OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Thousands of dollars’ worth of free meals were given to Oklahoma lawmakers – not at the taxpayers’ expense, but from outside lobbyists, according to a new report by Clean Up Oklahoma.
“We have a part of the Wine and Dine report as our top 12 list of the highest gift takers in the legislature,” said Lindsey Miller with Clean Up Oklahoma.
Miller told KFOR that the local watchdog group released Thursday’s report, hoping to highlight the state’s lack of transparency.
“High dollar purchases and fancy steak dinners to me represent that there are conversations that are privileged and privy that are happening outside of public discourse again in the dark,” said Miller.
The report shows the biggest gift takers in both political parties as well as some lawmakers’ expenses, like meals costing hundreds of dollars.
“Right now, they’re talking about the budget,” said Miller. “The Ethics Commission got $0 in that budget conversation. The governor even vetoed a bill adding more disclosure laws trying to shine a light, and he said no on that.”
KFOR asked Governor Stitt’s office about the veto of the transparency law, but have yet to hear back.
According to the group’s findings, more than 100 lawmakers received expensive gifts.
The senator who placed number one was Casey Murdock.
“The top of [the list] is Casey Murdock, who has taken over $7,000 worth of gifts, including a $500 meal,” said Miller.
KFOR reached out to Murdock for a statement. His office sent the following:
“Having the opportunity for in-depth discussions with advocates and experts helps provide legislators with much-needed information about a variety of complex issues. That insight gives context and perspective, but when it comes time to vote, my decision is based on what is best for the constituents of my district and for our state as a whole.”Senator Casey Murdock
According to the report, Republican House Representative Tom Gann received zero dollars.
The group hopes the state’s system for reporting lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions will be improved so the public can see what is going on.
“What we want to do is shed light on that,” said Miller. “What conversations are being had that can’t be had on the Senate floor or on the floor of a debate?”