Oklahoma Politics: June 2008 Archives

Via Green Country Values, I learned that the Oklahoma Publishing Company, which publishes the Oklahoman, has launched a website with information on elections for federal and state offices called ElectOK.com. Enter your address, and get a list of federal and state races on your ballot, with a page for each candidate to outline a platform, and post blog entries, photos, and video. As far as I can tell, it's a free opportunity for candidates to reach the voters.

At the bottom of the "about" page is an informative disclaimer that spells out OPUBCO's wide reach:

ElectOK is a product of OPUBCO Communications Group, a division of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, a 104-year-old privately held corporation based in Oklahoma City, with current interests in media, hospitality, minerals, communications, technology, securities and real estate development, among other ventures. OPUBCO Communications Group publishes a statewide daily newspaper, The Oklahoman, with distribution in all 77 Oklahoma counties. In addition to The Oklahoman, and the state's most trafficked local websites, including NewsOK.com, Wimgo.com, JobsOK.com, HomesOK.com, CarsOK.com and BedlamNation.com, OPUBCO Communications Group owns and operates The Oklahoman Direct, the largest full-scale standard direct mail provider in Oklahoma. OPUBCO Communications Group is also the publisher of many free distribution publications and magazines including: LOOKatOKC, a young reader tabloid; Viva Oklahoma!, a Spanish-language news tabloid; Make and Model, a car buyers guide; Central Oklahoma Homes Magazine, an upscale homebuilders magazine; HomesOK Extra, a real estate tabloid; JobsOK Extra, a recruitment tabloid; and most recently Recreational Rides, a monthly niche product that focuses on outdoor recreation.

(Wouldn't it be interesting to know details on, e.g., OPUBCO's involvement in real estate development? And whether that affects the Oklahoman's coverage of, e.g., zoning issues?)

More McMahan fallout

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Mike McCarville helpfully reminds us of convicted felon Lori McMahan's defense of her husband, convicted felon and disgraced former State Auditor Jeff McMahan, during McMahan's re-election campaign against Republican nominee Gary Jones:

"But I'm not going to sit by and let Jones drag a courageous, honest public servant through the mud with appalling lies and outlandish innuendoes. It would be almost impossible for me to respond to them all, but here are Gary's five most shameful lies, along with the truth."

McCarville notes that those shameful lies "formed the basis of the federal charges against her and her husband, and their convictions on conspiracy and bribery counts."

McCarville also has a poll on his homepage, asking whom Gov. Brad Henry should appoint to replace McMahan. Jones is leading the pack with 50%, followed by Robert Butkin with 17%.

Butkin, a former State Treasurer and a Democrat, left to head up the University of Tulsa's law school, then resigned from that post last year to help out with his family's oil and gas business. Butkin cleaned up an extremely tarnished State Treasurer's office and built a reputation for competence and integrity. He would be an excellent choice to finish out the Auditor's term. But Butkin and his wife have three small daughters, and it's unlikely he'd be willing to go back to commuting between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, even if only for two years.

If the Governor is set on appointing a Democrat, another possibility for a caretaker to finish out the term would be Tulsa's own City Auditor, Phil Wood. Wood set a standard for openness, taking the initiative to launch the first website for city government documents and information on his own dime and doing his own web programming. Although he's a loyal Democrat, he operates his office in a non-partisan fashion. As with Butkin, the big question is whether he'd be willing to commute to Oklahoma City.

Jones remains the best choice to complete McMahan's term -- he has demonstrated strong popular support in two elections and is willing and able to do the job.

McCarville reports rumors that Antlers banker Steve Burrage is a leading candidate for appointment as Auditor. I know nothing about Mr. Burrage, but my first thought was, Didn't Gene Stipe and Steve Phipps have an abstract company in Antlers?

Michelle Byte has started a blog to track the auditor appointment: appointgaryjones.blogspot.com.

In 2002, Gary Jones, a Certified Public Accountant, ran for State Auditor. He received 48.5% of the vote, losing to Jeff McMahan, a man with no education in accounting, by about 30,000 votes. We now know that Jeff McMahan won that election in part because of massive amounts of illegal campaign money, including $157,882 from Steve Phipps, a business partner with Gene Stipe in abstract companies regulated by the State Auditor's office.

In 2006, Jones ran again, receiving almost exactly the same share of the vote. In the weeks leading up to the election, Jones not only called into question McMahan's competence, but he began to sketch out the connections between McMahan, Steve Phipps, Gene Stipe, Francis Stipe, a dog food factory, and grants and loans orchestrated by certain Democratic legislators. It was a complicated story, too complicated to convey to the voters in a way that had impact. (As in 2002, Jones didn't have any coattails from the top of the Republican ticket.)

Jones continued to follow the money, and eventually the Feds did, too. McMahan and his wife, Lori, were convicted in federal court for bribe-taking and conspiracy. The shady dealings that Jones had uncovered were confirmed by Phipps's testimony and affirmed by the jury.

Jones's tenacity in pursuing corruption in state government, at the risk of being accused of sour grapes or obsession, is just the quality we need in a State Auditor.

I've read comments here and there that Jones is a party hack, because he's served for several years as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. Chairing a political party is a tough, thankless job, and it's unfair to dismiss someone who has been willing to serve in that role as a "hack."

I remember when Jones first decided to run for chairman. Chad Alexander had resigned following the disappointing 2002 results. As a statewide candidate, Jones, from rural Comanche County, saw how the city-oriented Republican Party had failed to connect with rural voters, despite the conservative values that they share with the GOP. His motivation for seeking the chairmanship was to fix that, and the increasing success of the party in electing legislative and county officials in once-solid-Democrat districts is testimony to his success.

After winning election to a full term as chairman in 2003 and then re-election in 2005, Jones stepped aside to again pursue the State Auditor's Office. Many Republicans, disappointed with the performance of his successor, Tom Daxon, urged him to seek the chairmanship again, and he defeated Daxon at the 2007 state convention.

Gary's bluntness, persistence, and analytical skills have been a great help to the GOP, but those qualities would be put to even better use in the pursuit of waste and fraud in state government. By appointing Gary Jones to fill the vacancy left by McMahan, Gov. Brad Henry would be proclaiming that the era of insider dealing, bribery, and corruption is over in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Election Board yesterday voted 3-0 to deny a challenge to the candidacy of Dana Murphy for Corporation Commissioner. The challenge had been filed by Rob Johnson, Murphy's Republican opponent, on the grounds that Murphy's filing papers were invalid. At the direction of the State Election Board Secretary, Murphy had signed her name as she wished it to appear on the ballot. (She had signed her name the way she normally would on legal papers, with her middle initial.)

Johnson did not appear at the hearing.

In her press release, Murphy addresses another attack launched against her by Johnson:

Republican Corporation Commission candidate Dana Murphy was vindicated by the State Election Board's ruling on Monday morning striking down opponent Rob Johnson's challenge to keep her name from appearing on the ballot.

"This is a victory for common sense government and the people of Oklahoma," said Murphy. "This challenge over such a trivial issue as amending my name to appear on ballot as Dana Murphy instead of Dana L. Murphy is an example of wasting taxpayer money and the Election Board's time. It is disappointing that my opponent would stoop to such political pettiness."

"I trust Oklahoma voters not to be tricked by such political gamesmanship and that they will look at a person's true qualifications and commitment for the job. Instead of touting any meaningful qualifications of his own for this office, he seems to spend his time trying to smear me in the press."

While Murphy has been traveling around the state talking about her exemplary qualifications for a seat on the Corporation Commission and her vision for Oklahoma, opponent Johnson and his campaign aide Trebor Worthen, have resorted to the slimiest of tactics, bringing up Murphy's 1993 divorce.

"They have attempted to use divorce filings from one of the saddest times in my life to contend I'm unethical or worse. I have never been convicted of any of the crimes or unethical acts Worthen and Johnson claim. There is nothing in my divorce decree or any other court decisions that proves their claims," said Murphy.

"As anyone impacted by a difficult divorce or lawsuit understands, what is alleged in various pleadings and what is ultimately ruled on by a judge in a final order are often worlds apart. If Johnson cannot tell the difference between allegations made in a case and evidence needed to prove a case, he clearly didn't learn much in law school nor is he prepared to deal with the complex decisions on utility rate cases or oil and gas cases or other Commission cases."

Murphy challenges Johnson to stop hiding behind his consultants' statements and campaign propaganda and debate the issue at hand--serving on the Corporation Commission.

"In the legislature, laws are passed by a large group, but a Corporation Commissioner stands out as one among three for every decision made. Voters and reporters should be asking him, and any other candidates, what qualifications, experience and attributes make them the candidate best prepared to serve all Oklahomans," she said.

"I will debate Rob Johnson any time and place on the important issues at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission affecting Oklahomans," said Murphy. "I look forward to public opportunities to allow the voters to directly compare our credentials and experience for this very important job."

"My record speaks for itself. I've spent my entire adult life getting the education, developing the skills and gaining the experience and knowledge needed to serve as your Corporation Commissioner. I am the best qualified candidate, Democrat or Republican."

In addition to hearing over 5,000 cases as an administrative law judge at the Commission, Murphy has also testified as a geological witness and presented cases as an attorney before the Commission. Murphy is a fifth generation Oklahoman and currently runs a successful oil and gas law practice in Edmond.

The same attack regarding her divorce filings was attempted by her Republican opponents when she ran for Corporation Commissioner in 2002. There was nothing to it then, and there still isn't.

This week in Urban Tulsa Weekly I considered Oklahoma's just-concluded legislative filing period and the decline in number of candidates filing, explaining the deterrents to running for state legislature.

Steve Fair, a Republican Party official in southwestern Oklahoma, wondered about a related topic, the early departure of many House Republicans:

Why are so many Oklahoma GOP House members leaving office before they are termed out? There are a variety of reasons, but here is my "spin" on why a record number of Republican members are bailing in 2008.

Some Oklahoma House Republican members are leaving because they are young and ambitious. They are chasing the dollar or the next rung on the political ladder. Those members have never been dedicated to helping Oklahoma move forward and their departure will not leave a ripple in the political pond. Their selfishness and "me first" attitudes have not endeared them to the GOP grassroots or to Oklahoma voters as a whole. That may partially account for their early departures, but a more likely factor will be their own selfish interests. Twenty years from now their impact in the legislature will be little more than a notation in the Oklahoma Political Almanac. They ran for office because it looks good on their resume. They could care less about the issues or the average Oklahoman- it's all about them.

Other members are leaving because they have become disgusted with the process. After serving in the minority for the early part of their tenure in the House, optimism was high in 2004 when the GOP gained a majority. These "gray hairs" thought they would be called upon for advice and counsel, but instead many were passed over for newly elected, younger, more aggressive members. The new leadership rebuffed their experience and ability to work across the aisle with their Democrat counterparts in a gracious manner.

The situational ethics practiced by the new "principled" leadership was inconsistent with what was being press released to the public. The older members concerns on how business was being conducted was ignored and berated. The new GOP mandate was not working for the benefit of Oklahoma, but staying in power and increasing the number of "R"s. Any and all campaign methods- right or wrong- was on the table, if it won elections. Seeing no real difference in the policies and actions of the new GOP leadership and the old Democrat leadership, these members opted to leave early. Their departure is not a positive one and their experience will be missed.

He doesn't use the name "Lance Cargill," but the former Speaker and his posse fit the description of the young, aggressive, and ambitious. The Republican caucus and the House as a whole are better off without them.

At the end of my column, I wrote, "Even if we don't raise their pay, we ought to pay our respects to those who are willing to serve us in the legislature. When a candidate comes knocking on your door this summer and fall, give him or her a few minutes of your time, listen, ask questions, and treat the candidate with kindness and respect. It's the least you can do for someone willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of serving you at the state Capitol."

Fair says that in exchange for their hard work, candidates should be able to expect from the voters engagement in the process, attention to the issues, civility, and the absence of vandalism, harassment, and dirty tricks. Fair points the finger at inattentive voters for the influence of money in politics (emphasis added):

Money and media have always driven politics but in the past twenty-five years that has escalated to new heights. It's not uncommon to see Oklahoma state legislative candidates now raise and spend six figures to run for an office that pays $38,500 annually. Some blame the big donors, the Political Action Committees, the lobbyists, and special interest groups for the infusion of money into the process, but are they really to blame? The real culprit is the average citizen and/or voter who for a variety of reasons have stopped taking equity in his government. Indifference or only causal knowledge of what is going on in your government leads to "defining" by candidates- both of themselves and their opponents. Elections are now won on popularity and not on issues.

In a survey conducted by Harvard University, one candidate describes campaigning in the 21st century like this. "I've been actively involved in politics for over 19 years now. I've even run for public office. Getting voters to even pay attention to government for 5 minutes is a struggle. Most citizens get their information from either sound bites from the propaganda machine that some people still naively refer to as the media and others get it twisted from others without checking the facts. Dealing with the average voter is like dealing with a dyslexic hyperactive kid on drugs." In the same survey, a voter says the greatest cause for voter apathy is people feel politicians promise the world and then forget their promises once elected to office. That's why it's important to know the facts and not just base your vote on a clever jingle, logo or commercial.

I've added three more blogs by and about Oklahoma to my blogroll. You'll see new entries from these blogs pop up on the powered-by-NewsGator blogroll headlines page. (I'm thinking it may be time to break out the Okie blogs to a separate page. What do you think?)

Random Dafydd (that's the Welsh version of David) grew up in Tulsa but now lives in Bartlesville. His blog covers Tulsa history, ancient manuscripts, and many other topics. Here are a couple of his recent historical entries: Tulsa before the railroad: Taylor Postoak Home and Tulsa Architecture, Hooper Brothers Coffee. The latter entry includes photos of the historic building on the edge of downtown at Admiral and Iroquois.

Green Country Values, which covers politics and regional events. Here's an entry about a trip last Saturday to the Lavender Festival and Stone Bluff Cellars. Blogger Jenn also has the scoop on U. S. Rep. John Sullivan's Private Property Rights Protection and Government Accountability Act, which addresses eminent domain abuse in the wake of the Kelo v. New London decision.

Finally, Save ORU chronicles the rebuilding of Oral Roberts University's finances and credibility. reacts to the AP report of declining enrollment:

It's something that should have happened long ago, after years of struggling with a crushing debt and a corporate culture of fear, Oral Roberts University has another major hurdle to overcome. Since its beginnings, ORU has taken on the role of a "surrogate parent/guardian" for its students. Whether you were 18 or 40 -if you lived in the dorms -you had a curfew and an RA telling you to clean your room. Adding insult to injury, it cost you a pretty penny too, and up until 2001, you had to wear business attire to attend classes.

With tuition costs soaring and more students footing the bill for their own education, they want to be in control of their college experience. ORU has improved over the years with the adoption of more customer-service oriented approaches, but the recent scandal has made many of the most forgiving students and parents take a step back and ask "what am I really getting for my money?"

(I found that last blog via Club Fritch, the blog of two ORU graduates, Ryan and Gillian (Rowe) Fritzsche, who are now in the film industry. They have a category called ORUgate.)

If you have a blog that you think would be of interest here at BatesLine, drop me a line at blog at batesline d0t com.

Speaking of mocking climate change alarmists, Oklahoma voters couldn't do better than to re-elect global warming skeptic Jim Inhofe to the U. S. Senate. His first TV commercial doesn't deal with the issue, except indirectly by celebrating Inhofe's renowned stubbornness and how that quality has served the interests of Oklahoma taxpayers:

I don't know for sure, but I suspect the road he's walking down at the end of the ad is the abandoned, two-mile-long section at the western end of the Will Rogers Turnpike, which was rerouted several years ago to connect with the Creek Turnpike.

Just received this press release from Dana Murphy, candidate for the unexpired term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Murphy is by far the most qualified candidate in the race, by virtue of her service as an administrative law judge at the OCC and her training as a petroleum geologist and an attorney working on oil and gas matters. Her primary opponent is challenging her filing on some very slender grounds.

Note the reference in the next to last paragraph to campaign consultant Fount Holland. We've noted Holland's unfair political attacks on Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris; Holland was the consultant for Harris's opponent Brett Swab. I am sad to see Holland again using his considerable skills against a solid conservative and highly qualified Republican candidate for office.

(Oklahoma City, OK) Oklahoma Corporation Commission candidate Dana Murphy says the attempt by Rob Johnson and his campaign consultants to challenge her filing for office is nothing more than a desperate attempt to create something out of nothing.

"Rob Johnson and his consultants are grasping at straws because he can't challenge my qualifications. If you watch the video of my filing, you will clearly hear the Election Board clerk ask me if I wanted to be listed as 'Dana L. Murphy' or 'Dana Murphy'. I advised him 'Dana Murphy', he requested that I sign 'Dana Murphy' and I did. The Election Board clerk then scratched out the 'Dana L. Murphy' signature."

Murphy also stated that "In addition to this clarification, he also requested that I add either short or long term with the Commission office to the form and I added short term."

Murphy believes this ploy is just more evidence of the lackluster campaign on the part of Rob Johnson. "He has no hands-on, working experience at the Commission and little, if any, knowledge and background in matters regularly decided by the Commission affecting Oklahomans every day."

Conversely, Murphy possesses the best qualifications of any candidate for this office. She spent almost six years as an Administrative Law Judge at the Commission hearing over 5,000 cases; she owns her own energy law practice and she worked as a geologist in the oil patch for ten years. Murphy has also represented clients before the Commission and testified as an expert geological witness in cases at the Commission.

"Johnson's only apparent claim to fame is that he is a two term state legislator and worked as a congressional aide/gopher. His campaign is already stalling. This is his feeble attempt to cloud the fact that he has no qualifications for this office."

Murphy believes this to be a diversionary tactic used by Johnson's consultants before and currently in use in other races. Johnson, his consultant Fount Holland and former Representative Trebor Worthen, who is working on his campaign, are no strangers to controversy and the use of old guard politician "smoke and mirrors" tactics.

"For me, it's about serving my fellow Oklahomans. They deserve the very best," added Murphy. "What our state doesn't need is more self serving politicians who are more interested in serving themselves than serving our state."

For what it's worth: While we lost massive tree limbs during last Sunday's hurricane-force winds, our Dana Murphy yard sign stayed in place. I've known Dana for six years, and that's an apt metaphor for her character.

UPDATE 2008/06/09: The press release mentions video of the filing. This 12 minute report shows each of the three candidates filing and then speaking to reporters -- first Rob Johnson, then appointed incumbent Jim Roth, then (about eight minutes in) Dana Murphy, showing the interaction with the election board clerk that the press release mentions.

We're now five hours away from the close of Oklahoma's filing period for the 2008 elections, and I'm still seeing way too many seats with unchallenged Democrats; for example, 2nd District Congressman Dan Boren, and Tulsa-area State Reps. Jeannie McDaniel (HD 78) and Eric Proctor (HD 77).

A couple of months ago, as youthful and not-so-youthful Ron Paul supporters were seeking to become delegates to the Republican National Convention, they asserted that they were engaged with the Republican Party for the long haul, and some expressed interest in seeking state and local office. I heard rumors that one young Ron Paul supporter planned to challenge Lucky Lamons in HD 66, but I haven't seen his name on the list of candidates yet.

So far, I've only noticed two RP backers who have filed for office, and both of them have been engaged in the political process for many years. Dr. Mike Ritze, a Broken Arrow physician whose "US out of UN! UN out of US!" sign graced 101st Street for many years, is running for HD 80, a seat being vacated by Ron Peterson. Ritze was chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party from (if memory serves) 1991 to 1993. And Sally Bell is challenging Randi Miller in the primary for the Tulsa County Commission District 2 seat.

So where are all the young activists who were energized by Ron Paul's presidential run? Challenging a Democratic incumbent would give them a platform to air their issues and an opportunity to build valuable campaign experience, name recognition for future campaigns, and credibility with Republican old-timers. And there's always the possibility that, catching a secure incumbent off-guard, they might win.

Rather than composing a 1000-word comment complaining about this blog entry, why not spend the hour and a half to drive to the State Capitol to throw your hat in the ring?

UPDATE: Gary Casey, 32, has filed to challenge Democratic State Sen. Tom Adelson (SD 33). Casey sought to be a delegate at the 1st District Republican Convention and through the State Executive Committee. Of the Ron Paul supporters seeking to be a delegate, he was one of the most well-received by the non-Ron Paul supporters. I'm happy to see Gary taking up this tough challenge.

UPDATE 2: No RP connection, as far as I know, but Jay Matlock, who sought the Republican nomination for Tulsa City Council District 4, has filed to run against Democratic State Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (HD 78). This would be a better fit for Matlock; his motivating issue was education, and he can do more about that in the State House than he could have in the City Council.

UPDATE 3: Nathan Dahm, 25, a Ron Paul supporter who has commented here on occasion (and at length), has filed for the open HD 75 seat. And Les White, 34, a leading Paul organizer in Oklahoma, has filed for the HD 45 seat in Norman. And "Orat" has posted a 170-word complaint about this blog entry.

Found on the OKDemocrat message board:

RELATED: The official list of Oklahoma's delegation to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, listing each delegate and the candidate to whom each is pledged.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from June 2008.

Oklahoma Politics: May 2008 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: July 2008 is the next archive.

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