Kathy Taylor's Trail to revenge: Martinson defeat financed by Lobeck, associates

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What many of us suspected was confirmed by the post-primary ethics filing from Tulsa District 5 City Councilor-elect Chris Trail: Trail was Mayor Kathy Taylor's instrument of revenge against City Councilor Bill Martinson, who opposed her on the ballpark improvement district, raised concerns about the overly rosy revenue projections in her budget (and the actual numbers have vindicated his concerns), and provoked her to walk out of a meeting simply by insisting on a straight answer to his question about city financing of downtown services in the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District.

Councilor John Eagleton's website has an entry with copies of Trail's pre-primary and post-primary contribution reports. Trail raised $51,505. At least $24,100 of that money came from Bill Lobeck (Mr. Kathy Taylor) and associates connected with Vanguard Car Rental. Except for $500 from Lobeck, all of these contributions were made after the filing deadline for the pre-primary report, allowing Trail to avoid disclosing contributions that clearly marked him out as Taylor's tool.

A report on Edgar Online (a repository of SEC filings) from 2006 shows several names found on Chris Trail's contribution report. Below are the names, city of residence according to Trail's report, amount of contribution to Trail, and title according to the 8/2/2006 SEC report for Vanguard Car Rental Group or according to linked web documents:

  • Bill Lobeck, Tulsa, $5,000, President, Chief Executive Officer and Director
  • Jeff Parell, Edina, Mn., $5,000, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
  • Thomas Kennedy, Plantation, Fl., $5,000, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
  • Thomas J. Santorelli, Highland Beach, Fl., $500, Senior Vice President, Risk Management
  • Tyler Best, Plymouth, Mi., $2,500, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
  • Dan Lynch, Owasso, Ok., $300, VP of FP&A
  • Barry Benoit, Tulsa, Ok, $800, VP of Fleet

In addition, Alvin Swanner of Kenner, La., gave $5,000 to Trail. Swanner shows up as a partner with Lobeck in several investments and acquisitions.

Trail also benefited from funds from public employee unions, angry at Martinson's scrutiny of the dramatic growth of public safety spending as a proportion of city revenues. The PACs of AFSCME, the firefighter's local, and the FOP lodge contributed a total of $7,140.23 to the campaign.

Trail received funds from several people connected with the downtown ballpark assessment. Frederic Dorwart, attorney for Bank of Oklahoma, spearheaded the scheme. He gave Trail $1,000. Dorwart firm associates John D. Clayman and H. Steven Walton gave Trail $250 and $1,000 respectively. Trail received $1,500 from BOK Financial PAC. Peter Boylan contributed $500. Francis Rooney, who lists an address on N. Elgin, although he isn't registered to vote in Oklahoma, gave $1,000.

I have to wonder: What compelled Lobeck's associates to contribute funds to a city council race in Tulsa? Did Lobeck call them? If so, what did he tell them about Trail and Martinson that would be compelling enough to convince them to give maximum contributions.

Parell, Kennedy, and Benoit all gave money to David Patrick's 2008 campaign to unseat Roscoe Turner.

The voters ought to be able to know about these sorts of contributions BEFORE the election.

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TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.batesline.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/5361

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9 Comments

Bob said:

Michael:

While there is required campaign finance disclosure in Oklahoma, the system is intentionally rigged so that the promised big money arrives AFTER the Primary Election......

What a coincidence!

And, Oklahoma has campaign limits that are more than TWICE the limit for those of Federal offices: $5K.

And, look at those public-spirited executives at Vanguard Car Rental group! Imagine, contributing to a novice hot-dog vendor to run for city council in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Brooksider Author Profile Page said:

Could this stink any more? Sometimes I think the rule of the land is not one man, one vote, but rather one dollar, one vote.

It turns up too true too often that whoever spends the most money wins. We need a new, populist balance of power in the city. That requires a new, coherent point of view with differentiating goals from the machine.

It's unfortunate nearly everyone has, as part of their own agenda, secrets, private agreements, and shadowy, personal aims. You, Medlock, Meeciteewurker, and some others shed light on that, but is it enough? How do we find capable leaders willing to endure the torment of campaigning?

Bob, the big money didn't arrive after the primary; it was reported after the primary. There's a two-week gap between the end of the pre-primary reporting period and the election itself, plenty of time for last-minute contributions that won't be scrutinized until it's too late.

Brooksider, the problem is that money buys image, and in this case you had three highly motivated (and somewhat related) groups eager to punish Bill Martinson for serving the public interest. (And Martinson was hardly a populist.)

Somehow, we have to cultivate a healthy skepticism about political ads. Voters need to be educated to assume the slicker the ad the more likely a hidden agenda is lurking behind it. Without being conspiratorial, we need to connect the dots between fraud, waste, and abuse in various city departments, the lack of council oversight, the PACs and donors that promote candidates to encourage the council to turn a blind eye to bad policy and practice at City Hall, and the social connections that informally link interests together against sound policy.

It's a war between the wheeler-dealers and the fair-dealers, but it's hidden from most Tulsans.

recyclemichael said:

I hate to burst your money corrupts elections theory, but money spent was probably the least important factor in this particular election. Normally, I would agree that money spent closely relates to votes received, but not this time.

The majority of votes recorded in this race were not for Trail, but against Martinson. Chris Trail's campaign didn't overwhelmingly attack Martinson, the media did. His reputation as hard working but hard to work with was confirmed on almost every televised meeting he participated in.

I didn't get to vote for a democrat in this race so my option was to just watch. Chris Trail walked my neighborhood twice and had firefighters and other volunteers out every weekend last summer. I only saw one Martinson sign in my square mile and probably saw 30 of Trail's.

This election wasn't decided by money. Martinson lost his ability to discuss issues in a positive way and his opponent worked to meet his constituents. It was bound to end up in favor of Trail.

If anyone was going to defend the indefensible when it comes to Kathy Taylor, it would surely be you, Michael.

That $50,000, much of which went to buy ads attacking Martinson, was surely sufficient to budge 18 voters either to change from Martinson to Trail or to decide to stay home rather than vote for Martinson. If Martinson had had an equivalent amount of money to tout his accomplishments and remind voters of Trail's peculiarities, Martinson would have won handily.

Joe Taylor said:

Here's a common sense campaign finance reform suggestion: Allow contributions only from those who live within the district being represented. In other words, you raise money only from people who can vote for you. Apply this at the local, congressional, senate, and presidential levels. It scales appropriately.

Mark said:

Michael -

Thanks for shining a light on this sickening perversion of First Amendment "rights".

Unfortunately, you ain't seen nothing yet if your Republican buddies on the Supreme Court get their way in Citizens United v. FEC. The highly anticipated decision in that case will unleash corporations to make direct contributions.

The "marketplace of ideas" is about to become the corporate version of a mall food court.

Jay Casey Author Profile Page said:

Beyond this being a clear case of revenge politics it is also a clear case of a corporation buying an election. Any rich person that has a corporation (or control of one) can direct unlimited amounts of money to defeat a politician. And as in this case, the reason behind the corporations hidden support was not revealed. The voters had no idea who was behind Trail nor why. To voters it just seemed like Trail had a lot of support so he must be ok.

This is an illustration of why corporations should not be allowed to throw money at elections, should not be treated the same (or better than) individual citizens. Republicans should be backing efforts to reverse the Supreme Court decision to allow this sort of fraud. Ironically, in this case, the loopholes in our campaign contribution laws were used by Democrats to pull the wool over the publics eyes. Shame on Kathy Taylor.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 5, 2009 7:18 AM.

PAC contributions in city elections was the previous entry in this blog.

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