funds for personal use.

"The people of Oklahoma deserve a clean campaign finance system, with tough laws to punish violators," Dank said. "It's time to remove the clouds that have formed over our Capitol from the actions of some in both parties and to assure that the process of raising money for political campaigns is open, honest and divorced from the legislative process."

The Oklahoma Clean Campaign Act of 2008 would do the following:

* Tighten the definition of a "person" making a campaign contribution to eliminate loopholes used in the past by some companies and other organizations. The maximum allowable individual contribution to a candidate or political action committee would remain at $5,000

* Limit legislative contributions in any election cycle by an individual, lobbyist or family to a total of $40,000. That total could be spread among as many candidates as the donor chooses, but the total given would be capped. Under current law, a single lobbyist could contribute up to $700,000 in any election year, flooding the field with enormous donations.

* Ban contributions to incumbent legislators and candidates for the Legislature during the legislative session and for 15 days before and after the session. This eliminates the "pay for play" suspicions that naturally arise when large donations are made while recipients are considering legislation.

* Limit the use of campaign contributions to actual campaign expenses. Use of campaign funds for purchasing expensive computer equipment and office supplies, traveling around the country, lodging, food, automobiles and other expenses not related to the campaign would be prohibited.

* Require detailed listing of all campaign expenditures on regular reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

* Prohibit the use of campaign funds raised to run for one office in seeking another office. This would prevent incumbents from shifting funds into a new account to pursue another office.

* Prohibit the use of surplus campaign funds for personal purposes or donation to another candidate. This would prevent excess donations to term-limited legislators

* Prohibit the transfer of funds from one PAC to another. Such transfers are often used to shield the identity of donors as their dollars move from one PAC to another.

Dank said the bill will create criminal penalties for future violations.

"The legislative process has been tainted by suggestions that access and even legislation can be bought," Dank said. "A central provision of this bill would ban contributions during the legislative session while bills are actually being considered."

Dank said several recent examples have caused citizens to worry that legislation may be for sale at the State Capitol.

"This is not about party," he said. "When the Democrats were in control of the House and Senate, they brought about a casino gambling monopoly for the tribes while those same tribes were giving them hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, right in the middle of the session. In 2006, a hastily formed PAC representing the coal industry handed out contributions to members from both parties while they were considering transferable tax credits for the coal industry. We simply have to divorce the contribution process from the lawmaking process, and the best way to do that is to ban contributions during session."

Dank said his bill would also prohibit contributions to non-incumbent legislative candidates during the session window, to preserve a level playing field.

He said the prohibition against PAC-to-PAC transfers would eliminate the practice of "laundering" campaign dollars by raising money for one PAC, creating a second PAC and shifting those funds into it.

"I know the $40,000 annual limitation will cause some lobbyists to worry," he said.

That provision would cap legislative donations by any single individual, family or lobbyist at a total of $40,000 for any election cycle.

"There are a few lobbyists who seem to think they need to donate to everyone in sight. They need to learn that an open checkbook is the wrong way to approach lawmakers."

Dank said he expects support for his bill from members of both parties who want a clean process.

"The vast majority of the House and Senate members from both parties are honorable people," he said. "The Gene Stipes who willfully and blatantly violate campaign finance laws are few, but they will continue to give us all a black eye until we get truly serious about designing a way for good people to donate to candidates and parties they support without the suspicion that the whole process is for sale."

Note: Rep. Dank plans to file his legislation on Monday, September 24, 2007. Copies of the bill and a synopsis of the legislation can be obtained by calling Rep. Dank at 557-7392 or 947-5510. Rep. Dank will be available for interviews at his Capitol office on Monday.

(From the office of Oklahoma state Representative David Dank)