Are plumbing company ads electioneering?
Do Markwayne Mullin's commercials for his plumbing company also promote his candidacy for Congress in eastern Oklahoma? If so, would the customers who spend more than $1,000 on plumbing service have to be named publicly as contributors?
Mullin, a Republican running for the 2nd District congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Dan Boren, has asked the Federal Election Commission for an opinion before regulations on “electioneering communications” kick in a month before Oklahoma's June 26 primary.
Mullin has for years appeared in television and radio ads for his plumbing company, and he pays for a weekly radio show to talk about home improvement.
According to Mullin's request to the FEC, the commission has not given a blanket exemption to campaign finance laws for business advertisements that mention the name of a federal candidate.
Moreover, a federal judge ruled recently that all contributors who give $1,000 or more to sponsor electioneering ads must be publicly disclosed.
But Mullin's attorneys argue that the FEC should find that Mullin's ads and radio show “are not electioneering communications because the advertisements are wholly unrelated to the campaign. The advertisements do not discuss issues, candidates or the election.”
If the FEC considers them election-related, they should at least exempt the customers from public disclosure, the attorneys argue.
Mullin, of Westville, is one of six Republicans running for Boren's seat.
There are three Democrats vying for the nomination.
Lankford criticizes White House rule
Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, was among the conservatives who reacted strongly last week to a report that the U.S. Secret Service required pregnant women to list their unborn children when seeking visitor passes for the White House.
Lankford said the White House “inadvertently shed light on a matter of hypocrisy that is truly the difference between life and death.”
“I am surprised at the audacity of the White House to consider unborn children necessary of security information in order for the mother to tour the White House while unborn children do not have the same consideration at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or anywhere else in D.C.”
Lankford's reaction stemmed from an email sent by the director of the White House Visitor's Office, who wrote: “Crazy as it may sound, you MUST include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour. It's an easy process.”
Politifact, a fact-checking arm of the Tampa Bay Times, looked into the matter and found that the email was misunderstood.
Ed Donovan, spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, told Politifact that the security process pertains to women who would be bringing a baby on a future White House tour.
“This refers to a pregnant woman providing information for a tour in the future that will include the new family member,'' Donovan said.
“So when a 7-month pregnant woman is providing information for a tour that is 4 months in the future, there is a ‘place holder' for the new baby.”
Crop insurance reforms sought
Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., had some conflicts last year that led Coburn to step away temporarily from the Gang of Six senators working on a broad deficit reduction plan. But the two came together last week to ask leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee to suggest ways to save money on federal crop insurance, which cost taxpayers nearly $9 billion in 2011 when administrative expenses are included.
Coburn and Durbin sent a letter to the Democratic chairman and top Republican on the Senate committee saying they support “commonsense structural changes” to the program.
The Senate and House are working on a long-term farm bill that will address crop insurance.
Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, defended the crop insurance program after the GAO report was released, saying it “serves as a good example of a public-private partnership where producers pay for coverage.”