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Speaker's fund transfer draws criticism

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ House Speaker Todd Hiett has transferred more than $670,000 from his House campaign to his lieutenant governor campaign, a move drawing criticism from Hiett's opponents.

His critics are particularly troubled that Hiett, R-Kellyville, kept accepting donations to his House campaign after he won re-election, even though he is term limited.

The Ethics Commission said what Hiett did is legal.

Hiett transferred $670,761 to his lieutenant governor campaign on Oct. 13, The Oklahoman reported on Sunday.

``I think it violates the spirit of the ethics rules,'' said state Sen. Scott Pruitt, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hiett won re-election as a state representative in November 2004 at the same time Republicans took control of the House. He became the first Republican house speaker in more than 80 years.

He raised $833,669 in his House race over three years, with almost $690,000 coming in after his re-election, records show. He had to use some to pay off campaign debt.

Hiett said donors who gave after his re-election were aware he wanted the money for a possible race for some statewide office. Because of term limits, this is his last year as a state representative.

``That is what I expressed to the people that I talked to about contributing, that I expected to be entering a statewide race and wanted to get started early on my fund-raising efforts to be prepared for that,'' he said. ``Being term limited, everyone knew that I was not raising funds for a House race.''

He said he checked with the state Ethics Commission about what he was doing. He said he was assured he was acting ethically.

A donor can only give $5,000 to any campaign, even if fund raising is spread out over several years.

Pruitt, of Broken Arrow, told the Ethics Commission in January ``it is simply wrong'' to use funds donated to one campaign in an entirely separate campaign.

``Doing so is tantamount to being dishonest with donors and voters,'' he wrote.

Pete Regan, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, said, ``I would never solicit or accept money for a term-limited seat. ... I think it is poor leadership, and a way for career politicians to stay in office.''

Hiett said he made it clear to his donors that he was raising money for a future race. He said his opponents are seeking to gain an advantage ``by trying to raise questions about me.''

``I don't think that's the type of campaigning that the people of Oklahoma appreciate and support,'' Hiett said.

The Oklahoman's review of Hiett's campaign reports also showed he accepted about $6,500 too much from nine donors.

``That happens once in a while,'' Hiett said. ``We receive a lot of checks every day. ... Those individuals sending the checks, in most cases, don't know the ethics laws themselves ... they're not expected to ... and, in some cases, they don't just remember what they've done in the past.''

A donor can only give $5,000 to any campaign, even if fund raising is spread out over several years.

Hiett said he already knew of some of the errors and had already refunded $1000 to one donor, Luke Corbett, on March 9. He said other refunds will be made soon.
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