- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 1, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The chairman of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is accusing lawmakers of retaliating against the agency by illegally cutting its budget.

Chairman John C. Hawkins sent an email to state senators and House members Sunday, saying he’s appalled and that cutting the agency’s “budget for doing their job is unconscionable,” The Oklahoman reported.

Hawkins alleges in the email that lawmakers took action because of new restrictions imposed on receiving gifts and becoming a lobbyist after leaving office.

The commission won’t be receiving money next fiscal year from the state’s general revenue fund. It must use $710,351 from a fund that’s made up of fees collected from lobbyists, candidates, political parties and political action committees. The commission had asked for $3,354,000 for fiscal year 2019 to carry out its existing duties.

The commission is meeting May 11 and may decide to file a legal challenge.

“The Commission will now be forced to spend some of the meager resources it has to bring action against the Legislature to correct the funding mechanism,” Hawkins wrote in the email.

The commission contends that the state constitution requires the Legislature to appropriate funds to the agency. But state Rep. Kevin Wallace, a Wellston Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, on Friday said he didn’t think the budget violates the state constitution.

The commission generally uses the revolving fund to take enforcement actions and to provide education on ethical requirements. It also will need the fund next fiscal year to pay for the continuing costs of filing and viewing campaign contribution reports online.

“How do you propose that we now open an investigation when you come to us with a breach of the rules?” Hawkins wrote legislators. “How do you propose that we protect the electorate from collusion on a mass scale to sway elections? How would you like for us to choose who receives education and help?”


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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