Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes and Ethics Commission General Counsel Rebecca Adams provided an overview and some practice filling out the new forms required of certain municipal and local candidates.
In 2013, Oklahoma City voters will go to the polls to elect council wards 1, 3, 4 and 7. The filing period for candidates runs Jan. 29-31, and the primary election is scheduled for March 5. The general election, if necessary, will be held April 2.
Among the procedural changes enacted by the Legislature this year is that some paperwork by candidates in municipalities or counties with a population greater than 250,000 — which includes Oklahoma, Tulsa and Cleveland counties — must be submitted electronically to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Adams said.
Candidates still are required to file information with the city clerk in addition to filling out the new forms establishing a candidate committee and contribution information with the Ethics Commission, she said.
“The Legislature has determined they now want you to file a more complex document — complex not in terms of putting the form together, complex in terms of the amount of data required,” Adams said. “And they have mandated this be done online with the Ethics Commission electronic filing system.”
Although more information is required in the paperwork — including contributors’ names, addresses and employers — Adams said it is much simpler for candidates to complete because of automatic tallying and ease of access. The information required of city and county candidates also pertains to state candidates.
“We have people tell us they would far rather do that than fill out the paper copies,” Adams said. “It will do things like do the math and carryovers that will allow [them] to do the report in a fraction of the time it used to take.”
While political action committees donating to municipal candidates and participating in elections must file with the city clerk, the requirements for independent expenditure groups — those not directly donating to a candidate, but campaigning on behalf of or against them — are unclear.
Hughes said the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act does not even define an “independent expenditure” and that whether such a group would have to file with the city clerk to take part in an election would be up to that jurisdiction’s district attorney.
When asked whether such groups would be required to file with the city clerk to participate in a municipal election this year, Hughes said the district attorney would have to answer that question.
Messages to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater were not returned at press time.