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Lankford Invited His Campaign Donors to Testify

Witnesses at the hearing included Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who previously held Lankford’s 5th district seat, and Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley. Neither Fallin nor Ridley were donors to Lankford’s campaign.

The panel also included three Oklahoma-based small-business owners and a former state transportation secretary and transportation advocate.

Campaign finance records compiled by CQ MoneyLine show Edmond, Okla.-based Duit Construction President James Duit donated $2,400 to Lankford in September.

Duit, a former chairman of the American Concrete Pavement Association, previously appeared before the Transportation Committee in July at a hearing on the stimulus bill. During the 2010 cycle, Duit also donated to one of Lankford’s primary challengers, Michael Ray Thompson, as well as then-Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

Another witness, Jerry Hietpas, president of Oklahoma-based Action Safety Supply Co., made two donations to Lankford in 2010 totaling $2,500.

Hietpas also donated $2,400 to Thompson in 2009, and two other individuals who list Action Safety Supply as their employer likewise donated to Thompson in 2009.

Neal McCaleb, president of the Oklahoma advocacy group Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation, also testified at the hearing. McCaleb donated $500 to Lankford’s campaign in 2010.

Federal Election Commission records show McCaleb regularly donates to campaigns and made identical donations to Thompson and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) in the 2010 cycle.

McCaleb, who spoke at the Indian Reservation Roads program, is also a former Oklahoma transportation secretary and former director of the state’s transportation department. He served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs in the Bush administration.

A fourth witness, Larry Lemon, chairman of Oklahoma-based Haskell Lemon Construction, did not donate to Lankford, but campaign finance records show Lankford received a total of $1,500 in contributions from three Haskell Lemon Construction officials in September.

FEC records show Lemon, who served as chairman of the National Asphalt Pavement Association in 2010, donated $500 to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), $250 to Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and $850 to Thompson in the last cycle.

Lankford is not the only Transportation Committee member to have attended a field hearing where a witness also made a contribution to his campaign.

Ohio Reps. Bob Gibbs (R) and Jean Schmidt (R) serve on the committee and attended a February field hearing in Columbus, Ohio. Each received donations from Brian Burgett, CEO of the Kokosing Construction Co., who testified at that hearing. Schmidt received $3,000 and Gibbs received at least $2,400 in the 2010 cycle.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who represents the Columbus area but does not serve on the Transportation panel, attended the hearing. Stivers also received $3,000 from Burgett and an additional $4,250 from Kokosing Construction employees in the 2010 cycle.

Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee said there is no reason to automatically exclude campaign donors from appearing as witnesses before Congress, but she suggested Members should disclose such relationships.

“From a common-sense perspective, you would hope that, as a minimum, that Members who received campaign contributions would want to put that on the record from the get-go,” McGehee said, although there is no requirement that lawmakers do so.

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