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Oklahoma Ethics Commission could recoup state funds by fining violators


Scott Cooper September 10th, 2009

Over the past five years, hundreds of candidates for office in Oklahoma have filed the required campaign reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission late " a violation of state law. Several have...

Marilyn-Hughes-Oklahoma-Eth
N: auto 0in">"We do not consider late fee assessments open records," Hughes said. "The only lists we have available are the late lists that are published within 24 hours of a report becoming due. Names are marked off as reports come in. Lists are not retained after that reporting cycle."

But after a further check of the records, the past late lists were found and provided, along with every letter the commission has mailed out to late campaigns since 2004. Some candidates had been designated whether they had paid their fine or not, but not the amounts.

When figuring what future fines may be coming, Gazette analysis ranged from an estimated $100,000 to $200,000. Some late candidates are already working with the Ethics Commission on their reports even before any assessment. Barry Denney, who ran for associate district judge in Delaware County in 2006, checked with his campaign treasurer after being contacted by the Gazette and said his treasurer was in the hospital at the time a report was due.

"He said he called the Ethics Commission as soon as he was out of the hospital, advised the man he spoke to why the report would be late, and was told that under those circumstances there would be no repercussions for the report being late," Denney said.

Forgiveness has been a mainstay of the commission staff. Several candidates contacted by Gazette gave their explanations as to why they filed late, and most said the ethics office usually pardoned them.

"We consider ourselves a service agency. We're not playing gotcha," Raley said. "If people come to us and say,

 
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