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OK Ethics Committee Proposes Lobbyists Control Gifts

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Under the current ethics rules, when it comes to gifts, a lobbyist is essentially the middle man between his or her employer or principle and the legislator.

Now the ethics committee proposes the lobbyist becomes the one responsible for the gift.

"If you have a limit that is so low you get people who are trying to circumvent the rules," said Ethics Committee Executive Director Lee Slater.

Think of it like this. Lobbyist A could work for numerous companies known as principles. Under the current Oklahoma ethics rules each principle has a $100 limit on gifts given to an individual legislator.

So if lobbyist A had 10 principles,  Lobbyist A essentially had $1000 in gift limits.

"A normal business relationship. There's nothing unethical or inappropriate about having a business lunch," said Slater.

Under the proposed rules, no matter how many principles lobbyist B has, lobbyist B is limited to $500 total for meals, $200 of which can be spent on any kind of gifts.

"This says we don't care how many principles you have, you have $500, that's it and I think that makes it more sensible," said lobbyist Jim Dunlap.

But for Representative Mike Reynolds, gift limits aren't enough.

"The votes should be based on conscious and lobbyists are just there to buy influence," said Representative Mike Reynolds (R-91).

As for the commission of the ethics committee Lee Slater, he feels his proposed reforms are essential because lobbyists are essential.

"Lobbyists provide the function of educating legislators on various options on various decisions," said Slater.

Lobbyist Jim Dunlap agrees.

"I believe we have the right to petition our government and I feel the business community needs to be involved," said Dunlap.

Another proposal that passed is how often a lobbyist reports gifts. A gift report must be filed each month as opposed to the current standard of twice a year.

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