Legislators admit National Popular Vote junkets to Las Vegas, Miami

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A tip of the hat to Sean Murphy of the Associated Press for his story about Oklahoma legislators taking junkets to Miami and Las Vegas, sponsored by FairVote, the non-profit that says it "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan" and "regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."

Several Oklahoma legislators accepted expenses-paid trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group that wants to change the way the U.S. elects a president, but because the travel was sponsored by a nonprofit group, rather than traditional lobbyists, there's no requirement for the lawmakers to disclose the trips to the public.

FairVote, which wants states to allocate electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, extended invitations to legislators to attend seminars to learn more about the national popular vote proposal. Another one is set for next month in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the story, State Sen. Rob Johnson ($-Yukon) went on a FairVote trip to Las Vegas last fall. Johnson was the Senate author and leading advocate of SB 906. Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) a co-author of SB 906, and the original author of an earlier attempt to add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, SB 841, filed in 2011, acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Both Johnson and Sparks say that the trips did not influence their position on the bill -- not surprising, since both were already on board with the idea, both having supported SB 841 in the previous legislature and Johnson having filed SB 906 in early 2013.

When asked whether he took any FairVote trips, State Rep. Don Armes ($-Faxon), the House author of SB 906 and the earlier NPV bill, told the AP, "I'm not ready to talk about all of that."

[We'll take that as a "yes."]

Johnson rejects the term "junket":

"To me it's a good way to actually sit down and discuss issues uninterrupted away from the Capitol building," said state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, the Senate author of the bill. "I understand some people's concerns, but they're not junkets. We're there to work. We sat there the entire time and discussed the issue."

[BatesLine readers are invited to recommend places to Sen. Johnson in his district or elsewhere in the State of Oklahoma where issues can be discussed uninterrupted away from the Capitol building. BatesLine would humbly suggest that committee hearings are the appropriate place for substantive policy discussions, so that the public can hear the same information being presented to their elected representatives.]

State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole), an opponent of NPV, also acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission director Lee Slater confirmed for the AP what we suspected here on BatesLine, that these trips don't come under Oklahoma's ethics reporting laws:

Because the trips were not funded by lobbyists or the companies that employ them, there is no requirement that the lawmakers disclose the travel and lodging, said Lee Slater, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), who does not accept any gifts from lobbyists, called for the loophole to be closed and for legislators to be required to disclose travel expenses paid on a legislator's behalf or reimbursed.

MORE: OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it's time to kill the National Popular Vote idea for good:

You would think that requiring Oklahoma to cast all of its electoral votes for a candidate who lost every county twice would be enough to kill the proposal. Why would anyone propose such an absurd thing?...

One of the supporters of this scheme commented that even a 12-year-old understands the idea of democracy behind this proposal. I agree. Only someone with an immature and historically uninformed understanding of democracy would support this idea. The rest of us, however, know that our Founding Fathers understood we are not a monolithic nation of atomized individuals, but a union of diverse communities. To be both an effective and legitimate leader, a president must be elected, not by a simple majority (or, worse yet, plurality) of individuals, but by a majority of the nation's communities, encompassed by the states.

Spiropoulos concludes: "You would think that the first principle of any conservative legislator would be to actually conserve our institutions."

And if you're wondering what the Left thinks of SB 906, ThinkProgress headlined their story on the Senate's vote: "Oklahoma Senate Endorses Plan To Effectively Abolish The Electoral College."

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Roy said:

The essay at ThinkProgress proved very informative. The comments attached to that essay revealed even more. Not representative of those who prefer checks and balances in their government, those who would rather some clique not have ability to bring rapid change and hope&tm;.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 20, 2014 12:44 AM.

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