Chicken-Fried News: Unethical behavior 

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Missing from the Capitol this session were lobbyists going through security with brightly wrapped packages trimmed in gold foil with cards addressed to lawmakers. Inside those cards, we at Chicken-Fried News imagine messages reading, “Happy birthday my favorite lawmaker. Enjoy your big day, and tomorrow we’ll discuss that legislation I need your vote on.”

     Last year, Oklahoma Ethics Commission said no more birthday gifts from lobbyists to legislators.

     This year, the commission voted to prohibit legislators from becoming lobbyists during their first two years out of office. The rule is not yet finalized.

     Most Oklahomans applauded these efforts, as the ethics commission was acting far more like a watchdog than a lapdog to lawmakers. Lawmakers, perhaps missing those birthday gifts and disgruntled over changing their future employment plans after lawmaking, decided enough was enough with the ethics commission.

     According to NewsOK, the commission is not getting a single penny from next fiscal year’s state general revenue fund. The commission had requested $3,354,000 for fiscal year 2019.

     At Chicken-Fried News, we imagine one lawmaker saying to others in one of those closed-door meetings for state appropriations, “Let’s see what rules the ethics commission puts in place when they get zero from the general fund.” This would, of course, be followed by an evil laugh.

     “I am appalled,” John C. Hawkins, the commission’s chairman, wrote in an email sent to senators and House members and later obtained by NewsOK. “The retaliation on a state agency by cutting their budget for doing their job is unconscionable.”

     Based on the budget, the commission will have $710,351 — money collected from fees from lobbyists, candidates, political parties and political action committees — to operate the agency that collects and publishes campaign contribution reports, investigates campaign fraud and provides education to prevent misconduct and ensure that lawmakers live up the other highest ethical standards, among other duties.

     Voters of Oklahoma endorsed Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s creation through the approval of a constitutional amendment in 1990.

     NewsOK reports that the commission will meet to consider whether to file a legal challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

     It’s too early to tell how this situation might evolve in the coming months. At Chicken-Fried News, we suggest the ethics commission add to its curriculum lessons on the unethical behavior tied to retaliation.

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