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.