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Ethics Commission: Legislatures Cutting Funding Out Of Revenge

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Ashley Kemp, the Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp, the Ethics Commission Executive Director

The agency that polices the state legislature says lawmakers are cutting their funding out of revenge. The state ethics commission says what the legislature is doing is anything but ethical, and it may be illegal.

Even though the legislature has a surplus of money next year, it’s eliminating the Ethic Commissions budget; instead requiring the agency to run on the $710,000 it collects in fees called “revolving funds”.

“If we’re going to fulfill our responsibilities under the constitution we have to have the funds to be able to do that. So removing $710,000 from our revolving fund, basically removes our ability to engage in any meaningful enforcement,” said Ashley Kemp, the Ethics Commission Executive Director.

The commission believes this is pay-back for recent rules regarding gifts lawmakers can receive from lobbyists.

“Beginning January first of this year if it wasn’t a meal the gift really shouldn’t, couldn’t be given unless it was a major life event. That’s a major change in the state of Oklahoma,” Kemp said.

“It looks like the legislature is going after the ethics commission trying to do something punitive as retaliation for their heightened enforcement which is positive,” said Representative Shane Stone (D) Oklahoma City.

Back in February Representative John Paul Jordan (R) of Yukon proposed a last-minute amendment capping fees the ethics commission can collect. 

Jordan, who didn’t know his microphone was on, told a colleague, “You did a good job saving the ethics commission from us dealing with anything.”

“I’ve been given the duty of reviewing all new and proposed rules for each state agency and then determining if we can accept or reject them. And so that’s what that issue was,” said Jordan.

But the commission sees it as more retribution.

“I think his words speak for themselves,” said Kemp. “He is not happy I guess with what the ethics commission is doing.”

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