The Edmond Sun

February 5, 2010

Campaign finance ruling will change Oklahoma law

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A recent Supreme Court ruling to free campaign finance limits by labor unions and corporations will vary in its impact to Oklahoma, said Marilyn Hughes, executive director of the state Ethics Commission.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling by the high court discarded parts of a 63-year-old law prohibiting companies and unions from funding campaign ads that support candidates by name, according to The Associated Press.

“This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy,” President Barack Obama said after the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling.

Oklahoma always has prohibited corporate contributions and this ruling does not change that prohibition, Hughes told The Edmond Sun. However, she said the state of Oklahoma’s ethics rules also prohibited corporations from making independent expenditure and electioneering communications from their treasury funds.

“The federal law on that was overruled by Citizens United,” Hughes said. “So Oklahoma law has to change and remove the prohibitions on use of treasury funds, which the commission has adopted amendments to do.”

Individuals are still limited to giving $5,000 for campaign purposes, she said. Corporations still are not allowed to make contributions but they can make unlimited expenditures that are not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign, she said.

“That means they can use their profits or whatever source they have for their treasury to make these expenditures,” Hughes said. “While individual contributors are still subject to limits of what they give to campaigns, any person can make an independent expenditure now or electionary communications in unlimited amounts.”

City of Edmond Attorney Steve Murdock said municipal elections are regulated primarily by state law.

“This decision relates to electioneering communications under federal law,” Murdock said.

The Edmond City Charter was amended in 2009 to authorize the City Council to adopt ordinances related to campaign disclosures of contributions, contributors and expenditures related to municipal elections, Murdock said.

“Any future ordinances presented to the City Council on this issue will be drafted to be in compliance not only with this decision but with the applicable state law, and any future amendments to both federal and state law,” Murdock said.

Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, said he doesn’t know the full impact the Supreme Court ruling will have in Oklahoma.

“I’m just going to leave that to the Ethics Commission and see how they believe it will effect Oklahoma and what rule they will have to adapt to comply with that ruling,” Miller said.

Miller is one of two 2010 candidates for the office of state treasurer. Former state Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward, has also announced his candidacy. Democrat Jon Robinson of Newcastle is also running for state treasurer.

“So as a political candidate, I think we just have to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is go out to individuals and seek support of the policies that we hold true and pursue,” Miller said. “That’s what my job is as a candidate so I am not really as concerned about the Supreme Court ruling.” | 341-2121, ext. 114