Congrats also to the News9/News on 6 Oklahoma Impact Team from Oklahoma City and Tulsa TV stations for their stimulus reporting in the past year.
From OFRG’s press release:
“OFRG is committed to improving transparency in government and we want to highlight individuals and groups doing the same,” said OFRG Executive Director Brian Downs. “Oklahoma taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent and thanks to the efforts of the Oklahoma Impact Team and The Oklahoman, that information is being made public.”
From Sunday’s newspaper:
- Click here to see a list of Oklahoma companies, tribes and individuals who gave more than $5,000 to IRS 527 political groups.
By Paul Monies
More than $2 million has flowed from Oklahoma companies, tribes and wealthy individuals to national political groups such as the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association.
Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. has given $900,000 to those types of groups in the current election cycle, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The Chickasaw Nation has contributed $360,000 since January 2009.
The Oklahoman examined contributions of $5,000 or more to the organizations, which are called 527 groups after the section of federal tax code under which they are organized. The tax-exempt organizations can accept unlimited amounts of money from companies, unions and individuals.
The 527 groups are limited in how they spend contributions on political campaigns and issues. They cannot make direct contributions to candidates, but they can run ads, make phone calls or do other political activities.
Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said many companies feel more comfortable contributing to groups that will make independent expenditures in political campaigns. Companies also are trying to blunt the effects of similar spending by labor unions.
“They are the only form of political actor out there who faces an economic sanction for political action from customers,” Gaddie said. “If you get too political as a corporation, you face consumer boycotts, and you can lose customers.”
Gaddie pointed to retail giant Target Corp., which recently gave $150,000 to a group backing a Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who opposes gay marriage. The company soon faced boycotts and protests by groups supporting gay rights.
Labor unions don’t face the same type of backlash for their contributions because their members expect a certain level of advocacy, Gaddie said.
Devon Energy made contributions to the Republican State Leadership Comjmittee ($350,000) and the Republican Governors Association ($300,000).
The company also contributed $250,000 to American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 group founded by former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Chip Minty, a spokesman for Devon, said the company’s donations are based on candidate records and groups that support job growth and a healthy business environment. Minty said Devon’s political contributions are a small part of the overall spending by the company, which has annual revenue of almost $9 billion.
“We think it’s our responsibility as a publicly traded company, a major employer and a partner in communities where we operate to be engaged in conversations about energy policy,” Minty said. “If we’re not doing that, then we’re going to have to answer to our shareholders about that.”
Across town, Chesapeake Energy Corp. has been more subdued in giving to 527 groups this election cycle. The Democratic Governors Association reported a $25,000 contribution from Chesapeake in May. Company spokesman Jim Gipson said Chesapeake also plans to give a similar amount to the Republican Governors Association.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, stopped in Tulsa last week to raise money for Mary Fallin, the GOP candidate for Oklahoma governor. The association raised more than $58 million since January 2009, according to IRS filings. The Democratic Governors Association raised $40.2 million during the same period.
Gaddie said upcoming redistricting battles in several states are helping drive contributions to the governors associations. There are gubernatorial races in 37 states this year. Governors play key roles in redistricting state and federal electoral districts in most states.
“The more governorships you control, the better position you’re in to ensure that your party doesn’t get totally jobbed during redistricting,” Gaddie said.
Other companies with Oklahoma ties giving to both the Republican and Democratic governors associations include Marathon Oil Co. and Noble Energy Inc.
The Chickasaw Nation gave more than $133,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $125,000 to the Republican Governors Association. The tribe also contributed $100,000 to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the tribe supports a variety of individuals and organizations involved in the political process.
“A working government-to-government relationship is integral to achieving our mission of enhancing the overall quality of life of Chickasaw people,” Anoatubby said in a statement.
Individuals, companies and labor unions have different limits on contributions to political groups depending on how the groups are set up and how they use the donated funds:
Political action committees: These are organized by people with similar political philosophies to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes. Most PACs represent businesses, labor or ideological groups. They are not allowed to accept direct contributions from companies or labor unions, but they can contribute funds to candidate campaign committees. State and federal laws limit the amount of contributions to PACs from individuals or other PACs.
Internal Revenue Service 527 groups: Tax-exempt groups set up for political activities, including voter mobilization and issue advocacy. They can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations or labor unions, but they can’t donate those funds directly to candidates.
Source: Center for Responsive Politics
My colleague Ken Raymond has an interesting story in today’s paper about a new law that gives the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation the authority to share cold case files with people outside of law enforcement. From Ken’s story:
Jerry Beaty was on an island paradise when he learned his world had gone to hell.
“I got a phone call at 9 o’clock in the morning on February 1st and was told that my house had burned, everything I owned was gone, my wife was dead and both my dogs were dead,” he said Wednesday. “I literally had nothing left but the suitcases I had with me.”
Beaty, a scuba expert, was on Grand Cayman in the western Caribbean in 2005, inspecting damage left behind by Hurricane Ivan several months before. His wife, Shawn Beaty, 50, had stayed at their Bryan County home.
Just like that, she was dead. His wife succumbed to smoke inhalation. The blaze that killed her, Jerry Beaty later learned, was set intentionally, making her the victim of a homicide.
For more than five years, her case has gone unsolved. Beaty has pushed for answers — hiring a private investigator, working with authorities, launching a successful petition drive to get his wife’s case before a grand jury — but no one has been arrested.
Now he’s getting help from an unlikely source. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday it has turned over records from the case to the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute at Auburn University-Montgomery.
“Cold cases … are so labor-intensive,” said Jessica Brown, OSBI spokeswoman. “Any help we can get on a case such as this, we’ll take. We’ve talked to people. We’ve done interviews. We’ve done polygraphs. But we have nothing more to go on.
You can read OSBI’s press release about the new law here.
On a related note, I came across this new website last night from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation:
It offers some basic information about unsolved murders, crimes and missing persons, as well as a searchable database to narrow the information to crimes in certain areas of Colorado. The site was launched earlier this month, said Audrey Simkins, a criminal intelligence analyst with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, in an e-mail:
The database is a collection of unsolved homicides, long-term missing persons and unidentified remains cases in Colorado which are 3 years or more old dating back to 1970. In 2007, legislation was passed in [Colorado] which required Colorado law enforcement to provide minimal case information to the CBI for the creation of the Cold Case Database. Over the last three years the CBI has worked cooperatively with local law enforcement to ensure all the cases we are aware of meeting this criteria are included in the database. In time, I hope to have a short narrative and photograph of the victim to accompany each case listed in the database.
The OSBI has an “Unsolved Cases” page, too. It lists more than 20 cases, although there’s no mention of the most recent high-profile unsolved cases such as the killing of a pastor in Anadarko or the shooting of two girls in Weeletka.
Of course, it’s always a tricky balancing act for investigators to offer information about unsolved crimes. Some details might be known by only the perpetrators, while other details might help people come forward with new information. Colorado’s Simkins discussed that dilemma in her e-mail to me:
One thing we have to remember is that these cases are all unsolved. That being said, we must be cautious about the type of information we release in regards to these cases so that one day in the future we might be able to successfully prosecute the perpetrator and bring some resolution to the families. That is why working closely with our local law enforcement was so important during the development of this site.
Colorado’s site could offer a model for other states like Oklahoma in collecting cold case information in one place.
From Sunday’s paper:
BY PAUL MONIES
Registered lobbyists have given more than $360,000 to campaigns for the fall elections, with statewide candidates picking up the biggest share of the contributions.
That’s according to an analysis of state Ethics Commission filings by The Oklahoman.
The total haul so far could outpace lobbyist contributions from the last gubernatorial election year. Lobbyists gave more than $588,000 to candidates for the 2006 election.
The Oklahoman identified more than 130 registered lobbyists who gave contributions to 2010 campaigns. Just five lobbyists have given almost one-third of the $360,000 total so far.
Republicans, who control the House and Senate, received about $190,000, while Democrats got almost $155,000.
Another $13,000 went to nonpartisan judicial candidates.
Lobbyists allow groups, businesses and associations to have a voice at the Capitol when legislation that affects them is being formulated.
Lobbyists said they give to campaigns for many of the same reasons as other contributors: to support candidates who share their views. Individuals cannot give more than $5,000 to each candidate in an election cycle.
“My philosophy on giving is that it’s people I have a relationship with that I hope to see do well,” said Bobby Stem, founder of lobbying firm Capitol Gains LLC. “We give when our friends ask for it and are needing it for certain media buys and things like that.”
Barry K. Moore, who represents rural telephone companies for The BKM Group, is the top lobbyist contributor with about $43,000 for 2010 campaigns. Most of those contributions went to House and Senate candidates in both parties.
Other top lobbyist contributors are:
Jami Longacre, $25,600. Longacre’s clients include companies in the finance, insurance and automobile sectors.
Clayton Taylor, $23,850. He represents clients across several industries, including utilities, finance, health care and technology. “We look at folks who have been helpful in creating a more pro-business climate in the state of Oklahoma,” Taylor said.
Benny Vanatta, $22,750. His clients include companies in the energy and manufacturing industries, as well as several health-related associations.
Stem, who has contributed more than $18,000 to 2010 candidates. Among Stem’s clients are the Choctaw Nation, the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Moore, who has been a lobbyist since 1988, said he gives widely to candidates. Records show more than 40 contributions so far.
“I’m a nonpartisan person,” Moore said. “I honestly believe, and I have ever since I’ve been involved in the process, that if you just deal in the facts about the issue and you’re very candid about the issues, that’s all that’s required. I don’t think that varies if they’ve been in public office 12 days or 12 years.”
A 2008 law by Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, prohibits registered lobbyists from contributing to House and Senate candidates during the legislative session and for five days after it ends. A later attorney general opinion said the law did not apply to political action committees giving to legislative candidates during the “blackout” period from February to the end of May.
Political action committees allow people with similar political philosophies to group together to make contributions to candidates, parties or causes.
Dank said he pushed for the law after seeing an interest group and several executives from the coal industry contribute more than $100,000 during the 2006 legislative session.
“After the fact is one thing, but when people are giving you money and expect to vote a certain way, that’s unacceptable,” Dank said.
Several lobbyists said they have no problem with Dank’s law. Taylor said the blackout period has allowed lobbyists — and members of the Legislature — to focus on issues and legislation.
“It has made it easier on me because I don’t have to do political fundraisers during the session,” Taylor said.
With more bills being filed in each session, there’s also more work for everyone involved in the legislative process, Longacre said.
If re-elected, Dank said he plans to introduce an ethics reform bill building on his 2008 legislation. It could include a prohibition on political action committee contributions during the session, he said.
Five statewide candidates each have received more than $20,000 in contributions from registered lobbyists, with Jari Askins leading the way with more than $36,000. Askins, the lieutenant governor, won a narrow victory last month over Attorney General Drew Edmondson in the Democratic primary for governor. Edmondson received more than $28,000 from registered lobbyists.
Lobbyists contributed about $31,000 to Todd Lamb, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, has $23,000 in lobbyist contributions for her gubernatorial campaign. Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, a Democrat, received more than $20,000 in contributions from lobbyists.
The totals from lobbyists are a small share of overall contributions for those campaigns.
Askins, Fallin and Edmondson each raised more than $2 million for their campaigns.
The Oklahoman identified at least $360,000 in campaign contributions from registered lobbyists to state candidates in the election so far. Here’s how the contributions break down by office:
1. Governor: $87,000
2. Senate: $76,000
3. House of Representatives: $63,000
4. Lieutenant Governor: $42,000
5. Treasurer: $24,000
6. Insurance Commissioner: $20,000
7. Other offices: $48,000
*Note: The analysis matched a list of registered lobbyists with individual contributions from Ethics Commission data. The amounts are conservative and may not reflect misspellings or other reporting errors by campaigns.
SOURCE: The Oklahoman analysis of state Ethics Commission filings