Critics of The State Chamber of Oklahoma portray the group as puppet master to virtually the entire membership of the Legislature, most statewide-elected officials and the general apparatus of state government. The chamber is an obsession of both the far left and the far right, who demonize the organization, insisting their fringe ideas were rejected only because of the behind-the-scenes machinations of chamber lobbyists.
No doubt State Chamber President Fred Morgan wishes he wielded that kind of power. For one thing, it would make actual lobbying unnecessary. But the chamber's own promotional materials show those claims are nonsense.
The chamber's 2012 legislative wrap-up notes successes — and disappointments. A bill to increase transparency when the state attorney general contracts with private law firms didn't get a hearing. A measure requiring that individuals provide proof of personal harm to receive damages under the consumer protection act went nowhere. A measure allowing companies to “opt out” of the workers' compensation system was killed on the House floor. A bill to exempt 100 percent of military retirement pay from the state income tax cleared the Senate but was denied a House hearing. The list goes on.
It turns out The State Chamber, like most lobbying organizations, never gets its way on everything. Its goal is for the wins to outnumber losses, and it's done pretty well on that score. To argue that the chamber's agenda is at odds with the desires of state citizens is rubbish. Politicians whose votes run contrary to voters' views soon find themselves out of a job. Therefore, the chamber's legislative success suggests its agenda is largely aligned with voter preferences, not that the group has achieved dictatorial power.
Does The State Chamber have clout? Absolutely. Does the organization get its way regardless of policy concerns or public objections? Nope. Not even close.