Here’s the latest late contribution totals from Oct. 19 to Oct. 28, with data from the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. So far, $1.3 million in late money has been donated in the last 10 days.
This is all candidates who brought in more than $5,000 in late donations. Click the image for a larger version.
I’ve updated the latest campaign cash data on our Right to Know page. These total are for reports that were due late Monday and go through Oct. 18. You can also download the data behind the Tableau Public visualization by clicking on the icons at the bottom of the data page. Just click the image below for the Campaign Cash page.
My colleague Michael McNutt has a wrap-up today of the latest pre-election campaign finance reports for the gubernatorial candidates. Those reports were from Aug. 10 to Oct. 18.
Below are the latest batch of late contribution totals from Oct. 19 to Oct. 25 for all candidates who brought in at least $5,000. Overall, candidates received more than $693,000 in late contributions in the last week.
Click the image to enlarge it.
Below is a slightly longer version of the story on tax credits that appeared in today’s paper:
- View the latest Tax Expenditure Report
- Read a report about the Investment/New Jobs tax credit by the Incentive Review Committee
- See who has qualified for tax credits on Open Books
BY PAUL MONIES
pmonies (at) opubco.com
One of southeast Oklahoma’s largest landowners has accumulated more than $54 million in state income tax credits, even though the company has closed or sold all but one of its manufacturing plants.
Also making the list are several executives affiliated with Nebraska-based Tenaska Inc., whose subsidiary owns a power plant near Kiowa. Together, those executives qualified for more than $23 million in state income tax credits.
The tax credits have piled up because the Oklahoma Investment/New Jobs tax credit allows businesses or individuals to take up to 20 years to claim the credits. The incentive allows tax credits of between 1 and 2 percent of the cost of a new manufacturing plant or expansion.
The long timeline gives new companies time to get established and build profits, said Treasurer Scott Meacham. But it can also cause problems for state budget forecasters, who likely face another revenue shortfall next year and no federal stimulus funds to close the budget gap.
“From a state budgetary standpoint, we don’t want those multiyear incentives,” Meacham said. “We would rather them hit currently so we have more predictability of our revenue stream.”
The Oklahoma Tax Commission publishes two reports on tax credits: a tax expenditure report that lists the total amount of credits, rebates or deductions claimed by taxpayers; and a list on the state’s Open Books website of who has qualified for tax credits.
The tax expenditure report shows companies and individuals claimed $28.5 million under the Investment/New Jobs tax credit in fiscal year 2010. However, the Open Books site shows $121 million was available to be claimed under that tax credit.
The two reports are not comparable, said Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission. That’s because the Open Books site lists the amount that could be claimed under a type of tax credit. If it’s actually claimed depends on whether the taxpayer has a tax liability large enough to use the credit, Ross said.
Big projects, big credits
Weyerhaeuser spokesman Greg French said that’s how the timber company ended up with such a large tax credit of $54 million. The company began operating in Oklahoma in 1969.
“The amount reflected is the total amount available to us as a result of previous investments in the state over a period of several decades,” French said. “That’s a running total of the credits still available to the company.”
Weyerhaeuser sold a Valiant container board mill in 2008 and closed its Wright City sawmill last year. The company still operates a softwood lumber sawmill in Idabel and timberland offices in Broken Bow. It has 162 employees and owns or leases nearly 500,000 acres of timberland in Oklahoma.
“Even though we no longer own some of those facilities, my understanding is that the credit stays with the company,” French said. “We made the investment, and therefore earned the credit. We would have to offset the credit with tax liabilities. It’s not a refund. Our earnings capacity in the state is substantially reduced. We have a smaller footprint, based on selling of facilities and closing of Wright City.”
Weyerhaeuser had no tax liability in Oklahoma last year and could not take advantage of the credit, French said.
Economic development officials and companies using the Investment/New Jobs tax credit say it’s a valuable part of an incentive package the state can offer to new and expanding companies.
A Tenaska subsidiary, Kiowa Power Partners LLC, spent $450 million to build a natural gas-fired power plant near Kiowa that employs 35 people. The plant began operations in 2003.
“Without these tax credits, this plant probably would not be in the state of Oklahoma,” said Ron Quinn, executive vice president of Tenaska. “It’s one of the ways in which the community has offered to share in the success of that facility being in the state. It doesn’t cost the state anything in the sense that they are offsets to Oklahoma tax revenue if and when we would owe such income taxes. If the plant wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be any tax revenue anyway.”
More than a dozen executives of Tenaska have qualified for income tax credits of at least $23 million, according to the Open Books tax credit data. Quinn said the structure of Kiowa Power Partners means those individuals are responsible for the income taxes on that project.
“It is our hope that we will be able to utilize every dollar of those credits that are available, because that is a good thing for us and a good thing for the state of Oklahoma,” Quinn said.
Tax credits face scrutiny
Tax credits of all types have come under scrutiny as the state faces budget shortfalls and evidence arose of misuse among some types of venture capital tax credits. Lawmakers passed a moratorium on several income tax credits earlier this year, including a two-year moratorium on the Investment/New Jobs tax credit.
The suspension of the tax credits is expected to bring in an extra $55 million in the current fiscal year, according to the latest state Board of Equalization estimates.
Tax credits also have become part of the campaign over State Question 744, which would raise common education per-pupil funding to at least the regional average. It’s estimated the state would need to find between $830 million and $1.7 billion a year to get to that level.
Backers of SQ 744 said the additional money could come from ending some state tax credits. But detractors said passage of the measure could mean cuts to all other state services and possible tax increases.
“There’s an attitude out there now that all tax credits are bad, and I don’t believe that,” said Meacham, who opposes SQ 744. “We need tax credits as a tool to stimulate economic development and job creation in our state.”
Still, part of the idea of the moratorium on some tax credits was to give officials time to study their effectiveness, he said.
“A lot of these credits really need revisiting to make sure the way they work makes sense for the state,” Meacham said. “What happened over time is that different entities would come to the Capitol and lobbyists would come to try to get deals made for their clients. Our tax code got riddled with all these different sorts of credits.”
The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Visit http://www.newsok.com/watchdog
The two women running for governor had their first debate Tuesday night at the University of Central Oklahoma. But before each announced their run for governor, Mary Fallin and Jari Askins participated in an oral history project for Oklahoma State University. The project, Women of the Oklahoma Legislature, is here.
The purpose of the Women of the Oklahoma Legislature Oral History Project is to gather and preserve memories and historical documents of women who have served or are currently serving in the Oklahoma Legislature.
As former state legislators, both Fallin and Askins sat down with OSU librarian and associate professor Dr. Tanya Finchum in 2008. Below are links to the transcripts of their interviews:
Although they’re both still somewhat guarded, the interviews offer a rare glimpse of each candidate before they got into “campaign mode.” Finchum closes each interview by asking each woman how she thinks history will remember her. Here’s Fallin’s response:
When history’s written about me, I would like history to remember me as a woman who truly cared about her state and worked very hard on her state’s behalf.
Here’s Askins’ response to the same question:
You know I hope it says that no matter what position I was in, that I was fair. I’m smart enough to know that you’re never always right. But if people know that you’re fair and you make your decisions based on all the information that you had available at the time, I think that’s a reasonable request. I had constituents when I was a legislator who I knew did not agree with every vote I cast. But most of them, when we talk about it, understood and believed that I voted the way I did based on the information I had at the time. And I hope that those decisions are based on what is fair and good for the state of Oklahoma regardless of where you live, regardless of what your income is. I hope that I am helping people understand that they have opportunity and that we help provide opportunity for Oklahoma’s oldest and youngest citizens. And that’s what I like about public service.
For more information on the two candidates, check out these profiles written by my colleague Ken Raymond:
The nonprofit journalism site ProPublica has an interesting set of stories out today detailing the amount doctors have been paid by drug companies for consulting, speaking and educational work. The stories include a searchable database to see if your doctor has been among those paid. Among the doctors being paid were more than 260 from Oklahoma.
Recruited and trained by the drug companies, the physicians — accompanied by drug reps — give talks to doctors over small dinners, lecture during hospital teaching sessions and chat over the Internet. They typically must adhere to company slides and talking points.
These presentations fill an educational gap, especially for geographically isolated primary care doctors charged with treating everything from lung conditions to migraines. For these doctors, poring over a stack of journal articles on the latest treatments may be unrealistic. A pharma-sponsored dinner may be their only exposure to new drugs that are safer and more effective.
Oklahoma pulmonologist James Seebass, for example, earned $218,800 from Glaxo in 2009 and 2010 for lecturing about respiratory diseases “in the boonies,” he said. On a recent trip, he said, he drove to “a little bar 40 miles from Odessa,” Texas, where physicians and nurse practitioners had come 50 to 60 miles to hear him.
Seebass, the former chair of internal medicine at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, said such talks are “a calling,” and he is booking them for 2011.
The fees paid to speakers are fair compensation for their time away from their practices, and for travel and preparation as well as lecturing, the companies say.
ProPublica notes that just because a doctor is listed, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. But its journalism partners also took a look at some of the doctors and found a few had been disciplined by state medical boards.
We found several dozen of the top speakers did not have board certifications — which means they were not certified in their medical specialties — and then we found more than 250 doctors who had some type of sanction taken against them by a state medical board. And we just looked at a sampling of states.
Some of the discipline was really quite serious. The Ohio Medical Board, for example, voted a couple of years back to revoke the license of William David Leak, whom they accused of performing unnecessary nerve tests on 20 patients and subjecting some to an excessive number of invasive procedures. Dr. Leak is appealing the penalty, and his license is still active, but since 2009 he has received $85,000 from Eli Lilly and Co.
The disclosure of doctor payments comes from the websites of several pharmaceutical companies, some of which were compelled to start the sites as part of legal settlements. The new federal health care law will mandate similar information from all drug companies by 2013. For more on the ProPublica data, and its limitations, click here.
Elections 2010: Oklahoma companies contribute $1.4 million to Republican Governors Association in 3rd Quarter
We ran a story back in August about how much Oklahoma companies and wealthy individuals contributed to national political groups called 527s. Those groups are organized under the federal tax code to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races. The only limitation is that the ads cannot be coordinated with campaigns.
Well, the latest quarterly reports were filed Friday with the Internal Revenue Service, and the money has kept flowing from Oklahoma donors.
The Republican Governors Association, which has run several TV ads supporting GOP gubernatorial candidate Mary Fallin, brought in more than $1.4 million from Oklahomans in the third quarter. Here’s a quick look at state contributors who gave the RGA more than $5,000 from July to September:
By contrast, the Democratic Governors Association collected just $1,250 in contributions from Oklahomans during the same period.
In its IRS filings, the Republican Governors Association reported raising $31 million in the third quarter. Its Democratic counterpart collected $9.8 million during the same period.
For more information on 527 groups, check out the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets site.
The Wall Street Journal had an interesting graphic today on its website from the latest American Community Survey data. The newspaper ranked all the nation’s metro areas for a quick index for housing stress.
I compiled similar data for the 11 Oklahoma counties covered under the latest ACS data. As you can see, Muskogee County appears to have the highest housing-stress index in Oklahoma. Rogers and Canadian counties are faring the best. The national average is 87.5, so even Muskogee County is faring well compared to the rest of the nation.
The WSJ housing-stress indicator is made up of three components: the percentage of the population not in the labor force; the percentage without health insurance; and the percentage of homeowners with a mortgage spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. From the Real Time Economics blog:
Financial advisers warn against spending more than 30% of a household’s income on housing costs, as it can crimp other expenditures and savings. It also leaves little room for unexpected shocks to income, such as illness or unemployment. Miami was at the top because it had the highest percentage of mortgage holders spending more than 30% on housing among large metro areas — 57.7% compared to the national average of 37.5%. At the same time, a quarter of the city’s residents are without health insurance — compared to the national average of 15% — making it difficult to deal with a the expense created by an illness and still pay a mortgage.
Click on the image below for the WSJ rankings of the metro areas.
Update: You can see the underlying numbers for the Oklahoma counties here.