Oklahoma Bill Targets Political Donations Of Workers' Comp Attorneys

Tulsa, OK (CompNewsNetwork) - Legislation filed by Oklahoma state Rep. Dan Sullivan would ensure that unethical lawyers cannot siphon money from injured workers for political donations, according to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"Lawyers are supposed to represent their clients, not prey upon them," said Sullivan, a Tulsa Republican and attorney, in an announcement released by the House. "Unfortunately, we know that some attorneys have been secretly bilking clients to fund political candidates. Those injured workers should not have their settlements turned into a slush fund for politicians."

Last August, The Oklahoman reported that roughly $1 million had been donated to the Working Oklahomans Alliance PAC over the last decade with most of that money coming from injured Oklahoma workers, including several who told the paper they did not know they had "donated" the money to the PAC, the lawmaker says.

The Working Oklahomans Alliance PAC is run by workers' compensation attorneys, according to Sullivan's announcement. The Oklahoman reported that the lawyers involved with the fund raised money for the PAC by withholding a portion of their clients' workers' compensation awards.

Several injured workers interviewed by The Oklahoman said they had no knowledge of the donations.

Sullivan's House Bill 1601 would make it illegal for an attorney to deduct or withhold any portion of a client's judgment or settlement proceeds "for the purpose of donating or contributing funds or monies to a political fund, political action committee, campaign of any kind, or candidate for state, federal or local office."

"I look forward to stopping this practice so that injured workers' compensation actually goes into their pockets and not the pockets of those looking for political gain," Sullivan said. "Any injured worker that wants to make a political donation will obviously be free to do so at his or her individual discretion, but my bill will ensure the worker makes that decision."

House Bill 1601 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and has been sent to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

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