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Sen. Kenneth Corn has filed three measures intended to curtail the influence of special interests in Oklahoma's electoral process and restore integrity to the system.
Corn said the proposals are a response to a growing concern that average Oklahomans have been priced out of the political process and their influence has become secondary to that of special interest groups.
We need to give people the access they need in order to elect qualified candidates to public office, without those people having to depend on special interest money,” said Corn, D-Poteau. The average person should not feel like they need to have a lot of money to participate in their government. Approval of these bills would send a clear message to the people that their elected officials are working for them and not for special interests.
Senate Joint Resolution 52, the Oklahoma Clean Elections Act of 2008, would place caps on spending in legislative and statewide races and would establish the Citizens Clean Elections Fund as a source of funding for qualified candidates. The measure would also establish a Citizens Clean Elections Commission to oversee the process and enforce the provisions of the act. Corn said the Fund would be comprised of unspent campaign funding, money from fines for campaign violations and from voluntary donations.
The act would establish primary election spending limits in the amount of $10,000 for legislative candidates, $80,000 for any statewide elective office and $380,000 for Gubernatorial candidates.
If approved by the legislature, the plan will be sent to a vote of the people.
The act provides us with a roadmap to get to a point where special interests no longer have the ability to be in complete control of the process, Corn said. If approved by the people, I believe this bill would restore integrity to the system.
Corn noted the act is patterned after a similar proposal adopted by Arizona voters and that courts have ruled in favor of its constitutionality.
Corn has also filed legislation to bring similar reforms to judicial campaigns and elections for Corporation Commissioner. Senate Bill 1974, the Oklahoma Judicial Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Limitation Act, would establish voluntary limits on contributions to and expenditures by candidates for district and associate district judges.
The bill would also establish the Oklahoma Judicial Campaign Financing Fund as an alternative source of campaign financing. Funds would come from fees associated with filing civil lawsuits, unspent election funds and money ordered returned by the State Election Board.
This gives candidates a chance to run without having to go out and raise money from people that may later be in front of them while they are on the bench, Corn said.
Senate Bill 2045 would also establish voluntary limits on contributions to and expenditures by candidates for the office of Corporation Commissioner and Insurance Commissioner. It would establish separate campaign financing funds for candidates for Corporation Commission candidates and Insurance Commissioner.
Under this bill, the Insurance Commissioner and the Corporation Commissioner don't have to go out and raise money from insurance companies and corporations, the very people they regulate, in order to run for those offices, Corn said. It sets out in statute an opportunity for our Corporation Commissioner and Insurance Commissioner to not be beholden to corporations and insurance companies in order to compete in a campaign.
Corn noted that Senate Bill 1974 and Senate Bill 2045 both would establish voluntary spending and contribution limits so as not to infringe on the constitutional rights of contributors, while providing an alternate source of funding for candidates who choose not to accept campaign contributions from special interest groups.