June 2012 Archives

We pulled into the Sullivan HQ parking lot shortly before 9 p.m. on election night.

We were just coming back into Tulsa after five days away. We voted Friday morning at the election board, then headed southwest to hear the magnificent final performances of the choir and orchestra at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain Resort and to pick up our oldest son at the end of his two-week stint in the choral program -- it had been literally and figuratively a mountain-top experience for him.

From there, we drove a few hours south into Texas cotton country for a couple of quiet days with my wife's relatives, playing Chinese Checkers and Wahoo and stirring up memories of the '20s, '30s, and '40s -- hard times but good times. By being away from home for election day and the previous weekend, we missed (but not really) the last-minute barrage of robocalls and mailers.

Tuesday started with breakfast with my wife's aunt and uncle (sausage patties, fresh biscuits, apricot preserves, cantaloupe), a game of Chinese Checkers, a lesson by my wife's aunt on how to crochet a potholder. Then a round of goodbyes, a drive by town landmarks, photos by the giant bug sculptures made of car parts, an impromptu visit with a local musician at his studio on the square, lunch at Sonic, a drive by the long-abandoned family homestead, and the long drive north, listening to Johnny Gimble and Riders in the Sky.

We had been listening on the radio, so as we pulled into the parking lot, we knew that the 1st District race was close with the lead changing hands, and we knew that results were very slow arriving at the Tulsa County Election Board. When we walked into HQ, where the watch party was being held, it was clear that they knew more. I walked over to a screen showing a spreadsheet. Runners had picked up results from most of the big precincts, revealing that turnout was incredibly low, and Sullivan trailed Bridenstine in most of them. It was close, and a win was still possible, but it didn't look promising. I ran my tired family home and came back.

I spotted Congressman Sullivan and went to shake his hand. John gave me a hug and thanked me for my help. The mood in the room was somber but calm, a mood that emanated from the candidate himself. No one uttered any angry words; there were no recriminations or second-guessing -- not even the kind of frustrated groan you let out when the Sooners fumble the ball in a bowl game. If voters could have somehow fore-seen the dignity with which John Sullivan would handle his defeat, it would have discredited the demonic caricature painted by his opponents' supporters.

The only frustration was with the slow trickle of official results from Tulsa County. The election board still didn't have air conditioning, we heard, and that seemed to be slowing everything down. John was ready to concede whenever the moment was right, but no one wanted him to take that step while there was still a chance that the race could turn around. The election board delays pushed the moment of certainty further into the night.

At some point in the proceedings, someone brought in a full-sheet chocolate cake with an outline of Oklahoma and the phrase, "I've got the Okie in me," in frosting on the top. I got to meet Conservative Bixby Chick and her husband; they were motivated to help Sullivan after they met his opponent.

At about 11:20, the precinct map begin to fill in more rapidly, and the incumbent fell further behind the challenger, not by much, but by enough to put the result beyond doubt. John Sullivan and family gathered in the back room, John called to congratulate the winner, then John and family walked through the main room to the applause of supporters and the relief of the long-suffering TV news crews.

John's statement was short, self-deprecating, and gracious, expressing appreciation for the privilege of representing the 1st District, congratulating the winner, and reminding everyone that he'd be on a plane the next morning at 8:30, headed back to Washington to do the job that's still his for the next six months.

And then it was over. John and family headed home. John's mom and mother-in-law picked up what was left of the food they'd brought. Rented chairs and tables were folded and stacked and the floor was swept of red, white, and blue confetti. And then I headed home to unpack from the trip, start some laundry, and check email.

John Sullivan, Michael Bates, 2006It was a strange feeling. Ten and a half years earlier, I had been part of an insurgent campaign that had come from third place to beat the establishment favorite, the First Lady of the State of Oklahoma. Countless insurgent campaigns since then had fallen short, but now, in 2012, another one had succeeded, with me on the other side from many of my usual friends and allies.

But I don't regret remaining loyal to someone who has been loyal to me and in nearly every case a good representative of my views. (Yes, Sullivan voted for TARP, but so did Coburn, and Heritage and AfP urged its passage. Yes, Sullivan endorsed the River Tax, but Medlock endorsed Vision 2025 -- he and I were even on opposite sides of a debate -- and yet I still supported him through recall, his challenge of LaFortune, and his state house race.)

How does a conservative Republican get beat in a primary in a conservative district? Perhaps his supporters were complacent, couldn't believe he could be beat, and didn't bother to show up. There was no senate or governor's race on the ballot. It was a hot day, and it was the first time the primary had been held in June, the earliest date in state history. Turnout was 15% lower district wide than in 2010, 17% lower in Tulsa County, 20% lower in Washington County, and 8% lower in Wagoner County. We should know in a few days who the missing voters were.

I can't help feel that the Tea Party was hijacked in this election. There have been certain people trying to take out John Sullivan since shortly after his first re-election in 2002, actively looking for candidates to run against him. Their issues with him mainly seemed to be personal, not political. This time they tapped into Tea Party energy and convinced them that the most conservative member of Oklahoma's House delegation was a lazy RINO. They succeeded in replacing a conservative congressman who voted 91% of the time with a conservative (as far as we know) nominee who voted 22% of the time; meanwhile Democrat tax-hikers went unchallenged and Tea Party candidates for the legislature fell well short of defeating the corporate welfare crowd that failed to cut our income tax rates this year. Had all the effort expended on the congressional race been targeted instead on legislative races, it could have changed the State Capitol for the better.

In any event, Jim Bridenstine is the nominee. We have to vote for him in November, because Republicans must keep the House, while gaining the Senate and the White House, to have any hope of repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a sustainable, free market health care solution, and we can't afford to lose a single seat.

And because of this Bridenstine will likely face an immediate challenge: The NRCC will want to come in, displace the team that won the nomination, and take over the running of the campaign. Sullivan was hit with this after his 2001 special primary win, and he allowed NRCC to advise, but he kept his victorious team in place and in charge.

I'd expect another challenge, too; expect Bridenstine to be wooed by the big local donors, who may want him to ditch some of his campaign team. How he handles such a situation, should it emerge, will tell us much about the kind of congressman he'll be. We'll see very quickly whether his political courage is genuine or just a pose.

MORE:

Roll Call reports on Sullivan's defeat: "I never had a race like this in all my life. The only mistake I made was I ignored it for too long."

The TeaPartyCheer website has John Sullivan's bios from his congressional website and his campaign website. There's a lot of positive material there about his work in Congress that didn't seem to have been presented in the campaign.

My inbox is filling with responses from Oklahoma officials and policy influencers to the ObamaCare ruling.

From the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs:

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) reemphasizes the need for action at the ballot box and the need for Oklahoma policymakers to protect patients and taxpayers from the law's harmful side effects, according to researchers at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA). "While it is difficult not to be disappointed by the Court's decision," says law professor Andrew Spiropoulos, OCPA's Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow, "there is a silver lining to the black cloud of state intrusion that hangs over us. The fate of the President's scheme and our liberty now rest where they should -- in our own hands and ballots. No constitution or court can save us if we are unwilling to save ourselves." "Now that the Court has upheld key parts of this unaffordable, irresponsible, and wasteful law, it is more important than ever for Oklahoma's political leaders to advance state-led and patient-centered reforms that help the poor, the sick, and the taxpayers," adds Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director at OCPA. Mr. Small, who formerly served as director of government affairs for Commissioner Kim Holland at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, says state policymakers must advance genuine reform. Specifically:
  • Oklahoma lawmakers should move immediately to limit spending and should not expand the state's budget-busting Medicaid program (expansion is allowed by ACA but not required).
  • Lawmakers should stop raiding the InsureOklahoma program (to the tune of more than $120 million to date) and instead should shift the emphasis in Medicaid toward getting participants onto private health insurance. "We need to empower people to escape from the Medicaid ghetto," says Mr. Small, "and give them the dignity of having their own health insurance."
  • Lawmakers and the private sector must build state-based firewalls -- such as a state-based, almost exclusively private-sector-operated insurance marketplace -- to minimize the intrusion of the federal government into the insurance market in Oklahoma.
  • Given the penalties for employers not providing coverage -- which are more desirable than the mandate-heavy high-cost ACA plans -- state lawmakers should plan to cease offering state-employee health coverage if ACA is not repealed. The penalty for not providing the coverage will be significantly less than continuing the state's current high-cost plans.
  • Policymakers should encourage transparency in medical pricing, of the sort practiced by the Surgery Center of Oklahoma.
  • Policymakers should equalize the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance and employer-provided insurance.

"I can attest firsthand that when politicians in Washington try to take over health care, the side effects are painful," says Mr. Small [see video below]. "This new middle-class tax increase -- possibly the largest in American history -- will only serve to do more harm to families."

From John Hart, spokesman for Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn:

Dr. Coburn will be reviewing the ruling and will respond with an updated plan to repeal and replace this unworkable law. The Court affirmed Congress' power to tax people if they don't eat their broccoli. Now it's up to the American people to decide whether they will tolerate this obscene abuse of individual liberty.

Hart reminds that in 2009 Coburn authored a conservative alternative health care reform law, the Patients' Choice Act, with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).

From 1st District Congressman John Sullivan:

I strongly disagree with the courts decision to uphold the individual mandate - I fear this ruling will forever change the relationship between the federal government and the people in this country.

Nowhere in the U.S. constitution is Congress given the power to force Americans to purchase a good or a service or to enter into a contract. By signing Obamacare into law, the President and Democrat leaders told the American people they don't have a right to choose what health insurance plan best meets their needs - I strongly disagree. Regardless of the Supreme Courts ruling, Obamacare is still a bad law and must be repealed - it is hurting our economy, spending trillions of dollars we don't have to spend, killing American jobs and putting the federal government between doctors and their patients. I will continue fighting to repeal the law in Congress, however I am also confident the American people will vote to repeal this law at the ballot box in November by making Barack Obama a one term President.

From Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin:

Oklahomans have voiced their opposition to the federal health care bill from the very beginning, having approved a constitutional amendment to block the implementation of this bill in our state. We believe that, rather than Big Government bureaucracy and one-size-fits-all solutions, the free-market principles of choice and competition are the best tools at our disposal to increase access to health care and reduce costs.

I'm extremely disappointed and frustrated by the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the federal health care law. President Obama's health care policies will limit patients' health care choices, reduce the quality of health care in the United States, and will cost the state of Oklahoma more than a half billion dollars in the process.

Today's decision highlights the importance of electing leaders who will work to repeal the federal health care law and replace it with meaningful reform focused on commonsense, market based changes.

From State Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee), candidate for Congress:

"I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling on ObamaCare, but as I did before in Oklahoma City I am ready to fight again in Washington for our precious freedoms. This ruling allows another huge expansion of federal bureaucracy and intrusion into the lives of individuals. The Court this morning in essence gave the American people two choices: either get used to health control and rationing as the huge federal bureaucracy chokes off our liberties, or completely repeal this outrageous overreach that has already spawned 18,000 pages of new job-killing federal regulations. Repeal can only be accomplished by electing proven conservatives who have demonstrated that they understand the issues and will take the fight to preserve our liberties to Washington.

"The people of Oklahoma spoke loud and clear in 2010 that they did not want ObamaCare in Oklahoma. I took their voice and their fight to the state capital and stopped it in its tracks, when others wanted to give in and take federal money to start implementing ObamaCare. I understand the issues and recognize the assault on our freedom that this represents.

"Send me to Washington D.C. and I will not rest until ObamaCare is repealed and our liberty is restored. What the Supreme Court failed to do for the country today by declaring this law unconstitutional, I will work alongside other conservatives in Congress to accomplish legislatively--its complete repeal--beginning on my first day as a representative of the people of Oklahoma in Congress."

Thumbnail image for IVoted.jpgHappy Election Day! Polls open across Oklahoma at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

Results should start rolling in soon after 7 p.m. The Oklahoma State Election Board website will update results as they are received from the county election boards. Although results are posted on each precinct door shortly after the polls close, a precinct's results have to be taken to the county election board to be read into the state election computer system.

A few resources as you go to vote:

If you run into any difficulty voting or spot any irregularity, contact the your county election board. The phone number for the Tulsa County Election Board is 918-596-5780.

Posted 1:00 a.m. Tuesday, June 26, 2010. Postdated to remain at the top of the blog through poll closing time.

Jerry Sullivan, a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserve and retired special agent for the U. S. Customs Service, sent along a letter in appreciation of the help his family received from Oklahoma 1st District Congressman John Sullivan in dealing with the federal bureaucracy. (Jerry Sullivan is not related to John Sullivan. His distinguished career in the military and law enforcement was the subject of a 2010 Tulsa World feature story.)

Constituent service is an aspect of a congressman's job that is underappreciated by everyone except those who find themselves unable to navigate a jungle of federal red tape. A congressman and his staff serve as guides, interpreters, and expediters to the constituent in need of help.

Here's Jerry Sullivan's letter, unedited except for formatting:

"TRUE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN" After retiring from the US Customs Service, Office of Investigations where I had served as the Special Agent in Charge, New York, I returned to active duty at the request if the Army due to the shortage of Military Police, Lieutenant Colonel's. Due to the nature and demands of my assignment, I relocated my family to Tulsa to better meet the needs of my visually impaired daughter, Sarah who is presently an honor student at ORU. As a family, we had been used to overseas deployments and CONUS moves with both NCIS and US Customs; however, this particular move was different. I was not around and the responsibility fell squarely on my "new to the military" spouse. While I was serving with our tremendous Military Police men and women, my wife was experiencing what thousands of military family members of all services go thru without their spouses many of which are Guard and Reserve members not living near a military post or base for support .

Relocating is much more intense when dealing and coordinating the special needs of a handicapped child. When difficulties arose with the school district and both state and federal agencies due to bureaucratic red tape and overly excessive processing times for essential services for my daughter, my wife turned to Congressman Sullivan and his exceptional staff for assistance. They immediately rose to the occasion and resolved the issues in question and monitored the process till completion. I cannot express the relief and gratitude we felt for their assistance. Presently, Congressman Sullivan is assisting me in resolving several active duty service connected disabilities with the Veterans Affairs Department on a claim that has languished in the bowels of the VA now for over 585 days since my retirement. Congressman Sullivan, no relation, has been a lifesaver for our family.

Congressman Sullivan is a true leader for Oklahoma and our country. He represents us and our interests as individuals within this congressional district. His leadership supporting our service men and women and veterans is strong and unwavering. He is steadfast on immigration law and policies in securing our national borders and in protecting our national security. My view of most congressional representatives is less than favorable. During a four year assignment in Washington DC, I often briefed Members of Congress and their staffers on US Customs Domestic and International law enforcement matters of national security. Most of them cared less regarding the topics at hand and were more concerned about having lunch or dinner at the Dubliner or other watering holes adjacent to Capitol Hill. Somewhere between their home district and traveling inside the Washington beltway most Members of Congress forgot who sent then to Washington in the first place along with the meaning of the words "WE THE PEOPLE".

It took me almost 32 years of a 38 year military and law enforcement career to understand that Congress for the most part doesn't care about anyone but themselves, their inexperienced law school staffers and being re-elected to a system that drastically needs fixing.

I can tell you that Congressman Sullivan is NOT one of the many described above. He takes the road less traveled. He is a strong individual with conviction who will continue to work to place the United States on the road of fiscal recovery and responsibility, lower the unemployment rate, improve our relationships overseas while improving our national security, but, above all represent each and every one of us in a Congress that has lost touch with reality. It begins right here right now and I choose a proven leader, Congressman John Sullivan to help restore this country to a position of prominence where we were once were and bring Congress back to being the representatives of the people.

MORE: A new blogger, Conservative Bixby Chick, explains why she decided to volunteer for John Sullivan rather than his opponent.

People keep sending me stuff. Here's a sampler, with a few thoughts of my own:

Pat McGuigan of CapitolBeatOK has a story about State Rep. George Faught's late surge in the 2nd Congressional District. The story notes the Faught campaign's strong cash position going into the home stretch and his deep grassroots precinct organization:

Terry Allen, a political consultant from Oklahoma who now works in the nation's capital, commented, "The Faught campaign has to be feeling pretty good right now. With 230 precinct captains, it is virtually unheard of in modern political races. This means they've covered the lion's share of where the GOP vote lies in the 2nd district, and that's impressive. The only other campaign to build a precinct walking organization to this degree is James Lankford's 2010 primary race for Congress in the 5th District.

"To build a legitimate walking and knocking operation to that scale is very difficult. If their precinct captains can indeed follow through on their tasks, then it puts Faught in the driver's seat for the nomination."

I heard from a reader who says he's supporting former State Rep. Wayne Pettigrew in the 2nd District race. (@TeamStipe calls him Poodlegrew in honor of the gentleman's hairstyle.) Pettigrew represented Edmond in the 5th Congressional District through 2004 and was still a registered voter there as of a year ago.

I'm amazed any conservative would support him. Pettigrew was one of six Republicans (Don Armes, Bill Case, Chris Hastings, Terry Ingmire, and Ron Peters were the other five) who broke ranks with the rest of the caucus and supported Brad Henry's lottery bill (HB1278, 2003 session), which in turn opened the door to rampant Class III Indian gaming. Had any two of those six voted with their Republican brethren that would have been sufficient, combined with the seven Democrats who voted no, to block the lottery bill from going to the voters.

CORRECTION: The House Journal record of the vote listed members only by last name and with no indication of party, which led me to think "Cox" in the lottery vote was Doug Cox, when it was in fact Kevin Cox, a Democrat from House District 97. I apologize for the error.

The following year, Pettigrew was forced into a runoff by primary challenger Marian Cooksey; rather than press ahead to the runoff, he withdrew. At the press conference, Pettigrove said of Cooksey and her supporters, "When you go to bed with those people, you get their crabs." (As reported in the July 10, 2004, Tulsa World.)

As I wrote at the time, most people would have gone for the "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas" metaphor, but evidently Mr. Pettigrew's mind runs in different circles.

Associated Press has a story about the 1st District primary race between incumbent John Sullivan and challenger Jim Bridenstine. The story does a good job of outlining the charges and countercharges between the two candidates.

Then there's this KRMG story on Sullivan's mailer attacking Bridenstine for taking accelerated depreciation on his alpacas. Without weighing in on the morality of depreciating domesticated camelids, I thought it was interesting that Bridenstine says he never made any money raising alpacas:

Moreover, he added, he and his wife never owned more than 20 of the animals, and they were more of a hobby than any kind of financial enterprise.

Indeed, he says that they never even sold the animals' fleece, but rather gave it away.

Alpaca raising is an interesting hobby, and hobby is an interesting term to use, because the federal tax code doesn't allow you to deduct the expenses of a hobby. What Bridenstine said in that article would lead me to believe (to borrow a favorite phrase from Bridenstine's campaign manager) that one of two things is true: Either Mr. Bridenstine was improperly taking a business tax deduction for a hobby or else his alpaca business was a failure.

Twitter user @burkeanone offered a fairly balanced series of 14 considerations in his evaluation of Bridenstine v. Sullivan; I collected them in a Storify article. The first item: "Maybe I missed it, but I haven't heard any references to what Mr. Bridenstine's civilian job since leaving TASM has been. ????"

Anyone else bugged by the Bridenstine mailer featuring the candidate in his Navy dress whites, making puppy-dog eyes at the camera, with the caption (paraphrased from memory), "Would you sling mud at this man?" While there's plenty of fine print disclaiming any endorsement by the Navy, the gist of the ad seems like he's hiding behind his uniform, even though the criticisms from the Sullivan campaign have nothing to do with Bridenstine's military service. It occurs to me that Bridenstine has Sullivan at a disadvantage when he says he never missed a mission, while sidestepping his poor record of voting (only 22.7% in major elections) and criticizing Sullivan's 91% voting record in Congress. We can easily find Sullivan's record as a congressman, but we can only go by Bridenstine's word on his naval record, unless he were to file a 180 form to allow release of his records.

MORE: In the Senate District 33 Republican primary, Don Little says that rival Nathan Dahm received illegal in-kind campaign contributions from corporations:

Nathan Dahm is a candidate for OK State Senate District 33. He recently held a Social for his campaign and received corporate sponsorship of door prizes and auction items for this official campaign event promoting his candidacy. The corporate sponsors were among this list of businesses which Nathan Dahm thanked for sponsoring his campaign event: Charlestons, The Hub, ABC Nails, Main Street Tavern, The Green Broom, Olive Garden, Sports Clips, Life Chiropractic, B.A. Nails, Chik-fil-A, Los Cabos, On The Corner, Genghis Grill, Daylight Doughnuts, BB Auto Integrity, Main Street Studios, Rumors Salon, Bella Vita, Lazy Days, Rex's Chicken, Broken Arrow Gun Shop, Chili's, Tom Hundley Heating & Cooling, & Applebees It is an Ethics violation to receive In Kind contributions from corporations, and all contributions must be reported on a candidate's Ethics Report.

True enough that he must disclose any contributions, including in-kind, but I would not be surprised to learn that each of these companies is an LLC, which can contribute to state candidates, rather than a corporation, which cannot. (And while national chains Chili's and Applebee's may not be LLCs, the local franchise operator may well be.)

STILL MORE: An interesting report in the Daily Oklahoman about trial lawyer PACs funding support for legislative candidates who are running in the Republican primary against incumbents supported by Coalition for Oklahoma's Future and Chamber of Commerce PACs. This looks more like mutual opportunism on the part of the candidates' consultant and the trial lawyers. The candidates got into the race over issues like ObamaCare implementation, but this alliance with the trial lawyers provides a source of funding that could rival the big business bucks behind their incumbent opponents -- or at least enough to keep them in the game.

MORE to come as I have time today.

Thumbnail image for IVoted.jpgFor your convenience, here is a list of the candidates I've endorsed, will be voting for, or otherwise recommend in the June 26, 2012, Oklahoma Republican primary. Early voting is already underway; as this is a Federal election, early voting ("in-person absentee") will be available at the Tulsa County Election Board at 555 N. Denver Ave in Tulsa on Friday, June 22, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, June 23, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Monday, June 25, 2012, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (All county election boards offer early voting at those times; click this link for your county election board's location.)

As I have time, I'll add links to endorsements I've already made, brief notes about those I haven't previously written about. Here's a link to the archive of BatesLine posts about Oklahoma Election 2012.

Corporation Commissioner: Bob Anthony: A long-time advocate for the Oklahoma consumer, he's being challenged by a former OCC staffer. I've read Brooks Mitchell's attacks on Anthony, but I don't think he makes a compelling case for replacing Anthony.

1st Congressional District: John Sullivan: Strongest conservative ratings of any Oklahoma congressman, Sullivan is on the lengthy ladder to leadership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. His opponent's interest in public policy seems fairly recent, judging by his voting record, and he's vague about substantive policy differences with Sullivan.

2nd Congressional District: George Faught: The only candidate with legislative experience, a track record of conservative leadership, and long-time residence in the district. Endorsed by major conservative groups and icons like Mike Huckabee, Phyllis Schlafly, David Barton of Wall Builders, Mike Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, Conservative Women for America PAC, Family Research Council Action PAC, Gun Owners of America PAC, and State Auditor Gary Jones.

Tulsa County Clerk: Cassidy Tandy: Tandy understands the need to bring the County Clerk's office into the 21st Century by making public records publicly available and easily accessible online. Currently senior appraiser in the County Assessor's office, Tandy would, as County Clerk, join her current boss Ken Yazel on the County Budget Board as an advocate for budget transparency. One of her opponents, the current deputy, seems satisfied with a public records system that requires monthly fees and the permission of the county commission for full online access. A third candidate, Dean Martin, doesn't speak to the County Clerk's duties in his campaign material.

Senate 39: Kevin McDugle: McDugle has been endorsed by national and state conservative organizations, including the Family Research Council Action PAC and Americans for Tax Reform. I appreciate incumbent Brian Crain's support for the personhood act this year, but last year he had the least conservative voting record of any Republican in the State Senate, according to the Oklahoma Constitution's ratng. I found Crain's mailer touting his support for local decision-making ironic, in light of his past sponsorship of legislation to override local control of the zoning process.

Senate 41: Paul Blair: Blair has also been endorsed by the Family Research Council Action PAC. His opponent, incumbent Clark Jolley, was chairman of the Senate redistricting effort and is therefore responsible for the ugliest gerrymander I have ever seen. The map chops up central Tulsa to be represented by suburban-dominated districts.

McDugle and Blair have been under heavy attack from an independent expenditure group called Coalition for Oklahoma's Future. Funders include the Chickasaw Nation, Rooney Holdings Inc, Flintco LLC, Williams Co, Clayton Bennett, Continental Resources, and Chesapeake Inc. Although the group has spent money on four State House races, the bulk of their resources has gone into these two Senate races.

House 23: Jason Carini: The Carini family has been a part of our church family for many years, and we've seen firsthand the deep roots of Jason Carini's conservative principles, Christian faith, and interest in public policy. Jason has years of grassroots conservative involvement and a successful small business, a solid foundation to be the kind of conservative leader Oklahoma needs now and for many years to come. And Jason is a new dad -- his first child arrived Thursday.

House 70: Shane Saunders: Shane's hands-on experience with the legislative process, his personal involvement with the oil and gas industry, his sharp mind, his devotion to his Christian faith and his family, and his affable nature will all be valuable assets not only to the citizens of House District 70, but to the majority Republican caucus and to the State of Oklahoma. Shane's also a new dad, married with a one-year-old daughter.

House 71: Katie Henke: Henke was the GOP nominee in the April special election that ended in a virtual tie after a barrage of mendacious attacks against her. Henke, a school teacher, faces one of her special election primary opponents, perennial candidate Evelyn Rogers. Winner will face Democrat Dan Arthrell in November, and Henke is undoubtedly the best prepared to win that race.

Tulsa Charter Amendment: No. Supposedly a housekeeping amendment to clean up the sloppy mess that Tulsa voters approved last year, it fails to align Tulsa's filing period with Oklahoma's. Read it here. The city's chaotic election calendar needs some careful study and restructuring, not the carefree tinkering that we've seen over the last three years.

Disclosure: I do computer data processing work for the Sullivan, Saunders, and Henke campaigns.

I learn all sorts of interesting things at blogger conferences, and some of the most interesting are incidental to the official program. And sometimes you have to go a thousand miles away to learn about something in your own state.

dean_clancy_thumb.jpgBack in April, I was at BlogConCLT, sponsored by FreedomWorks and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. We were listening to a talk by Dean Clancy, FreedomWorks Legislative Counsel and Vice President for Health Care Policy, on ObamaCare, the possible outcomes of the Supreme Court case (which parts might be overturned, if not the entire mess), and what might happen after the Supreme Court decision. Clancy praised Oklahoma as one of five states that had not established a health insurance exchange.

This caught a blogger sitting the row behind me by surprise. She said had worked for a year and a half with an Oklahoma legislator to develop legislation to set up a healthcare exchange, believing that it was the best safeguard to retain local control in the face of ObamaCare, and yet Tea Party groups were upset with their efforts.

Clancy replied that Tea Party groups were right to be upset. Because of glitches in the ObamaCare law, if a state doesn't set up a health insurance exchange, then ObamaCare can't operate in that state. Clancy acknowledged that there is some controversy over that interpretation.

The former Oklahoma legislative aide said that people from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said that it was a good thing to set up an exchange and were advising them on it; Clancy said that at this point Cato was solidly against states setting up exchanges.

Someone from another state's think tank spoke up and said that they had been looking at following the Utah model for an exchange in their state, but what caused them to drop the idea was Judge Vincent's opinion in the 11th Circuit ruling, saying that states that move forward with the individual mandate undercut their own legal argument that the mandate is unconstitutional and onerous.

The former Oklahoma legislative aide said that they had looked at Judge Vincent's argument as well, but her legislator's concern was if ObamaCare was not struck down, Oklahoma should have something set up to allow Oklahoma to have some sort of control, rather than ceding all control to the federal government.

Clancy replied that what's happened recently is the discovery of this interpretation regarding exchanges: At one point it was thought that in the absence of a state exchange, the feds would set one up anyway on their terms. Now, this glitch in the law has been discovered that means that even if the federal government does set up an exchange, the premium subsidies and the employer mandate can't operate in your state. Clancy concluded humorously, "I think we can absolve you of any sins; you just didn't know any better."

During the following break, I turned around and introduced myself. The young woman who had been an aide in the Oklahoma State House is Meredith Dake, now an associate editor for Breitbart.com. There is no doubt in my mind about the sincerity of her opposition to ObamaCare, and it's not credible that she would work to advance ObamaCare.

Glen_Mulready_headshot.jpgDuring her last session in the House, Meredith worked for State Rep. Glen Mulready. She had high praise for Mulready's work ethic, saying that he made a point of reading every piece of legislation headed for the insurance committee, which he chaired. (She also had kind words for Rep. Aaron Stiles, Mulready's office mate, and for Rep. Sally Kern, for whom she worked during her first year as a House staffer.)

The conclusion I drew from Dean Clancy's presentation and Meredith Dake's comments is that there was a point in time, when ObamaCare was first approved, that there seemed to be good reason from a conservative perspective to set up a state exchange. After further study of the sloppy mess that is the ObamaCare bill, many conservative health care policy experts have concluded that rejecting federal ObamaCare funding and not setting up an exchange is the best thing states can do to frustrate the implementation of ObamaCare.

In May, FreedomWorks hosted a live blog event on the topic "How to Stop ObamaCare at the State Level," featuring Dean Clancy, Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, Christine Herrera of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and Ben Domenech of the Heartland Institute. The summary of the discussion includes this from Cato's Cannon:

"The biggest challenge," Cannon wrote, "in convincing states not to create Exchanges is this. Lots of state officials, including conservative ones, have been sold on the idea that "if we don't create an Exchange, the feds will IMPOSE one on us." Or that states are somehow protecting their sovereignty by creating an Exchange themselves.

"To be clear, establishing a state-run Exchange does not prevent a government takeover of your state's health insurance markets. That takeover took place on March 23, 2010. That's the date on which states lost their sovereignty over their health insurance markets. Establishing an Exchange makes states complicit in that federal takeover. Heck, by creating Exchanges, states are paying for the privilege of having their sovereignty taken away.

In preparing this story, I contacted Rep. Mulready to ask if, in light of this new perspective, he still supports setting up a state exchange. He characterized a state exchange as "Plan C" -- a defensive move, not the ideal, but a backup plan in case Plan A (Supreme Court declares ObamaCare unconstitutional) and Plan B (Republican President and Congress repeal ObamaCare) fail to come to pass.

Mulready doesn't buy the argument that the glitch in the law will stop the feds from forcing their will on a state without an exchange. He believes that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would simply create a rule to require states to comply, notwithstanding the letter of the law. (There's precedent for that concern: When it was learned, shortly after ObamaCare passed, that the pre-existing condition protections weren't as strong in the law as the Obama administration had promised, Sebelius effectively twisted the insurance industry's arm and forced them to comply with non-existent provisions of the law. And as the President's Friday announcement about immigration non-enforcement shows, the Obama Administration doesn't feel constrained by the law.)

Mulready believes that states creating exchanges, even if only in a slow, foot-dragging way, are less likely to attract the attention of the Obama Administration than states that aren't doing anything at all.

At this point, Mulready said that exchanges are on hold. There's now an out: States would be allowed and take back over a federally established exchange, so there isn't the urgency to set one up preemptively. While he still believes it was a good move for Oklahoma to try to do something defensively and that the exchange that was designed is a good plan if it's needed, at this point, it's on pause pending the outcome of the Supreme Court case and the presidential election.

Mulready said that the argument that those working on an Oklahoma health insurance exchange were "trying to implement ObamaCare" is disingenuous. He pointed out that prior to his run for office and prior to ObamaCare becoming law, he was giving a PowerPoint presentation to various groups entitled "ObamaCare Is Wrong for Oklahoma." He said his critics must think he's schizophrenic to believe that he went from denouncing ObamaCare to trying to usher it in.

He compared the situation to someone coming in at the end of a football game and seeing the linebackers lined up 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage. To someone just coming in, it might seem like the team on defense is deliberately trying to lose the game. Instead, it's a prevent defense -- they'd rather give up a first down in order to prevent a game-winning touchdown.

Mulready said that he's been open to alternative approaches to limit ObamaCare's effects on Oklahoma. During a visit to Washington, he took advantage of some time in his schedule to arrange an impromptu and lengthy discussion with the aforementioned Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute. He and State Sen. Gary Stanislawski sat down with U. S. Sen. Tom Coburn to get his perspective. (Coburn initially urged state-funded state-based exchanges, but more recently, in March, Coburn said that there's no point in moving forward with a state exchange until federal rules for state exchanges have been established. "I would think it would be pretty wasteful to spend a ton of money trying to design a system when we don't know what all the components of the system are going to be.") Mulready asked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt whether an exchange would undercut Oklahoma's legal position in the ObamaCare lawsuit, but Pruitt's sense was that it would not hinder Oklahoma's position at all.

Mulready and other legislators who worked on a state-based exchange are being targeted for defeat in Tuesday's Republican primary. Mulready's primary opponent, Darren Gantz, has a website called Mulbama.com where he says Mulready is "doing everything he can to further Obama's agenda in Oklahoma." In a video on the site, Gantz claims that "Glen Mulready is pushing for his former employer to monopolize the health insurance market in Oklahoma."

If that's happening, it's not immediately apparent. I've watched the video a couple of times, which includes edited snippets of a 2010 debate on HB 2130, and I don't see the smoking gun that Gantz claims is there. I like Darren Gantz and got to know him a little better through my volunteering for Randy Brogdon's campaign for governor (Gantz was Brogdon's volunteer coordinator), and I believe he is sincerely motivated by a concern that an exchange would have jeopardized health care freedom in Oklahoma. I appreciate Gantz's implicit suspicion that anything backed by the state Chamber of Commerce or the two big metro chambers is likely to be bad for the free market, for taxpayers, and for consumers.

But I also believe that Mulready and his conservative colleagues who worked on establishing an exchange are sincerely opposed to ObamaCare, and that even if the idea of a state exchange is misguided, I believe that it was offered in good faith as a strategy to avert greater federal control. This is a complicated issue, dealing with a complicated, poorly drafted law. I suspect we'll be finding out more about what was in it for years to come, assuming the Supreme Court doesn't do us a favor and sweep it all away in one stroke of the pen.

Of course, there's more to this race and other primary races than this one issue. For example, here's Gantz's reply to a mailer making personal attacks against him. (Mulready's consultants include Majority Designs and AH Strategies, the consulting firms of Fount Holland and Karl Ahlgren.)

It should also be mentioned that a PAC called Coalition for Oklahoma's Future is making independent expenditures in support of Reps. Mulready, Marian Cooksey, Todd Thomsen, and Elise Hall, and State Sens. Brian Crain and Clark Jolley. In SD 39, the group sent a mailer attacking Crain's challenger Kevin McDugle as a conspiracy theorist for claims that Crain's efforts in support of exchanges were ushering in ObamaCare. According to Mulready, the only piece the group sent into HD 68 was a positive piece touting his pro-life views. Does this group have an interest in healthcare, or is it simply pushing the issue that will help their candidate and hurt their opponent the most on a district-by-district basis?

If you've got an opinion on this issue or on the House District 68 race, feel free to submit a comment.

The Republican nomination for Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District is getting national attention. Kerry Picket of the Washington Times writes that Markwayne Mullin is "under the gun" regarding the 2009 BATFE and BAPD seizure of firearms at his place of business in Broken Arrow (in the 1st CD), weapons owned by one of Mullin's employees, a convicted felon arrested on firearms violations.

Picket reports that the Claremore Daily Progress reporter covering the case says she's being targeted by the Mullin campaign for her stories about the candidate:

According to the writer of the Claremore Daily Progress piece, Salesha Wilken, as a result of shedding light on this story, the Mullin campaign has engaged in a smear campaign of her reputation and attempted to get her fired from her paper.

"The campaign has tried to get me fired on multiple occasions. They've tried to discredit me with other publications. Obviously, they were trying to intimidate me." According to Wilken, Mullin's campaign said that she "was a target."

However, Wilken says her editors have stood behind her reporting. "Everything I've written, I can document with either audio or court documents," Wilken said. "Markwayne Mullin does not want to answer questions about problems with the campaign," Wilken added pointing out she similarly scrutinized other candidates in the OK-2 GOP primary, but she did not receive the same backlash from those campaigns.

According to FEC filings, Mullin is a client of Majority Designs and AH Strategies, political firms of Karl Ahlgren and Fount Holland.

MORE:

Of the six candidates for the GOP nomination, only three were registered to vote in the district last year, according to voter records obtained on June 30, 2011, from the Oklahoma State Election Board.

State Rep. George Faught, Dustin Rowe, and Dwayne Thompson were all registered to vote at their current addresses in Muskogee, Johnston, and Cherokee Counties, respectively. Two of their three rivals were registered in other congressional districts and one was not registered to vote in Oklahoma at all.

As of June 30, 2011, Markwayne Mullin was registered to vote in Wagoner County Precinct 730379 in the 1st Congressional District, and former State Rep. Wayne Pettigrew was registered in Oklahoma County Precinct 550341 in the 5th Congressional District. Dakota Wood was not registered to vote in Oklahoma, but was a resident of Vienna, Virginia, near Washington, DC. Pettigrew represented Oklahoma County in the State Legislature.

Markwayne Mullin moved his registration from Wagoner County to Adair County on July 11, 2011. Mullin appears to have only voted eight times since 2000, starting with that year's general election.

Wayne Pettigrew moved his registration from Oklahoma County to Pittsburg County on July 14, 2011. He was a frequent voter in Oklahoma County.

Dakota Wood registered to vote in Rogers County on September 2, 2011. He voted in the March 6 presidential primary. Wood was not registered to vote in Oklahoma last July. According to Fairfax County, Va., land records, on April 23, 2012, Wood sold his home at 2247 Loch Lomond Dr in Vienna, Virginia, for $786,000. His declaration of candidacy lists his parents' address on Carefree Drive near Claremore as his address. According to his biography, Wood moved with his family to Claremore in 1978, graduating from high school there in 1981. His wife is a Rogers County native, the sister of former State Rep. Tad Jones.

(UPDATE: Dakota Wood responds in the comments with further background information. "The opportunity to represent my home town/county/district was one I and my family couldn't pass by. I resigned my position last summer as a Senior Fellow with the nation's preeminent non-profit institute for national security and we sold our home for a $120,000 LOSS (after realtor fees and home upgrades needed to sell it in the worst market since the great depression and not counting the 9 months of mortgage as it sat on the market unsold). With no income and no ability to purchase another home given the great sacrifices we'd made, my parents moved out of the home we'd bought in 1978 so that I could rent it to have some place to house my family. We've since moved into town (Claremore) for a more permanent residence.")

The current congressman, Dan Boren, and his predecessor Brad Carson both lived outside the 2nd District until shortly before running for the office -- Boren lived in Seminole in the 5th District and moved to Muskogee, Carson lived in midtown Tulsa in the 1st District and moved to Claremore.

While you don't have to reside in a congressional district in order to run for the office, and in Britain it's normal for a member of London's political class to run in any random constituency, America has a strong tradition of geographical representation. We like the idea of sending our neighbors -- people who shop and work and worship where we do -- to represent us in Washington.

Here are the voter registration records as they were on June 30, 2011, for all candidates for the 2nd District seat. The first line is precinct and name, second line is registration number, party, and status, third line is street address, fourth line is birthdate and registration date; fifth line is mailing address (if different from street address), remaining lines are the 20 most recent elections in which the candidate has voted. First two digits of the precinct number indicate the county sequence number in alphabetical order -- 51 is Muskogee, 16 is Cherokee, 73 is Wagoner, 55 is Oklahoma.

REPUBLICANS:

510038;FAUGHT;GEORGE;E;;
510010465;REP;A;
3220;E;HARRIS;RD;;MUSKOGEE;74403;
19620714;19880806;
;;;;;
20110405;AI;20110111;AI;20101102;IP;20100824;IP;20100727;IP;20100406;AI;
20090609;IP;20090210;AI;20081104;AI;20080729;IP;20080513;AI;20080401;AI;
20080205;AI;20070710;IP;20070213;AI;20061107;IP;20060822;IP;20060725;IP;
20060509;IP;20060404;IP

350004;ROWE;DUSTIN;PRICE;;
350012796;REP;A;
502;E;9;ST;;TISHOMINGO;73460;
19750923;20030908;
;;;;;
20110405;IP;20101102;AI;20100824;AI;20100727;AI;20100406;AI;20090407;IP;
20081209;AI;20081104;IP;20080729;IP;20080401;AI;20080205;AI;20071009;AI;
20070403;AI;20061107;AI;20060822;IP;20060725;AI;20060509;AI;20060404;AI;
20050913;IP;20050405;IP

110019;THOMPSON;DONALD;DWAYNE;;
110058170;REP;A;
11396;W;835;RD;;FT GIBSON;74434;
19581218;20081223;
;;;;;
20101102;IP;20100824;IP;20100727;IP

730379;MULLIN;MARKWAYNE;;;
730053754;REP;A;
33942;;51;HWY;;COWETA;74429;
19770726;20080205;
;;;;;
20101102;IP;20100727;IP;20081104;IP;20061107;IP;20041102;IP;20001107;IP

550341;PETTIGREW;GAYLE;WAYNE;;
550137900;REP;A;
2405;;RIVA;WAY;;ARCADIA;73007;
19620726;00000000;
;;;;;
20110405;IP;20101102;IP;20100824;IP;20100727;IP;20090407;IP;20081104;IP;
20080729;IP;20080205;AB;20070403;IP;20070306;IP;20061107;IP;20060822;IP;
20060725;IP;20050913;IP;20050405;IP;20041102;AB;20040824;IP;20040727;IP;
20040203;IP;20031209;IP

DEMOCRATS:

510041;EVERETT;EARL;E;;
510010278;DEM;A;
342;W;BENGE;RD;;FORT GIBSON;74434;
19330704;19760223;
P.O. BOX 246;;FORT GIBSON;OK;74434;
20110405;IP;20101102;IP;20100727;IP;20081104;IP;20080205;IP;20070403;IP;
20061107;IP;20060725;IP;20050913;IP;20050405;IP;20041102;IP;20040824;IP;
20040727;IP;20030401;IP;20021105;IP;20020917;IP;20020827;IP;20020514;IP;
20020108;IP;20010925;IP

510055;HERRIMAN;PATRICK;WAYNE;;
510081580;DEM;A;
9151;S;CHEROKEE;ST;;MUSKOGEE;74403;
19780220;20041109;
;;;;;
20101102;IP;20100727;AI;20081104;IP

510041;WALLACE;ROBERT;ANTHONY;;
510082017;DEM;A;
208;;HERITAGE;DR;;FORT GIBSON;74434;
19630715;20050111;
P O BOX 24;;FORT GIBSON;OK;74434;
20110405;IP;20101102;AI;20081104;AI;20080729;IP;20080205;IP;20070710;IP;
20061107;IP;20060822;IP;20060725;IP;20051108;IP;20050405;IP

INDEPENDENTS:

400305;FULKS;MICHAEL;G;;
400033392;IND;A;
54562;;US HWY 59;;;HEAVENER;74937;
19561119;19941117;
54562 US HWY 59;;HEAVENER;OK;74937;
20101102;IP;20081104;IP;20061107;IP;20060725;IP;20041102;IP;20001107;IP;
20000822;IP

Shane_Saunders_sign-250.jpgTo reiterate something I wrote earlier today, it's a pleasure to be able to commend to you a candidate that I've known for years before he decided to throw his hat into the ring. When I tell you that Shane Saunders is a principled across-the-board conservative, thoughtful and well-spoken, it's grounded in countless conversations over the decade that I've known him.

Shane grew up and went to school in District 70, got his bachelor's in politics and classics at Washington & Lee University, then spent three years working in Washington as a staffer for Congressman John Sullivan. He returned to Tulsa in 2005 and founded Trident Energy, an independent oil and gas producer. Shane is married, and he and his wife Taylor have a one-year-old daughter. Shane is a consistent supporter of the sanctity of human life, a cause that has been important to him since he was in high school. As a small businessman, he doesn't support corporate welfare, where government picks winners and losers, but instead believes Oklahoma should provide the kind of business environment in which any entrepreneur could start a business and grow it.

Shane's hands-on experience with the legislative process, his personal involvement with the oil and gas industry, his sharp mind, his devotion to his Christian faith and his family, and his affable nature will all be valuable assets not only to the citizens of House District 70, but to the majority Republican caucus and to the State of Oklahoma.

When I started writing on a regular basis several years ago, I stopped actively pursuing opportunities to do computer work for campaigns, but when Shane, who had worked with me on campaigns in the past, asked me to handle data for his campaign, I was happy to be a part of his team. I know Shane Saunders will be a principled conservative leader in the Oklahoma State House, and I urge you to join me in voting for Shane Saunders on June 26.

KRMG_The_Contenders_logo.jpgKRMG, TYpros, the League of Women Voters, and Leadership Tulsa are teaming up once again to bring candidates and voters together to meet and talk one-on-one about the issues in a relaxed environment. The Contenders is tonight, Monday, June 18, 2012, from 5:30 to 7:30.

Cains_Ballroom_Ladies_Mud_Wrestling.jpgThis time it's at Tulsa's historic Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main St., a fitting locale in several respects. Dancers have two-stepped their way across the curly maple dance floor for over 80 years; a couple dozen politicians two-stepping their way around pointed questions should feel right at home. And Tulsans of the baby boom generation will remember a time in the early '80s when Cain's (under earlier ownership) hosted a weekly ladies' mud wrestling night. The mud slung tonight will be, we hope, metaphorical and kept to a minimum.

I hope to talk to a number of candidates tonight, but I know I won't have time to talk to very many of them, so please share any interesting exchanges you have with the candidates at Cain's event in the comments below.

Jason_Carini_sign.jpgIn politics, you tend to get to know candidates just as they decide to run for office, when they're putting their best foot forward, when every statement is carefully weighed for its impact on the campaign. So it's a pleasure this year to commend to you two young men, both running for open seats in the Oklahoma House, whom I've known for many years. We've had frank conversations about politics on a regular basis, and I've seen their personal conduct in a variety of situations. I can recommend them -- Jason Carini in House 23 and Shane Saunders in House 70 -- to you with confidence that they'll be great representatives for their districts and principled leaders for Oklahoma. (More about Shane in a later entry.)

Jason Carini is seeking to succeed the late Sue Tibbs as representative for House District 23. The Carini family has been a part of our church family for many years, and we've seen firsthand the deep roots of Jason Carini's conservative principles, Christian faith, and interest in public policy. Jason has a degree in public policy from Patrick Henry College and played a key role in Tom Coburn's first race for U. S. Senate in 2004. Jason and I have had frequent after-church chats about politics and government -- not just the latest developments, but also about the bigger picture and the long run. He's no laundry-list conservative.

But Jason also knows there's more to life than politics. After a few years after college working on campaigns, Jason decided to step back from politics, and he and his brother founded a small business. Green Country Mowing and Landscaping operates debt-free and has a 95% customer retention rate, and they've done well enough that Jason last year became a homeowner in Catoosa, where he grew up. Jason and his wife Jessica are imminently expecting their first child.

We saw this year at the State Capitol that it's not enough to have elected officials with an "R" after their names. We need principled conservative leaders who won't be swayed or shaken by corporate welfare queens and turf-protecting bureaucrats. Jason Carini has a solid foundation to be the kind of conservative leader Oklahoma needs now and for many years to come.

A week ago Monday, June 4, 2012, KFAQ hosted a congressional debate between incumbent Congressman John Sullivan and challenger Jim Bridenstine, the two Republican candidates for the 1st Congressional District. Host Pat Campbell came out with guns blazing. The first question to Bridenstine was about his departure from the Tulsa Air and Space Museum; the first question to Sullivan was about his 91% congressional voting record, which Sullivan turned into a point about Bridenstine's dismal personal voting percentage. Since registering to vote in Oklahoma for the first time in July of 2010, Jim Bridenstine has voted in only 3 of the 8 or 9 elections in which he could vote. (There is some dispute about whether to count the July 2010 state primary election: Bridenstine's registration was a week after the deadline for that election, but it's arguable that he could have gotten himself around a week earlier to register.)

Bridenstine countered by saying that he "always voted absentee" when he was registered to vote in Florida, that he registered to vote in Escambia County in 1998, and later moved his registration to Orlando (Orange County).

Based on that information, I did some further research, contacting the Supervisors of Elections in both Escambia and Orange Counties. James Frederick Bridenstine is registered to vote in both Orange County, Florida, and Tulsa County, Oklahoma. He is listed as "in-active" on the Orange County voter roll.

Bridenstine registered to vote in Escambia County, Florida, on September 16, 1998. According to the office of the Supervisor of Elections, Bridenstine voted three times in Escambia County: in-person in the November 3, 1998, general election and by absentee ballot in the November 7, 2000, and November 2, 2004, elections.

On November 2, 2007, Bridenstine transferred his registration from Escambia County to Orange County. According to official records, Bridenstine voted twice in Orange County: He cast an early ballot in Florida's January 29, 2008, presidential preference primary, and he voted in person in Florida in the November 4, 2008, presidential election.

Between registering to vote in September 1998 and taking a job in Tulsa in December 2008 (according to news reports at the time), Bridenstine voted in only five of 13 major elections in Florida (38.5%), counting state and federal primaries, state and federal general elections, and presidential primaries. (There was no Republican presidential primary in Florida in 2004.)

Bridenstine's lifetime voting record in major elections (presidential primaries, state/federal primaries, state/federal generals) since becoming eligible to vote at age 18 in June 1993 is five out of 22 opportunities (22.7%). (Over the same period, Sullivan voted in 22 of 23 major election opportunities, 95.7%.)

Bridenstine has not voted in a major election since moving to Oklahoma. He cast his first Oklahoma vote in the September 13, 2011, Tulsa city council primary, the day before announcing that he was running for Congress. Since then he has voted twice: In the November 9, 2011, city council general election and in the February 14, 2012, Jenks school election. Although he started a job in Tulsa in December 2008, Bridenstine did not vote in the 2009 mayoral and city council elections or the 2010 state primary and general elections. He also skipped the 2012 presidential primary, a close, heavily contested three-way race between Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney.

In the 19 years since he became eligible to vote, Jim Bridenstine has voted eight (8) times. John Sullivan has voted eight times in the last three years.

Here are the two candidates' Oklahoma voter history records from 2006 to the present as of last month. What follows comes straight out of the Oklahoma State Election Board voter file; the only edit I've made is to delete addresses. The first line consists of the following fields: precinct, last name, first name, middle name, suffix, voter registration number, party, active status, date of birth, registration date. The remaining lines are pairs of voter history records -- the date of the election and the method of voting. Voting methods are IP (in-person on election day), AI (absentee in-person, aka early voting), AB (absentee by mail).

720117;SULLIVAN;JOHN;ALFRED;;720259701;REP;A;19650101;19880104;
20120306;AI;20111108;IP;20110913;AI;20110809;IP;20101102;IP;20100824;IP;
20091110;IP;20090908;AI;20081104;IP;20080826;IP;20080729;AI;20080513;IP;
20080401;AI;20080205;IP;20071009;IP;20061107;IP;20060822;IP;20060725;IP;
20060509;AB;20060404;AB

720155;BRIDENSTINE;JAMES;FREDERICK;LT;720749774;REP;A;19750615;20100708;
20120214;IP;20111108;IP;20110913;IP

Going back through my archives to voter files from earlier years, I was able to compile Sullivan's voting record all the way back to the beginning of 1994. Although Sullivan registered to vote in 1988 and almost certainly voted in an additional half-dozen or more elections over those six years, 1994 is a good point of comparison, since Bridenstine first became eligible to vote in 1993. On the right column is Bridenstine's lifetime voting record, with Florida votes converted to the equivalent Oklahoma notation.





John Sullivan Jim Bridenstine
John_Sullivan_head-200.jpg Jim_Bridenstine_head-200.jpg
79+ 8

20120306 AI
20111108 IP
20110913 AI
20110809 IP
20101102 IP
20100824 IP
20091110 IP
20090908 AI
20081104 IP
20080826 IP
20080729 AI
20080513 IP
20080401 AI
20080205 IP
20071009 IP
20061107 IP
20060822 IP
20060725 IP
20060509 AB
20060404 AB
20060307 AI
20060214 AB
20051213 AI
20050913 AI
20050405 AI
20041214 IP
20041102 IP
20040824 IP
20040727 IP
20040309 IP
20040203 AI
20030909 IP
20021105 IP
20020917 AI
20020827 IP
20020402 IP
20020312 AI
20020205 IP
20020108 IP
20011211 IP
20011113 IP
20010925 IP
20010508 AI
20001107 IP
20000919 IP
20000822 IP
20000314 IP
20000208 IP
20000201 AI
19991109 IP
19990810 IP
19990209 AI
19981103 IP
19980915 IP
19980825 IP
19980310 AI
19980210 AB
19980203 AI
19971014 IP
19970610 AB
19970211 AB
19961105 IP
19961008 AB
19960827 IP
19960312 AB
19960213 AB
19960206 AI
19951114 IP
19950912 IP
19950214 AB
19950110 IP
19941108 IP
19941011 IP
19940920 IP
19940823 IP
19940614 IP
19940301 AI
19940208 IP
19940201 IP

20120214 IP
20111108 IP
20110913 IP
20081102 IP
20080129 AI
20041102 AB
20001107 AB
19981103 IP


Wednesday afternoon I contacted Chris Medlock of the Bridenstine campaign seeking comment from Bridenstine about his voting record and offering him the opportunity to explain his delay in registering to vote after returning to Oklahoma, his failure to register early enough in 2010 to vote for one of the candidates challenging Sullivan in the primary and to vote in a long list of contested statewide primaries, and his failure to vote in the 2012 presidential primary. Medlock acknowledged receipt of the request, but I have not yet received a response from the candidate.

One further interesting note: According to Tulsa County Election Board records, on April 18, 2011, before ever casting an Oklahoma vote but shortly after announcing his congressional exploratory committee, Bridenstine made one change to his record, adding the letters LT to his name in the suffix field. LT is the abbreviation for the military rank of lieutenant. Typically, a suffix is used to differentiate between generations with the same name (e.g., Sr., Jr., III). Bridenstine is the only registered voter in the 1st Congressional District with the suffix LT, and one of only six voters that I can find with a suffix that could be a military title.

DISCLOSURE: John Sullivan for Congress is an advertiser on BatesLine. I perform computer data processing services for the campaign, as I have done in each campaign since Sullivan's first congressional race in 2001. This investigation was undertaken at my own initiative, at my own expense, and on my own time.

In a web op-ed attacking House GOP leadership (or lack thereof) for thwarting amendments to cut wasteful spending in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, Richard Viguerie, a prominent leader in the national conservative movement since before the Reagan administration, singled out votes on eight defeated amendments. These eight amendments to cut spending by over $5 billion were offered by Republicans, but Republican House leadership didn't rally support for the cuts.

So how did Oklahoma's congressional delegation vote? A BatesLine analysis of the eight votes identified by Viguerie shows that John Sullivan (R, 1st District) voted for six of the cuts, leading the delegation, with James Lankford (R, 5th District) close behind with votes for five of the cuts. Republicans Frank Lucas and Tom Cole voted for a single cost-savings measure of the eight -- "prohibiting funding of Davis-Bacon union wage requirements." Democrat Dan Boren didn't vote for any of the cuts.

John Sullivan was the only Oklahoma congressman to vote in favor of California Republican Tom McClintock's amendment to save $514 million by eliminating nuclear energy research subsidies, and the only Oklahoma congressman to support Arizona Republican Jeff Flake's proposal to save $87.5 million by holding spending across the board to FY 2012 levels.

CassidyTandy.JPGTulsa County Clerk Earlene Wilson is retiring after 12 years in the office. Three candidates are running for the Republican nomination to replace Wilson: Pat Key, Dean Martin, and Cassidy Tandy. It is the only contested county election, and the winner of the Republican primary will win the seat -- only Republicans filed for the office. I will be voting for Cassidy Tandy.

She has eight years experience as a county employee, but Cassidy Tandy, a senior appraiser in the County Assessor's office, is the youngest of the three candidates, which is a distinct plus in this race, as the Tulsa County Clerk's office has long been in desperate need of a new, public-centered approach to maintaining public records. Tandy is of the generation that expects information, especially government information, to be readily available online, and that expectation informs her vision for the County Clerk's office. As she wrote in reply to my question:

I would like to see substantial reform in the manner in which public information is made available to the taxpayers. Currently there are only two methods in which to obtain public documents and information from the Clerk's office. One is to physically drive downtown or to a branch of the public library, and the other is to pay for a subscriber based service at a monthly rate.

In today's fast-paced and business-driven environment, timing can be very important. Easier access to records, without giving up proprietary information, should be made available quickly and without charge. The taxpayers have already paid for the technology, and the infrastructure is in place to allow such a delivery method. Why should taxpayers be burdened with additional out-of-pocket expenses for the cost of a one-time, off-the-shelf software purchase or a program that can be administered in house?

The inconvenience of driving to the county courthouse to get complete information about property transactions is no accident, sadly. It's part of the philosophy of the incumbent, a philosophy I assume is shared by Key, the current deputy. The incumbent administration seems to see public access as a problem to be managed, not as an opportunity to serve the public interest. There's a stark difference between the openness and ease of access to be found on the Oklahoma County Clerk's website compared to what you find on the Tulsa County Clerk's website.

Under Pat Key's leadership at the County Clerk's office, if you want online access to complete Tulsa County land records in the LRMIS system, not only do you have to pay a monthly fee, you have to appear before the county commission and ask their permission.

It's a telling detail: Pat Key's campaign doesn't even have a website. Do we really want a keeper of public records who acts like the internet doesn't exist?

Tandy also wants to make all county expenditures and financial data readily available online. The idea of posting the government's checkbook online, with the ability to search individual transactions, is spreading to state, county, and municipal governments across the country.

She also points out a serious deficiency in the County Clerk's online databases -- the absence of the parcel number, which is used by the County Assessor's office and the County Treasurer's office to track land valuation and taxation. By law this same parcel number should be available for searching County Clerk land records, too, but it's not available in the Tulsa County Clerk system acquired by the Wilson/Key administration.

Beyond the specific responsibilities of the County Clerk, she also serves as a member of the Tulsa County Budget Board. As we saw last week, that's another area where more openness and accountability is required. County Assessor Ken Yazel was the only one of the county's eight elected officials to stand up for a budget that covers all county expenditures, not just the tiny percentage in the general fund. Tandy shares Yazel's commitment to open and complete information to the taxpayer, as opposed to the frustrating resistance to greater and more accessible public disclosure on the part of the Wilson/Key administration.

Long-time readers will know that I've long been frustrated by the Earlene Wilson/Pat Key administration's foot-dragging on public disclosure. (Here's a complaint from 2004, a response to a March 2009 Journal Record column by Ted Streuli titled "Tulsa County Clerk Earlene Wilson is picking your pocket," and a concern raised this year when Pat Key might not draw an opponent.) Pat Key was Wilson's deputy throughout Wilson's tenure as County Clerk and never raised a public objection, as far as I've found, to Wilson's access-thwarting policies.

Land records play an important role in knowing what's going on around Tulsa and are also an important historic resource. As a blogger with a day job, I need access whenever I have time to research and write, which is not during the county clerk's regular business hours. The current system favors those in the real estate and development industry to the disadvantage of the individual citizen.

Another County Clerk responsibility is acting as secretary to the county's boards and commissions. You will look in vain on the Earlene Wilson/Pat Key county clerk's website for meeting minutes or detailed backup material for meeting agendas online. We expect that sort of detail on the Tulsa City Council's website, and we ought to expect it from the county as well.

We need a change in the Tulsa County Clerk's office. We need a candidate who gets the importance of internet access to public records to an informed public. As Tulsa County Clerk, Cassidy Tandy will bring online transparency and accessibility to Tulsa County's public records. Please join me in voting for her in the June 26, 2012, primary.

The Union Pacific Railroad is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year, and as part of the celebration, the UP is asking people to try their hand at remaking the "Great Big Rollin' Railroad" jingle used in early '70s UP TV ads. The grand prize is $15,000, and there's a monthly prize of $1,000 for the video that has the most "likes" at the end of the month. A Tulsa couple is in a close race for the June prize with a sunshiny, pop remake that will keep you smiling for the rest of the week.

The lyrics are by Bill Fries, the music by Bob Jenkins and Dick Proulx. Fries, an ad copywriter, went on a few years later, under the stage name C. W. McCall, to team up with Chip Davis on a hit song called "Convoy."

Here's the original version, from 1970, filmed in North Platte, Nebraska, using UP employees (some with very big hair indeed) singing a line of lyrics each.

Tulsa musicians Jarrod and Jaime Gollihare are either in 1st or a close 2nd for the June contest. Jarrod is the drummer with the power-pop band Admiral Twin; you may also remember him as a writer for Urban Tulsa Weekly. Their version of the song features the two of them in their mid-century modern apartment playing glasses, suitcases, bottles, a squeaky door, blinds, a pie plate, slide guitar, ukulele, and a xylophone. It's a catchy arrangement with clever visuals (including, briefly, the animal masks you see below). I'd love to see and hear more videos like this one from Jarrod and Jaime. (Maybe a remake of "Tulsa Straight Ahead"?)

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As I write this, Jarrod and Jamie have 196 likes, just two behind the leader. I hope you'll take a minute to click through, listen, and show your support by registering and liking their video.

In honor of their first anniversary, the Tulsa Playboys are throwing a dance this Thursday, June 14, 2012, at the legendary Cain's Ballroom at 423 N. Main St. in Tulsa's Bob Wills District. They usually have one dance a month, but this month is special -- free admission! Legendary country music DJ and singer Billy Parker will be their special guest. Doors open at 6:15 pm.

As listed on their Facebook page, the Tulsa Playboys are:

Shelby Eicher - fiddle and electric mandolin, Rick Morton - fiddle, Steve Bagsby - steel guitar, Spencer Sutton - piano, Mike Bennett - trumpet, Steve Ham - trombone, Rodney Lay - bass, Ryan Shepard - drums and Danny McBride - standard guitar.

You are welcome to sit or stand and tap your feet to the music, but you are going to want to dance. Two-step is the usual type of dancing (and there will be lessons at 6:30 before the band takes the stage and again during intermission), but there are waltzes and polkas, too. If you're part of the swing dancing resurgence, you can use those steps on Cain's spring-loaded curly maple dance floor, too -- West Coast, East Coast, Lindy Hop, they'll all work with Western Swing.

Here are the Tulsa Playboys with Byron Berline performing "Right or Wrong":

No excuses -- the price is right, there's no school the next day, all ages are welcome, and it's a chance to enjoy Tulsa's music in Tulsa's historic dance hall.

Boondoggle Blog's Don Wyatt has posted audio of the Tulsa County Budget Board meeting on June 7, 2012.

The Budget Board is made up of the three county commissioners and the five county-wide elected officials: Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk, Court Clerk, and Sheriff. (Although our District Attorney serves only Tulsa County, most DA districts are multi-county, and the office is considered a state, not county, office.)

Wyatt argued very politely, from the law and from the principle of transparency, that the budget being considered by the board should cover more than the roughly $66 million general fund. Another citizen, Naomi Koehn, urged allocating more money to public safety in order to retain sheriff's deputies.

Wyatt said that it seemed to him that the budget as it is, underrepresents the scope of county operations. He compared the $64 million in last year's budget to the amount listed in the Excise Board Appropriated Funds Report and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, issued following the close of each fiscal year, that puts county spending at roughly $256 to $258 million. Wyatt said it was arguable that the county should go a step further and include in the budget all ad valorem taxes, upwards of $600 million. (I'd go yet another step and include revenues and expenditures of the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority, and the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, and any other county authority handling public money.)

Wyatt pointed out that Oklahoma County's budget is three times bigger than Tulsa County's and includes revenues that Tulsa County excludes -- beginning fund balances (money not spent in the previous year) and special revenues such as federal grants, inmate boarding fees from the state and municipalities, and resale properties. The FY 2011-2012 Oklahoma County budget covers $166.5 million, although the general fund revenues are only $67.8 million, slightly higher than Tulsa County's equivalent figure.

Wyatt also noted a disconnect between the number of employees listed in the budget and the general fund. For example, the sheriff's office budget request is $9.1 million, but the sheriff's office has over 600 employees. That works out to about $15,000 per employee, and obviously that isn't all the revenue the sheriff has available to pay his people and cover other expenses. Sheriff Stanley Glanz said that they used to include other revenues in the budget.

The comment is made -- although at the moment I can't find it again -- that the budget board can't reallocate surplus funds belonging to one of the elected officials. Once money has been allocated to a county official's fiefdom, that official has complete discretion to spend any surplus, and the budget board has no power to reallocate those funds toward more urgent needs. If that's the case, that's yet another example of the lack of checks and balances built into Oklahoma's one-size-fits-all model of county government.

MORE: Further on in the tape, starting about 1:10, there's a discussion of the city's stadium district assessment on county-owned properties, and whether the county budget board ought to protest the assessment. (The general sentiment is to allow big private landowners to carry the water and make the case for a smaller increase in the downtown authority's budget.)

This weekend I was invited to Providence, Rhode Island for the Future of Journalism Summit, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Heritage is a well established national policy think-tank, while the Franklin Center is only about three years old, founded in response to a "falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government." Franklin supports state capitol news organizations in 39 states, often partnering with state policy think tanks. There are two Franklin-affiliated state capitol reporters in Oklahoma: Peter J. Rudy at Oklahoma Watchdog and Patrick McGuigan at CapitolBeatOK.

The event was designed to bring together New Media bloggers and Old Media journalists. I shared a cab from the airport with Andrew Malcolm, a veteran national and foreign reporter and now a columnist for Investors Business Daily. Last night, after the sessions were finished, I was in a group that wandered over to downtown Providence to watch their WaterFire event, a group that included Jim Geraghty, political reporter for National Review, Rob Port of Say Anything, North Dakota's authoritative state politics blog, David Guenthner of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and several Franklin Center staffers from around the country.

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The days were taken up with informative sessions. Here are just a few examples:

We heard about efforts to combat vote fraud (and efforts to thwart efforts to combat vote fraud) from National Review's John Fund, who has written a book on the subject, and Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator, who was a an aide to Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston when Livingston successfully fought to add a voter roll cleanup provision to Bill Clinton's Moter Voter law.

Bill Beach, director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis, gave us an overview of the wide range of federal data available online. He also told us about the early days of his career, when processing government data for analysis involved hours of data entry work and going to the lab in the wee hours of the morning to process stacks of punch cards.

It was encouraging to hear Mark Morano, a former Senate Energy and Commerce Committee aide under Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, explain how thoroughly and completely the anthropogenic global warming scare has been debunked, despite the institutional weight behind the discredited theory.

SD005189Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch told us the ins and outs of Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and how to pry loose information the government doesn't want to release. He also treated us to an example of unnecessarily redacted information: A field report on Ted Kennedy's 1961 visit to Latin America, a credentials-building trip for his run to take his big brother Jack's vacant U. S.Senate seat. The document was unredacted in bits and pieces in response to a series of requests, revealing Kennedy's desire to hobnob with Lauchlin Currie, a Soviet intelligence source during his time in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, and Kennedy's all-night rental of a brothel in Chile.

After Friday's session we attended the first-ever Breitbart Awards, honoring Duane Lester of All-American Blogger as blogger of the year (that's me with Duane in the photo below), Philip Klein, senior editorial writer of the Washington Examiner as professional journalist of the year, and Andrew Marcus, as citizen journalist of the year. Political journalist John Fund delivered a challenging keynote speech, and several friends and associates of the late Andrew Breitbart paid tribute to the many occasions when he encourage them to be bold in the face of adversities. I was especially moved by a speech by Brietbart.com writer Dana Loesch. Loesch spoke of intimidation attempts she endured after she wrote about a confrontation involving SEIU members and a Tea Party member -- people showed up on her doorstep, tailed her as she drove to and from the grocery store -- and she was ready to quit and retreat to normalcy, out of the spotlight. A phone call from Breitbart fired her up and kept her in the fight.

Many thanks to the Franklin Center and the Heritage Foundation for the opportunity to be a part of this conference.

Michael Bates with Duane Lester, All-American Blogger, at the Future of Journalism Summit, June 8, 2012, Providence, RI

Americans for Prosperity Oklahoma director Stuart Jolly speaks out on the legislative session just past:

UPDATE: Oklahoma's Income Tax Reduction Battle & Budget Agreement: Disappointing!

I've racked my brain looking for another word to describe what occurred this legislative session, and sadly, the only word that keeps coming to mind is "disappointing." The Oklahoma House and Senate leaders came to a budget agreement, but for the most part, this budget looked an awful lot like last year's budget, the budget before that, and the previous 8 years' budgets of the previous administration in terms of size and spending. Where were the tax cuts? The consolidations of inefficient agencies? Spending cuts? Disappointing.

Consider this: Every Republican in our state legislature ran on a "lower taxes and limited government" platform, but for the most part still managed to grow government spending and didn't cut taxes. Disappointing.

Now, there are several reasons for the results of this legislative session...and none of them are acceptable. Personality conflicts, lack of leadership, policy distractions, and political expediency are just a few that got in the way.

My recommendations for the 2013 Legislative Session:


  • Focus! Focus on what's good for ALL Oklahomans and do the right things for the right reasons.

  • Cut income taxes for all Oklahomans, including small businesses. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the engines behind a great economy, and a broader, fairer tax base works best and stimulates economies.

  • Submit and vote on budget issues early in the session - not in the last week of session.

  • Better yet, go to a 2-year budget cycle. This would allow more time to truly analyze agency spending and provide real reviews on spending policies implemented two years earlier. Currently, decisions are being made on past spending decisions that are barely implemented before new decisions are made.

  • Being a Fiscal Conservative means cutting spending, eliminating waste, and not funding things that are not a government's job to fund. Do we really want the state to fund a TV station when my TV already has 1000 stations? Or spend 2 million taxpayer dollars on horse racing? Winners and losers in the market place should be based off a product or service provided - and not the quality of your lobbyist.

Bottomline: "It's the spending, stupid!" The government's role is simple: Create an environment for businesses to grow and families to prosper. Government's role should not include paying businesses to provide jobs or picking winners and losers in the marketplace by providing tax breaks to special interest groups. A business will hire when there is a reason to hire or profit to be made. If a bad product is produced, it is not the government's job to keep them in business. However, we're not naïve, and of course there are services that still need to be provided such as roads/bridges, safety and security measures and a short-term safety net for those who fall on hard times.

My advice: Focus on what matters most in this state: Passing measures that create an environment where businesses and families can prosper most, and stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars on wasteful, inefficient, unproductive spending.

I appreciate the role that groups like AfP and OCPA play in holding our elected officials' feet to the fire. Conservative Republicans control both houses of the legislature and all statewide elected offices. They are without excuse. The way is clear to implement the limited government ideals we profess to hold.

A Rally for Religious Freedom will be held in dozens of cities across the nation tomorrow, bringing together Catholics and Protestants to protest government intrusion in the religious convictions of health care providers. Tulsa's rally will take place at Chapman Centennial Green, on 6th Street downtown between Main and Boston, from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, June 8, 2012.

Speakers will include Rev. Dr. Jim Miller, pastor of Tulsa's First Presbyterian Church, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tulsa, constitutional attorney Leah Farish, Sr. Barbara Anne Gooding of St. Francis Hospital, Dennis Jernigan, and Rev. Leonard Ahanotu of St. Clement's Catholic Parish in Bixby.

Parking will be available in a lot owned by 1st Presbyterian Church on the south side of 8th St between Main and Boston -- the north half of the block only.

oklahoma-a-sense-of-place.jpgTulsa author Michael Wallis, who helped rekindle America's love affair with Route 66 and who told us the true stories of Oklahoma legends like Frank Phillips, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Wilma Mankiller, has a new book out, and he'll be signing it this weekend in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The book is Oklahoma: A Sense of Place, and here are the places Wallis will be signing books:

Tulsa: Saturday, June 9, 2012, 1 pm to 3 pm, Steve's Sundry Books and Magazines, 2612 S. Harvard Ave.

Oklahoma City: Sunday, June 10, 2012, 3 pm to 5 pm, Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 NW Expressway.

Wallis invites you to write about your sense of place:

Everyone has a sense of place. Many have more than one. Your sense of place may be a state, city, or neighborhood. Perhaps it is a specific site -- a cathedral, a park, a river, a beer joint, a graveyard, or a house.

I want to hear from you. I want you to tell me about your sense of place, or places. Send me your candidates and include pictures if possible. Some submissions will be posted and could be cast in a future Sense of Place video series.

I've already submitted one idea: The 1929 pony-truss bridge east of Headrick, on a historic aligment of US 62 in southwest Oklahoma.

MORE: Speaking of a sense of place, National Geographic travel blogger (and Tulsa native) Aric S. Queen thinks Tulsa (or maybe Oklahoma City) might just be the next Austin. And he asks whether Tulsa is "an architecture fanatic's dream". And he declares the grilled catfish at Wanda J's in Broken Arrow to be the best anywhere. (Hat tip to Holly Wall at This Land Press.)

KenYazel.jpgTulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel would like you to focus your attention to how Tulsa County officials are managing your money. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and there's nothing like intense public scrutiny to encourage elected officials to find ways to economize and to discourage them from cutting corners.

One of Yazel's concerns is that Tulsa County's budget doesn't cover all funds that pass through the county's hands. For one example, the conduit loans handled by the Tulsa County Industrial Authority don't even rate a mention. For another example, the county sales tax of 1.017% is not included in the budget, even though it brings in more money (about $80 million per year) than is accounted for in the official budget.

I would copy the text in the Tulsa County 2012-2013 Budget that explains why sales tax revenues are excluded from the official budget, but the PDF is locked so that text can't be copied for pasting elsewhere. How odd is that? So you'll have to read it for yourself -- it's on page 68 of the PDF. You will look in vain for a total amount of sales tax collected this current fiscal year or estimated for the coming fiscal year. My $80 million estimate comes from a line graph on that page, showing monthly receipts ranging from $6 to $8 million a month.

So here's an open letter to Tulsa County citizens from County Assessor Ken Yazel, calling on people to show up at the public hearing this coming Thursday, June 7, 2012, at 2:00 pm.

If you believe we're Taxed Enough Already, if you want all county revenue accounted for in the budget process, if you want to be sure that all county expenditures are transparent, Thursday is a great opportunity to express your concerns to your elected officials.

Dear Citizen,

Remember how much fun you had last year about this time when 20 or more attended a meeting at Tulsa County to observe County Fiscal actions?

This Thursday you can participate at an earlier stage of the budget process; namely, a 'Public Hearing' on the County Budget.

As many as possible to Should attend this Thursday afternoon for the Special Budget Board Meeting. The agenda has not yet been posted for this meeting, but I expect this will be the meeting where the Budget Board hears public input and may on short consideration of any public input approve the Tulsa County Budget for next year (Fiscal Year 2012-2013, beginning July 1, 2012). The input by the public deserves longer consideration so come and voice your concerns.

Remember the outrageous deception in their budget last year...the ones protested by the Tulsa Tax Task Force and which are still proceeding through the Court of Tax Review?

Well, it looks like they're producing the same kind of budget again this year with the same lack of concern for the legal directives and common sense for including 'all' funds managed by the County. They've already published the budget in the paper last week, declaring only about $67 million. We all know that the budget should account for at least 4 times this much, including the carryover funds, the projected taxes and the projected fees that are certain to be paid by the citizens and should be budgeted.

What will it take to pressure or shame our elected officials into following the law?

When: Thursday afternoon, June 7, at 2:00 in Room 119 of the Tulsa County Administration Building, 500 S. Denver.

Please make every effort to be there. Our elected officials need to know we're paying attention.

This past week, Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ's Pat Campbell spoke to a Tulsa County commissioner, the Tulsa County assessor, the mayor, the chairman of the City Council, a former city councilor, and a Tulsa Metro Chamber official this last week about the proposed Tulsa County tax increase to fund airport improvements and to create a $75 million "Close the Deal" fund.

It was interesting to hear County Commissioner Fred Perry respond to County Assessor Ken Yazel's assertions about surplus county funds and Campbell's well-taken point that many of those funds are under the control of boards that have no direct accountability to the voters. Under firm questioning by Campbell, Perry ultimately acknowledged that these officials are mostly beyond the voters' reach.

The members of the Tulsa City-County Library Commission and the Tulsa City-County Board of Health are appointed by the Mayor of Tulsa (confirmed by the City Council) and the Tulsa County Board of Commissioners. The Tulsa Community College Board of Regents are appointed by the Governor of Oklahoma. The seven members of Tulsa Technology Center Board of Education are elected by the voters, but at the low-turnout February school elections, and with seven-year rotating terms, it would take four years to change a bare majority of the board.

Each of these four bodies has a dedicated millage -- a share of the property taxes you pay. The millage appears to be ample to meet each entity's operating needs and then some, even when sales-tax dependent city governments are hurting from economic downturns.

The good news is that each body is insulated from having their funds reallocated for other governmental purposes. When elected officials try to balance priorities across all the different ways government could be spending our tax dollars, the funds controlled by the libraries, the health department, the community college, and the vo-tech school are off limits.

The bad news is that each body is insulated from having their funds reallocated for other governmental purposes. So even if there's a crying need for more police detectives or funds to open the city swimming pools, the surplus for these entities can't be touched to help. Instead, the surplus might be used for facility expansion -- say, a new building.

When these entities run a perennial surplus, when they take in more than they can reasonably spend, it's worth asking the question: How would we go about adjusting the permanent millage for these entities, to make space in the total property tax burden for more pressing needs? Is the governing board (unelected in three of four cases) the only body that can put a millage rate reduction on the ballot? Can the County Commissioners do it? Can it be done by initiative petition?

Or maybe there's a way that these entities could donate surplus monies on a year-by-year basis into a rainy day fund available to level out the dips in revenue for sales-tax dependent cities and towns. Of course, that would likely just give the protected-millage entities the incentive to spend every mill to keep it from going into the fund.

Perry made an interesting point about the way the Vision 2025 ballot was split up, and that some of any Vision 2025 sales tax surplus might not be usable for the airport projects being discussed. But the ballot title categories for each of the three taxes that went into effect are broad enough that I imagine they can fit each proposed expenditure into one or another -- "TO FUND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROMOTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT", "TO FUND EDUCATIONAL, HEALTH CARE AND EVENTS FACILITIES FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROMOTING ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT", "FOR THE PURPOSE OF CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS FOR COMMUNITY ENRICHMENT".

Perry used his last minute decrying a statement by Ken Yazel as "outrageous," "despicable," "irresponsible." According to Perry, Yazel "basically said that commissioners bring these kind of proposals forward -- first of all, we didn't bring this proposal forward, but -- commissioners have these bond issues and bond refinancing and put tax issues out there to benefit their friends, to benefit people that get the fees, that get the fees from the issuing." Perry said people ought to challenge Yazel to prove his allegation.

Here's what Yazel said the day before in a call to KFAQ:

What is driving this is how big can we make the bond issues so we get the bond fees generated so that people who really want to make money can make money, and it has nothing to do with the benefit of the taxpayers; it has more to do with generating these bonds. And by the way, follow the money, but follow the fees. If they go into an authority, they're one step removed from the taxpayers authority, and it's even worse once they do a contract for non-competitive bond fees. Do you know where they're going and who's benefitting? No. It can't be audited, and it's a shame, and they ought to get out of that business.These people, in my opinion, don't care about the project, they care about generating fees.

I raised similar concerns last week.

The Tulsa County Commissioners, as the board members of the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, could easily dispel the concerns Yazel expresses by publishing on the internet a full accounting of the money handled by TCIA, including the funds raised by the Vision 2025 and Four to Fix the County sales taxes, as well as conduit loans that aren't tied to tax revenue. Contracts between the TCIA and their vendors and advisers, etc., should also be disclosed online.

Every dollar has a destination. Some dollars went directly to program costs, for example, the annual payment to the Oklahoma Aquarium. Some dollars are repaying bondholders -- those can be further divided into principal, interest, and fees. The money received from the sale of bonds should likewise Some dollars may have been used to pay support contractors -- perhaps program managers, bond attorneys, bond advisers, bond underwriters. Some dollars may be sitting in an account in reserve -- those can be divided into reserves for specific projects or for future debt service. All of that should be spelled out, online, broken out by payee. And if a payee is an LLC, as taxpayers we deserve to have a list of owners of more than, say, a 5% share. Then let the taxpayers weigh that information for themselves.

MORE: I appreciate Pat Campbell's pursuit of this issue and his willingness to ask pointed questions of these elected officials. You can find all of Pat Campbell's interviews here; here are direct links to the specific interviews:

Some local pride in the international press:

The Daily Mail (London) has a feature story with photos of Jennie Cluck's beautifully restored 1955 home in Tulsa's Wedgwood neighborhood. There's an open house today (Saturday, June 2, 2012) from 10 am to 3 pm, hosted by Modern Tulsa, a program of the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture. The Daily Mail story mentions that the house is featured in the new book Atomic Ranch: Midcentury Interiors. From the Modern Tulsa blog:

According to the Parade of Homes guide from 1956, "The Citation," built by Lloyd Creekmore, has a combination kitchen, utility, dining room, and family room that "is sure to be the cynosure of discriminating eyes." One bathroom has a translucent plastic ceiling, square tub, and a unique divider between the double sinks and commode. The extra large master bedroom has a built-in television set. The living room has slanted and beamed ceilings, ribbon strip mahogany paneling, and a corner fireplace with a built-in barbecue rotator.

Tulsa is also featured in a "He Said/She Said" article on National Geographic's Intelligent Travel site, in which native Tulsans Denver Nicks and Andrea Leitch describe their favorite places. I learned about a few places previously unknown to me (e.g., Buffalo's BBQ in Sperry) and was reminded of some great things about Tulsa I haven't experienced for a while. If you ever need to explain to a friend from elsewhere what you love about our city, this article would be a great conversation starter.

(In case you're wondering -- the picture of Weber's in that article is not the Tulsa Weber's. It's in Pennsauken, New Jersey, one of a few surviving outlets of a chain. This 2001 article about the New Jersey Weber's Drive-Ins notes that New Jersey no longer licenses drive-in eateries.)

  • Who: Tulsa Boy Singers 2012 Spring Concert
  • When: Tonight, 7:30 pm, Friday, June 1, 2012
  • How much: Adults $10, students free. Tickets available at the door
  • What: Music by Gershwin, Mozart, Bach, Gardner, Durufle, Franck and others, followed by a reception
  • Where: Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati in downtown Tulsa

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The Tulsa Boy Singers have been Tulsa's Musical Ambassadors for more than 60 years, and twice a year they present a formal concert of both sacred and secular music in the beautiful Gothic Revival sanctuary of Trinity Episcopal Church. The boys range in age from 5 to 18, covering the full vocal range from treble to bass. Their twice-weekly rehearsals provide an education in musicianship. They work hard, have fun, and learn to blend together to produce a beautiful sound. If you've got a boy as young as five or older who loves to sing, the directors will be glad to talk to you after the program about an opportunity to audition. TBS parents always put on a nice reception following the show.

Please treat yourself to some beautiful music, and show your support for these hard-working young musicians by attending tonight's Tulsa Boy Singers performance.

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MORE: A great article about Tulsa Boy Singers by G. K. Hizer in the current Urban Tulsa Weekly:

When meeting with Janet Drye, from the Tulsa Boy Singers' board of directors, we discussed a bit of the group's history and how it has developed over the years as well as a few of the challenges the group faces. Originally founded to consist of young males from ages 8-18, membership is constantly changing as voices change and singers graduate from the group and move on, so recruiting has always been crucial. With that natural transition of members, the troupe's size has fluctuated and currently consists of roughly 15 boys, it's smallest iteration for a number of years. Just recently, the organization changed its guidelines and is accepting singers as young as five years old in order to develop young voices and fill some of its gaps in the trebles of the choir.

Recruiting singers has always been a challenge. "We used to contact elementary school music teachers and they got word out," Drye shared. In recent years, however, the group's connection with those teachers has been reduced as budget cuts have limited the music programs in many schools.

Another challenge has come as so many children are involved in multiple activities at an early age, from music lessons to sporting events, limiting their time to become involved or even interested in the choral group. "We're hoping that with the new age changes, we'll be able to get kids interested and involved before they become so committed to other activities," Drye said....

When asked how material is chosen for the group, [director Casey] Cantwell responded: "In choosing repertoire for TBS I try to do a variety of music and styles. However, I always include repertoire from the English Cathedral tradition since those choirs are, for the most part, choirs of men and boys."

"I also take into account the abilities of the boys at hand," he continued. "I try to do music that they will enjoy and which will be successful for them. I think it's good to stretch them to do music that's harder than they think they can do, while making sure that they succeed in doing it."

Cantwell also addressed the evolving nature of the group. "During my tenure," Cantwell said, "we have had ups and downs in numbers and talent. At the current time we have a smaller number of boys than we have in the past, but they have worked hard and are ready to perform. To help them out, I have three alumni of TBS who will be joining us for this concert -- all of whom are currently, or soon will be, in music degree programs in college. The constant changing of TBS members is at the same time exciting and scary, but it's never boring and is always rewarding."

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