WHEN the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case, Democrats were among the loudest critics. That ruling made it illegal to limit independent corporate spending in elections, declaring the activity to be constitutionally protected free speech.
In Oklahoma, the House Democratic caucus responded with a call for campaign finance reform this year, decrying in a release “unfettered corporate spending in campaigns” that was a threat to the “integrity of the political process.” State Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, tried to make it illegal for companies that get support from a state economic development fund to make independent political expenditures in state elections for up to six years.
So imagine our surprise when five of the eight state legislative candidates found to have accepted donations directly from corporations this year were Democrats, including some incumbents.
Granted, carelessness rather than orchestrated lawbreaking likely explains why those campaigns failed to immediately return money when filing donation reports and finding a check came from a company account rather than a personal checking account. Still, it's ironic that the political party decrying corporate influence in elections the loudest has a disproportionate number of candidates accepting apparently illegal campaign donations from business interests.
That's also true of at least one of the Republicans recipients identified — state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, who previously denounced business groups' funding of an informational campaign regarding judges on the retention ballot.
Apparently, some opponents of corporate influence only see a problem when a business entity supports the other guy.
Splitting the ticket
With the presidential election looming, many ask how anyone can still be undecided. The Associated Press recently interviewed some of those voters. Their answers didn't bring much clarity. Texas native Robert Dohrenburg said he voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush but not George W. Bush. He supported Barack Obama in 2008. He's decided to vote for Obama again but he wishes Ron Paul had won the GOP nomination. So Dohrenburg has supported the most conservative president in living memory and the most liberal president in living memory. Now he plans to stick with a liberal president because Ron Paul, who's often to the right of Reagan, isn't the GOP nominee. If such political split personalities bother you, imagine how tough it is for the presidential campaigns that must tailor their sales pitches to these voters.
Old-school Pikepass users, this is your final warning: Next week the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will be sending one more notice — the agency's fifth in the past several months — to Pikepass users who haven't yet switched from the old plastic devices to the new window stickers. Beginning in early December, old Pikepasses won't work. Motorists who pass through the automated turnpike gates using those old devices will be charged $25. The authority has about 590,000 Pikepass accounts; 495,000 or so have switched over. In addition to the mailed notices to customers informing them of the change, the agency has reached out by phone and through newspaper ads. Those who wind up seeing $25 charges on their bill can't say they weren't warned, but many are sure to do just that.
Don't forget Obamacare
The outcome of the presidential election is consequential for many reasons, but the fate of Obamacare is certainly one of the largest. A reminder of that law's negative consequences appeared recently in The Wall Street Journal. Robert Thomas, co-founder of Senior Star Living in Tulsa, estimated that Obamacare's mandates could increase his costs by $720,000. This is an example of how difficult the law will make it for small companies to survive. GOP nominee Mitt Romney has called for repealing Obamacare while the current president obviously defends it. An Obama victory could force many tough choices at businesses across the country, including possible layoffs or rolling back growth plans. A Romney victory would indicate better days ahead. Until the election, many companies are in limbo — as are many unemployed workers whose job prospects may improve only if Obamacare is negated.
After Tuesday's elections, it's likely that Republicans for the first time will occupy every one of Oklahoma's congressional seats and statewide offices. And the Republican Party won't have to wait much longer to break more new ground by becoming the largest voting bloc in the state. The State Election Board added 114,103 voters to the rolls between Jan. 15 and Oct. 12 — the latter the deadline to register for Tuesday's general election. Of those, 67,368 signed up as Republicans, 25,123 registered as independents and only 21,465 registered as Democrats. The Democratic Party now has about 69,000 more registered voters than does the GOP — but that's a far cry from the 455,000-voter edge it held in January 2000. Since then, Democrats have seen their rolls in Oklahoma shrink by about 224,000 while Republicans have added roughly 160,000. Clearly it's not a matter of if the GOP will assume the top spot, but when.
Womb with a view
Syndicated columnist Rich Lowry wrote this week of the Obama campaign's condescension toward women. He cited the views of early feminists that women are “just as capable of rational deliberation as men.” He didn't mention how out of sync President Obama's views on reproduction are with those of some pioneers of women's rights. More than 100 years after her death, Susan B. Anthony remains the subject of scholarly debate about her views on abortion. Pro-life groups believe Anthony actively opposed the practice; pro-choice groups claims she had no strong feelings on the subject. Elizabeth Cady Stanton once wrote of the “murder of children, either before or after birth.” Victoria Woodhall, the first female candidate for president (1872), said, “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.” The point of this is that women — including some modern feminists — don't have a unified view supporting abortion at any stage of a pregnancy or government-mandated contraception. Obama's one-womb-fits-all philosophy is patronizing and an insult to many American women.
Oklahoma's largely drama-free redistricting process was no doubt due in part to not losing a congressional seat as occurred in 2000. New research suggests Oklahoma state lawmakers also reduced controversy by avoiding blatant gerrymandering. Azavea, a geospatial software firm, has released a report analyzing all congressional districts, highlighting particularly unusual boundaries based on four metrics. Maryland's congressional lines ranked worst — no surprise given a judge said one district's lines were “reminiscent of a broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate” across Maryland. That map is being challenged in court. In other states, majority-minority districts, drawn to promote the election of minorities to Congress, were among the least compact. Using the Polsby-Popper ratio, generally the most widely cited metric, more than half of U.S. states had congressional districts less compact than Oklahoma's boundaries. Oklahoma legislators deserve thanks for avoiding the off-putting shenanigans occurring elsewhere.