Monday, May 28, 2018

Next Governor Needs to take Risks and be Bold!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     The primary election is June 26th.  The last day to register so you can participate in the Republican primary is tomorrow- Thursday June 1st.  You can register by mail, but to insure you actually get it in on time, it would probably be a good idea to drop by the Election Board in the county courthouse.  You will need a photo ID.  With nominations for Congress, Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, Corporation Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Labor Commissioner and Insurance Commissioner up for grabs on the 26th, expect your mailbox to be full in the next month.  The normal turnout of registered voters in a primary is around 30%, but with so much interest and so many candidates, it could be higher this year in Oklahoma, especially among Republicans. 
      The latest polls reveal the majority of Oklahoma Republicans are still undecided in the Governor’s race and even more so in the other statewide races.  With less than a month before the vote, most GOP voters are waiting for candidates to start putting meat on the bone.  They are looking for detailed plans and a track record in the candidate’s past that would indicate they will do what they say they will.             
      Oklahoma state government has some challenges.  The revenue stream is up and down(mainly because state government is so dependent on oil and gas) and the spending stream seems to always trend up.  Oklahoma state government is run essentially the same way it was 70 years ago.  Every candidate for governor is running on reforming state government(auditing,cutting), but what they don’t tell you is they can’t do it without the legislature.  The next Governor of Oklahoma must be someone who can collaborate and communicate with the House and Senate leadership.  They can’t be a self-promoter who never met a camera or reporter they didn’t like.  They need to be more concerned with getting something accomplished than getting credit.  They can’t be critical of everybody who disagrees with them.  They have to be a coalition builder.  They can’t be a sensationalist who can’t work and play with others.
      They may be an outsider and new to politics, but they can’t stay that way because government is an insider game.  President Trump ran as a Washington outsider, but after several failures in working with Congress, he learned and now the vast majority of his senior advisors and staff are insiders. They know how the game works.  Because Trump won, nearly every Republican candidate now claims to be an ‘outsider,’ even if they have spent their life in politics.  The fact is Insider/Outsider really doesn’t matter.  What matters is the next leaders in Oklahoma do what’s right, tell the truth, take political risks and move Oklahoma forward by doing something innovative and not just on a push card.
     As Jethro told his son-in-law Moses to pick leaders over Israel who were able(qualified) and not covetous(Exodus 18).  It is important leaders are qualified to do the job.  Every candidate will tell you they are qualified, but it is the job of the voter to determine if that is truth or just campaign talk. 

Monday, May 21, 2018


Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair

     On Saturday, the Stephens County GOP held their annual fundraiser, a Fish Fry in the Fairgrounds rodeo arena.  The largest crowd to ever attend the yearly event listened to a gubernatorial candidate forum/debate featuring the six Republican candidates for Oklahoma governor who have been campaigning for over a year.  District Attorney Jason Hicks served as moderator and asked ‘specific’ questions of each candidate on their primary campaign message and how they would fulfill it.  He also asked a series of questions regarding recent legislature and if what they would have done if they had been the state’s chief executive-signed or vetoed.  While the six agreed on many subjects, the careful listener heard distinct differences, which is the goal of any forum- to point out the differences, not the similarities between participants.
     First, none of the six candidates hit a home run, but neither did any of them stumble.  They didn’t attack one another and were respectful of the time restraints.  They were adults.  With the challenges the Sooner state faces, it’s critical Oklahoma have a governor who has stable temperament and it appears any of the half dozen can keep their head and not overreact. 
     Second, few voters made their minds up watching the debate.  That is not the fault of the moderator.  His questions asked for specific, detailed answers, but for the most part, the candidates gave safe answers.  That is not to imply they dodged the question- they simply gave very general answers.  Part of that are time restraints, but some of that is campaign strategy.  All six referred to their websites to find out more information, but few in the audience will take time to access the sites and look for specific solutions to the state’s problems.
     Third, Hicks closed with two questions, asking if the candidates would support the GOP nominee in the November general election.  All answered they would, but Dan Fisher walked his answer back on Monday, saying his support for the Republican nominee depended on who the nominee was and what they stood for.  The second question Hicks posed was if after they were elected governor, would they be back next year to keynote the Fish Fry.  They all answered yes, so it appears the 15th annual Stephens County GOP Fish Fry’s keynote speaker will feature the Governor of Oklahoma. 
     While the governor’s race was the main event at the Fish Fry, there were multiple statewide and local candidates campaigning and making their case to the attendees.  With just 33 days left until the June 26th primary, the politically savvy candidate understood the largest gathering of Republicans in the state was in Duncan Saturday night and they needed to be there if they were serious about their race. 
     The Stephens County GOP Fish Fry is truly a unique event.  Few, if any, county GOP organizations across America can boast they plan and execute an event this large using only grassroots volunteers.  There is no caterer or paid staff to do the myriad of tasks.  Those are done completely and totally by volunteers- year in and year out.   The debate was livestreamed and recorded.  It can be viewed on the Stephens County GOP Facebook page.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Not since Truman has the US showed this much courage in regard to Israel!

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
 by Steve Fair
On Monday, the nation of Israel turned seventy years old.  That is of course modern Israel.  Israel is the land promised to Abraham by God about 4,100 years ago.  This small parcel of 8,000 square miles is about 11% the size of Oklahoma or approximately the size of the state of New Jersey.  More battles over this small piece of ground have been fought than any in the history of the world.  Three monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- all have sacred sites in Jerusalem.  The Muslims want to spilt the city, but Israel’s parliament and current leadership do not want to concede what Abraham was promised. 
      For years the American embassy in Israel was in Tel Aviv, but on Monday the embassy was moved to Jerusalem.  Twenty three years after the U.S.  Congress passed a law moving the embassy to Jerusalem, it finally happened.  President Trump, who did not attend,  but sent his daughter and son-in-law to represent him at the opening, appeared via video and said,  “We extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all of their neighbors. May there be peace. May God bless this embassy.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move  "courageous" and "momentous."  "What a glorious day. Remember this moment!" Netanyahu said to the applauding crowd. "President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful." Two observations:
     First, Trump’s move was courageous.  Since Congress passed the mandate to move 23 years ago, three presidents from both Parties have failed to order the move.  Moving the embassy was seen as so controversial because it would stir up the Muslims and they were unwilling to risk that.  Trump had made the moving of the embassy e a part of his campaign promises and like it or not he fulfilled it.
     Second, a nation has a right to declare where their Capitol is.  Just because the United Nations says that a nation can’t put their Capitol somewhere doesn’t take away their right to do it.  President Harry Truman’s recognition of Israel as a nation in 1948 took great courage.  Trump’s recognition they can decide where their Capitol also took courage. 
     Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East and strategic in US foreign policy in the region.  During the Obama presidency the relationship with Israel was tense at best.  Obama and Netanyahu didn’t mesh well and when the US refused to vote on a critical UN Security Council vote on Jerusalem, relations between the US and Israel moved to their lowest point ever.  Trump did the right thing in moving the embassy and while controversial, it shows this president is not your standard run of the mill politician. He has guts!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Using your money to lobby for more of your money is immoral!

Weekly Opinion Editorial

by Steve Fair

     A lobbyist is defined as a person who takes part in an organized attempt to influence legislators.   Most lobbyists represent trade and industry groups or associations. They monitor legislation that could impact their clients.  Lobbyists often get a bad rap, but in reality private sector lobbyists are just representing groups of people.  They have a vested interest in making sure legislators are educated on their client’s interests. 
      Several years ago, I wrote a column regarding lobbying titled, “There is no Such Thing as a Free Lunch.”  It pointed out the fundamental economic principle that someone is always paying(there is no free) and the payor usually expects a return on their investment.  When a lobbyist pays for the cheeseburger a legislator eats, it has strings attached.  So long as a legislator understands that simple principle, then fine.           
     After I wrote the column, a prominent lobbyist in OKC responded in a Letter to the Editor with outrage, writing that he never expected a return on his investment and every lunch, dinner, ticket, or trinket he gave a legislator had absolutely no strings attached.  I responded that was likely not what he told a potential client when he made his pitch to present them before the legislature. 
     A popular vocation after leaving a legislative body- both at the federal and state level- is lobbying.  It makes sense.  Former lawmakers understand the process.  They have friends in the chamber and usually have immediate access to them.  The Oklahoma constitution has a provision stating a former lawmaker can’t go to work in a state agency or lobby until they have been out of office for two years(not that it is enforced). 
     In February, the State Ethics Commission voted unanimously to enforce a two year ban and to add state agency heads to the prohibition.  Last week, the Oklahoma legislature voted overwhelmingly to reject the Ethics Commission’s recommendations.  There is bad blood between the Commission and the legislature, but that is for another column.  Three observations about lobbying:
      First, the Ethics Commission did overstep their authority.  They were established to enforce the rules, not establish them.  While the idea of expanding the ban to include agency bureaucrats makes sense, that reform should be done by the legislature, not by the Commission.
     Second, far too many elected officials never return to the real private sector.  Once they get a taste of the political industry, most elected officials are hooked and finding a real job and returning to the real private sector fades into the past.  If the two year ban were enforced, it might force some of the politicos to get a real job. 
     Third, real reform would be banning taxpayer funded lobbying and lobbyists.  When state agencies and other taxpayer funded entities hire lobbyists with my tax dollars to lobby for more of my tax dollars, it’s immoral.  Thomas Jefferson said, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." It is past time for the state legislature to ban taxpayer funded lobbying.