Gavel to Gavel: Ethics rules user-friendly

July 2014

The Journal Record

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 Robert McCampbell                                           Travis Jett

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission completed a total overhaul of its campaign finance rules. Because the Legislature took no action to repeal them before the end of the session in May, those rules will become effective in 2015. The new rules are a great step forward for our state for a number of reasons.

First, the new rules are clearer and more user-friendly. This is particularly important for campaigns that cannot afford legal assistance.

Secondly, the new rules also will help the commission avoid potential constitutional problems. For instance, the new rules clearly provide a method for making and reporting independent expenditures in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Third, the new rules modernize Oklahoma campaign law. Under the current rules, a husband and wife count as a single unit for purposes of campaign contribution limitations. This simply does not comport with the modern world. Further, it infringes on a person’s First Amendment right to make a so-called symbolic expression of support through a campaign contribution, which was recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. If one spouse contributes the maximum to a candidate, it eliminates the other spouse’s ability to contribute to that same candidate. The new rules appropriately allow a husband and wife to each have their own campaign contribution limits.

Another modernization feature of the new rules is the clear regulatory scheme with respect to social media. This will place all candidates on equal footing when utilizing this increasingly important campaign tool.

Finally, the new rules add transparency. All campaign reports will be filed electronically and be available online. More expenditures will be reported, and there will be more explicit rules for reporting travel expenses and joint fundraisers. The commission has also received an appropriation of $718,620 for a new computer system that will provide better online access to campaign reports.

These achievements by the Ethics Commission will benefit all Oklahomans.

Robert McCampbell is a former U.S. attorney in Oklahoma City and now a shareholder at the Fellers Snider law firm. Travis Jett is an associate attorney at Fellers Snider.

This article appeared in the July 9, 2014 issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher.© The Journal Record Publishing Co.