Oh, are you in for it now!

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Word reached me recently that Stephanie Cantees is very angry with me. Stephanie and I have met, spoken on the phone a few times, and have been on the same side of a number of issues, so I was sorry to hear that she may be angry with me.

Stephanie Cantees is a Realtor, and she was appointed by Mayor Bill LaFortune to the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. She is a very close friend of County Commissioner Randi Miller, who is running for Mayor. She is also the sister of Lindsay Roberts, who is the wife of Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University (ORU).

I am told that Stephanie is upset because I have been threatening ORU's 501(c)(3) non-profit status. I have done nothing of the sort, but I think I understand how that impression may have been created.

I heard from a couple of trustworthy sources that, following Richard Roberts' endorsement of Randi Miller for Mayor, Dr. Tim Brooker, ORU assistant professor of government, sent an e-mail to his students, recruiting them to volunteer on Miller's campaign. I was told that the e-mail emphasized the need to make ORU a political powerhouse on the local scene. I was also told that ORU gave the Miller campaign an office to use. (Confirmed -- see UPDATE 2/2/2006 below.)

I contacted a couple of people I know with ORU connections to see if I could get a copy of the e-mail that was sent to Brooker's students, but had no success.

A week ago Friday, following the mayoral debate at the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club, I asked an ORU alum about the rumored e-mail. I was told that Prof. Brooker was there and presently was introduced to him.

I told Prof. Brooker that I had heard this rumor and wanted to ask him about it. He had an expression on his face that I read as disgust.

Brooker said something about there being a lot of disinformation about. He also said something about knowing the limits of the law. He did acknowledge sending an e-mail to students to alert them to opportunities to gain campaign experience.

I told him that it might help to clear it up if he were to forward a copy of the e-mail to me; I'd be glad to publish it on BatesLine. I gave him my card, which has my blog e-mail address on it. To date, I have not received a reply. I have heard that there is some unrest on the ORU faculty about this issue, some concern about the impact on the university of throwing support and student manpower behind a particular candidate.

If any of you readers received a copy of the e-mail, preferably directly from Prof. Brooker, I'd appreciate it if you would forward it on, if possible with the complete set of headers attached. (That helps to authenticate an e-mail as genuine.)

In the past, Brooker has helped facilitate ORU student volunteering for candidates all over the country. Here's a bit from a story in ORU's alumni magazine:

At a Washington, D.C., conference in early 2002, Brooker and his department chair, Dr. John Swails, were approached by a Republican National Committee representative - who worked with ORU alumnus David Barton during that election cycle - with an intriguing idea: to use Christian college students as "foot soldiers," Brooker said, who would "go out and campaign in the hot, highly contested areas." The trick was finding responsible students who would do a good job.

The ORU professors agreed to give it a go, and during fall break of 2002, 35 ORU students made their first official campaign trip to Colorado. The campaign managers were so blown away, they asked ORU to come back two weeks later and bring more students. According to Brooker, "in that 96 hours before the 2002 election, we made about 40,000 phone calls, we personally canvassed 252 precincts in Denver - just ORU students - and who knows how many tens of thousands of pieces of direct mail we sent out." All three candidates - Bob Beauprez, Bill Owens, and Wayne Allard - won their races.

The story goes on to mention two Greyhound buses that took ORU students to campaign for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour in 2003, and the efforts of 181 students on behalf of Tulsa's general obligation bond issue, which was on the ballot last May. (That bond issue included $15.25 million to make long-overdue improvements to Fred Creek, which flows through the ORU campus.)

Here's an interesting quote from that link about the bond issue -- another alumni magazine story:

Dr. Brooker's operation involved long evenings of "phone-banking," as students went through a list of roughly 38,000 names to zero in on the yes-vote base. Then, he had about 20 teams of student volunteers canvassing two precincts each, so that on any given Saturday students were making an impact on up to 40 precincts at a time.

"Ordinarily, we don't campaign in local politics because they tend to be partisan races," Brooker said. "This was not partisan, and it gave us a chance to demonstrate the campaign skills that have been developed throughout the country."

Here's another alumni newsletter blurb about the ORU students who campaigned in Colorado in 2002:

The students did not know which politicians they would assist prior to the trip, but soon learned about the platforms of each of the candidates. They compiled and distributed campaign literature, attended rallies, and helped with mailings.

I recall hearing some frustration from Oklahoma political insiders that Brooker was uninterested in state races in 2002 and was taking his students out of state instead.

I think it's great that government students have the opportunity to learn about the nuts and bolts of political campaigns. I'm glad that the students lent their assistance to candidates and causes that I support. I feel certain that ORU is very careful to structure these campaign excursions to avoid damaging the university's tax exempt status.

But it doesn't seem right for the university to control the flow of information to these students about opportunities to volunteer for campaigns. A student ought to be able to pick a candidate to help based on his political values and priorities. The point, after all, is not for the university to flex its political muscle, but for the students to get practical political experience. The university could facilitate this by allowing any campaign to post notices of campaign opportunities to an electronic bulletin board, just as career offices allow companies to post job opportunities.

ORU students just might prefer to help the mayoral candidate who pushed to get funding for Fred Creek flood control, who lives just a quarter-mile from campus, and who attends every ORU home basketball game that he can. (That would be Chris Medlock, and, by the way, he's having a volunteer event tomorrow morning -- Saturday, January 28 -- at his new campaign HQ at the International Dental Arts Bldg., at 69th & Canton, just north of the QuikTrip near 71st and Yale. Call 269 - 2822 for more information. There's an open house tomorrow, too, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.)

UPDATE (1/28/2006): From a reliable ORU-related source, I've heard that Brooker and department chairman John Swails argued against throwing the university's weight behind one candidate, for this pragmatic reason, among others: What if we back the loser? I've also heard that an e-mail from the department head went out reaffirming the university's policy on political involvement. According to my source, any candidate whose platform is consistent with ORU's mission and values will be welcome to seek volunteers from the student body. Also, there are plans afoot for a candidate forum, which would allow ORU students to hear from all the mayoral candidates. I'm encouraged to hear all this.

UPDATE (2/2/2006): The e-mail from Brooker is the real deal, and it's way over the top. Steve Roemerman has the scoop.

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Something doesn't sound Kosher about the e-mail for campaigning. If you hide something - you must have done something wrong! If they want to be pissed at you - their loss. I guess I best keep you on my good side!

Joseph Wallis said:

On there you go stirring up the pot of establishment soup again!

So, a student may only campaign for ORU approved candidates? I'm not familiar with private colleges, but don't you retain SOME freedoms of choice and speech when you go to one? This is like saying I can only use ORU approved toothpaste.

susan said:

The board of Reg. of the University of Oklahoma is also a approved "non-profit" but David Boren (OU )
just like Richard or Lindsay Roberts (ORU) also act as private citizens.

Let's be reasonable. Do you think Dan Boren, son
of David Boren could or would have won all of those races on his own merit if his dad was not
David Boren and had all the money for his political campaigns from friends of David Boren
there could be interesting findings on how those
campaign offices were all done during all of his
campaigns especially for House of Representatives.

Dan Boren was president and CEO of Seminole State College Educational Foundation that also happens to be the place where David Boren has a library in his name at that same Seminole State College. Coincidence? Friends of Friends politically at the Seminole State College with job positions or library?

susan said:

Oral Roberts University is economically good for Tulsa. Calling Christian college students "foot soldiers" for the Republican party....well like the military...Republicans and Democrats are always trying to "enlist" new recruits to help.

A General encouraged my son and other college students he teaches to help and serve our country not just by enlisting in the military, but by being knowledgeable about candidates and putting good people in office and also in our public schools and on our school boards. If our school boards are allowing teachers to produce poor results in the subject they teach, they should find another job. We live in a district where there are employees of the school that are related and it would be unusual for any of them to get fired. You look on the state percentage of how students did in your school by subject and that should definitely be a strong indication of how the teacher is teaching. If a mayoral candidate has had poor results like a teacher/leader from not going to city council meetings and avoids issues that need to be addressed with facts/answers when the Tulsa city council often put Chris Medlock with the burden of providing reports when the ones critical on the city council did not offer to help Chris Medlock at all, then it's time to elect a new mayor for Tulsa. There were some lazy Tulsa city councilors that also need to be replaced. At least Chris Medlock tried to constantly find solutions and dig deep for "cover-ups".

I would welcome ORU providing even more educational help to help our senior citizens and the new insurance questions they have on getting
the best coverage for the very lowest price. Congress should be looking out for our senior citizens on making sure our senior citizens living on social security are able to get the medicine they need.

Personally, I think Oral Roberts University is doing a great service to offer their students an opportunity to meet and hear from ALL MAYOR candidates.

Allow the students to ask the candidates questions.

Roger Buswell said:

Hey Michael,

Just wanted to give you some inside information on Professor Brooker at ORU, because I think if you put too much into a first impression.

Professor Brooker has slighty hooded eyes and he leans his head back to compensate. This is his normal posture. It makes him look like he is condescending or ignoring you or sometimes annoyed. However, I just wanted to tell you that you can't necessarily judge how Professor Brooker felt about you by his looks.

Love your work,

Roger Buswell

Thanks, Roger, I appreciate your comment. It is really hard to read someone's expression accurately when you've not seen him under a variety of circumstances. Now that I've seen a copy of the e-mail that he sent, however, I think I may have guessed correctly in this situation.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 27, 2006 11:32 PM.

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