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OKG Newsletter


Topic: Scoop

Shedding light

The next board meeting of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission should provide an interesting discussion about the future of political campaigns. The commission has four new proposed rules which, if approved, will provide greater insight into:

by Scott Cooper 07.09.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

Supreme Decision

Although it affects no one currently on death row in Oklahoma, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision banning the execution of child rapists has serious consequences.

For the last decade, the Supreme Court has ruled on several challenges to capital punishment. Some rulings have altered Oklahoma's execution standards, while others have reaffirmed them. Issues of executing international criminals, executing the mentally incompetent and the method of execution have all been examined by the court. All three outcomes impacted Oklahoma death row inmates.

This week's decision is based on a case in Louisiana where 43-year-old Patrick Kennedy was sentenced to death for the rape of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. The Supreme Court banned executing criminals for rape in a case involving an adult woman. Besides Louisiana, five states approved laws to execute criminals for raping children; Oklahoma passed its law in 2006.

The Oklahoma measure's author, Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, said he was "deeply disappointed" in the court's decision.

The state attorney general's office said: "Our attorneys are reviewing the court's ruling to determine what impact it will have on Oklahoma's law. We will also be comparing the language in our statute to Louisiana's law, which was the subject of the Supreme Court case.

"There are no inmates currently on death row sentenced under this statute and we are working to determine if any cases are pending. If any district attorney is currently seeking the death penalty based on this statute, we will consult with him or her individually."

In recent years, the Supreme Court has restricted executing people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the murder, or who were deemed mentally incompetent. Those decisions had an immediate effect on Oklahoma's death row, as several inmates fell into those categories. The most recent decision was close, 5-4, but it continues a trend of the nation's highest court voicing reservations about the death penalty.

Even with a decision from the court earlier this year that approved of lethal injection as a proper means of execution, the method was challenged as unconstitutional - cruel and inhumane. This week's ruling now takes another class of criminals away from the needle. -Scott Cooper

by Scott Cooper 06.27.2008 5 years ago
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More Polling

Along with local views about the president and some of Oklahoma's top political leaders reported in today's Oklahoma Gazette, there are poll numbers out that show state residents are very concerned about the national economy while their own checkbooks are doing fine.

According to results of the most recent SoonerPoll.com survey, about three out of every four respondents put the national economy in a depressing state. At the same time, 63 percent of Oklahomans feel the state economy is in healthy shape.

"It shows that people here know their personal finances are (more) driven by the local economy than the national economy," said Bill Shapard Jr., SoonerPoll.com CEO.

Other economy results of the poll:

-65 percent believe the national economy is getting worse with 4.5 percent thinking it is improving.

-26.5 percent said Oklahoma's economy is getting worse compared to 12 percent who said the state's economy is improving.

-78 percent feel their personal finances are in decent shape.

But there was one question that showed some trepidation about the state's economy. Nearly 47 percent said they are more concerned about their personal economic situation now than they were a year ago.

"They're cautious because of what they see on the national level," Shapard said. "They see the Oklahoma economy is better. They see their personal finances are driven by the local economy. But they are still taking a wait-and-see approach with their own economic situation, which means our economy could slow down a bit."

Surveyors were more concerned about their home values than a year ago, but were split down the middle on concern for their job situation. -Scott Cooper

by Scott Cooper 06.26.2008 5 years ago
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A smart move

In an effort to avoid litigation, the chairman of the state Ethics Commission has asked the governor to call a special session to boost the commission's funding. It is probably a move that will not work, but it puts the commission in a good-faith effort to find a solution that does involve lawyers.

This past year, a fire has been lit under the commissioner's feet where it no longer fears the wrath of the Legislature. Like all state agencies, the commission gets its funding from lawmakers and therefore tries to play nice so the money keeps flowing. Even during rough economic times, which Oklahoma is currently not going through, agency heads continued to kiss the Legislature's back side in the hopes their funding would not be cut.

But the ethics commission has said "no mo" and is demanding its fair share. The commission's nerve has tightened up so much that at its last meeting they voted to pursue a lawsuit if their funding request was not met. Their argument is based on not being a typical state agency, but an institution mandated by the state's constitution.

As the watchdogs of elected state officials, the commissioners take their own oaths seriously and have reached the conclusion that, for whatever reasons, the Oklahoma Legislature will not comply with the quoted requirements established by our Constitution, wrote commission chairman Don Bingman in his letter to the governor.

The commission was created in the early 1990s, not by the Legislature but by a vote of the people. In the wake of historic scandals like the county commissioner kickback scheme of the Eighties and former Gov. David Hall's indictment for extortion and conspiracy, Oklahomans thought a state watchdog to keep track of money and politicians would be a good idea. The problem is the commission has a staff the size of a hot dog stand with more customers than a grocery store on double coupon day. The amount of money involved in campaigns and lobbying has grown taller than Jack's bean stalk and the commission has only investigator to chop it down when the political beans grow where they should not.

The governor has sided with the ethics commission in their disputes with the Legislature the past few years. A fight broke out last year when the commission voted to require all candidates to electronically file their quarterly reports to the commission. The Legislature voted to scrap that rule only to have the governor pull out his veto pen. The electronic filing rule is now in effect.

This year, the Legislature approved a $50,000 earmark in the ethics commission funding to purchase new software, a move the commission did not request and did not want. The governor line-item vetoed the earmark leaving the money to spend at the commission's discretion.

While it is unlikely the governor will go along with the commission's request to spend tax dollars on a special session, the commission has made a move worthy of a skilled politician make a good faith effort to peacefully resolve a dispute before skewing the other side in court."Scott Cooper

 

by Scott Cooper 06.18.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

A smart move

In an effort to avoid litigation, the chairman of the state Ethics Commission has asked the governor to call a special session to boost the commission's funding. It is probably a move that will not work, but it puts the commission in a good-faith effort to find a solution that does involve lawyers.

This past year, a fire has been lit under the commissioner's feet where it no longer fears the wrath of the Legislature. Like all state agencies, the commission gets its funding from lawmakers and therefore tries to play nice so the money keeps flowing. Even during rough economic times, which Oklahoma is currently not going through, agency heads continued to kiss the Legislature's back side in the hopes their funding would not be cut.

But the ethics commission has said "no mo" and is demanding its fair share. The commission's nerve has tightened up so much that at its last meeting they voted to pursue a lawsuit if their funding request was not met. Their argument is based on not being a typical state agency, but an institution mandated by the state's constitution.

As the watchdogs of elected state officials, the commissioners take their own oaths seriously and have reached the conclusion that, for whatever reasons, the Oklahoma Legislature will not comply with the quoted requirements established by our Constitution, wrote commission chairman Don Bingman in his letter to the governor.

The commission was created in the early 1990s, not by the Legislature but by a vote of the people. In the wake of historic scandals like the county commissioner kickback scheme of the Eighties and former Gov. David Hall's indictment for extortion and conspiracy, Oklahomans thought a state watchdog to keep track of money and politicians would be a good idea. The problem is the commission has a staff the size of a hot dog stand with more customers than a grocery store on double coupon day. The amount of money involved in campaigns and lobbying has grown taller than Jack's bean stalk and the commission has only investigator to chop it down when the political beans grow where they should not.

The governor has sided with the ethics commission in their disputes with the Legislature the past few years. A fight broke out last year when the commission voted to require all candidates to electronically file their quarterly reports to the commission. The Legislature voted to scrap that rule only to have the governor pull out his veto pen. The electronic filing rule is now in effect.

This year, the Legislature approved a $50,000 earmark in the ethics commission funding to purchase new software, a move the commission did not request and did not want. The governor line-item vetoed the earmark leaving the money to spend at the commission's discretion.

While it is unlikely the governor will go along with the commission's request to spend tax dollars on a special session, the commission has made a move worthy of a skilled politician make a good faith effort to peacefully resolve a dispute before skewing the other side in court."Scott Cooper

 

by Scott Cooper 06.18.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 
kylekeith

V Day

My morning started at the home of Oklahoma Gazette columnist and University of Oklahoma poly sci prof Keith Gaddie, who wanted to get an early start on primary day. That start was at 4 a.m.

We canvassed the area of south Oklahoma City, Moore and north Norman, checking to see which candidates were serious about winning. Any candidate willing to stand on a street corner and play the upscale version of "will work for vote" was considered a serious candidate.

The area surveyed is where some of the most contested primary races were shaping up. Senate District 45 has five Republican candidates who could be seen waving to motorists. 7-Eleven store corners are very popular. Must be the doughnuts.

As Gaddie and I cruised down the streets in his wife's SUV, while jamming to Devo's "Whip It," we spotted Rep. Mike Reynolds. Across the intersection of 104th and Penn was Senate District 45 candidate Steve Russell as the next song on the radio was Blondie's "Rapture."

We desperately sought illegal immigration grand poobah Rep. Randy Terrill. His troops were out en masse, but Terrill was nowhere to be found. We had a spare breakfast burrito to give him.

Photos by Scott Cooper

State Senate District 45 candidate Kyle Loveless gets an early morning start on greeting traffic at the corner of SW 104 and May. Oklahoma Gazette columnist Keith Gaddie, right, gave a helping hand. 

russell.jpg

State Senate District 45 candidate Steve Russell waves to potential voters with his two sons at the corner of SW 104 and Penn.

 kyle.jpg

State Senate District 45 candidate Kyle Loveless gives the campaign one last push on primary voting day in Oklahoma.

reynolds.jpg 

Rep. Mike Reynolds points out the finer details of attracting voters by standing on street corners to Oklahoma Gazette columnist Keith Gaddie. Reynolds is facing re-election for House District 91.

 sleep.jpg

It was just a bit too early in the morning for this supporter of Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore.

keith.jpg 

Oklahoma Gazette columnist Keith Gaddie celebrates spending a few minutes exercising his right to vote at his polling location in Norman.

stiles.jpg 

Republican House District 45 candidate Aaron Stiles spent his primary voting morning at the corner of Porter and Robinson in Norman.

 

by Scott Cooper 07.30.2008 5 years ago
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Happy campers

After an intense contest for the Republican nomination for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, state Rep. Rob Johnson endorsed his GOP opponent Dana Murphy. The two battled to the very end on primary night with Murphy inching out a victory, 51 percent to 48 percent. Both candidates poured lots of money into the race, with large chunks going towards television ads in the final week.

Most of the campaigning between Johnson and Murphy stayed relatively calm, but only after a spat at the start. When candidate filing opened at the state Election Board in early June, Johnson contested Murphy's candidacy because she goofed on her filing signature. On one form she signed Dana Murphy and another form she signed Dana L. Murphy. It was a pretty petty point from Johnson and the election board told him so in rejecting Johnson's objection to Murphy's candidacy.

Now the two have made up with Johnson calling Murphy a true watchdog for the interests of Oklahoma consumers. Murphy now takes on current Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth in what should be the best statewide race.

But expect to hear from Johnson again. When his dad, state Sen. Mike Johnson, is term limited out in 2010, there is a good bet the name Johnson will still be on the ballot.

by Scoitt Cooper 08.05.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 
Sally-Kern-sc

Cultural warrior

The public and press should not be shocked by Rep. Sally Kern calling herself a "cultural warrior." Kern has made that her calling since the day she was elected to the state Legislature.

News erupted this week when the Norman Transcript ran a story about a speech Kern recently gave calling herself a cultural warrior. The Associated Press picked up on it and the term became headline news across the state.

But Kern has been calling herself a foot soldier in the culture war for years.

In March 2006, Oklahoma Gazette ran a cover story titled "Holy War" which Kern was a major part of. I spent more than an hour in Kern's state capitol office, listening to her sermon about how America's moral values are in peril and that God has told her to go out and heal the culturally sick.

"I'm a cultural warrior," Kern was quoted in Gazette's story. It was under the subhead "Cultural warrior."

Kern did not stop there.

"Our country is the only country that allows freedom of religion. Why? Because in my opinion, and I think there is evidence to document it, it's based upon Christianity."

by Scott Cooper 08.08.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 
Sally-Kern-sc

Cultural warrior

The public and press should not be shocked by Rep. Sally Kern calling herself a "cultural warrior." Kern has made that her calling since the day she was elected to the state Legislature.

News erupted this week when the Norman Transcript ran a story about a speech Kern recently gave calling herself a cultural warrior. The Associated Press picked up on it and the term became headline news across the state.

But Kern has been calling herself a foot soldier in the culture war for years.

In March 2006, Oklahoma Gazette ran a cover story titled "Holy War" which Kern was a major part of. I spent more than an hour in Kern's state capitol office, listening to her sermon about how America's moral values are in peril and that God has told her to go out and heal the culturally sick.

"I'm a cultural warrior," Kern was quoted in Gazette's story. It was under the subhead "Cultural warrior."

Kern did not stop there.

"Our country is the only country that allows freedom of religion. Why? Because in my opinion, and I think there is evidence to document it, it's based upon Christianity."

by Scott Cooper 08.08.2008 5 years ago
at 11:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
 

Non-partisan partisan

Thursday morning I received what appeared to be a normal press release from Oklahoma City Director of Communications Kristy Yager. But after reading the text, a serious question came to mind.

The news from the City was that Mayor Mick Cornett was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention up in Minnesota the week of Sept. 1-4. Cornett is a Republican who has gained national attention through his anti-fat crusade and helping to bring an NBA franchise to Oklahoma City.

The invite seemed logical. The announcement did not.

The press release of Cornett's speech came through the City's public-relations office, printed on official Oklahoma City letterhead. City government is supposed to be non-partisan which includes elections for the mayor's office and city council. Cornett has not hidden the fact that he is a Republican, but partisan politics are to remain on the sidelines when dealing City business.

"I understand your concern," Yager said in an e-mail to Oklahoma Gazette.  "However, we felt the invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention is newsworthy. Anytime a city official is on the national scene it reflects highly on the city."

However, another well-known Oklahoman has a different policy. Before he became President of the University of Oklahoma, David Boren served 16 years in the U.S. Senate and four years as the state's governor. While he has spent the past 13 years as OU's top boss, Boren, a Democrat, has from time to time dabbled in politics. This year, Boren led a bipartisan group calling for the presidential candidates to avoid extreme politics and move toward centrist views. He has also come out in support of Barack Obama.

"Typically, when the President releases a statement that involves his own personal political opinions he issues it through his private press secretary," said OU press secretary Jay Doyle.

by Scott Cooper 08.22.2008 5 years ago
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