The Edmond Sun

Local News

June 4, 2012

New rule allows complaint discussion

EDMOND — State Sen. Clark Jolley will continue not to discuss a recent campaign finance complaint made to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission last week, he said.

Jolley’s re-election campaign was accused Friday of an ethics violation. Robert Donohoo, an Edmond-area resident of Senate District 41, filed a complaint Friday morning before the Oklahoma Ethics Commission alleging a campaign violation in the incumbent’s race to retain his Senate seat.

Jolley, R-Edmond, and his Republican opponent, Paul Blair, are set to face-off in the June 26 primary election.

Oklahoma law makes it a misdemeanor to speak about filing an ethics complaint, Jolley said, referring to the Political Subdivision Ethics Act. The Ethics Commission disagrees.

PSEA excludes ethics complaints made against state legislative candidates running for political office, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes told The Edmond Sun Monday morning.

Oklahoma law does not make it a misdemeanor to speak about filing or reasons for filing an ethics complaint when it comes to state legislative races, Hughes said. Only the commissioners and the commission staff are prohibited to confirm or deny the existence of the complaint, Hughes said.

Jolley told The Edmond Sun on Friday that he would not speak about the content of the complaint because he will not risk committing a misdemeanor. Nobody wins when ethics complaints are used as a campaign tactic, Jolley previously said.

Jolley cited Ethics Commission PSEA language stating, “A complaint alleging a violation of the PSEA must remain confidential; it is unlawful to disclose: The contents of a complaint; a person’s intention to file a complaint; the fact that a complaint has been filed; or a person’s knowledge of another person’s intention to file a complaint. A person convicted of disclosing material made confidential by the PSEA shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $10,000.”

The PSEA Act by no means includes state candidates running for the Legislature or individuals making the complaint, Hughes said.

“That act covers local elections, county and school board,” Hughes said. “It does not cover state.”

Donohoo said his complaint involves fundraisers Jolley had in January. Jolley is in violation of not filing his campaign organization, Clark Jolley For Oklahoma Senate 2012, in January when he had already raised or spent a minimum of $500 for his campaign, Donohoo said. Jolley’s PAC was filed on April 1, according to the Ethics Commission.

According to the Ethics Commission, state law “allows for an assessment for late filings: for any committee up to $100 per day to a maximum of $1,000 for a registration; for a candidate for a statement of financial interests or a campaign report by his or her candidate committee up to $100 per day to a maximum of $1,000; for a ballot measure committee, up to $1,000 per day to a maximum of $10,000 for a campaign report. If prosecution is sought in district court for a willful failure to file, a maximum fine of $50,000 could be recommended by the Ethics Commission to the district court.”

Jolley said his campaign has complied with every ethics law in this state.

“We have reported every contribution we have received,” said Jolley, calling the complaint a campaign tactic. “We have reported every expense that we have spent, all according to the law.”

The Ethics Commission changed its rules three years ago to exclude any person who has filed a complaint to be subject to a misdemeanor when they talk about the complaint, said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.

Reynolds said he believes it is common knowledge by legislators at the Capitol that the ethics rule regarding the PSEA was changed three years ago.

“For someone to say that it’s inappropriate for someone to discuss it just shows their lack of understanding of the law,” Reynolds said.

Donohoo said he knew that speaking about it the ethics complaint against Jolley would not be a violation of law before he had filed the complaint. Donohoo said he learned about this information as a private citizen. As a state senator, Jolley should know the rules of the Ethics Commission, Donohoo said.

Jolley’s oversight of campaign finance has Donohoo concerned with the senator’s ability to handle state finance issues as chairman of the appropriations chairman for the Oklahoma Senate, Donohoo said.

“I would think that if the Ethics Commission agrees with my finding, that Sen. Bingman would consider removing Sen. Jolley’s chairmanship,” Donohoo said.

Jolley said he will not comment on Donohoo’s remarks because they amount to negative campaigning, he said. Neither would Jolley discuss Reynolds’ concerns because Reynolds is a Blair supporter, he said.

“He has spoken at a kick-off event,” Jolley said. “… I’m just not going to comment on the negative campaign that they keep on waging through the Ethics Commission, trying to use it as another way to try to discredit me. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Jolley remains adamant that he is not supposed to disclose the context of the complaint. His only notice of the complaint has been through the media, he added.

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 114

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