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.