OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A new law that reduces how much lobbyists can give to state officials is forcing lobbyists to wean themselves of giving gifts to lawmakers.
Reports filed by lobbyists with the state Ethics Commission indicate that lobbyists gave $73,652 to lawmakers during the first six months of this year, down from nearly $120,000 a year ago.
House Republicans received the most gifts, reports show. The 57 House Republicans received $33,269 in gifts for the first six months of this year, or nearly half the amount given to all 149 legislators. The 43 House Democrats, meanwhile, received $16,486, reports show.
Democratic senators had a slight edge in receiving gifts in the evenly split Senate. Lobbyists reported giving the 48 senators $24,196 in gifts, with $12,883 going to Democrats.
Nine of the top 10 lawmakers receiving the most gifts and meals from lobbyists were Republicans, according to lobbyist reports. Things of value given to individual lawmakers ranged from $10 to nearly $3,000.
Nearly a third of the total this year, or $24,300, is for University of Oklahoma season football tickets to 81 legislators. The football ticket amounts usually show up in reports covering the last six months of the year.
A new rule that took effect July 1 reduces from $300 to $100 the amount spent on gifts for legislators and elected officials by a “lobbyist principal” during a calendar year. Lobbyist principals are companies or associations that hire lobbyists and provide the money to buy meals and other gifts for legislators in office.
Lobbyists who have spent more than $100 on things of value to an elected official so far this year can't spend any more on that official for the rest of the year.
The total spent on legislators by lobbyists is difficult to know for certain. Lobbyists don't face a fine for not filing their reports by the Ethics Commission's deadline, which for the first six months of this year was July 21.
And for this reporting period lobbyists only had to disclose gifts after spending more than $50 on a state official or aide. From now on lobbyists are to disclose gifts after they spend more than $10 on a state official or aide during a six-month period.
About 38 of the approximately 380 lobbyists had not filed their reports as of midnight Wednesday.
Most of the gifts were meals, ranging from less than $10 to dinners costing nearly $170. Lobbyists also gave legislators tickets to sporting events and concerts and took a couple of lawmakers skeet shooting and out on the links for a game of golf.
Legislators were in session from the beginning of February through the end of May during the time of the reporting period.
All legislators received gifts during the first six months of this year, lobbyist reports show. All received $10 gift packets that included a pair of athletic socks, a thermos and a pamphlet from the Oklahoma Podiatric Medical Association.