State Capitol (copy)

The Oklahoma Legislature rejected and Ethics Commission proposal that would have stopped lawmakers and state agency heads from working as lobbyists for two years after they leave office. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

Shame on the legislators who voted to kill proposed state ethics rules that would have prevented them from working as a lobbyist for two years after leaving office.

In a remarkable act of unenlightened self-interest, the House and Senate rejected all the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s proposed rules for the year during the final days of the legislative session.

The most controversial rule was one preventing legislators and state agency heads from working as a lobbyist for two years after leaving office.

Two other rules, including one giving definition to a state prohibition of coordination between candidates and independent campaign funds, also were rejected, although those babies were barely mentioned in the Legislature’s haste to throw out the ethics bathwater.

A provision of the state Constitution preventing legislators from working as public school teachers for two years after leaving office remains in place but lobbying? No problem. The Legislature says that’s just fine.

Thirty-three other states have rules requiring a cooling off period for lawmakers interested in working as lobbyists but not Oklahoma. The day after Oklahoma legislators leave the Capitol, they can return on the payroll of any vested interests. If that makes you wonder who they were representing the whole time they were in office, you’re not alone.

Rep. Tom Gann debated in favor of the rules and warned his fellow legislators that they were on the wrong side of history. That’s certainly true.

Last year, when the Legislature rejected the same rule, the Ethics Commission turned around and passed it again. The commission should keep passing the rule until public shame finally forces lawmakers to stop guarding the entrance to the Oklahoma City swamp.

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