From Sunday’s paper:
BY PAUL MONIES
Registered lobbyists have given more than $360,000 to campaigns for the fall elections, with statewide candidates picking up the biggest share of the contributions.
That’s according to an analysis of state Ethics Commission filings by The Oklahoman.
The total haul so far could outpace lobbyist contributions from the last gubernatorial election year. Lobbyists gave more than $588,000 to candidates for the 2006 election.
The Oklahoman identified more than 130 registered lobbyists who gave contributions to 2010 campaigns. Just five lobbyists have given almost one-third of the $360,000 total so far.
Republicans, who control the House and Senate, received about $190,000, while Democrats got almost $155,000.
Another $13,000 went to nonpartisan judicial candidates.
Lobbyists allow groups, businesses and associations to have a voice at the Capitol when legislation that affects them is being formulated.
Lobbyists said they give to campaigns for many of the same reasons as other contributors: to support candidates who share their views. Individuals cannot give more than $5,000 to each candidate in an election cycle.
“My philosophy on giving is that it’s people I have a relationship with that I hope to see do well,” said Bobby Stem, founder of lobbying firm Capitol Gains LLC. “We give when our friends ask for it and are needing it for certain media buys and things like that.”
Barry K. Moore, who represents rural telephone companies for The BKM Group, is the top lobbyist contributor with about $43,000 for 2010 campaigns. Most of those contributions went to House and Senate candidates in both parties.
Other top lobbyist contributors are:
Jami Longacre, $25,600. Longacre’s clients include companies in the finance, insurance and automobile sectors.
Clayton Taylor, $23,850. He represents clients across several industries, including utilities, finance, health care and technology. “We look at folks who have been helpful in creating a more pro-business climate in the state of Oklahoma,” Taylor said.
Benny Vanatta, $22,750. His clients include companies in the energy and manufacturing industries, as well as several health-related associations.
Stem, who has contributed more than $18,000 to 2010 candidates. Among Stem’s clients are the Choctaw Nation, the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Moore, who has been a lobbyist since 1988, said he gives widely to candidates. Records show more than 40 contributions so far.
“I’m a nonpartisan person,” Moore said. “I honestly believe, and I have ever since I’ve been involved in the process, that if you just deal in the facts about the issue and you’re very candid about the issues, that’s all that’s required. I don’t think that varies if they’ve been in public office 12 days or 12 years.”
A 2008 law by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits registered lobbyists from contributing to House and Senate candidates during the legislative session and for five days after it ends. A later attorney general opinion said the law did not apply to political action committees giving to legislative candidates during the “blackout” period from February to the end of May.
Political action committees allow people with similar political philosophies to group together to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes.
Dank said he pushed for the law after seeing an interest group and several executives from the coal industry contribute more than $100,000 during the 2006 legislative session.
“After the fact is one thing, but when people are giving you money and expect to vote a certain way, that’s unacceptable,” Dank said.
Several lobbyists said they have no problem with Dank’s law. Taylor said the blackout period has allowed lobbyists — and members of the Legislature — to focus on issues and legislation.
“It has made it easier on me because I don’t have to do political fundraisers during the session,” Taylor said.
With more bills being filed in each session, there’s also more work for everyone involved in the legislative process, Longacre said.
If re-elected, Dank said he plans to introduce an ethics reform bill building on his 2008 legislation. It could include a prohibition on political action committee contributions during the session, he said.
Five statewide candidates each have received more than $20,000 in contributions from registered lobbyists, with Jari Askins leading the way with more than $36,000. Askins, the lieutenant governor, won a narrow victory last month over Attorney General Drew Edmondson in the Democratic primary for governor. Edmondson received more than $28,000 from registered lobbyists.
Lobbyists contributed about $31,000 to Todd Lamb, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, has $23,000 in lobbyist contributions for her gubernatorial campaign. Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, a Democrat, received more than $20,000 in contributions from lobbyists.
The totals from lobbyists are a small share of overall contributions for those campaigns.
Askins, Fallin and Edmondson each raised more than $2 million for their campaigns.
The Oklahoman identified at least $360,000 in campaign contributions from registered lobbyists to state candidates in the election so far. Here’s how the contributions break down by office:
1. Governor: $87,000
2. Senate: $76,000
3. House of Representatives: $63,000
4. Lieutenant Governor: $42,000
5. Treasurer: $24,000
6. Insurance Commissioner: $20,000
7. Other offices: $48,000
*Note: The analysis matched a list of registered lobbyists with individual contributions from Ethics Commission data. The amounts are conservative and may not reflect misspellings or other reporting errors by campaigns.
SOURCE: The Oklahoman analysis of state Ethics Commission filings
Written by Paul Monies