Backers of a school storm shelter initiative petition on Wednesday accused Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt of sabotaging their ballot title in order to curry favor with State Chamber members whose employees are campaign contributors to him.
Fred Morgan, president and chief executive officer of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, called the accusation “absurd” and a “desperate publicity stunt.” He said the State Chamber has taken no position on the proposed ballot measure.
Pruitt also denied the allegation, calling assertions “politically motivated,” “untruthful,” and “just silly.”
Attorneys for storm shelter supporters are asking the state Supreme Court to remove Pruitt from participating in a legal battle over how the ballot title should be written.
The dispute centers on an initiative petition that calls for the state to issue up to $500 million in bonds for the construction of Oklahoma school storm shelters. Franchise tax revenues would be used to repay the bonds, and the state Legislature could appropriate additional money to pay off bonds if franchise tax revenues were insufficient.
Pruitt's office rewrote the proposed ballot language, emphasizing that franchise tax revenues currently flow into the general fund and that approval of the measure would divert that money from the general fund, which is the primary fund used to finance state government.
Initiative petition backers claim State Chamber members are against the proposal because they want the franchise tax eliminated and that Pruitt is trying to torpedo the ballot proposal to curry favor with them.
“We believe he took their money. We think he's taking his marching orders from them and we want him off this case,” said David Slane, attorney for the petitioners.
Slane said Wednesday that he also has presented Pruitt with an open records request asking for all emails between the State Chamber, its members, and the attorney general's office.
Petitioners claim “leaders of the State Chamber of Commerce and influential members of the State Chambers of Commerce have contributed thousands of campaign dollars to Scott Pruitt.”
Morgan said the State Chamber and its political action committee have not made any contributions to Pruitt.