Come thou Fount of smears distressing

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Remember the late, unlamented election for Tulsa County District Attorney? In my Urban Tulsa Weekly column on the race, I examined and refuted the misleading claims being made by challenger Brett Swab about DA Tim Harris's prosecution record.

Swab's negative campaign also included claims about DA office spending on remodeling and furnishings and on a rap song. Here is a large postcard mailer that the Swab campaign sent to Tulsa County voters very close to the primary election:



To say this is misleading is an understatement. Here's the truth regarding the "redecorating" claim:

The truth is that when the new jail was built away from the courthouse, County officials reclaimed the old jail space in the courthouse to build offices for the D.A. This in turn freed up old D.A. offices so that more courtrooms could be built. This was a Tulsa County Commission construction project supervised and financed by County officials - not Tim Harris. This construction project was planned when David Moss was the D.A.

Near the end of the project when resources were stretched, Harris contributed $50,000 from the D.A. budget to the County to finish the construction. This paid for items including sound batting for walls, ceiling work, library bookshelves and fixtures for the bathrooms.

It was Tim Harris’ responsibility to furnish and equip the space after it was constructed. Over a number of years, Harris saved $450,000 in fees recovered by his bogus check program to invest in office equipment for 100 employees which included workstations, desks, chairs, computers, and a filing system for 30,000 cases.

Tim Harris also used money from his budget to furnish the Victim-Witness Center, which is a respite area where more than 10,000 victims and witnesses come each year. Harris created separate and safe, pleasant spaces for adults, children and police officers to wait before testifying in court. Framed posters were put in the Victim-Witness Center and in the common waiting areas, conference rooms and hallways of the D.A.’s Office. Despite what the opponent says, framed posters for two separate floors covering 35,000 square feet cost less than $8,500.

The Truth is Tim Harris budgeted funds responsibly in order to furnish a professional law office for the people of Tulsa County.

And the rap song? The DA's office, on behalf of Project Safe Neighborhoods, received a $10,000 grant from the Federal Government earmarked for community outreach to prevent gun violence. The DA's office used the funds to bring Marcus Nelson, Ph. D., a motivational speaker, the keynote speaker at the U. S. Department of Justice-sponsored National Youth Gang Conference. Nelson came to Tulsa spoke to the students of Central High School and Tulsa School of Science and Technology, and met with school staff.

In addition, Dr. Nelson’s performance was videotaped so that his anti-violence message can be shown to every student in Tulsa area schools. Dr. Nelson also produced two versions of an original anti-violence song “T-Town.” He provided an instrumental version that can be used in the fall as part of an anti-violence contest for Tulsa students to write their own anti-violence lyrics.

Why am I bringing all this up again, a month later? Because the same political consultant who orchestrated this unfair and misleading attack on Tim Harris is involved in at least one other race on this Tuesday's runoff ballot. His name is Fount Holland, and he is the consultant for the Fred Jordan campaign for House District 69, and if you live in that district, you shouldn't be surprised to see the same sort of misleading cartoon postcard show up in your mailbox this weekend, attacking Chris Medlock.

Fount Holland was City Hall reporter for the Tulsa Whirled from 1990 to 1995, when he left to become press secretary for newly-elected Congressman Tom Coburn. In 1997, he left to become a political consultant, heading up the Oklahoma Values Coalition, a PAC formed by Coburn and his congressional colleague Steve Largent to help elect conservative candidates to the state legislature.

Holland deserves credit for some significant accomplishments. He is a gifted communicator and his ability to get a message across to the voters has played an important role in helping Republicans win control of the State House.

First with the Oklahoma Values Coalition and then as the exclusive political consultant for the Republican State House Committee, Holland helped Republicans win marginal seats all across Oklahoma. His partner in A. H. Strategies, Karl Ahlgren, Coburn's chief of staff during his tenure in the U. S. House, has had a similar role with the corresponding Senate PAC.

But in recent years, I've noticed a departure from Holland and Ahlgren's roots in Tom Coburn's office.

In 2003, they were consultants to the vote yes campaign for the Vision 2025 sales tax. Bill LaFortune singled them out for praise in his post-election "State of the City Address" that year. I remember how shocked I was at the time that these two, still strongly associated in my mind with Coburn, would be using their skills and connections to sell Republicans on a tax increase to pay for a package of pork projects.

As a lobbyist for Utica Partners, Ahlgren pushed for legislation this year which would have undermined historic preservation and local control of zoning.

Where Holland and Ahlgren were at one time mainly focused on helping Republicans defeat Democrats at the polls, they have increasingly been getting involved in Republican primaries. As noted above, Holland was the consultant for Swab's ugly and deceptive campaign against Tim Harris. Any Republican insider in Oklahoma would recognize Fount Holland's style in the layout of the mailer above.

And increasingly in those primary races, when their candidate is losing ground, they will strike back with some last-minute nastiness. Tim Harris experienced it this year. State Rep. John Trebilcock was hit by it in his runoff with Melissa Mahan in 2002. Expect to see the same sort of thing from the Fred Jordan campaign, attacking Chris Medlock, this weekend.

I'm disappointed that Ahlgren and Holland are using their considerable talents to defeat candidates like Harris, Trebilcock, and Medlock, candidates who resemble their old boss Tom Coburn in political courage and commitment to conservative principles.

But don't get me wrong -- Holland is no Jim Burdge, and I hope he'll turn around before he adopts a do-anything-to-win, work-for-the-highest-bidder ethos.

(Which reminds me: Keep an eye out for a last-minute slime attack against Fred Perry in the County Commission District 3 race this weekend. Perry's opponent, Bill Christiansen, is Jim Burdge's boy in the runoff.)


Michelle said:

Expect to see the same sort of thing from the Fred Jordan campaign, attacking Chris Medlock, this weekend.

We don't even have to wait! Fred Jordan is already lying about the mailer that was sent by Chris this week. (I got it today) See here and here.

Paul Tay said:

Mr. Holland, yer hired as my campaign manager in '10!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 16, 2006 11:15 PM.

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