U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, world famous for his controversial remarks about global warming, faces more problems in his reelection campaign than just low Republican voter turnout.
The 73-year-old Senator may face serious questions about his role in events leading to an ongoing lawsuit against Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and the resignation of the university’s former president, Richard Roberts.
Inhofe, along with U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, were recently listed as possible witnesses in the lawsuit brought by Tim and Paulita Brooker. The Brookers claim in the lawsuit that Roberts forced Tim Brooker’s ORU government class to help get Randi Miller elected as Tulsa mayor in 2006. This action, if true, could call into question the college’s nonprofit status.
Inhofe urged Miller, who lost the election and currently serves as a Tulsa County Commissioner, to run for mayor, according to The Tulsa World. Internal university emails, obtained by the newspaper, also show Roberts was urged by his sister-in-law Stephanie Cantees to thank Inhofe for assisting the university.
"Might want to in your thank you to Inhofe for his assistance in helping encourage usage of city plex for fema and any govt office," the email states. CityPLex, owned by the university, is an office building. Apparently the university sought Inhofe’s help in encouraging government agencies to rent space at CityPlex, according to the email.
Roberts, the son of televangelist Oral Roberts, was heavily criticized for his lavish lifestyle and administration of the university before he resigned.
It is unclear what Coburn’s testimony would reveal about his own relationship with the university. Several other notable people, including Miller, former Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune and former U.S. Reps. Bob Beauprez (Colorado) and James Traficant (Ohio) were also listed as witnesses.
The lawsuit, Miller’s public comments about Inhofe and how ORU students helped in her campaign and the email raise serious questions about Inhofe’s relationship with the beleaguered college.
Did Inhofe encourage the college to violate IRS rules about the political activities of nonprofit organizations? Did Inhofe seek out special favors for the college as it knowingly violated IRS rules?
Inhofe, who has embarrassed the state repeatedly with his bizarre comments that global warming is a political “hoax,” won Tuesday’s Republican primary. But low Republican voter turnout Tuesday—compared to the Democratic turnout—probably shows state voters lack enthusiasm for GOP candidates this year up and down the ticket, and that includes Inhofe. State Sen. Andrew Rice won the Democratic primary Tuesday handily but, according to conservative pundits, by-a-less-than-expected margin. He still faces a difficult battle against Inhofe, who has more campaign money.
John Wylie, pubisher of the Oologah Lake Leader, a newspaper located in the eastern part of the state, editorialized about Inhofe and the ORU controversy last November:
The heart of this scandal has never been Lindsay Roberts’ personal life or whether the Roberts enjoyed a lavish lifestyle at university expense while it careened towards financial ruin.
It is about the state and federal felonies of tax fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, violations of the RICO statutes and obstruction of justice.
Inhofe is almost certain to be deposed as civil and perhaps criminal probes move forward.
“What did you know and when did you know it?” are not questions any politician seeking reelection wants to answer under oath.
Let us hope Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart’s loss in Tuesday’s primary election signals a new distaste among some Republican voters here for the state’s motley crew of gay-bashing politicians.
Rinehart, a Republican who represents District 2, was only able to collect 21 percent of the vote Tuesday. His opponents, Brian Maughan, who received 47 percent of the vote, and J.D. Johnston, who received 31 percent of the vote, will face each other in an upcoming Republican runoff.
Rinehart, pictured right, recently made national headlines when he self-published a comic book that disparaged gay people and attacked Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, a former county commissioner who happens to be gay. Rinehart appeared on national television shows defending his freaky comic book after a public outcry. His anti-gay tirade and appearances on the shows embarrassed the state.
The commissioner’s comic book, crudely drawn and poorly written, promotes a politics of hate, intolerance and scapegoating, echoing a political tradition of gay bashing in the state. Politicians such as State Rep. Sally Kern and U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, all Republicans, have also participated in disparaging gay people and the so-called, mythical “homosexual agenda” as way to misinform voters and win votes.
Does Rinehart’s poor performance in the primary election mean that a growing number of Republican voters are tired of the politics of gay hate and bigotry? Obviously, Rinehart had other problems going into the election. He faces a trial in September on felony charges that allege he illegally funded his 2004 campaign. But it is encouraging that Republicans did not rally around the gay-bashing Rinehart as they did when Kern was taped arguing that gay people are worse than terrorists. Change in cultural attitudes often comes slow in Oklahoma, but it does eventually arrive.
"The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda."-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn quoted in Salon.com
Oklahoma’s famous U.S. Senator “Dr. No” is making news again for not playing well with others.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a physician and one of Oklahoma’s radical right-wing politicians, was featured in The New York Times over the weekend for blocking unanimous consent votes on dozens of proposed Senate measures.
Under arcane and decisively undemocratic Senate rules, one Senator can place a hold on any given legislation, thus preventing routine unanimous consent votes. Coburn, playing the obstructionist for political expediency back home, has placed holds on 80 pieces of legislation, which he argues cost too much. Democrats, according to the story, say Coburn exaggerates. Many of the bills have broad bi-partisan support and will not break the budget. All of this has earned Coburn the nickname "Dr. No."
Democrats have now rolled together 35 of the Coburn-held measures in a bill known as the Tomnibus Bill and the official title Advancing America’s Priorities Act. They tried to pass the bill Monday, but it failed even though a clear majority of Senators voted for it. This, again, is because of the arcane rules of the Senate. At the very least, the bill called attention to the fact that Coburn’s belief in democracy seems tenuous at best.
According to The Times story, "Democrats say that by thwarting unanimous consent with his aggressive application of holds, Mr. Coburn is practicing a procedural tyranny of one, blocking popular legislation that has bipartisan Senate support, has easily cleared the House and has received committee review."
In The Times story, readers also learn this nifty fact about Coburn: “He was a top anti-abortion crusader who conducted regular workshops for young staff members on sexually transmitted diseases, complete with graphic slideshows.” Coburn also made an outrageous and untrue comment about lesbians in his 2004 campaign. (Check out this article about Coburn and his earlier comments on the gay community.) He won election to the Senate with strong support from conservative energy company executives in the Oklahoma City area.
The Oklahoman, of course, loves Dr. No, but here are two problems with his agenda: (1) Coburn brings a lot of bad publicity to the state. His radical gay-bashing and ultra-conservative agenda makes Oklahoma seem like a place of intolerance and hate. (This has been the emerging Oklahoma story in the last few years, and Coburn validates it.) Virtually every time Coburn is mentioned in the national media we learn how “radical” he is or what a “rogue” he is or how “far right” he is. (2) His actions could potentially hurt Oklahoma, a relatively poor state with low per capita income levels, from receiving federal dollars for projects and programs. His holds might make good political theater here for certain segments of the population, but ultimately they could hurt the state in tangible financial ways. Why doesn’t Coburn work to do something on the federal level to help Oklahoma?
Ultimately, Coburn shows us how the American political system needs massive change. How can one Senator from a poor state with a terrible history of providing health care and decent wages to its citizens hold up legislation that would benefit the entire country? Does the rogue Coburn want California, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts to become just like Oklahoma? Is this what the Republican Party wants? Does Coburn really think no one except him should get to vote? Does he even believe in democracy?