Whirled covers campaign dirt

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I guess they got impatient for the candidates to start slinging mud at each other, so the Tulsa Whirled launched the first salvo. Although there have been whispers and talk among supporters of the candidates, so far we haven't had mudslinging robocalls or attack ads coming from the campaigns.

This morning's Whirled has a front-page, above-the-fold story about some of the rumors floating around the Mayoral campaign. Bill LaFortune is said to have been offered a job at OU-Tulsa, as a way of getting him out of a job he couldn't handle and out of a re-election race he couldn't win. Randi Miller is accused of having an "unprofessional relationship," during her time on the Council, with assistant public works director Mike Buchert, husband of District 6 challenger Theresa Buchert.

There's something about Don McCorkell and a state water board contract with a power plant he helped start. The story about Kathy Taylor's dual homestead exemptions in Florida and Oklahoma finally made the Tulsa Whirled, two days after the Sun-Sentinel had the story.

For Medlock, they rehashed the story about his falling one class short of having an MBA and the complaint by Joe Conner that Medlock was trying to force him out of the District 5 special election. (Those links will take you to BatesLine entries on those two topics.) You knew there wouldn't be anything new about Medlock -- any dirt that they could have smeared him with would have been used during last year's attempt to recall him.

The "scandal" involving the power plant McCorkell once owned seems like a stretch, based on how it was presented. It's not surprising that the Whirled stayed away from McCorkell's involvement in Great Plains Airline, because of the paper's own major holdings in the airline.

Rumors about a job for LaFortune have been floating around for a long time. Certain Republican elected officials are said to have been disappointed with his performance and concerned about losing the Mayor's seat back to the Democrats, so they've been trying to find him a graceful way out. LaFortune's early departure from the District Attorney's job to a private law practice provided a basis for thinking it could happen again.

Given that this article was the first mention in the Whirled of Kathy Taylor's dual homestead exemption, a story that broke on Friday, I have to wonder if the point of the mud-slinging story was to minimize the impact on their favorite candidate, by including this story, which is based on confirmed facts, in a story about whispering and mudslinging, and by taking a swipe at each of the major candidates. (To my mind, the most damaging thing in the Sun-Sentinel story wasn't the back taxes and penalties, but the statement of Mr. Kathy Taylor that he considers himself a Florida resident. That didn't make the Whirled.)

I was surprised that the Whirled published something about the Randi Miller - Mike Buchert relationship. I've been hearing rumors about it for a few years now, and it's considered common knowledge around City Hall. It was common enough knowledge that, according to the Whirled, Buchert's boss, Public Works director Charles Hardt, reassigned some of Buchert's duties:

"There were concerns with his professionalism as it dealt with the council and Miller, and I informed the mayor about the reassignment," Hardt said.

Buchert's statement and that of his wife strongly suggest that there was something inappropriate going on:

"This is a personal matter. This is a matter that has been reconciled and placed in the past. My wife and I have been married for 31 years and, if I have anything to say about it, will be married for the rest of our lives. The past is the past, we have moved forward," he said.

Theresa Buchert, who is a Republican candidate in the City Council District 6 race, said their marriage, like many, has had its ups and downs, but this issue with Miller has nothing to do with her or what she can bring to the City Council.

"It is seven days before a major primary election, and Tulsa has been in turmoil for how many years? People don't know how to effect change without getting dirty," she said.

As I mentioned, I've been hearing about this for years, and while this would normally just be a sad personal matter, there are public policy implications. Just the fact that the relationship was considered common knowledge, even if the rumors were false, could have had an effect on Randi Miller's performance as Mayor.

Charles Hardt is nearing retirement, and Buchert would be in line for that job. If Mayor Randi Miller promoted Buchert, people would assume it was because of their relationship; if she passed him over, despite his qualifications, people would assume that she was trying to avoid the appearance of favoritism, because of their relationship. It would be a no-win situation for both of them, and for the City. And can you imagine the strained interpersonal dynamics with Miller as Mayor, Mike Buchert as Public Works director, and Theresa Buchert as a City Councilor?

Fortunately, that outcome isn't very likely. Miller was running third even after the FOP endorsement and before this story came out, and Jim Mautino, whom Buchert is challenging, is very popular in District 6, surviving recall with the support of 70% of the voters.

The other public policy concern is blackmail. An official with something to hide might make a decision or avoid a decision in order to pacify someone who has an interest in city policy and information about the official that could be damaging. An official fearing for her reputation will have a hard time being bold in the face of harsh opposition.

Miller was pretty tough when she first came on the Council in 2000, and she was willing to buck the Mayor and the city establishment when it mattered, but over time she seemed to become more interested in going along to get along. Lately there's been a fearfulness about her.

For example: Back in 2003, after Miller and the other County Commissioners voted to put Vision 2025 on the ballot, with the arena and higher education funding in the same ballot item, I called her to express my disappointment. I had been working with her and other Republican leaders the day before, trying to get a fair and logical breakdown of the package into individual ballot items, with the arena standing alone. She expressed agreement with us, but in the County Commission meeting she did nothing to try to amend the four-item package that the Dialog/Visioning leadership put together.

When I called to ask why she didn't act to change the package or to vote against the flawed package, she told me that "they" would have "crucified" her. I assumed she was just worried about a negative editorial in the Whirled or campaign contributions going to an opponent for her 2004 re-election bid, and the worry seemed disproportionate to the threat. When I started hearing the rumors about her extracurricular activities, her fear of "crucifixion" seemed much more rational.

Miller's unconventional living situation only makes appearances worse for her. From the Whirled's February 12 profile story:

In St. Croix, the couple found the schools were not strong, so Miller decided to move back to Tulsa with her children while her husband remained there.

"It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was important for our kids," she said, adding that they see each other regularly.

Miller's move back to Tulsa happened before she ran for City Council in 2000. It's not hard to understand that a family might endure a few months' separation when Mom and the kids move back for schools and family, while Dad looks for a new job in Tulsa and wraps things up at his old job. It is hard to imagine keeping the family split for six years for the sake of either career or schools.

While Miller has a lot of family here to help out, it still can't be easy to be both a public official and practically a single mom. Nor can it be easy to be between six and twelve years old, with Dad 2000 miles away and Mom busy with civic stuff. It's hard enough on my family for me to be as involved as I am, even though I rarely travel on business.

Was it right for the Whirled to report on this situation? When a damaging rumor is common knowledge among insiders, has some substance behind it, and can affect a candidate's performance and decision-making in office, shouldn't voters have the chance to know what the insiders know and to weigh the information? Would it be better to keep voters in the dark until it's too late to make a difference, as the Whirled did with Randy Sullivan's divorce and departure from District 7 or with the scandal surrounding former State Rep. Chad Stites?

As painful as this must be for Randi and her family, I think the Whirled made the right call in this case. What do you think?


Bob said:

The Tulsa World was partaking in their favorite self-indulgence: Schadenfreund, a delicious German word that aptly characterizes their state of journalistic integrity.

And YES, today's Tulsa World Editorial section also coincidentally endorsed LaFortune and Taylor for their respective party nominations.

Outing "Randy" Randi Miller for an old indescretion was contemptible. Her supporters would say it has NO relevance to here qualifications. It does, however, reflect modestly on her judgment........ and Poor self-control.

Substitute Tulsa World Headline: Randy housewife throws self at buff pool-boy.
How tawdry!

And, of course they gave McCorkell a pass on Great Plains Airlines. That's one Lorton's World historical memory that's been dropped down Orwell's Ministry of Truth "Memory Hole". I just LOVE when I read where former state legislator McCorkell can "leverage" a $100.00 investment into several million dollars in a Gas fired electricity plant using "excess" Lake Eufaula water for cooling those big generators. Wonder if he sheperded those oh-so generous energy generation tax credits through the legislature, too, shortly before retiring from office?

Reputed Home Wrecker Kathy Taylor double-homesteading on their modest $3 million Florida "cottage" got buried with the other Tulsa World slime.

That was the World's strategy, of course.

$130K in back property taxes: OUCH! Lucky they just happened to have some spare change laying around......And, you've just gotta know that her hubby Mr. Lobeck is keeping his Florida residency: NO State Income Tax in Florida for Mr. Megabucks, unlike poor old Oklahoma!

[I think you mean Schadenfreude -- harm-joy, rather than Schadenfreund, which would mean something like harm-friend. Come to think of it, that fits one of the stories. -- MDB]

susan said:

Tulsa citizens who vote for their next choice for Mayor have the right to know what the Tulsa World reported with Randi Miller. I realize Richard Roberts is in favor of Randi, but remember, Richard Roberts got a divorce from his first wife and married again.

What I found interesting was the "unofficial" job offer he has pending with OU/Tulsa. They haven't made an official job offer to the Mayor, yet they know "the job" Mayor LaFortune wants in case he loses will pay $80,000 and the Mayor wants $105,000 what he is making now as Mayor. To make up the $25,000 difference to up the pay scale for this particular job that Mayor LaFortune is seeking if he loses will be some kind of legal work?

With all the hand - shakes from a job well done on all the "deal making" in the Vision projects which got piggybacked with other "deals" and the arena that will cost Tulsa taxpayers millions -- don't forget the OU/Tulsa Schusterman deal in the Vision project. As a way of "thanks" for Mayor LaFortune getting the Vision passed, it's just
interesting that OU/Tulsa would pamper such a pay package to make sure the pay scale is raised to make the sure Bill LaFortune does not have to give anything up as far as a salary cut. As a good politician would say -- for the sake of "education" in Oklahoma that is and a very nice job title he will sail smoothly to.

When Frank Keating had received almost $250,000.00 in "gifts" from Jack Dreyfus, and there was the Keating/Dreyfus deal making going on, Frank Keating also had his very lucrative job he now holds in Washington, DC all planned along with the salary he wished for. With salary and money deals in politics, how does that make voters feel about who they put or keep in office?

susan said:

Richard Roberts (ORU) is in favor of Randi Miller to be our next Mayor of Tulsa. Oral Roberts University (Tulsa) has received hundreds of millions of dollars through "contributions" all of which there was a case ORU endowment funds were used to purchase an extremely expensive home and the Roberts family has lived extravagantly(like it seems they have a lot in common with Lobeck-Taylor).

Batesline questioned about the political e-mail that was sent from ORU and ORU's non-profit status. This would hurt the Oral and Richard Roberts family lifestyle as the Oral Roberts family has spent millions on their own homes, expensive cars, homes in California,
one very expensive home in Beverly Hills that was used as an "office", memberships to Southern Hills Country Club and other expensive membership to another country club -- yikes pretty soon we might
wonder why Richard Roberts feels so strongly for Randi Miller to win
this race for Mayor of Tulsa!

Chris Medlock is looking like an honorable hard-working candidate that people of Tulsa could trust.

I also expected the Tulsa World to leave out the Great Plains Airline connection with McCorkell. The Tulsa World could expect their news writers to report news only as the Lortons wish it to be heard.

Shadow6 said:

Was it right for the Whirled to report on this situation? When a damaging rumor is common knowledge among insiders, has some substance behind it, and can affect a candidate's performance and decision-making in office, shouldn't voters have the chance to know what the insiders know and to weigh the information? Would it be better to keep voters in the dark until it's too late to make a difference, as the Whirled did with Randy Sullivan's divorce and departure from District 7 or with the scandal surrounding former State Rep. Chad Stites?

As painful as this must be for Randi and her family, I think the Whirled made the right call in this case. What do you think?

I don't think it was the "right call". I think it was a calculation. And a nasty one at that.

If the Whirled was a real paper, this story would have surfaced the day after Miller filed for mayor, or before. As it is, the Tulsa Whirled is just a rumor rag used by the people that think they own this city to spread their propaganda.

The Whirled clearly wants Cathy Taylor as mayor. Their endorsement of Taylor and lukewarm endorsement of Lafortune make that clear, for those who have figured out how the Whirled operates.

But there is that pesky story about that massive sum of money in back taxes, the question of residency, and possible fraud raised by some meddlesome Florida paper. And the fact that Kathy and husband can cough up over 130K on very short notice to try and make this go away. All sorts of problems with this situation for the Taylor camp.

What is the Whirled to do when their shining star for mayor is wounded? Well, they could wound everybody, and that is what they tried to do. And they did it on Page 1 of their Sunday Paper. They took their best shot.

I did not support Buchert or Miller, but feel sorry for them. It is clear the Whirled decided to say what they did when it was in their best interest. It is also clear that Miller has known that this may surface at any time, so she may have felt forced (or BEEN forced) to compromise herself on issues.

I suspect Miller was never a serious candidate for mayor, but just someone to suck away enough support from Medlock to give the election to LaFortune. She then goes back to her day job, no harm, no foul. But it became necesary to raise this story about a "relationship" between Miller and Mr. Buchert as part of an effort to smear all the candidates.

And the McCorkle thing...Please. No Great Plains mention? Some vague ramblings about a power plant and water?

This is, of course, not over. We can expect the usual dirty tricks by the usual cabal. They are utterly ruthless, and have no scruples about doing what it takes to win. There will be mysterious phone calls on the eve of the election, telling people all sorts of false and hurtful things about which ever candidate is the biggest threat to the Favored Ones. The usual prominent Tulsans and Oklahomans will be called upon to make recorded phone pitches for their candidates. Signs will be stolen or torn down. There will be massive effort to dig up any and every bit of dirt, or to manufacture it. The Media Cabal will ignore anyone they cannot smear. Favored candidates will get air time or print space, and others will not. The dead will vote. Vacant lots will vote. Many people will vote early, and vote often.

We are in for a very tough ride between now and March 7th. And it gets even tougher between March 7th and April 4th.

bob said:

Michael: Zu befehl, der Zwangsman.

You are right. It is spelled schadenfreude, and means, so aptly: Malicious glee at the suffering of others.

Darn it, you're ALWAYS right!

Joseph Wallis said:

What the heck is susan talking about on the OU/Schusterman deal? I read that blurb 3 times and it doesn't make any sense.

As painful as this must be for Randi and her family, I think the Whirled made the right call in this case. What do you think?

Painful? I doubt it. With her behavior, I'm surprised she's made it this far as a politician.

It was a good call. However, if you're going to smear people, you should really smear them all equally. All the dirt. Not just the dirt that benefits you.

susan said:

The University of Oklahoma purchased the Amoco building at 4lst and Yale back several years. The Schusterman had a matching grant proposal in the Vision project. If Mayor LaFortune's Vision project passed successfully, OU would benefit.
Now who does Mayor LaFortune first go to for a job and a nice title that will match what he is now making in salary? OU in Tulsa of course.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 26, 2006 6:21 PM.

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