A challenge to City Council candidates: Put last-minute contributions online

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UPDATE: As of noon Friday, September 2, 2011, six candidates have accepted the challenge, and one, Steven Roemerman, has already posted his pre-primary C-1 disclosure, which isn't due until Tuesday. (See end of this entry for a list of candidates and links to their campaign finance information.)

Campaign finance disclosure for city and county elections in Oklahoma is governed by the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act (PDF). It requires candidates to report individual contributions in excess of $200, the aggregate of all contributions $200 and less, and expenditures by categories. A report is due to be filed "on or before the tenth day preceding the date of the Primary [or Runoff or General] Election and shall include all contributions accepted and all expenditures made from the date on which the earliest contribution was received or expenditure was made, whichever was earlier, through a period of time ending fifteen (15) days preceding the date of the Primary [or Runoff or General] Election."

Effectively, this has always meant the reports are due to the City Clerk's office at the close of business on the Monday eight days prior to the election, since the office is closed on the tenth day prior, which is a Saturday. The timing makes it all but impossible for a weekly paper to analyze and report on who gave how much to which candidate in time for the last edition before the election.

This year, it's worse than usual because that Monday is Labor Day. We won't see contribution reports until 5 p.m. on September 6, less than a week before the polls open.

The bigger problem for transparency in local elections is that the report need only cover contributions accepted through the Monday 15 days before election day. A questionable contribution coming in 13 days before the election is plenty early to pay for another mailer, robocall, or radio ad.

In fact, this happened in the 2009 Republican primary for Tulsa City Council District 5. Chris Trail, who won a narrow victory over incumbent Bill Martinson, received $36,795 of his $51,500 in funds after the primary filing deadline, $23,600 of which came from business associates of Bill Lobeck (Mr. Kathy Taylor). (Numbers based on pre-primary and post-primary reports.) Had it been public that Lobeck associates from Minnesota, Florida, and Michigan were heavily contributing to Trail (presumably at the direction of Kathy Taylor) it could have swung the election to Martinson. At the very least, the contributions would have been known for the public to evaluate.

During this legislative session, the state legislature amended the Political Subdivisions Ethics Act, but those changes don't kick in until November 1, after the pre-general-election reporting deadline for the November 8 election.

Contributor lists are important pieces of information for voters to consider. They can reveal alliances that the candidate might prefer to conceal. They can point to off-the-record promises to carry out the agenda of a special interest group. Every candidate promises to be open to input from all of his constituents; voters need to know who will have the councilor's ear when it's time to make the decision.

A CHALLENGE TO TRANSPARENCY

In the interest of transparency and an informed electorate, I'm calling on all 2011 Tulsa City Council candidates to go above and beyond the requirements of the campaign disclosure law.

1. As soon as it's ready, post your C-1 report on your website, including the list of your contributors to date.

2. By Tuesday, September 6 at 5 p.m., post any additional contributions received that weren't accounted for on your C-1 report.

3. Between then and election day, post any additional contributions within 24 hours of receiving them.

If you don't have your own website, or if your website is cumbersome to update, email me at blog AT batesline DOT com, and I will post your updates here on BatesLine.

The law doesn't require disclosure of the names of donors of $200 or less, but it does require disclosing the aggregate amount of contributions of $200 of less; apply that same principle to this challenge, so when you post updates, post the aggregate of small contributions received to that point.

This is a test. Candidates who are willing to do this will demonstrate a willingness to be above board in all their dealings as a councilor. If a candidate is unwilling to be transparent when they're seeking your vote, you can figure that they'll even be more deceptive once they're safely in office.

Readers, please inform any candidates you know of this challenge. Candidates, if you accept this challenge, email me at blog AT batesline DOT com. I'll post your name at the end of this entry, and I'll post links to your contributor information as you make it available.

Candidates who have accepted the BatesLine transparency challenge (in order of response)

Kim Whiteman, District 9, Republican
Steven Roemerman, District 7, Republican
Robert Pinney, District 9, Republican
Sam Roop, District 5, Republican
Blake Ewing, District 4, Republican
Jeannie Cue, District 2, Republican
Maria Barnes, District 4, Democrat
Elliott Parker, District 7, Republican
Jim Mautino, District 6, Republican
Roscoe Turner, District 3, Democrat
Jason Trent, District 1, Democrat
David W. Bell, District 3, Republican
Rocky Frisco, District 4, Republican

Campaign finance reports

Each link leads to that candidate's report.

District 1 Democrat primary:

Jason Trent reports via phone that all his campaign expenditures are from his own funds. 5 p.m, 2011/09/05.

District 3 Democrat primary:

District 3 Republican primary:

Dave Bell: Pre-primary C-1 filing, received 10:05 pm, 2011/09/04

District 6 Republican primary:

Jim Mautino: Pre-primary C-1 filing, posted 4:14 pm, 2011/09/03

District 7 Republican primary:

Steven Roemerman: Pre-primary C-1 filing, with full list of contributors and identifying notes for out-of-area contributors (family and friends), posted 12:09 pm, 2011/09/02.

Elliott Parker writes:

As of September 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm, I have not received any funds from anyone, any agency, nor any other source. My campaign is currently being funded by myself, with christian volunteers. I look forward to future contributions from the citizens of tulsa. Yours in christ, Elliott L.Parker Sr.

District 9 Republican primary:

Robert Pinney: Pre-primary C-1 filing, posted 10:42 pm, 2011/09/02.

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This entry post-dated to remain at top until polls close. Happy election day! Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In two districts (1 and 5), the primary will determine a winner. In all districts, the primary will determine whether we'll have good rep... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 1, 2011 8:27 AM.

Bill Leighty on historic preservation was the previous entry in this blog.

Tulsa District 7: For Steven Roemerman is the next entry in this blog.

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