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That’s a lot of money

Gazette staff December 18th, 2013

Oklahoma’s Ethics Commission didn’t do itself or the public any good when it gave lobbyists more influence over state lawmakers and their votes.

A new rule increases by 500 percent the amount in meals and other gifts a lobbyist can give to a legislator each year. That comes to $500 per lawmaker. Here’s a little math, so check it twice because we are journalists.

There are 149 solons at the state Legislature. If all of them receive the maximum $500 from all 369 registered lobbyists, that comes to $27,490,500 spent influencing political decisions that affect every taxpaying citizen.

Spending nearly $27.5 million can create a lot of graft and corruption and influence peddling.

We’re not suggesting that’s going to happen. It’s just the worst-case scenario with lobbyists wielding more power than the average Joe or Mary Jane. Actual 2013 figures from the Ethics Commission reveal lobbyists spent $165,454 on food and gifts for their favorite solons.

New Ethics Commission chairman Lee Slater defended the new rule by insisting the old limit of $100 per lawmaker was too low and that the new maximum will apply to a broader range of lobbyists.

We’re not positive, but most voters don’t have $500 to shell out to influence politicians on a single issue. We’re just asking, but why should lawmakers receive free food and other gifts to perform the job voters hired them to do? Just thinking out loud.

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