Corn assails what he terms corruption at the Capitol
CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
State Sen. Kenneth Corn of Poteau, the Democratic party’s nominee for lieutenant governor said today that “a rash of corruption allegations and investigations, last-minute legislative deals, conflicting contribution and ethics laws and out-of-control lobbyists” prompted him to propose “the toughest crackdown in state history on special interests and their hired guns at the Capitol.”
“Over the last two or three sessions there has been a disturbing and dramatic increase in allegations of corruption, and special back-room deals in the waning hours of legislative sessions,” Corn said in a release sent to CapitolBeatOK.
Corn continued, “There’s a stench rising from the dome of the Capitol and that stench is choking the voices of average citizens. It is the foul smell of corruption, money and special interests.”
Sen. Corn unveiled his proposals in a press conference at the state Capitol today (Wednesday, September 29). Corn is proposing changes in the level of scrutiny already devoted to ties among legislators, lobbyists, “special interests” and “the organizations they represent.” Corn said he wants to open up legislative proceedings to open records and open meetings requirements. He said his focus is prompted by “the secretive process of conference committees that has led to a criminal corruption probe of a number of legislators.” Corn asserts his package “will be the strongest ethics law reform package since the creation of the state ethics commission nearly 20 years ago.”
In the words of his press release, Corn is proposing:
• No lawmaker shall be on any type of retainer with any entity that does business with the state or has business pending with the state.
• No foreign entity can contribute to any state or local candidate or issue campaign.
• No corporation can use money from state contracts or tax credits for political purposes.
• All corporate and union political donations must be approved by a majority of stockholders or union members.
• Lobbyists will be banned from communicating with legislators any place other than the legislator’s office. Communication will only be allowed between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• Legislators will be prohibited from receiving any gifts, sports or entertainment tickets, trips, speaking fees and any other type of financial incentive from lobbyists or the organizations they represent.
• Lobbyists and legislators will be prohibited from communicating in any way – in person, by note, or by any type of electronic communication – during the daily legislative session.
• Lobbyists must keep daily logs of meetings with legislators for every month of the year. Such logs shall be open record, subject to review by any individual. These logs must contain the date and time of any meeting, the purpose of the meeting, who was in attendance at the meeting and what was discussed. Failure to keep the logs will be punishable by a fine to be set by the Ethics Commission.
• Legislators and/or their administrative assistants must keep daily logs of meetings with lobbyists for every month of the year. Such logs shall be open record, subject to review by any individual. These logs must contain the date and time of any meeting, the purpose of the meeting, who was in attendance at the meeting and what was discussed. Failure to keep the logs will be punishable by a fine to be set by the Ethics Commission.
• New significantly higher registration fees will be set by the Ethics Commission for lobbyists and entities employing lobbyists – at a level that allows the commission to dramatically increase its ability to function, monitor and investigate any ethics matter it sees fit.
• Legislators’ financial disclosure statements will be revised to be more detailed on their financial holdings and financial worth.
• Legislators and other state officers and candidates must disclose the use of all airplanes, including who owns the plane, the cost of the flight, who scheduled the flight, who was on the the plane and what the purpose of the flight was.
• The only individual legislative records that will not be subject to the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records Act will be private correspondence between individual citizens of the legislator’s district and the legislator.
• Lobbyists and current legislators will be prohibited from establishing, running or serving on boards of political action committees or groups known as 527s.
• The Ethics Commission will establish a special prosecutors office inside the commission that operates independently of the commission to investigate all ethics violations and to coordinate investigations with the commission staff, board, and proper law enforcement agencies.
• No ethics commission member shall be a current or former public office holder.
• No ethics commissioner shall have, or will be allowed to donate, to a political campaign.
• The governor, speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro-Tem of the Senate will be stripped of their power to appoint ethics committee members.
• All current or proposed ethics laws must be reviewed by Ethics Commission staff and a special committee appointed by the Commission to eliminate contradictions in state laws and to reflect agreement with state and federal court rulings on such matters
Corn also is proposing what he characterized as additional legislative reforms, summarized in his release in this manner:
• All legislation must clearly state in the title, in plain English, what the bill does. Legislators who introduce bills must report on a bill cover sheet, who or where the idea for the legislation came from and who wrote the legislation. The cover sheet must also contain a list of co-authors and those groups, individuals or entities supporting or opposing the measure. In addition, the legislator must report on the cover sheet if he/she received any contributions from the individuals or entities proposing the legislation prior to filing the legislation. These sheets will be attached to every bill discussed in committee or in the full House or Senate and will be open to the public for review.
Sen. Corn said he intends to push the proposals whether or not he wins the election in November.