Putting An End to Lobbyist Gift-Giving‏

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Twice each year the media publishes a list of personal gifts received by legislators from registered lobbyists. The reason this list is published each six months is due to the fact that lobbyists are required to report their gift giving up until the end of June and until the end of December.
Usually, the June report is the report that demonstrates most of the gift giving and this is because the Legislature is in session during most of the January through June reporting period. Invariably, over the years, the media reported thousands of dollars of gift giving that had occurred during this time frame.
This year’s post-session report included what may on the surface appear to be an anomaly. Several legislators were listed as not receiving any gifts from lobbyists during this year’s legislative
session. It might be understandable for several legislators to not accept gifts during the non-session report because many of the legislators are back in their district and not so exposed to
lobbyists, but it is certainly unusual for several legislators to refuse gifts for the entire year.
In the few years that I have served in the Legislature, I believe I have observed a change in the general sentiment regarding lobbyist gift giving. When I first arrived, there were legislators who took pride in accepting a large number of gifts. Now, things are changing. The idea that it is absolutely inappropriate for lobbyists to give personal gifts to legislators has gained traction. Several legislators have taken the pledge to not accept any gifts from lobbyists. These legislators are honoring their pledge.
The change is in part because of new ethics rules that were put in place a few years ago that greatly cut the amount of gifts that lobbyists can give. In my view, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission did the citizens of Oklahoma a great service when they instituted this new policy.
I also think this change is due in part to term limits. The number of legislators who served during the time when lobbyists could legally give much more expensive gifts has dwindled. No longer is the Legislature dominated by powerful personalities who view the acceptance of gifts as their right. The new freshmen legislators have never seen the old level of gift giving and do not seem to expect as many expenditures on their behalf.
I still believe the Ethics Commission should post the official lists of legislators who wish to be on the record as refusing lobbyist gifts and political contributions. To this day, I must return  unsolicited gifts and political contributions, despite the fact that I have had a policy of refusing these gifts for the last five years. An official list would not only provide an officially recognized method for turning down gifts and contributions, but would also allow the citizens of Oklahoma to insist that their Representatives and Senators take the no-gift pledge and opt in to the official list.
Of course, the Legislature could and should do the right thing and put a complete prohibition on lobbyist gift giving. With the changes I have witnessed over the last five-years, I believe that history is clearly on the side of reform and the enactment of this important policy is only a matter of time. I think there will be a time in the not so distant future when even legislators will look back with disbelief on the time when lobbyists gave thousands of dollars of personal gifts to legislators.

State Representative Jason Murphey
State Capitol Building – Room #437
2300 North Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
1(405) 557-7350 (Office)
1(405) 315-5064 (Cell)


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