Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Always been curious as to how much the Congressman and Senator's staffers are paid? According to LegiStorm, The pay figures for staff members from the House of Representatives' fourth quarter of 2008 are now available on LegiStorm, having been entered from the thick disbursement records released by the House of Representatives.

This data period is critical because it is the time when Santa Claus brings goodies to dedicated staff in the way of annual bonuses. Bonuses are not a universal perquisite on the Hill but they are a common way for members to reward staff who have merited them. This assumes that members have budgeted well and have sufficient funds available in their annual allotment, known as the Member's Representational Allowance.

The latest collection of salary data is a window into one of the fiercest fought elections in modern times. Elections can affect how congressional staffers are paid, both in legal and not-so-legal ways. For example, staff members often take leave to work on campaigns, whether their bosses' or those of others. The pay records can reflect those absences.And sometimes, staffers receive compensation from the campaigns but volunteers on a campaign usually vastly outnumber the paid staff. Therefore, campaign work is often a volunteer or grossly underpaid activity. Occasionally, members of Congress reward aides with bonuses, even if unconsciously, for their special dedication to the campaign. Since federal law prohibits the use of tax dollars to subsidize campaigns, such a use of bonuses would be improper.

Also controversial is the payment of large bonuses by members of Congress who are departing. With no more concern about getting re-elected, members can be quite generous with taxpayer money toward their staff.

To research your Congressman or Senator's staff salaries, click on http://www.legistorm.com/

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

.....by taxpayers?
As newspapers across America struggle to make a profit, a Democratic Senator is introducing a bill to make them non-profits and receive government money. Senator Cardin has included a provision that would prohibit the papers from endorsing political candidates. Government controls health care-it controls the banks- now it's going after the press. Frightening times we live in! Read the entire account at: http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE52N67F20090324

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair

Last week in response to the AIG bonus payouts, the U.S. House passed a bill that would tax the bonuses at a 90% rate. No one in their right mind supports giving taxpayer monies to a floundering company to pay “performance” bonuses to employees, but Congress does not have the authority to use the tax code to “hammer” a particular group of people.

Most Constitutional experts believe the ‘bonus” law would not pass muster with the provision in the Constitution that reads, “No capitation, or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in portion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” In other words, Congress has the power to tax, but not to single out particular individuals or groups for taxation. Taxes are to be leveled fairly and equitably among the population of the republic according to the Constitution, but when has Congress allowed the countries’ founding document to stand in its way?

Charles Adams, who delivered a speech on taxation at the National Archives on April 12, 1994, said direct taxation was of serious concern to the framers. “The founders great mentor, Montesquieu, copying from Greek and Roman thinkers, wrote that direct taxes were likely to lead to slavery,” Adams said. Montequieu called taxation, “an extraordinary means of oppression.” The U.S. did not access a federal income tax until after the Civil War and it was temporary. The authorization for Congress to access a federal income tax officially became a part of the U.S. Constitution in February 1913 as part of the sixteenth amendment. The amendment reads: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

When first enacted, the progressive income tax rates were from one percent to seven percent. Most people were exempt, but many paid the one percent, believing all citizens have a duty to pay something toward the expenses of maintaining their government. The federal tax system was initially supported by the duty and honor of all citizens. Citizens were on an “honor system” to pay their “fair” share. In the past forty years, our tax system has evolved to nothing short of “government espionage” according to Charles Adam. ”Forty years ago nothing was reported to the tax man except the W-2 which allowed a worker to claim a refund.” “Today, everything of any possible tax nature is reported,” Adams claims.

The real power in government is the ability to tax its citizens. Adams says famous founding father, John Hancock, was probably the leading tax evader in Boston. “He was apparently wanted for evading what today would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.” “Hancock was a very successful merchant and importer, with ships arriving daily from abroad and he had not paid the full customs tax in decades,” said Adams. Adams says the issue with the colonies over taxation was not based on whether Britain had the right to tax the colonies, but because the taxation was being accessed without the colonies having a say in the matter. Fast forward two hundred and forty years and like Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again."

In 1775, Edmund Burke, a member of the British House of Commons, tried to help the Brits understand the American point of view on taxation. “The fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English Colonies than any place on earth, and that liberty, like in England is centered in taxes more than anything else,” Burke said to the non-receptive legislative body. Taxes are what fires up citizens. That’s why America needs a Fair tax system. The progressive income tax system is unfair and taxes the more ambitious and hard working citizens in our country at a higher rate than the rest of the population.

Instead of worrying about the bonuses of a few overpaid, under performing corporate executives, Congress should be working to radically reform America’s tax system by passing a national sales tax or FAIR tax. They should abolish the IRS and let Americans pay their “fair share” when purchasing goods and services. A national consumption tax would eliminate exemptions, credits, forms, returns, and audits and equally distribute the tax burden to all citizens.

Fellow Duncan Banner Columnist George Porter’s column will not appear in Friday’s edition because the retired accountant is completing his income tax return. In an email Porter wrote, “I’ve been preparing my own tax returns for sixty two years, and have witnessed the constant increase in complexity,” “It’s time for a change to a simple one page flat tax that the public will see as fair and progressive.” “Our current system is seen as neither,” Porter concluded. Right on George!

Poet Alexander Pope said it best when he wrote, “Whoever hopes a faultless tax to see, hope what never was, is not and never will be.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

There’s no such thing as a FREE LUNCH!
by Steve Fair

I have called on Wal-Mart’s home office for over 20 years. When you make a sales call at the Bentonville, Arkansas facility, the meeting is conducted in a small room with only a table and chairs. This is different than most companies because most of the time business is conducted in the buyer’s office, but not at Big Blue. You never see the buyer’s office. To add even more intrigue, during the meeting, staring ominously at you is a video camera mounted above the table. Below the camera is a sign stating that Wal-Mart personnel are prohibited from receiving anything of value from the vendor. That includes something as insignificant as a lunch. If a Wal-Mart associate goes to lunch with a vendor, they have to buy their own lunch. Wal-mart is the largest retailer in the world- the largest company in the world. Sam Walton instilled into his buying staff- the people who purchase product- they could not be brought at any price. I wish the same could be said for the Oklahoma legislature.

Oklahoma has the highest paid part time legislature in America. They earn $38,500 annually and are in session 66 days per year. Their salary is almost twice the per capita average in Oklahoma. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for our state legislators.

In Sunday’s edition of The Oklahoman an article outlined the amount of “reported” gifts lobbyists gave to various state legislators. The total amount of the public and private payola was $125,000- all spent to influence legislators. It also included what the two largest state universities -OU and OSU- gave the state lawmakers. OU gave $33,579 worth of season football tickets to 117 officials. OSU gave $17,425 of football tickets. Where did OU and OSU get the money to give away? From the taxpayers. I have a problem with my tax dollars being used to lobby the legislature for more tax dollars. Talk about a self-serving system. Most state agencies hire professional lobbyists to present their case to legislators. That should be prohibited. Tax dollars should not be spent on lobbying.

The rules say that a lobbyist cannot spend more than $300 a year on a state employee or elected official. That also applies to their immediate family. A lobbyist must report any expense over $50 in a six-month period. The limit applies to a company or association that hires multiple lobbyists.

Lobbying is an industry that sells influence. Industries, businesses, individuals hire lobbyists to “sell” their views to legislators. They have a right to hire someone to do that, but for a legislator to be so naïve as to think those gifts have no strings is disingenuous. It would be more honest if a legislator would hold an auction every Friday for their vote instead of selling it for tinker tools or bowl of porridge.

I spent the 1980s with Carnation Company. The Carnation Restaurant was the largest concession in Disneyland. Because of that connection, the sales force had Disneyland tickets available for buyers. We also had tickets to every sporting event in the country. We had tickets to concerts and a multitude of premiums and incentives to influence a buyer’s decision. Thankfully, that has changed in our industry in a large part due to Wal-mart’s policy. When we did have those tickets and trinkets- NEVER did we think we were not going to get something from giving it to the buyer. NEVER! It was always an investment and we expected a return.

Your parents or grandparents may give you gifts without any strings attached, but rest assured, no successful lobbyist, whose business it is to influence legislation is going to give you tickets, buy you lunch, or fly you to Vegas without expecting something in return. That’s the way of the world.

The list was long of legislators who took gifts. They were from both sides of the aisle. In fact, the legislator accepting the most was a Republican- State Representative Ron Peterson from Broken Arrow. He got gifts that total more than $3,700.

The lawmaker accepting the least amount was Cousin Mike Fair, a former State Senator. He got an $8.22 lunch. His advise to the newly elected legislators is worth repeating It’s a bad habit to get into it. It makes it easier and easier for a lawmaker to expect and desire something from these people…. And while they’re not sinister people, they do want the law to fall their way. Cousin Mike knows there’s no such thing as a FREE LUNCH.

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
By Steve Fair

This week is Sunshine Week 2009. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Newspapers across the country participate by encouraging the public to demand open and transparent government. According to a recent 2009 Sunshine Week survey, seven in ten Americans believe government is too secretive.

Any honest, principled citizen should support transparency in government-no matter their party affiliation or political philosophy. One of the impediments to having transparency in government are professional lobbyists. Lobbying is the practice of influencing decisions made by government, so lobbying in and of itself is not an evil, wicked practice. Elected officials need imput. They need to know what their constitents are thinking and how legislation will impact those constitent’s lives. The problem arises when you consider that most lobbying is not being done on behalf of a legislator’s constitents. It is being done on behalf of special interests who are attempting to gain legislation favorable to their cause.

State Senator Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, has authored a bill entitled the “Taxpayer Transparency Act.” If enacted, the bill would show whose interests are being represented in proposed legislation. “This is an effort to have more transparency for taxpayers,” Sykes says. Senate Bill 455 would require bills requested by constituents, agencies and other entities to be listed on a web site so taypayers could research who was behind legislation. The bill passed the Senate 34-6 with bi-partisian support and now goes to the floor for consideration.

Some members of the State Senate suggested adding what client the lobbyists are requesting bills for and include that on the website. Lobbyists often represent a number of clients, associations, muncipalities, etc., so just listing the lobbyists might not identify the source of the requests. Another legislator has suggested that any state agency requesting the legislation be included on the website. Both of those suggestions are good ones and should be considered. Sykes’ bill would allow citizens to see who is trying to influence legislators and which legislators are most apt to be influenced. It’s a little known fact that we have state agencies in Oklahoma hiring lobbyists with Oklahoma taxpayer money to lobby the legislature on behalf of the state agency. That means taxpayer money is being used to lobby taxpayer funded election officials to give more taxpayer money to state agencies. This practice must stop. If a state agency cannot effectively justify where and how taxpayer monies are being spent, perhaps they shouldn’t be getting the funding in the first place. If we truly want transparency in government, we should ban state agencies from hiring lobbyists.

Senator Sykes has that one covered as well. He authored Senate Bill 454 that would prohibit the use of state funds for lobbying. The bill has cleared the Appropriations Committee and will now moves to the floor. Senator Kenneth Corn, a Democrat, has asked Sykes to consider adding a friendly amendment that would prohibit agencies from hiring and utilizing legislative liaisons. Corn says liaisons are defined differently in statues than lobbyists.

Lobbying is an industry that sells influence. Industries, businesses, and individuals hire lobbyists to “sell” their views to legislators. Often lobbyists use small gifts to establish a relationship with a legislator. It’s legal for lobbyists to do that, but for a legislator to be so naïve as to think those gifts have no strings is scary. It would be more honest if a legislator would hold an auction every Friday for their vote instead of selling it for tinker tools or bowl of porridge.

Last year House Bill 2444, authored by State Representative Jason Murphey, R, Guthrie and State Senator Anthony Sykes, R-Moore would have created a “no gifts” list for legislators. HB 2444 passed out of a House subcommittee and a House full committee, however it was not scheduled for a hearing on the House floor. State Senator Sykes won Senate approval for the plan as an amendment to the 2008 Ethics Reform Bill but the reform language was later removed as part of the conference committee process. Passage of that bill would have certainly “shed some light” on government.

If we truly want transparency in government, we must shed light on not only what lawmakers are voting on, but also the origin of the legislation they are considering. If a state agency or a special interest group needs a new law and it’s good legislation, it should be able to pass the “light of day” test. As the Fifth Dimension sang: Let the sunshine in!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
With the 2012 Presidential race only three and one half years away, it appears some Republicans are positioning themselves for the race. One is former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich said recently in the Richmond Times Dispatch, "Callista (his current wife) and I will look seriously and we'll probably get our family totally engaged, including our two grandchildren, probably in January, 2011.” Gingrich revealed this information to reporters during a sit-down interview before his speech to a packed house of 650-plus at Randolph-Macon College. "We'll look seriously at whether or not we think its necessary to do it. And if we think it's necessary we'll probably do it. And if it isn't necessary we probably won't do it," Gingrich concluded.

So Newt will get in the race if it is “necessary?” Trust me Newt-it’s NOT necessary. Republicans don’t need or want you in the 2012 race. Allow me to list four reasons:

First, Newt is a polarizing figure and people who run and win races have to appeal to those in the middle. The Quinnipac national survey taken in 2007 found that 47% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of him-and that did not include polling his ex-wives. Granted, Gingrich has great analytical skills, but his problem solving is suspect at best. Gingrich makes people think, but he doesn’t accomplish much. Defining a problem is important, but implementing steps of action to fix it is a lot tougher. That requires “people” skills and an unselfishness the former Speaker sadly lacks.

Second, Gingrich lacks the courage to lead on tough issues. In his 2003 book, Breach of Trust, Senator Tom Coburn, R, Oklahoma, addressed the 1995 battle over the budget, which led to the temporary shutdown of the government. Coburn says, “Our leaders (Gingrich) folded instead of standing their ground. History shows that the shutdown fight was a fight we could have won,” Coburn concluded.

Gingrich’s leadership style is surprisingly low-key and he is unwilling to tackle hard issues. The one provision in the Contract with America that would have made a great deal of difference in our government was the “Citizen Legislature Act” which would have term limited members of the federal legislature to twelve years. It was never given serious consideration because Gingrich believed it was not as important as the other tenets in the contract. At his speech at Randolph-Macon College when asked how Republicans should respond to President Obama, Gingrich said "Cooperate when you can, offer a better solution when possible, stop something only if you have no alternative." In other words- don’t be obstructionists-take the path of least resistance. Gingrich believes that government must continually act and that philosophy causes him to fold when he should hold.

Third, Gingrich will say anything to get elected. At his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, the former speaker said the current economic crisis was the result of the failings of former President Bush. “There is a Bush-Obama continuity in economic policy, which is, frankly, a disaster for this country and cannot work,” Gingrich said. Amazing the difference a few months will make. In October, Gingrich was singing “W”s praises for his handling of the tough economic times. As John Feehery said on politco.com, “There is no continuity between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. One believes in the free-market system; the other deeply distrusts it. One loved the investment class; the other has shown deep disdain for it. One pushed against domestic spending, the other pushes for it. One pushed to boost defense and intelligence spending; the other will seek to slash it.” Gingrich has moved from defending Bush just four months ago to trashing him for his own selfish reasons. Gingrich is a complete and total pragmatist and practices situational ethics, which is not what the Republican Party or America needs.

Fourth, Gingrich is bankrupt morally. He is married to his third wife, Callista Biseka, a former staffer over twenty years his junior. Newt’s first wife, Jackie, was served divorce papers while undergoing ovarian cancer treatment in the hospital. She alleges he had numerous affairs during their nineteen-year marriage. Newt left his church after his pastor criticized him for not paying child support to his first wife. Gingrich’s second wife was former staffer Marianna Ginther, but he divorced her in 2000. She claims it was because she developed multiple sclerosis. Newt admitting having an affair with a staffer (Marianna) when he was Speaker of the House, which contributed to his political downfall. So it’s obvious the former Speaker has issues with marriage and commitment, but does he recognize that? Apparently not, he cut TV spots supporting “traditional” marriage (Prop 8), in the recent controversial California election. With two failed marriages under his belt, you would think the former Speaker would have sit that battle out.
Something is considered necessary that is absolutely essential, logically inevitable or required by obligation. Gingrich’s candidacy for president falls far short of meeting that criterion.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Read a well-thought out opinion/editorial by Mike McCarville on Cass Sunstein, a man Mike calls potentially the most dangerous man in America!

"His name is Cass Sunstein and he is President Obama's nominee to become the nation's regulatory czar, the most important government position most Americans know nothing about. He's about to become the most dangerous man in America. "

Monday, March 2, 2009

"With one hand he returns the fasces, symbol of power as appointed dictator of Rome. His other hand holds the plow, as he resumes the life of a citizen and farmer." — A statue of Cincinnatus in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair

Four hundred and fifty years before Christ, Cincinnatus was appointed Dictator of the Roman Empire in order to rescue an army that was surrounded by the enemy. At the time of his appointment Cincinnatus was working his small farm. When the Senators approached him to tell him of his “election as dictator,” Cincinnatus was plowing, not campaigning. He reluctantly accepted the job and under his leadership, Rome defeated the enemy in a single day. Cincinnatus maintained his authority only long enough to bring Rome stability. He then resigned and went back to farming. George Washington is often compared to Cincinnatus because he gave up near-absolute power once the crisis of the American Revolution had passed and victory had been won.

In the Roman system, rotation in office was used to ensure equitable service among all qualified candidates. Rotation was guaranteed because no Roman was allowed to hold the same office more than once. Rotation in office was also practiced in ancient Athens where people were selected to participate in the 500-member governing council. In order to participate, the people of Athens agreed never to serve on the council for more than two years in their lifetime.

Our founding fathers did not believe in career politicians. In the Federalist Papers, #39, James Madison wrote that elected officials should hold office for a “limited period.” Career politicians are a modern invention. It wasn’t until the 20th century that elected officials came to the conclusion they were “indispensable” and no one was more qualified to lead than they. In the twenty first century, slick well organized ad campaigns proclaim how the incumbent’s leadership skills rival those of Moses and Joshua in leading Israel out of bondage. Little of the chatter during a campaign addresses issues, but a great deal is made of an incumbent’s “seniority” and tenure. It’s sad to say, but seniority does play a role in the process because so many politicans have “parked” in office.

In the nineteen century, rotation in office was a popular concept that enjoyed support at all levels of government. In The Washington Community, 1800-1828, James Young says, “the tendency to look with mistrust upon political power was so ingrained into American culture that even the officeholders themselves perceived their occupations in a disparaging light.” With Congressional popularity at an all time low, it would seem things haven’t changed much in two hundred years.

When Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly approved legislative term limits in 1990 critics of “rotation in office” said bureaucrats and lobbyists would run rough shod over the “novice” legislators who would not be able to grasp the great complexities of government in twelve short years. That has not proven to be the case and in fact, Oklahoma government is more efficient, ethical, transparent, and productive than in our state’s one hundred history. The office of Governor is the only other office currently term limited in Oklahoma, but that may change.

State Representative Jason Murphy, R, Guthrie, has introduced JR 1022 that would limit the number of terms for the other statewide office holders including lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, attorney general, treasurer, commissioner of labor, superintendent of public instruction and insurance commissioner, all of whom serve 4-year terms. Murphy’s proposal would limit these offices to two terms or eight years. His proposal would also limit those who serve on the Corporation Commmission to a maximum of twelve years. Corporation Commissioners serve six year terms. The Joint Resolution would change the State Constitution, so it would require a vote of the people.

Critics, aka career politicians and staffers, of rotation in office will proclaim that term limits are unnecessary because voters have the choice to “limit” elected officials in every election by voting for the challenger. That is literally true, but not realistically true.

The reality is incumbents are returned to office ninety seven percent of the time. Incumbency is a huge advantage and lobbyists, bureaucrats know that so obscene amounts of money flow to incumbents from special interests. Incumbents have a huge advantage over challengers in fundraising because lobbyists, PACs, and other special interests are betting on the horse they know.

If more voters based their vote on issues, incumbents would be forced to run on their voting record, but most voters merely responding to an effective marketing campaign and have no clue about issues. The political playing field is not level because of incumbency and that’s why it’s critical we have mandated term limits. Open seats remove the incumbency factor and tend to level the playing field.

There are some principled elected officials who self impose term limits on their service. Men like Dr. Tom Coburn and former 4th district Congressman J.C. Watts are examples of people who leave their chosen professions to serve in government and then return to private life, but they are the exception not the rule.

It’s not certain Governor Henry will sign the Joint Resolution if it reaches his desk, but he should. Oklahoma voters have proven we want term limits for elected officials and that should include all levels of offices.

Please note: Since I wrote this editorial, it has been correctly pointed out that JOINT resolutions do not require the Governor's signature. I knew that, but for some reason forgot it- chalk it up to old age!

Please forgive me for dispensing errorous information. Bottom line this means that if the JR passes the Senate, the FOLKS will be given the opportunity to consider the resolution(vote on it). It doesn't change the overall tone of my editorial- we still need term limits, but thanks to all those who pointed out this error and for making sure the information you read on Fair & Biased is accurate. Steve Fair