Oklahoma’s election and legal officials should determine whether the GOP-backed 100 Ideas initiative can continue to hide its money sponsors.
At issue is whether the initiative is government sponsored or not and whether it violates campaign contribution laws. Oklahoma House Speaker Lance Cargill, R-Harrah), pictured right, and former Norman Republican legislator Thad Balkman, who recently announced the initiative, said private citizens of Oklahoma were funding the venture but would not give the names.
Yet the initiative’s Web site (as of February 6, 2007) clearly states Cargill, in his role as an elected official, formed the initiative:
“Beginning in February of 2007, Speaker Lance Cargill will travel across the state to change Oklahoma’s mindset to look ahead to the long-term future of our state. Through a series of town hall meetings and interaction with the state’s citizens called IdeaRaisers, the 100 Ideas Initiative will develop a comprehensive vision” . . . blah, blah, blah.
Perhaps, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson or some other state legal official should consider these questions: Is this a political action committee supporting Cargill and the GOP? Should we look at the group’s funding as campaign donations? If so, then shouldn’t the funding be open to public scrutiny? Can any politician in Oklahoma now get secret money in this way?
The 100 Ideas initiative is a complete steal from the 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future. It’s a political gimmick to help the Republican Party on the state level. The cover story is the initiative will canvas Oklahoma and come up with 100 ideas to help the state prosper. These ideas will be published in a book and on the initiative’s Web site.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren, another public servant, and former Governors George Nigh and Frank Keating are board advisors for the initiative and have apparently signed off on the secret funding. Are they getting money, too? Expenses? Stipends? Trips? How much? Did the centrist Democrats Boren and Nigh realize the funding sources were secret? If so, what does that tell you about the state of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma these days?
As Austin-based songwriter James McMurtry sings about this area, “Out here in middle, where the center’s on the right.”
According to a recent article in the Oklahoma Gazette, the initiative doesn’t want any ideas that go against standard GOP operating procedure. “…we hope that all the ideas would not necessarily expand the role of government,” said Balkman, who as a legislator once endorsed the teaching of Intelligent Design, or creationism, in Oklahoma’s science classrooms.
Well, there goes improving educational systems, there goes decent health care for the state’s middle class people, there goes better roads for poor old Oklahoma. But you can bet all those tiresome cultural wedge issues the GOP and even some Democrats exploit for votes here will become great ideas.
The venture shows an interesting snapshot of how political power has always worked in Oklahoma. Behind the scenes, the rich power structure here pulls the strings of political puppets. Rock the boat in any fashion, and you’re out on your sorry ass.
Mike Hermes, who operates the popular Oklahoma blog, Okiedoke, has come up with his own Okie 100 initiative. It’s truly politically independent and provides full disclosure of anyone remotely involved in the project. This is where the people can speak freely these days, not in the latest conservative think tank created by the suits.