Protester sunbathes to lobby against gifts to lawmakers

Oklahoma City_Forget going to the beach!  An Oklahoma college student decided she would rather spend her Spring Break on the steps of the Oklahoma Capitol Building - dressed in a bathing suit, barefoot, and sprawled out in a lawn chair.  The sight had a lot of people wondering "What in the world is this girl doing?"

Susan Mills says she became upset a couple of months ago after reading a news article about lobbyists giving gifts to state lawmakers.  This is her way of expressing her disapproval - you might call it a silent protest.  Some people write letters, or make phone calls to complain about lawmakers' actions at the Oklahoma capitol, but Mills is reading a book and soaking up some sun outside their offices.  "Well it's my Spring Break, and I could either be on a beach somewhere getting drunk, or who knows what, or be here at the State Capitol Building encouraging politicians to stop taking gifts from lobbyists," she says.

Mills says she believes the tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts - from dinners, to clothing, to sporting events - come with strings attached.  "I'm just tired of it all.  I can't change it, but I can to be here to encourage politicians to change it," she says.  Even if she doesn't change anything, she's educating the public about what lobbyists are giving to lawmakers.  "We certainly do need all the openness and transparency that we can possibly have in our reporting system," says Lawton Representative Ann Coody.

Coody says it's easy to see where and what lobbyists are contributing.  The State Ethics Commission has a website that lists contributions for every elected state official.  But, Coody disagrees with the notion that gifts influence their votes.  "No legislator who is honest and above board is going to vote for legislation that has been paid for by anybody," she says.

Mills says it's good to hear, but by eliminating gifts of all kinds there would not be any question.  "You can complain about a situation, or you can do something about it.  This is what I can do."  She plans to continue her protest through Saturday.  However, she may not get that much attention from lawmakers - they adjourned Wednesday morning, and will not reconvene until after Easter Sunday.