[9/4/12 UPDATE to this post: Both Nathan Dahm (R-SD 33) and Ken Walker (R-HD 70) won the runoff elections on August 28th, 2012. Since no Democrat candidates filed for these seats, the August 28th election decided these offices. The Oklahoma Legislature will convene for the First Regular Session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature (2013-2014) on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:00 Noon.]
“Uh, and for us, you know, political guys, you know, a lot of times we, you know, the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don’t matter – I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff… So we’re going to have to figure out… how to help, uh, refocus maybe the legislators’ attention on things that are actually going to create jobs, versus worrying about tax cuts and tax credits and stuff like that.” [Chad Warmington, State Chamber]
OK-SAFE, Inc. – The Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce held a lunch time Legislative Wrap Up Meeting on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at Northeastern State University, at the Broken Arrow Campus.
Manufacturers from the surrounding area were invited to attend, and Chamber President Fred Morgan and lobbyist Chad Warmington each gave presentations before taking questions from the audience.
Both Morgan and Warmington made statements that left little doubt as to the Chambers intentions, revealing what most in the grassroots already knew – that the Chamber is an agenda-driven institution, single-minded in its’ efforts to advance corporate interests only, operating virtually without conscious and with little or no regard to principle when it comes to policy issues. The Chamber wants what business wants. Period.
These Chamber representatives admit they actively find, recruit, and run the campaigns of, candidates who will vote the way the Chamber wants them to vote; they call these recruits their “pro-business” candidates. (For those out there who still think there is a chance your Chamber-supported candidate will actually represent the interests of their home district, please understand – it doesn’t work that way.)
Fred Morgan, a former legislator/lobbyist, took over as President of the State Chamber a couple of years ago.
Morgan stated that before he came, “…we really weren’t very politically engaged. But we know that in order to [unclear] that…we know that we need to be engaged and we need to be engaged not just at the policy advocacy level but we need to be involved in the political level as well. So we have engaged very heavily at the political level. It’s a lot easier to lobby a legislator who shares your ideas, and your goals, and who knows something about business. And Chad is going to go through a lot of the projects, kind of sum up our political projects.”
The Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want to waste a lot of time working with legislators who may not agree with them, so they’ve decided it’s better to pick and run their own guys; Morgan referred to this as being “politically engaged in the process.”
Warmington admits,“So we run campaigns, essentially, out of one side of our shop.” His power point presentation detailed the State Chamber’s recent activities and projects on which they are focused.
Some of those activities include:
- Finding and recruiting candidates to run for office, regardless of party affiliation
- Running campaigns, including mail pieces – positive for their pro-business “friends,” and negative for their opponents, called either “anti-business” or “trial lawyers” – and radio and phone calls (live).
- Educating the newly elected candidates so they’ll vote the “right way” – called being “pro-business”
- Partnering with the Research Institute for Economic Development, or RIED, a 20-year old special interest group, to rank legislators. RIED is described here. The annual RIED Report claims to score legislators on “business, jobs, and economic development”, but the criteria used to rank them is virtually unavailable.
- The use of The Political Intelligence Report , a subscription information site to provide ‘intelligence’ to their members. The Intelligence Report is also used to encourage or discourage campaign contributions, among other things.
- The creation of “We Are Watching Them” website, for tracking votes and detailing a “top offenders” list of legislators who don’t vote the way the Chamber wants them to vote.
- The creation of the Oklahoma Civil Justice Council, an evaluation system to criticize judges who render decisions that the Chamber’s corporate members don’t agree with. The criteria is based on whether the judge’s decision “expanded or contracted” liability for businesses.
This recently-created Council has been criticzed by Rep. John Bennett, a conservative legislator, who pointed out that judges are supposed to be impartial. In turn, Bennett is being targeted by the State Chamber for being “anti-business.”
Campaigns Without Conscious
Warmington was quite enthusiastic over the Chamber’s agenda – and without conscious, it seems, when it comes to how the Chamber conducts campaigns for their chosen candidates. He never once mentioned the character assassination the Chamber engaged in while “defending” their “pro-business friends” during the recent elections. Think this didn’t happen? Just ask Pastor Paul Blair of Edmond, OK who ran against the Chamber’s buddy Senator Clark Jolley, or Kevin McDugle of Tulsa who took on the progressive Senator Brian Crain in the primary elections this year. The State Chamber demonstrated they have no qualms about running dirty campaigns and will work to provide political cover for their “friends”.
In Tulsa county, the State Chamber has endorsed these candidates in legislative runoff election, set for August 28, 2012:
- SD 33 – Tim Wright
- HB 70 – Shane Saunders
The grassroots supports the real conservatives Nathan Dahm (SD 33) and Ken Walker (HD 70) in these races.
[9/4/12 UPDATE – Nathan Dahm won the SD 33 election on August 28, 2012. Ken Walker won the HD 70 election on August 28, 2012. Neither office had a Democrat file so the runoff election decided these offices.]
The audio of the July 17th State Chamber meeting is available on America in the Balance on Truth in Focus internet radio – click on the July 20, 2012 podcast. The transcript of this event is available in pdf format on the OK-SAFE website here.
Quotable Chamber Meeting Quotes:
“This ain’t your granddaddy’s State Chamber.”
“… we have engaged very heavily at the political level.”
“What we decided is that we couldn’t just wait and hope and pray that good legislators showed up at the Capitol… so we run campaigns, essentially, out of one side of our shop… we don’t care what party you’re from,…”
“We have our legislative agenda…. [A]nd if they’re voting against the legislation the business community wants they you’re, you get a bad score…”
“How do I get off your list?” And I said, “It’s very easy, just kinda vote your way off the list… if you vote the right way, you’ll get off the list.”
“I mean, we absolutely helped switch votes.”
“Oklahoma Civil Justice Council is not directly related to the Legislature, it’s another project we wanted to point out. We’re doing the same thing with Judges and we’ve caught a little bit of heat for it. It’s a brand new project that Fred uh, has, uh, been spearheading…. And we’re going to do the same job of evaluation system on Judges and all we’re going to judge Judges on are, do they expand or contract liability for businesses…?”
“But part of the problem is we spend all of our time to recruit good business candidates, we get them elected, we get them educated, we get them to vote the right way on a bill, and then the bill goes to the Supreme Court and gets struck down…. we’ve got some work to do making sure that the business community…. understand who these Judges are…”
“Representative Bennett came out and criticized us for having the gall to evaluate judges…”
“So, again, this is the, the RIED Score, many of you have seen it. It lists who got what…. so again, we go back to party affiliation, we don’t care what party you’re from – we just care that you’re voting for business.”
“Uh, and for us, you know, political guys, you know, a lot of times we, you know, the legislature spends a lot of time talking about things that just don’t matter – I mean, they want to talk about tax cuts and all that stuff… So we’re going to have to figure out… how to help, uh, refocus maybe the legislators’ attention on things that are actually going to create jobs, versus worrying about tax cuts and tax credits and stuff like that.”