Lawmaker reprimanded for campaign finance infractions

Saturday, August 5th 2006, 12:47 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma Ethics Commission reprimanded state Rep. Mike Shelton Friday for repeated violations of state campaign finance rules, including failure to report contributions and expenses in election campaigns for the state House and Senate.

The five-member commission voted unanimously to publicly reprimand Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, for multiple infractions of ethics rules, stating that Shelton ``acted in bad faith'' in some of the violations and that others were ``startling.''

But the commission did not fine Shelton. Candidates can face fines from $1,000 to $50,000 for failing to report campaign contributions, according to ethics officials. The amount of the fine depends on whether infractions are accidental or deliberate.

Rebecca Adams, the commission's general counsel, said there were several reasons the commission did not fine Shelton but said they were confidential and she could not discuss them.

Shelton, who defeated three primary challengers on July 25 to be elected to his second two-year term, said he has cleared up faulty campaign finance reporting during his 2004 House race and an unsuccessful run for the state Senate in 2005.

``We did get behind in doing some reports,'' Shelton said. ``Those reports get pretty tedious. I try at a certain point to handle it myself. I got behind in getting the reports in _ the correct reports. It has been rectified.

``A reprimand is just that _ a slap,'' Shelton added. ``All I can do is say that our accountant accounted for all the money and all the money was reported. We did what the Ethics Commission asked us to do.''

Shelton notified the commission almost a year ago that his campaign had failed to report almost $30,000 in contributions from as far back as October 2004. He said at the time that a bookkeeper could not continue working in his campaign after the 2004 elections.

In its reprimand, the commission said Shelton illegally filed three statements of inactivity claiming he had no contributions or expenses when in fact his campaign committee had accepted about $30,000 in contributions and spent almost $25,000 in 2004 and 2005.

The commission's report states Shelton ``intentionally misrepresented'' his campaign activity, ``which had the effect of misleading the public as to its true financial status.''

``You left these false and misleading reports on record a considerable period of time,'' the reprimand states. ``... The commission finds you acted in bad faith with regard to this action.''

The commission also said Shelton failed to file campaign contribution and expenditure reports for the same periods. Shelton filed amended campaign contribution reports in September 2005.

The commission said Shelton committed another infraction by not filing eight last-minute campaign contribution reports in connection with his 2004 House race totaling $6,500 in cash and $4,000 in in-kind contributions.

Shelton ``willfully deprived citizens of information to which they were lawfully entitled,'' the reprimand states.

It also says Shelton did not file contributor statements for 288 out of 402 donors to his House and Senate campaigns. ``The commission finds this startling,'' the reprimand states.

Ethics rules require contributor statements from donors who give more than $50 to a campaign to attest it was lawfully given from personal funds without being reimbursed or compensated.