State Reps. John Bennett and Mike Reynolds are in a tizzy over The State Chamber's plan to rate judges facing the retention ballot. In a House press release, Bennett attacked those involved for meeting “in secret.”
Imagine: Private citizens and companies engaging in free speech without the express authorization of politicians or the presence of state officials to monitor them. The horror!
Bennett, R-Sallisaw, claims a “clear conflict of interest” exists because individuals with Chesapeake Energy and BancFirst were allegedly involved and those companies are often targets of litigation. Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, echoed the charge. But how is that a conflict? If you regularly deal with the court system, shouldn't you have a right to comment on the qualifications of judges?
Bennett called the ratings project “a blatant attempt to bully judges into deciding favorable cases for the State Chamber's biggest donors.” Apparently Bennett doesn't have much faith in Oklahoma's judiciary. If judges rule contrary to state law and the constitution because of a rating system, they shouldn't be in office in the first place.
We doubt Bennett or Reynolds equate contributions to their campaigns with bribery, so how is a privately funded informational campaign nefarious?
The inherent tension between an independent judiciary and direct election of judges is obvious, but that's the system we have. That Bennett and Reynolds used taxpayer funding to attack private individuals (by name) for engaging in the electoral process is far more disturbing. It's a borderline abuse of power that runs contrary to our nation's constitutional principles of free expression and free association.
Both men claim to be staunch conservatives, yet mouth the platitudes of the far left and employ the private business-bashing tactics of President Barack Obama.
This is something voters should remember — even if they ignore the chamber's judicial ratings.