Oklahoma Politics: February 2014 Archives

A tip of the hat to Sean Murphy of the Associated Press for his story about Oklahoma legislators taking junkets to Miami and Las Vegas, sponsored by FairVote, the non-profit that says it "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan" and "regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."

Several Oklahoma legislators accepted expenses-paid trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group that wants to change the way the U.S. elects a president, but because the travel was sponsored by a nonprofit group, rather than traditional lobbyists, there's no requirement for the lawmakers to disclose the trips to the public.

FairVote, which wants states to allocate electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, extended invitations to legislators to attend seminars to learn more about the national popular vote proposal. Another one is set for next month in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the story, State Sen. Rob Johnson ($-Yukon) went on a FairVote trip to Las Vegas last fall. Johnson was the Senate author and leading advocate of SB 906. Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) a co-author of SB 906, and the original author of an earlier attempt to add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, SB 841, filed in 2011, acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Both Johnson and Sparks say that the trips did not influence their position on the bill -- not surprising, since both were already on board with the idea, both having supported SB 841 in the previous legislature and Johnson having filed SB 906 in early 2013.

When asked whether he took any FairVote trips, State Rep. Don Armes ($-Faxon), the House author of SB 906 and the earlier NPV bill, told the AP, "I'm not ready to talk about all of that."

[We'll take that as a "yes."]

Johnson rejects the term "junket":

"To me it's a good way to actually sit down and discuss issues uninterrupted away from the Capitol building," said state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, the Senate author of the bill. "I understand some people's concerns, but they're not junkets. We're there to work. We sat there the entire time and discussed the issue."

[BatesLine readers are invited to recommend places to Sen. Johnson in his district or elsewhere in the State of Oklahoma where issues can be discussed uninterrupted away from the Capitol building. BatesLine would humbly suggest that committee hearings are the appropriate place for substantive policy discussions, so that the public can hear the same information being presented to their elected representatives.]

State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole), an opponent of NPV, also acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission director Lee Slater confirmed for the AP what we suspected here on BatesLine, that these trips don't come under Oklahoma's ethics reporting laws:

Because the trips were not funded by lobbyists or the companies that employ them, there is no requirement that the lawmakers disclose the travel and lodging, said Lee Slater, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), who does not accept any gifts from lobbyists, called for the loophole to be closed and for legislators to be required to disclose travel expenses paid on a legislator's behalf or reimbursed.

MORE: OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it's time to kill the National Popular Vote idea for good:

You would think that requiring Oklahoma to cast all of its electoral votes for a candidate who lost every county twice would be enough to kill the proposal. Why would anyone propose such an absurd thing?...

One of the supporters of this scheme commented that even a 12-year-old understands the idea of democracy behind this proposal. I agree. Only someone with an immature and historically uninformed understanding of democracy would support this idea. The rest of us, however, know that our Founding Fathers understood we are not a monolithic nation of atomized individuals, but a union of diverse communities. To be both an effective and legitimate leader, a president must be elected, not by a simple majority (or, worse yet, plurality) of individuals, but by a majority of the nation's communities, encompassed by the states.

Spiropoulos concludes: "You would think that the first principle of any conservative legislator would be to actually conserve our institutions."

And if you're wondering what the Left thinks of SB 906, ThinkProgress headlined their story on the Senate's vote: "Oklahoma Senate Endorses Plan To Effectively Abolish The Electoral College."

SoonerPolitics.org

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David Van Risseghem, a long-time Republican activist in Tulsa, has set up a newspaper-style webpage, SoonerPolitics.org, which aggregates the headlines from many of Oklahoma's political blogs and news websites. I'm honored to be included. It's a great way to see all the latest blog entries at a glance.

Philippine sunset, 1983, by Michael Bates. All rights reserved.

Several Republican Oklahoma legislators have confirmed to BatesLine that they or their colleagues have been invited to all-expenses-paid "seminars" sponsored by National Popular Vote advocates and held in exotic, warm-weather locations. The legislators have mentioned locations including Scottsdale, Arizona, south Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, and St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands. State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, has confirmed the latter destination in his latest blog entry, "Spiking the Electoral College with a Free Trip to St. Croix."

One legislator told me about receiving verbal information about the Scottsdale event from Michelle Sutton, a lobbyist at the state capitol who is registered as a representative of National Popular Vote. (Sutton's firm is CRG LLC, and her lobbyist number is L140338.) According to the legislator, the verbal info was followed by an invitation attached to an email from Saul Anuzis, a consultant to the National Popular Vote campaign.

The written invitation comes from FairVote, aka The Center for Voting and Democracy, a 501(c)(3). According to their website (fairvote.org/reforms/national-popular-vote/), FairVote "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan... Fairvote regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."

The invitation from FairVote's executive director is to an "all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College" at an expensive resort hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.

February 7, 2014

Greetings:

This is Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote. FairVote is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches elections and election law. We are based in Maryland.

I am writing to invite you to participate in an all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College, to take place near Phoenix (AZ) on March 1st. We will address three major reform proposals: allocation of electoral votes proportionally and by congressional district and, as the major focus given its enactment in 10 states, the National Popular Vote interstate compact. More and more Americans are concerned about the impact of Electoral College rules, and more states are taking action or considering action to reform their current system. Although the 2016 presidential election may seem distant, it in fact is an ideal time to analyze prospective changes now, rather than closer to the election.

We have sponsored and participated in a number of these roundtables over the years, and have found them an excellent way to delve deeply into this topic. All of us have experienced presidential elections and formed opinions about proposals for reform, but we have found it useful to reexamine assumptions and look at different ideas afresh Doing so has been all the easier and more productive when legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states can convene and have the time to go over these issues. We have developed a six-hour format for such discussions that has worked particularly well with groups of 10 to 15 participants.

We are planning our next roundtable for up to 15 people in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 28th-March 2nd. To allow people to attend from a mix of states, we can cover your costs associated with travel and accommodation at the JW Marriott Camelback InnĀ® Scottsdale Resort, located outside Phoenix at 5402 East Lincoln Drive in Scottsdale. We can cover guests' accommodations covered for up to three nights, February 28th - March 2nd. (Family members can join attendees, but their travel costs will not be reimbursed.) We also reimburse meals for participants on the evening of February 28th, lunch on March 1st, and breakfast vouchers for each night of your stay. We request that all participants commit to reviewing a collection of reading materials that will be provided by email before the meeting so that all participants can ready to share their insights and questions in panel sessions on March 1st and have the same background information going into the discussion.

If you have any questions about this invitation, please let me know by email (rr@fairvote.org) or phone (cell is 240-393-2420). Because we plan to finalize our list of participants by February 14, I would appreciate hearing from you by February 11th as to whether you can attend our seminar.

Sincerely yours,
Rob Richie
Executive Director

As of this writing, the least expensive room at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale Resort for those dates was $509 / night, not including the daily $25 resort fee, and any state and local sales and lodging taxes. Add in three vouchers for breakfast at the resort plus reimbursement for a dinner and a lunch, and the cost of air transportation, and you have a nice little weekend getaway for over $2,000, interrupted by the political equivalent of a timeshare presentation, which, I suspect, is filled with the same sort of emotional manipulation and selective disclosure for which timeshare presentations are notorious.

Note that the attendees are to include "legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states." That indicates that Oklahoma isn't the only target of this left-wing push to overthrow our presidential election system. It's reasonable to imagine that an Oklahoma Republican attending this event would be grouped with Republican legislators from other states. The "civic leaders" in the group would be already on board with NPV and able to could guide the discussion in a way that would be persuasive to the GOP lawmakers.

As State Rep. Jason Murphey notes, while several states have approved NPV, the NPV campaign can't reach the target of 270 without some Republican-controlled states jumping on the bandwagon:

Here's the problem for these groups: the Washington Post recently opined that if this effort were to be successful, "they'll likely have to branch out into red states, because there are only so many blue states (and so many electoral votes in them) on the map."

How could the national popular vote people convince the more sparsely populated red staters to give away their advantage in the Electoral College?

What better way than to put Oklahoma on the list with the liberal states? If the reddest state in the nation signs on, then why wouldn't other red states?

To this end, the national popular vote group invaded Oklahoma with a high powered team of very sophisticated lobbyists. They wisely kept the issue under the radar and away from the eyes of the public while aggressively trying to convince legislators by using a series of convoluted logic for why this proposal would benefit conservatives.

They financed a series of out-of-state junkets to various vacation sites where they explained this logic against an exotic backdrop of recreational events.

Having succeeded in the Senate, they are preparing to go on the offensive in the House. On March 20, they will finance an all-expenses-paid junket to St. Croix. In this exotic venue, far away from the eyes of the public, they will attempt to convince Oklahoma House members to vote for the bill. Just a few days after they return to the mainland, House members will vote on the proposal.

You may wonder, as I do: How is it possible for a legislator to accept a trip worth thousands of dollars, paid for by an organization with an interest in legislation, and not violate our ethics laws? I suspect that the loophole is that the organization is a 501(c)(3) and the "seminar" is framed in the invitation as a neutral exploration of the issue rather than advocacy. There ought to be a law requiring prompt disclosure of these trips.

And if there's not a law already, Oklahoma legislators should take the initiative to disclose out-of-state trips where public policy is discussed, particularly if their expenses are paid or reimbursed. Oklahoma voters deserve to know what influences are shaping their legislators' decisions. Any legislator unwilling to make such a disclosure before the end of March ought to have a primary challenger.

Two more Republican state senators who voted for SB 906, the bill that would have Oklahoma award its seven electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, have announced their regret and the withdrawal of their support for the idea, joining an earlier announcement from Sen. Gary Stanislawski.

Grace McMillan, executive assistant to Sen. Mark Allen, contacted me via email in response to my questions:

Senator Allen wanted me to respond to you and let you know that he is changing his position on SB 906. He is now better informed -- formerly he had relied on someone else's information.

He no longer supports the measure, and will so inform members of the
House of Representatives before the bill comes to a vote there.

Sen. Josh Brecheen has supplied a lengthy statement to Jamison Faught's Muskogee Politico blog, calling the SB 906 decision, "a vote I regret." In the statement, he explains that, while he had several interactions with friends who supported the bill, and on that basis pledged to support the measure, he never sought out the views of those opposed.

A day later, I listened on the floor to some opposing concerns I had not heard before and I was greatly alarmed that I had agreed to vote for it when certain responses were provided. I was not misled by those who were supportive, but given this issue's complexities, it had just never come up. I cast a vote for the bill as I had agreed to do so and given my belief in the biblical concept "a man keeps his word even when it hurts."

Brecheen's reference is to Psalm 15:4, which says that a man "who swears to his own hurt and does not change" is among those who will "dwell upon God's holy hill."

(It could be argued that a state senator's oath before God to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Oklahoma constitutes a promise to his constituents that should take precedence over any promise to a colleague.)

Oklahoma State Senator Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) has issued a statement recanting his support for SB 906, and expressing regret for his vote for the bill that would add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Gary StanislawskiThe last several years I have always been against the National Popular Vote. This year though two people from the National Popular Vote group visited me and provided me with some information that I had not previously considered. Primarily that because we are a "fly over" state that we do not have a voice in setting national policy. It seems that a lot of national policies are being set by swing states. For instance, we have Ethanol because the farmers in Iowa wanted it. We have Part D Medicare because of the seniors in Florida. There are steel tariffs because of the steel mills in Pennsylvania. In addition, when I arrived at my desk on the Senate floor before the vote the attached letter from Newt Gingrich was there which just confirmed our situation. Out of frustration and anger that our nation is being controlled by only a handful of states I decided to vote for the NPV.

The next day I had a phone call from a friend who questioned my vote, and as we discussed it I realized that voting for the NPV is really giving up our state sovereignty to a group of states and could very well mean that the majority of Oklahoman's recorded vote could go for the opposite candidate. While I knew that the previous day I was just too frustrated in the way Washington really works and just desperately wanted to see a change. The other thing my friend brought up that I had not considered before was the risk of voter fraud in other states. That unregistered or even deceased people could be cancelling out votes from within Oklahoma. That is when I knew I had made a serious error in judgment.

I sincerely apologize for my mistake and can only hope that the bill is defeated in the House. I will try to not be influenced by my emotions in the future, but I will admit that I am still human.

It's tough to admit you made a mistake, and I commend Sen. Stanislawski for making this statement. The other 15 Republicans who voted for SB 906 would be wise to follow suit.

But there's another step that needs to be taken. This bill passed because it was rushed to a vote. It was the only bill to come before the Senate that day for passage. (Here is the Senate Journal for February 12, 2014.) Sen. Rob Johnson's unanimous consent request to suspend Rule 12-4 was granted, allowing a floor amendment to restore the title to the bill. If the rules had not been suspended, if just one senator had objected to the unanimous consent request, the vote would have been delayed to the following day, and there would have been time for the grassroots to know the vote was happening and to remind senators why this is a bad idea.

A conservative's instinct ought to be to conserve America's constitutional arrangements. When presented with a bill to turn change some fundamental aspect of our system of government -- how we elect a president -- a conservative ought either to dismiss it out of hand or at least slow the process down long enough to consult constituents and seek out the other side of the argument. Chesterton's rule of fences and gates ought to apply. And the fact that someone was willing to hire lobbyists to push this ought to have set off alarm bells loud enough to wake the dead. You can understand a regulated company thinking it worth the cost of lobbying for or against legislation that affects their bottom line. But who stands to gain financially if this bill passes? George Soros, maybe?

When I told my two older children, separately, about the National Popular Vote concept, I got about two sentences into the explanation before each exploded with incredulity. We had never discussed the idea before, but they instantly recognized that it would violate the principle of federalism and would be to Oklahoma's disadvantage.

A mistake is forgivable, but when the consequences are this grave, the cause of the mistake needs to be analyzed and corrective action taken to keep it from happening again.

MORE: Lori L. Hendricks has a different view of Sen. Stanislawski's change of heart:

Hendricks, a Republican, serves as Wagoner County Clerk. She spoke to KFAQ the morning after SB 906 passed the Senate.

And Chris Medlock, a Stanislawski constituent who supported his election, isn't soothed by Stansilawski's mea culpa:

Let's see. He admitted that he made a decision based on emotions, rather than reason. He admitted that he held no principle, one way or the other, on the issue, because he was so easily influenced by lobbyists. Either way, I'm still deeply concerned.

As a constituent of Gary's who helped get him elected, I can not promise that when and if a primary occurs in this district, I can give him my support.

I have NEVER had one of my elected representatives cast a vote that so angered me. I was actually screaming, "What was he thinking?"

I thought my wife was going to get a hose out.

MORE conservative voices against NPV:

Morton Blackwell, founder of the Leadership Institute and long-time Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, writing in June 2011. Based on the 2008 results, Blackwell calculated that Oklahoma's influence on the national result would have been cut by over 14% under NPV:

State legislators should consider carefully the disruption NPV would bring to the electoral college system, which was a part of the grand compromise enacted at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to protect states' rights and balance the power of the small states against the larger states.

In many ways, the constitutional separation of powers between the states and the federal government is being eroded. The Founders never intended that the states should become merely administrative appendages of the federal government, much less that the United States become a unitary, centralized, plebiscitary democracy. NPV would push America along that dangerous and originally unintended path.

Beyond preserving federalism, there are other powerful reasons to oppose the NPV plan...

For example, NPV would greatly incentivize vote-stealing because big-city political machines would realize that massive numbers of fraudulent votes they could engender could swing the electoral votes beyond their states and be counted toward a national popular vote plurality victory for their presidential candidate.

Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum, writing in December 2011:

The plan to change this system is called the National Popular Vote. It obviously has a lot of money behind it because it is sending highly paid lobbyists around the country to persuade state legislatures to adopt the NPV plan.

NPV is an attempt to achieve the longtime liberal goal of getting rid of the Electoral College. Instead of proposing an amendment that would first need to be passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states (38), NPV is a scheme to deviously bypass the grand design of our U.S. Constitution....

The NPV campaign lets people believe that NPV will elect presidents who win the majority of popular votes, but that is false. Because of third parties, we've had many elections (including three of the last five) when no presidential candidate received a popular-vote majority. Abraham Lincoln won with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and only by our Electoral College system was he elected president....

It's a mystery how any Republican could support NPV, and it's no surprise that the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to oppose NPV because members saw it as unconstitutional and unworkable.

Remember our national trauma as we suffered through recounts in Florida where the margin between Bush and Gore was only about 500 votes? If the election is based on the national popular vote and it's close, NPV would induce recounts in many or most of the 50 states.

Mexico uses a national popular vote system, and it's a good illustration of why we don't want it here. In Mexico's last presidential election, the candidate with the "most votes" received 35.89 percent, while his closest rival got 35.31 percent -- a margin of just one-half of one percent. In the months that followed, Mexico was on the verge of civil war as the runner-up held mass rallies attracting millions of his angry supporters.

People who pretend that the Electoral College system is undemocratic are not only ignorant of the history and purposes of the U.S. Constitution, but they probably don't even understand baseball. Basing the election on a plurality of the popular vote while ignoring the states would be like the New York Yankees claiming they won the 1960 World Series because they outscored the Pirates in runs 55-27 and in hits 91-60. Yet, the Pirates fairly won that World Series, 4 games to 3, and no one challenges their victory.

John Ryder, Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, writing about National Popular Vote in June 2011:

On a practical level, the Constitution requires a successful candidate to assemble a winning coalition across a broad geographic spectrum, embracing both large and small states, rather than a narrow concentration of votes.

A popular vote, in contrast, does not require the candidate to have broad appeal. It would make it possible for a candidate to win without any majority but merely a plurality of the popular vote. The compact would require the states to determine the candidate with the "largest national popular vote" - not a majority. Thus, in a multicandidate race, the "largest national popular vote" could be obtained by a regional candidate with just 35 percent or 40 percent of the popular vote.

Under such an arrangement, presidential candidates would have no incentive to campaign anywhere except the major media markets in a few states. The country would, in essence, cede our presidential elections to the largest metropolitan areas, whose concerns are different from those of other areas of the country.

NPV would maximize the rewards of vote fraud in those large metropolitan areas. Under the Electoral College, an illegal vote only affects the outcome in one state; under the popular vote compact, an illegal vote would affect the national outcome.

On the other side of the aisle, leftist blogger Kevin Drum thinks NPV is an excellent idea, referring to it as "a system even less favorable to [Republicans] than the current Electoral College."

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

If you thought you could relax because the Republicans are in charge at the State Capitol and Oklahoma Republicans have a conservative party platform, remember that there are lobbyists giving our friends at the Capitol one side of the story. We in the grassroots have to watch every bill and every vote. We have to be in our legislators' faces as much as the lobbyists are.

On Wednesday, the National Popular Vote bill (SB 906) passed the State Senate by a vote of 28-18. All 18 nay votes were Republicans, but another 16 voted with all 12 Democrats in favor of the bill.

The NPV bill, if it is passed by the House and signed by Gov. Fallin, would add Oklahoma to the list of states promising to award all of our electoral votes to the winner of the largest share of the national popular vote, rather than the winner of the popular vote in Oklahoma. Under the terms of the compact, once states with an aggregate of 270 electoral votes approve the compact, it will go into effect and the winner of the national popular vote will be guaranteed enough electoral votes to win the presidency.

rino-768px.pngI'm told that Saul Anuzis, a consultant for the NPV movement and the former Republican State Chairman in Michigan, was working the corridors for the bill. According to news reports, Anuzis got flack for using the official RNC logo on a letter backing NPV because it hinted that the RNC supported his efforts. Anuzis lost re-election as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman in 2012, and his support for NPV is credited as a major factor in his defeat. Saul Anuzis and his colleagues persuaded some of our friends in the Senate that NPV could improve the Republican Party's chances. Never mind that the NPV movement is funded and run by leftists who are hardly likely to back an idea that would help conservatives win the White House.

Grassroots conservatives know, but our friends in the Senate forgot, that a National Popular Vote would allow the votes of Chicago cemetery inhabitants to cancel the votes of conservative Oklahomans. A presidential election under our current system is essentially 51 separate elections*, and that acts as a firewall against the impact of voter fraud. Under the current system, voter fraud in Chicago, for example, could only run up the score in Illinois; it couldn't undermine results in other states.

Kathy_Taylor-That.Is.Crazy.pngOur friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote creates an incentive for voting in multiple states in the same election.

Our friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote undermines the fundamental constitutional principle that the United States is a Union of States. They forgot that NPV and eliminating the electoral college has been a dream of the Left for decades. Getting Oklahoma on board -- the reddest state in the nation, the state where all 77 counties voted for the Republican nominee in 2004, 2008, and 2012 -- will make it easier for the NPV lobbyists to convince other Republican-dominated states to go along. Oklahoma would be the first "red state" to approve NPV.

Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative Oklahoma voices -- people they know and trust! -- who have been warning them for years about this plan, its constitutional and practical flaws, the danger it poses to the integrity of our election system. Steve Fair, Oklahoma's respected Republican National Committeeman, has been writing against NPV since at least 2011. The Oklahoma Republican Party platform, written by party grassroots activists from across the state and approved by the state convention, has been on record against NPV since at least 2011, renewing their opposition in the most recent platform in 2013. Fellows of the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) have been writing against NPV for years. I wrote a fairly scathing article about the NPV bill filed in 2013.

Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative voices beyond Oklahoma warning of the dangers of NPV. In 2004 the Heritage Foundation laid out the advantages of the Electoral College for stable government:

Presidential candidates must build a national base among the states before they can be elected. They cannot target any one interest group or regional minority. Instead, they must achieve a consensus among enough groups, spread out over many states, to create a broad-based following among the voters. Any other course of action will prevent a candidate from gaining the strong base needed to win the election.

In 2006, Pete du Pont, former Republican governor of Delaware and a brilliant public policy analyst, made the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the National Popular Vote would focus presidential campaigns on the major urban agglomerations on the coasts, to the detriment of Oklahoma and the rest of Flyover Country. He pointed out the likelihood of multi-candidate races, "winners" with tiny minorities of the vote, and no provision for a runoff. He reminded that a race as close as a half-million votes (barely three per precinct) could trigger a nationwide recount 50 times as chaotic as Florida in 2000.

Second, in any direct national election there would be significant election-fraud concerns. In the 2000 Bush-Gore race, Mr. Gore's 540,000-vote margin amounted to 3.1 votes in each of the country's 175,000 precincts. "Finding" three votes per precinct in urban areas is not a difficult thing, or as former presidential scholar and Kennedy advisor Theodore White testified before the Congress in 1970, "There is an almost unprecedented chaos that comes in the system where the change of one or two votes per precinct can switch the national election of the United States."

Washington state's 2004 governor's race was decided by just 129 votes. A judge found 1,678 illegal votes were cast, and it turned out that 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle's King County than the number of people recorded as voting. This affected just Washington state, but in a direct national election where everything hangs on a small number of urban districts, such manipulations could easily decide presidencies.

The Cato Institute published a policy analysis of NPV in 2008:

The proposal eliminates states as electoral districts in presidential elections by creating a national electoral district for the presidential election, thereby advancing a national political identity for the United States. States with small populations and states that are competitive may benefit from the electoral college. Few states clearly benefit from direct election of the president. NPV brings about this change without amending the Constitution, thereby undermining the legitimacy of presidential elections. It also weakens federalism by eliminating the role of the states in presidential contests. NPV nationalizes disputed outcomes and cannot offer any certainty that states will not withdraw from the compact when the results of an election become known. NPV will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidates will continue to be ignored under NPV. For these reasons, states should not join the National Popular Vote compact.

Our friends in the Oklahoma Senate forgot all that. They need to be reminded, and we need to remind our friends in the Oklahoma House, too.

And one more thing: Isn't there something fundamentally wrong about having an institution enshrined in our constitution, but then using legislation to bypass it and render it as a dead letter?

If you're unhappy with the state senators who supported SB 906, please contact them politely, ask why they voted the way they did, explain the problems with National Popular Vote, and ask them to issue a statement retracting their vote. The Senate vote is a done deal, but statements of regret could influence the House in the right direction. Click the link to see how your senator voted.

Next Friday, February 21, 2014, State Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman will speak at the Tulsa Republican Club's monthly luncheon at the Summit Club on the 30th floor of the Bank of America Building, 15 W. 6th Street in downtown Tulsa. (Buffet lunch is $20; validated parking available in the building's garage.) Bingman voted for the National Popular Vote bill; as head of the Senate, he had the power to stop it. This might be a good opportunity to talk (politely!) with him about his vote.

Virgin_Islands-Honeymoon_Beach.jpgI'm puzzled and distressed. What kind of political force would induce this decision on the part of so many Republican state senators? How could they forget what their political allies have been saying in opposition to NPV and instead listen to an out-of-state lobbyist? There aren't any grassroots conservatives agitating for this measure. Why are our legislators treating this as a priority?

Some are suggesting that we need a recall provision in our State Constitution. Term-limited legislators may see potential future employers as the constituency they need to please, rather than the voters who elected them. Or perhaps we could have stronger laws against the revolving door: If you become a lobbyist, you (and anyone married to you) would forfeit your state pension.

MORE: In August 2011, Steve Fair asked and answered Who are the people behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)?:

The Chairman is Dr. John R. Koza, the inventor of the scratch off lottery ticket, and twice a Democrat elector in California. Dr. Kova is a good friend of Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the electoral vote count to George W. Bush.

Barry Faden, a Democrat, is the President of NPVIC. He is a San Francisco attorney who supported John Kerry in 2004. He contributed $2,000 to Kerry according to campaignmoney.com.

Board members for NPVIC are Tom Golisano, the owner of Paychex, an HR company for small business and the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabers. In 2008, Golisano, a registered Independent in New York state, gave one million dollars to the Democrats for their national convention. Chris Pearson is State Representative in Vermont. He is a member of the Progressive Party, one of only 6 in the 150 member body. Stephen Siberstein is a California Democrat who contributed $250,000 to the Center for American Progress, a left wing think tank.


NOTES:

*Actually 56 separate elections, taking into account the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district in Nebraska and Maine.

Honeymoon Beach, U. S. Virgin Islands, photo by Navan Rajagopalan on Flickr (Creative Commons attribution license).

Jamison Faught has posted maps of Oklahoma showing dominant party of voter registration by county and registration change per county, based on Oklahoma State Election Board statistics as of January 15, 2014. Only two small counties -- Harmon County in far southwestern Oklahoma and Coal County in Little Dixie -- showed percentage gains for the Democrats.

I took the state election board's spreadsheet for 1960 to 1995 and added the years since then to create this Oklahoma Voter Registration by Party spreadsheet.
There has been a steady trend for both major parties, with accelerations in the GOP's favor for each presidential election year, and a slight downward bend for both major parties when the Motor Voter act went into effect in the mid-1990s. (Independent is the default affiliation if none is marked on the registration application.) Republicans should be the plurality party in Oklahoma by the next presidential election. The one notable exception to the long term trend is the post-Watergate years -- 1974 to 1979.

Oklahoma_Voter_Registration_since_1960.png

Art Rubin, RIP

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art_rubin.jpgArthur E. Rubin, grand old man of the Tulsa County GOP, died Sunday, February 2, 2014, at the age of 93. Visitation is tonight, Friday, February 7, 2014, from 5 - 7 p.m. at Moore Funeral Home Rosewood Chapel at 2570 S. Harvard. Funeral is Saturday, February 8, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. at Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2550 E. 71st St (south side of the street, east of Lewis Ave.) in Tulsa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Art's memory to St. Simeon's Episcopal Home, where he spent his final years.

Art was a Republican stalwart when being a Republican in Oklahoma seemed like a lost cause. It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when an overwhelming percentage of Oklahomans were "yellow dog" Democrats, and elections were won or lost in the Democratic primary. In 1960, the earliest year for which statistics are available, only 17.6% of Oklahoma voters were registered Republican, and 82% were registered Democrat. That was about the time Art became active in Republican politics, right after a disastrous 1958 election in which Democratic nominee J. Howard Edmondson won 74% of the vote to Phil Ferguson's 20%.

It took a great deal of courage and perseverance to be a Republican in those days. Art worked to rebuild the party nearly from scratch, recruiting candidates and marshaling volunteers and donors. Art saw his efforts rewarded as Oklahoma elected its first Republican governor in 1962 and began an unbroken streak of voting for Republican presidential candidates in 1968, and as Republicans swept every U. S. Senate and House seat in 1994, gained a majority in the State House in 2000 for the first time since 1920 and took the State Senate in 2008, and had begun to make inroads in once-rock-solid Democratic county courthouses. At his passing, Republicans were nearing a plurality of registered voters (always a lagging indicator), with 43.2% to the Democrats 44.8%

In 1988, Art Rubin served as one of Oklahoma's presidential electors, casting his vote for George H. W. Bush and Dan Quayle. He was a delegate to the 1992 Republican National Convention. He was an early and fervent supporter of John Sullivan's special-election run for Congress in 2001/2002. He was a beloved presence at party conventions and club luncheons, and his advice was often sought out by office holders and party officials. While his wavy hair turned white over time, the determined gaze you see in the photo above never dimmed.

One of the earliest entries on BatesLine was about a May 2003 banquet honoring Art Rubin for his decades of service to the Republican Party.

Art did not mince words. In this story about the 1991 Tulsa County Republican convention, Art said of Vince Orza, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who endorsed Democrat David Walters for governor in 1990, "The guy is a two-faced s.o.b.; you can't trust him. He invited Walters to his house." Of the job of party County Chairman, Rubin remarked, "Nobody else wants that damned job. It's a lousy job. All you do is get criticized and thrown out."

Art was a Ronald Reagan conservative, staunchly pro-life. He preached the importance of party unity, urging that, as Republicans, our differences with the Democrats are more profound than our differences with one another.

Art and his wife Doris lived for many years on Gary Lake, at 2854 S. Gary Avenue, north of 31st Street. He raised endangered trumpeter swans and other waterfowl on the lake, starting in 1969. In 1989, he donated a pair of swans, later given the names Fred and Ginger, to the new pond on the University Center at Tulsa (now OSU-Tulsa) campus. The lake was notable for its flamboyant Christmas displays, and the Rubin home was no exception.

Professionally, Art Rubin was an attorney specializing in family law, a 1950 graduate of OU Law School, an associate of the Gable Gotwals firm.

One of his legal anecdotes was quoted in a 2006 Tulsa World story about divorce court:

Longtime attorney Art Rubin could have died in divorce court when it was revealed that his client, who swore she was a devoted Christian wife, was sleeping with another man.

Rubin asked the woman during testimony whether this was true.

"Yes," she said, "but the good Lord has already forgiven me."

An online professional profile lists his credits as follows:

Phi Delta Phi. Associate Editor, Oklahoma Bar Journal, 1978-1984. Author: Property Division in Divorce, 54 Oklahoma Bar Journal 531, February 26, 1983. Assistant Professor of Law, University of Tulsa, 1951-1952. Member, Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority, 1965-1973; Tulsa River Parks Authority, 1980-1986. Member, Board of Trustees, Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, 1989-1991. Member, Federal Judge Selection Committee, Northern District of Oklahoma.

MORE: The Oklahoma Republican Party issued this tribute to Art Rubin:

The Oklahoma Republican Party wishes to express their condolences for the Arthur Rubin family of Tulsa upon the passing of their father, grandfather, and friend. Arthur Rubin's leadership within the Oklahoma Republican Party earned him a reputation as the "grandfather" of the Tulsa County Republican Party, and his advice, energy, dedication, and understanding gained him state and national recognition. Chairman Dave Weston said, "Oklahomans will miss Mr. Rubin and all that he contributed to the Republican Party, but also who he was as an individual."

If you'd like to share your memories of Art Rubin, I'd be honored to add them here. Post a comment or email me at blog@batesline.com

MORE:

At Art Rubin's funeral, he was eulogized by U. S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, law firm colleague Jim Gotwals, and a family friend.

Inhofe told the oft-repeated story of how Art Rubin got him to run for office for the first time. The scene is lunch at the Beacon Grill at 4th and Boston, 1966, shortly after the election of State Sen. Dewey Bartlett (father of Tulsa's current mayor) as Oklahoma's second Republican governor, leaving his legislative seat vacant.

Art never asked you to do anything. He told you. So we sat down on these little round stools that they had at the Beacon Grill, and he says, "I want you to run for the vacancy that's been created because Dewey Bartlett's now the governor." And I said, "Art, I'm not going to do it.... First of all, I've got all these kids at home," and Art said, "It's a part-time job." And he's right, it was. And I said, "I don't have any organization," and he said, "You need an organizer." And he looked up, and there was a lady walking across the Beacon Grill, her name was Millie Thompson.... he said, "Millie, come over here. I want you to head up the 'Volunteers for Inhofe' -- he's going to run for the state legislature."

Now I know that there are people -- 'cause I'm kind of extreme and you know that -- there are people in here who don't like me. You won't raise your hand, you won't acknowledge it now, but I know you don't. So -- but if you don't like me, don't blame me, blame Art.

Art Rubin's funeral program was a traditional Lutheran liturgy, including readings from Scripture (Isaiah 61:1-3, Psalm 23, Revelation 21:2-7, John 6:35-40), congregational hymns ("O Day of Rest and Gladness," "In the Garden," and "How Great Thou Art") and a sermon from the Rev. Scott Burmeister, pastor of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church.

MORE MEMORIES:

Norman James writes:

Art and I were cousins. We finished school at about the same time, and had rooms in adjacent houses on South Carson. One evening we were walking to dinner (neither of us owned a car), talking about jobs and money. He was earning $150 a month as a law clerk, I was making $225 as a "Laborer". Art said, "I would be SO happy if I knew I could make $500 a month the rest of my life."

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from February 2014.

Oklahoma Politics: August 2013 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: March 2014 is the next archive.

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