It’s difficult to fathom today, but Constitution framers like James Madison sought to design a government where powerful special interest groups would be unable to subdue the will of the people.

Before the 1980s, legislators hesitated to become professional lobbyists, but revolving-door politics of abandoning public service for lobbying became a more popular trend.

Bob Dylan was right when he said we live in a political world. With term limits, lobbyists wield more power and influence.

In Oklahoma, influential lobbyists are spending near record amounts despite rules intended to rein in spending. That’s alarming, particularly when you consider the largest number of freshmen lawmakers were elected to the Oklahoma Legislature last year since statehood.

Recent Oklahoma Ethics Commission reports show lobbyists spent about $473,500 on meals, beverages and gifts for lawmakers and other state officials during the first five months of this year, according to Oklahoma Watch. That’s a 34% increase over the amount lobbyists spent during the same period last year.

Even though the rules have changed how lobbyists spend money, that hasn’t lessened the overall flow of funds seeking to influence our state’s lawmakers. And Senate Assistant Majority Whip Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt ($2,926), whose Senate District 27 covers much of western Oklahoma, was the top recipient.

For Northwest Oklahoma lawmakers, District 38 Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, received $1,383.28; District 40 Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, received $1,285.48; District 19 Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington, received $1,175; District 58 Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, received $1,030.67; District 41 Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Yukon, received $740.55; and District 59 Rep. Mike Sanders, R-Kingfisher, received $742.78.

With so many new lawmakers, lobbyists are working to get to know all the new faces, and taking them to dinner is one way.

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