Rep. Toni Hasenbeck presents at a parent leadership class for ChoiceMatters in November 2021. Source: ChoiceMatters’ Facebook page.

Shortly after Oklahoma Watch posted the latest financial disclosures for state officeholders, I heard from a reader who wanted to know why State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck’s work with ChoiceMatters wasn’t listed in the data.

ChoiceMatters, part of a nonprofit organization called Scissortail Community Development Corporation, advocates for expanding charter schools and private school scholarship programs across the state. They do grassroots lobbying, which is essentially trying to influence legislation by rallying the public. Often, that’s looks like a call to action on social media, asking people to contact legislators and ask them to vote for or against a bill.

The organization’s push for legislation expanding school choice aligns with Hasenbeck’s voting record; they gave her an A+ ranking for last year’s legislative session.

The short answer to the reader’s question was this: the current filings are for 2020, and Hasenbeck worked for the group last year. It should be reflected on her financial disclosure for 2021.

But it raised another question: is a lawmaker really representing their constituents if they’re also being paid by a group that tries to influence legislation? That’s the focus of my latest watchdog story.

And if you see a potential conflict of interest you think the public should know about, tips are always welcome via email or DM.

— Jennifer Palmer

What I’m Reading

  • A bill to allot funds for private school and homeschool expenses cleared a Senate committee 8-7 on Tuesday. Four Republicans plus the committee’s three Democrats voted against it. [The Oklahoman]
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is encouraging superintendents across the state to allow students to wear Native American regalia at graduation. [KTUL]
  • Catholic schools in the United States reported the first increase in enrollment in two decades. [AP News]
  • Educators in several states, including Oklahoma, are handling Black History Month lessons a bit more gingerly after the states passed bans on teaching certain concepts about race. [The New York Times]

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