By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman City Attorney Jeff Bryant reported to the Election Commission on Monday regarding a number of complaints and concerns regarding campaign reporting issues.
One complaint focused on a series of campaign mailers opposing Mayor Cindy Rosenthal’s re-election. The mailers were paid for by a newly incorporated group, Better Norman Advocates Inc. The complaint alleged that the mailers did not have appropriate attribution of the group responsible.
Bryant concluded that the Election Commission’s “duties do not include reviewing campaign mailers to determine if they substantively meet all state election law requirements.”
Bryant noted, however, that the mailers had the required “paid for by” line and the group had reported its contributions and expenditures.
Another complaint focused on expenditures listed by Friends of Dave Spaulding including membership to the National Rifle Association and conference fees to a Wallbuilders/ Pro Family conference. City Clerk Brenda Hall had previously said those organizations are political and the expenditures are allowed.
Following the complaint, Bryant researched the matter further and concluded that the Election Commission is “not charged with the duty of determining whether reported expenditures are legal or proper under state statute.”
He reported that the expenditures appear to be “permissible uses of campaign contributions under the broad language” of Oklahoma Statue Title 51 section 316 A.
The Norman Election Commission was created for the purpose of public education and review of campaign reports. The city code provision is to make sure expenditures and contributions are reported so voters can make an informed decision, Bryant said.
Another question focused on whether mailers sent out by the Norman Chamber of Commerce were educational or whether they were supporting or opposing a candidate and should have been reported. The fine for not filing is $10 a day, if a report is required.
“It has been my understanding, that the line that you cross when it’s time to file is whether or not the party was attempting to influence the outcome of the election,” Election Commission Chair Ty Hardiman said.
However, Bryant clarified that point further.
“It’s acting on behalf of or in opposition to, not on trying to influence,” he said.
Bryant said one Chamber of Commerce mailer clearly was not supporting or opposing a candidate, while others were more questionable. The chamber maintains that the mailers were educational in nature and were not endorsing or opposing a candidate. The chamber did not file a report with the Norman Election Commission.
Bryant was inclined to give the chamber the benefit of the doubt.
“We don’t want to be so picky about some of these provisions that we discourage people from participating in reporting,” Bryant said.
Dr. Richard Hilbert said he would like more detailed information from the Better Norman Advocates group and from the chamber of commerce.
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