Members of the Senate are seen nearing the end of a session in May 2018. Credit: Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Lobbyists seeking to influence elected officials in Oklahoma continue to spend some of the highest amounts ever in spite of rules intended to curb their practices.

Recently filed state Ethics Commission reports show that lobbyists spent about $473,500 on meals, beverages and gifts for lawmakers and other state officials during the first five months of this year.

The spending, which covers this year’s legislative session and the month leading up to it, is a 34% increase over the amount lobbyists spent during the same period last year. It is the most lobbyists have spent in the January-to-May time frame, with the exception of the first five months of 2017, when they spent about $480,000, records show.

The increased activity comes as the Ethics Commission has tried to rein in forms of lobbyist spending, such as placing stricter rules on gifts that lawmakers and other state officials can receive. But the totals show that although the rules have changed on how lobbyists spend money, it has done little to curtail the overall flow of money seeking to influence the state’s policymakers.

Who Received What

Lawmakers take widely different approaches to accepting food, drinks or gifts from lobbyists.

Legislators accepted on average about $1,200 worth of lobbyists’ gifts during the first five months of 2019. The per-lawmaker amount ranged from $4.31 to nearly $3,000.

Several lawmakers in leadership positions, including Senate Assistant Majority Whip Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt ($2,926); House Judiciary Chairman Chris Kannaday, R-Oklahoma City ($2,769) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah ($2,612), were the top recipients.

Meanwhile, three lawmakers – Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, and Rep. Tom Gann, R-Inola – reported taking in less than $100.

Which Lawmakers Took in the Most

The average lawmaker took in about $1,200 from lobbyists in the form of food, beverages and gifts during the first five months of 2019. Ethics Commission reports show every lawmaker received some, with amounts ranging from $4.31 to $2,926 per lawmaker.
Casey Murdock $2,926.77 RepublicanSenate27Felt
Roger Thompson $2,612.40 RepublicanSenate8Okemah
Chris Kannady $2,768.68 RepublicanHouse91Oklahoma City
John Michael Montgomery $2,555.86 RepublicanSenate32Lawton
Kevin Wallace $2,522.35 RepublicanHouse32Wellston
Trey Caldwell $2,462.24 RepublicanHouse63Lawton
Forrest Bennett $2,411.83 DemocratHouse92Oklahoma City
Bill Coleman $2,292.01 RepublicanSenate10Ponca City
Tammy Townley $2,219.37 RepublicanHouse48Ardmore
Carri Hicks $2,188.16 DemocratSenate40Oklahoma City
Rhonda Baker$954.81RepublicanHouse60Yukon
David Bullard$951.51RepublicanSenate6Durant
Dewayne Pemberton$950.21RepublicanSenate9Burlington
Zack Taylor$945.12RepublicanHouse28Seminole
Mark Lepak$943.08RepublicanHouse9Claremore
Kenton Patzkowsky$915.13RepublicanHouse61Balko
Derrel Fincher$909.76RepublicanHouse11Bartlesville
Ryan Martinez$895.01RepublicanHouse39Edmond
Cyndi Munson$865.36DemocratHouse85Oklahoma City
Kay Floyd$854.65DemocratSenate46Oklahoma City
Dustin Roberts$852.09RepublicanHouse21Durant
Kevin Matthews$849.82DemocratSenate11Tulsa
John Waldron$838.37DemocratHouse77Tulsa
Chris Kidd$811.69RepublicanSenate31Waurika
Carol Bush$805.81RepublicanHouse70Tulsa
Mary Boren$791.87DemocratSenate16Norman
Dell Kerbs$780.81RepublicanHouse26Shawnee
Sheila Dills$770.88RepublicanHouse69Tulsa
David Hardin$770.02RepublicanHouse86Stilwell
Brad Boles$765.67RepublicanHouse51Marlow
Andy Fugate$756.11DemocratHouse94Del City
Mike Sanders$742.78RepublicanHouse59Kingfisher
Denise Crosswhite Hader$740.55RepublicanHouse41Yukon
Denise Brewer$729.32DemocratHouse71Tulsa
Lonnie Paxton$721.30RepublicanSenate23Tuttle
Darrell Weaver$717.56RepublicanSenate24Moore
Johnny Tadlock$713.74RepublicanHouse1Idabel
Danny Sterling$702.02RepublicanHouse27Norman
Todd Russ$694.80RepublicanHouse55Cordell
Tom Dugger$684.58RepublicanSenate21Stillwater
Jim Olsen$682.34RepublicanHouse2Roland
Jadine Nollan$639.15RepublicanHouse66Sand Springs
Michael Brooks$606.98DemocratSenate44Oklahoma City
Larry Boggs$606.39RepublicanSenate7Wilburton
Frank Simpson$589.60RepublicanSenate14Ardmore
Justin J.J. Humphrey$575.84RepublicanHouse19Lane
Ben Loring$571.60DemocratHouse7Miami
Ty Burns$566.82RepublicanHouse35Morrison
Wayne Shaw$566.82RepublicanSenate3Grove
Jacob Rosecrants$537.86DemocratHouse46Norman
Mark Dean Allen$518.51RepublicanSenate4Spiro
Regina Goodwin$516.60DemocratHouse73Tulsa
Kevin West$512.74RepublicanHouse54Moore
Jason Lowe$502.34DemocratHouse97Oklahoma City
Meloyde Blancett$501.49DemocratHouse78Tulsa
Charles Ortega$461.61RepublicanHouse52Altus
Darcy Jech$448.40RepublicanSenate26Kingfisher
Rande Worthen$446.61RepublicanHouse64Lawton
John Thomas Talley$445.34RepublicanHouse33Stillwater
George Young$424.37DemocratSenate48Oklahoma City
Rob Standridge$407.29RepublicanSenate15Norman
Collin Walke$402.78DemocratHouse87Oklahoma City
Joseph Silk$391.22RepublicanSenate5Broken Bow
David Smith$315.13RepublicanHouse18McAlester
Nathan Dahm$259.85RepublicanSenate33Broken Arrow
David Perryman$241.79DemocratHouse56Chickasha
Tommy Hardin$198.27RepublicanHouse49Madill
Mickey Dollens$90.69DemocratHouse93Oklahoma City
Ron Sharp$83.74RepublicanSenate17Shawnee
Tom Gann$4.31RepublicanHouse8Inola
Greg McCortney $2,187.56 RepublicanSenate13Ada
Kyle Hilbert $2,159.71 RepublicanHouse29Depew
Chris Sneed $2,143.52 RepublicanHouse14Fort Gibson
Chuck Hall $2,118.16 RepublicanSenate20Perry
John Haste $2,108.91 RepublicanSenate36Broken Arrow
Mark Vancuren $2,105.61 RepublicanHouse74Owasso
Mark Lawson $2,105.61 RepublicanHouse30Sapulpa
Jon Echols $2,091.10 RepublicanHouse90Oklahoma City
Toni Hasenbeck $1,984.76 RepublicanHouse65Elgin
Nicole Miller $1,960.80 RepublicanHouse82Edmond
Kim David $1,903.78 RepublicanSenate18Porter
Scott Fetgatter $1,846.15 RepublicanHouse16Okmulgee
Kelly Albright $1,839.89 DemocratHouse95Midwest City
Marcus McEntire $1,784.66 RepublicanHouse50Duncan
Avery Carl Frix $1,752.67 RepublicanHouse13Muskogee
Emily Virgin $1,710.28 DemocratHouse44Norman
Shane Stone $1,706.99 DemocratHouse89Oklahoma City
Kevin McDugle $1,702.81 RepublicanHouse12Broken Arrow
Jason Dunnington $1,667.63 DemocratHouse88Oklahoma City
Monroe Nichols $1,628.07 DemocratHouse72Owasso
Brenda Stanley $1,611.54 RepublicanSenate42Oklahoma City
Matt Meredith $1,596.97 DemocratHouse4Tahlequah
Brian Hill $1,578.64 RepublicanHouse47Mustang
James Leewright $1,575.86 RepublicanSenate12Bristow
Gary Stanislawski $1,572.71 RepublicanSenate35Tulsa
Chelsey Branham $1,556.40 DemocratHouse83Oklahoma City
Paul Rosino $1,535.10 RepublicanSenate45Oklahoma City
Adam Pugh $1,500.74 RepublicanSenate41Edmond
Charles McCall $1,493.35 RepublicanHouse22Atoka
Greg Treat $1,487.17 RepublicanSenate47Oklahoma City
Julia Kirt $1,484.97 DemocratSenate30Oklahoma City
Lonnie Sims $1,481.10 RepublicanHouse68Jenks
Terry O'Donnell $1,475.16 RepublicanHouse23Catoosa
Dean Davis $1,467.44 RepublicanHouse98Broken Arrow
Ross Ford $1,464.82 RepublicanHouse76Broken Arrow
Dave Rader $1,461.36 RepublicanSenate39Tulsa
Marilyn Stark $1,454.58 RepublicanHouse100Bethany
Stephanie Bice $1,454.39 RepublicanSenate22Edmond
Stan May $1,454.26 RepublicanHouse80Broken Arrow
T.J. Martí $1,450.61 RepublicanHouse75Broken Arrow
Ronny Johns $1,444.95 RepublicanHouse25Ada
Josh West $1,436.16 RepublicanHouse5Grove
Paul Scott $1,418.95 RepublicanSenate43Duncan
Jeff Boatman $1,409.50 RepublicanHouse67Tulsa
Brent Howard $1,403.17 RepublicanSenate38Altus
John Pfeiffer $1,383.28 RepublicanHouse38Orlando
Ajay Pittman $1,367.21 DemocratHouse99Oklahoma City
Merleyn Bell $1,358.65 DemocratHouse45Norman
Rusty Cornwell $1,345.26 RepublicanHouse6Vinita
Logan Phillips $1,339.02 RepublicanHouse24Mounds
Micheal Bergstrom $1,307.89 RepublicanSenate1Adair
Daniel Pae $1,305.35 RepublicanHouse62Lawton
Judd Strom $1,301.26 RepublicanHouse10Copan
Chad Caldwell $1,285.48 RepublicanHouse40Enid
Allison Ikley-Freeman $1,258.64 DemocratSenate37Tulsa
Jason Smalley $1,257.77 RepublicanSenate28Stroud
Lundy Kiger $1,237.70 RepublicanHouse3Poteau
Robert Manger $1,224.18 RepublicanHouse101Oklahoma City
Ken Luttrell $1,211.56 RepublicanHouse37Ponca City
Cynthia Roe $1,179.01 RepublicanHouse42Lindsay
Roland Pederson $1,175.00 RepublicanSenate19Burlington
Melissa Provenzano $1,172.05 DemocratHouse79Tulsa
Jay Steagall $1,163.12 RepublicanHouse43Yukon
Sean Roberts $1,160.46 RepublicanHouse36Hominy
Tammy West $1,140.83 RepublicanHouse84Bethany
Randy Randleman $1,139.82 RepublicanHouse15Eufaula
Mike Osburn $1,118.20 RepublicanHouse81Edmond
Mark McBride $1,108.77 RepublicanHouse53Moore
Trish Ranson $1,093.55 DemocratHouse34Stillwater
Lewis Moore $1,089.05 RepublicanHouse96Arcadia
Sherrie Conley $1,067.55 RepublicanHouse20Newcastle
J.J. Dossett $1,062.37 DemocratSenate34Sperry
Joe Newhouse $1,057.50 RepublicanSenate25Broken Arrow
Marty Quinn $1,047.14 RepublicanSenate2Claremore
Jim Grego $1,047.08 RepublicanHouse17Wilburton
Harold Wright $1,042.04 RepublicanHouse57Weatherford
Carl Newton $1,030.67 RepublicanHouse58Cherokee
Garry Mize $1,010.52 RepublicanHouse31Edmond
Julie Daniels $1,010.15 RepublicanSenate29Bartlesville

 Although party leaders and committee chairs make up most of the biggest recipients, the filings show this year’s record number of freshman lawmakers – a group that traditionally is a target of lobbyists seeking to pick up new allies – also recorded higher-than-average totals.

The 44 new legislators accepted an average of $1,322 in meals or gifts, while returning lawmakers took in an average of $1,127.

Republicans were targeted more often Democrats. The 117 GOP lawmakers received a total of $143,192, or an average of $1,234 per lawmaker. The 34 Democrats took in $35,185 in meals or gifts from lobbyists, or an average of $1,066 per lawmaker.

Events Drive Greater Spending

The amount of lobbyist spending on each lawmaker reported to the Ethics Commission doesn’t capture the full picture.

The commission doesn’t require lobbyists to disclose which lawmakers are feted at events to which all lawmakers or all members of a committee or caucus are invited. That form of lobbying totaled $266,260, or more than half of total lobbyist spending.

But the lobbying reports do show which groups are sponsoring these events.

This year, five groups – the Oklahoma Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Cox Communication and the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma (combined with the AFL-CIO and International Association of Fire Fighters) – spent more than $20,000 each on these types of events.

Some Lobbying Information Hidden

When a lobbyist purchases a meal or gift for an individual or small group of lawmakers, it can be difficult to determine which client the lobbyist is representing at the gathering, much less the meeting’s specific purpose.

As Oklahoma Watch has reported, lobbyists don’t have to reveal what bill or topic they are discussing when they buy a meal for a state or elected official. And with the exception of spending on events that all lawmakers are invited to, lobbyists don’t have to list what client they are representing when they buy a meal or a gift.

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State rules only require lobbyists who spend money on individuals to list the date, amount and recipient. For lobbyists who represent just one company or organization, it’s clear who is behind the meal, drink or gift. But it’s a different story for the dozens of lobbyists who have multiple clients.

Seven of the 10 lobbyists who spent the most on meals or gifts for lawmakers and state officials have three or more companies or organizations they represent. In these cases, the public can only speculate which company or special-interest group is ultimately behind the purchase of the gift or meal.

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