Indictments handed down in Texas Tuesday against eight corporations which made alleged illegal contributions to a political action committee created by Houston Congressman Tom Delay should serve notice in Oklahoma that law enforcement officials everywhere are cracking down on attempts to use corporate politics to buy political power, State Senator Jeff Rabon said Thursday.
“There’s a reason corporate money is banned from campaigns. The Austin grand jury that handed down the indictments sent a message – the political process in this country isn’t for sale – and I hope Oklahomans, especially Oklahoma’s corporate officers, are listening,” said Rabon, D-Hugo.
Earlier this month, Rabon and Senator Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne, called for an investigation by the state multi-county grand jury into the fund raising practices of Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform, a group formed to seek changes in the state’s civil justice system. The pair cited a fund-raising letter from OLR founder John Brock which said the aim of the non-profit organization in the current election cycle, however, was actually to elect Republican candidates to the Oklahoma Legislature.
In the letter, Brock said that there are no limits to how much corporations can they contribute to OLR’s cause and that their donations can remain anonymous because the group is considered a 501c4 organization by the Internal Revenue Service and is, thus, not a political action committee. But Rabon charged again Thursday that to actively seeking to elect candidates from a specific party makes OLR a PAC and makes corporation contributions illegal.
“Mr. Brock’s letter makes it very clear that OLR intends to use corporate donations to fund an attempt to elect a Republican majority in both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma State Senate,” Rabon said. “That’s just what Congressman Delay’s PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority, did two years ago. It would be a shame if Oklahoma corporations got caught up in this same kind scandal.
“It would also be a shame if illegal corporate contributions were used to influence the outcomes of legislative races this year.”
Rabon said Thursday’s announcement was intended as a reminder to corporate officers of what election laws say about corporate contributions and the potential consequences of violating those laws.
Article 9, Section 40 of the Oklahoma Constitution provides that no corporation organized or doing business in Oklahoma shall be permitted to influence elections by contributions of money or anything of value.
Title 21, Section 187.2 of Oklahoma Statutes prohibits corporations from contributing to any campaign fund of any party committee for the benefit of such party committee or its candidates.
Title 21, Section 187.1 of Oklahoma Statutes prohibits campaign contributions to be made to a particular candidate or committee through an intermediary or conduit for the purpose of evading laws relating to campaign contribution limits.
“Our laws on this issue should be easy for anyone to understand. I’m hoping Oklahomans also understand that if you break these laws there’s a price to pay,” Rabon said.