Monday, August 1, 2011

Money for Nothing, and My Gas for Free...I Want My MTv

On today's 30th anniversary of MTv, I thought I would take a few minutes to share what we in the Senate have been hearing about the House Speaker's race this summer. And my apologies to Dire Straits for changing their lyrics...

I have heard much concern within the House caucus about those surrounding T.W. Shannon. Everyone thinks T.W. is a great guy, but we are judged by those we ally ourselves with. People's true colors do not always come out right away, but once they do, they are indelibly inked on others' psyches. We will never think of the two House members whose extramarital activity was discovered this summer the same.

T.W. seems to have adopted Dire Straits' tune as his theme song, although he was only 3 when MTv debuted.

The "Money for Nothing" is fulfilled from what I have heard about T.W.'s contract with the Chickasaw Nation. My understanding is that T.W. Shannon is paid about $10,000 each month by the Chickasaw Nation...but no one who knows the amount can tell me how exactly he earns his money. I'd like a job where I get money for nothing.

The "Gas for Free" is from the ethics report T.W. filed this weekend. From what I have read of the legislature's rules, the state reimburses members who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol for mileage from their home. Using the address on T.W.'s report (which Google Map cannot find), his committee is 96.6 miles from the Capitol.

In April, T.W.'s campaign reimbursed him $317.54 for gas. May's total for gas was $729.62, and June's $710.24. Assuming gas was $3.50 per gallon, and assuming SUVs get 15 mpg, T.W. would have purchased 91 gallons in April, 208.4 gallons in May, and 202.9 gallons in June. The total of 502.3 gallons would have driven the SUV 7534.5 miles, or 83.7 miles per day. If T.W.'s SUV is more efficient than mine, then he went even further.

(For our summer vacation, my family picked me up at the Oklahoma Capitol, and we went to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, the Bunny Museum in Pasadena, California, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, Fenway Park in Boston, Epcot Center in Orlando and the Johnson Space Center in Houston before dropping me back at the Capitol. We drove 7513 miles.)

In addition to the reimbursement from the state, T.W. was paid for 39 round trips between the very southwest corner of his home city and the Capitol - more than three trips every week. Is it possible he's double-dipping on reimbursements?

But T.W. may have received his tolls for free as well. His campaign paid $40 to PikePass seven times from April 1 to June 30 - April 11, April 21, May 3, May 12, May 20, June 13 and June 30. At $2.70 per round trip from Lawton to Oklahoma City, and $280 in total charges, he was paid for 104 round trips on the H.E. Bailey turnpike in 91 days - more than a round trip per day.

My concern is that it appears T.W. is treating his campaign's money like Congress treats our federal tax dollars - it's available, so he might as well use it.

Apparently, T.W. has decided "Kids Eat Free" applies to officeholders as well. His campaign received $0.00 in contributions from April 1 to June 30, yet he spent $485.30 on meals for "Voter and Donor contact and meetings" in April, followed by $673.84 in May and $659.46 in June. His $1818.60 in three months is $28.87 for each of the 63 weekdays, or $20.21 per day if you count weekends.

T.W. will not face the voters again until April and/or November of next year, depending on if anyone files against him. T.W. raised no money from donors this period. Many military families in T.W.'s district would love to have a food budget of $150 per week.

Gene Stipe and Senator Mike Morgan would be proud of T.W. Shannon. He's getting paid a great salary to do a job that seemingly has no hours or requirements; he got his campaign to pay for a turnpike trip to OKC each day; and he spent $1800 of his campaign's money on "donor and voter contact" meals while raising no money and without an election this year.

We in the Senate watch the House, sometimes for leadership and sometimes with amusement. Right now, we are wondering how T.W. Shannon is being taken seriously as a candidate to be the next Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He spent $3856 of his campaign's money while raising nothing and speaking to voters about an election that won't occur until 2012...or 2013.

- Cottontail

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pick One: Schoolchildren or Indian Cultural Center

Members of the House of Representatives will be faced with a big decision in the coming weeks: Should the state sell bonds for the Indian Cultural Center?

On Monday, the Governor brought a lunch of Chick-Fil-A (bunnies and cows agree - eat more chicken) and spoke to the House Republican Caucus about the wonderful benefits of the Indian Cultural Center and the proposed $40 million bond.  It has been hailed as a tourist attraction, a way to honor our state's history, and a profitable enterprise that will make annual profits of $7 million in just a few short years.

Conservative members of the Republican Caucus are having problems supporting facist capitalism in an era of budget cuts.  In a year where Common Education is scheduled to be cut 4.1%, and Higher Education 5.8%, some will have a hard time voting to give $40 million to a potential public-private boondoogle.  If tourists have an extra day in Oklahoma City, they can choose from Frontier City (private), driving up to Old Town Guthrie (no extra government help), or the Indian Cultural Center (half-funded with tax money).  Why should our history be honored on the backs of private business?

All Republican members face a difficult choice since all of Oklahoma, the former Indian Territory, has tribal members who would like to see the state honor their heritage.  The members also know that the principled conservative position is opposition based on the fiscal impact.

Native American conservatives are in even more of a bind - to vote for their personal heritage, or vote for the conservative principles that got them elected?

- Flopsy

Four Candidates in Speaker's Race?

On Tuesday, my colleagues in the House of Representatives and I were told by Paul Wesselhoft that there are now four candidates to be the next Speaker of the House:

- T.W. Shannon,
- Jeff Hickman,
- George Faught, and
- Becky Faught.

This is not a good development for T.W. Shannon.  In early March, OCPAC announced he was only days away from wrapping up support from a majority of House Republicans.  Over two months later, additional people are running for the office.  If T.W. had strong support and a team of supporters who weren't too busy messing around with their staff, he would have been elected Speaker of the House for 2013 by now.

- Mopsy

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are House Rules Still in Flux?

Five Republican members of the House of Representatives have started to vote with the Democrats on most issues to protest the treatment of Representative Charles Key and his bid to have every bill heard on committee.

The Democrats are circulating a petition to reopen the House Rules, hoping to make it easier to take bills directly to the floor and get them passed.  House Republicans are discovering they can get 30 votes that wouldn't otherwise be there on a bill by agreeing to sign the Democrats' petition.

- Flopsy

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Open Carry for Bunny Hunters Across Oklahoma

Last year, Republican Senators realized that you can count to 25 in a variety of ways.  I've been hearing that some Republican House members have figured out that 31 is a big part of 51.

Hallway scuttlebutt has T.W. Shannon wanting to become speaker right away, and not waiting almost two years until the next term.  I have heard from multiple colleagues that T.W. could build on his support for the next speaker's race, and give the Democrats a minimal amount of tribute, to get to the 51 votes needed to elect a Speaker now.

SB 129, which would allow open-carry, is a key part of the true social conservative agenda that a 70% Republican majority should be passing and sending to the governor to become law.  Maybe Mr. Hackett of the Oklahoma Liberty Caucus was right - if the State Chamber doesn't like it, it won't happen.

T.W. considers himself a "true conservative," so he would certainly order his committee chairmen to hear SB 129, and other conservative agenda items, if he were speaker.  Or he would replace them - their choice.

Can we expect the current speaker to show that bold leadership, and keep the respect of his caucus?

- Mopsy

Steve Vaughn's Prayer

How many other members were moved by Steve Vaughn's opening prayer at Caucus Lunch on April 11? I for one was very moved by the story of the tornado that left the camp alone.

- Flopsy

How Could T.W. Shannon Reshape Oklahoma?

Rural House members should be very careful supporting T.W. Shannon for Speaker of the House of Representatives as it could bring their political lives to a screeching halt.

Representative David Derby, who is one of T.W.'s inner circle, this year introduced HB 1289, which is noted for "requiring school districts to restructure into a consolidated county school district." This year, the bill was referred to the Common Education Committee, where it died when no action was taken.

If David Derby is the Speaker Pro-Tem, or God forbid the floor leader to Speaker T.W. Shannon, next session's bill will be heard in committee and the Majority Whip will make sure it has the votes to pass on the floor.

Voters across Oklahoma have made their love for their local schools very clear. Elected officials who cross voters on this issue will face very cross voters at their next election. Cross voters don't like the incumbents that annoyed them.

(Today, I won't talk about another of T.W.'s inner circle, the member who had sex with his assistant in his office in the Capitol.)

- Mopsy