Friday, May 15, 2020

Sen. Thompson withdraws campaign "personal slush fund" bill after heat from the press


Last night, I wrote a post entitled OUTRAGE: Senate Approps Chair amends bill to allow campaign funds for use as personal slush fund. In short, legislation was amended by State Senator Roger Thompson, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee and one of the handful of individuals in the state responsible for crafting state budgets, that would remove "personal use" restrictions from political campaign and committee funds, allowing them to be used for any purpose from paying a mortgage, to going on vacation, to plastic surgeries. In short, a tax-free personal slush fund.

Thanks to a vigilant press corps at the Oklahoma State Capitol, that bill was exposed to the public, and Sen. Thompson has now pulled the bill.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission went public on Twitter around 10:40am yesterday, expressing grave concerns with the legislation. Clifton Adcock with The Frontier followed that up by publishing an article around 5pm, 'As legislative session winds down, Senator proposes amendment to allow politicians to spend campaign funds on vacations, mortgages, gifts and other personal expenses'.

Before The Frontier published their article, neither Thompson nor the other authors of HB 3996 responded to messages asking for comment.

Thompson's amendment had largely escaped attention for almost 72 hours, but by the time I published my post around 7:40pm, Thompson was already making moves to withdraw his atrocious amendment.


An hour and forty-five minutes after the Frontier article published, Sen. Thompson filed notice with the State Senate that he was withdrawing his floor amendment.

Are you ready for his bizarre explanation?

Here's what he told Nolan Clay at The Oklahoman:
Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said a proposal permitting personal use of campaign funds was just a conversation starter.

He called current Ethics Commission restrictions unreasonable.

"I think we need to be held accountable. I think the ethics department needs to be here, but it needs to be realistic of the world we live in today," Thompson said.

In a text, he later said the point was made that needed to be made and that the bill and amendments are being pulled.
The Frontier has a new article up, posted around 11:30pm (Senator: Bill to allow use of campaign funds for personal expenses was offered to ‘prove a point,’ now withdrawn). Here's what Thompson told them:
Thompson, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told The Frontier that he had submitted the proposed amendment to the bill to prove a point about “transparency” during budget negotiations with the House, and that the amendment was “never intended to go anywhere.”

“That bill was never meant to be run and would have never been run,”
Thompson said.

Thompson said the bill had been brought up during budget negotiations with members of the House earlier this week, when one of the House members brought up the issue of transparency.

“We were talking about budget, we were talking about ethics and campaigns or whatever, and I said ‘if you want to talk transparency, let’s talk transparency,’” Thompson said. “And here sometimes, you have to make a strong statement to get a strong reaction.”


“If we want transparency in all expenses, then that’s fine, let’s get transparency in all expenses,” Thompson said. “And so I made a point. It might not have been a wise way to make a point on my part. But I made the point and now pulled everything back. “There’s probably a better way to make a point,” he said, “but nevertheless, it worked.”
He then went on to say that he would never support such legislation. Right.

Let's remember the timeline here. The Senate passed the state budget on May 5th. The House passed the budget on May 7th, sending it to the governor's desk. Senator Thompson filed his amendment on May 11th, a full six days after Senate passage of the budget and four days after House passage. His story about transparency and budget negotiations doesn't seem to fit the timeline.

Will this be the last we hear of this? Perhaps not. Kudos to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission and the Capitol press corps (especially those from The Frontier) for exposing this and bringing it down.

1 comments:

maryjmccauley said...

Not one of his fans. He represents me. I hope someone runs against him.