Oklahoma Republican legislators seem to have embraced conflicts-of-interest as their new business model. Last month, Clifton Adcock of The Frontier reported, “A state representative whose district has seen explosive growth in the number of poultry farms over the past year and was recently appointed to a newly-formed council to examine the growth also works for one of the companies that has been one of the driving forces behind the increase in poultry operations in eastern Oklahoma.”
Josh West, R-Grove, was appointed by House Speaker Charles McCall to the Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth, a group whose formation was announced last week by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office and the Cherokee Nation to examine the increase in poultry farms near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border. “West, whose district includes the mid-eastern and most of western parts of Delaware County, is employed in management as a Lean coordinator for Simmons Foods, the poultry company contracting with most of the new chicken farms in the area as the company prepares to open an expanded processing facility in Gentry, Ark., in 2019.”
Members of Greed’s Own Party usually wait for campaign contributions or post-office payoffs like Reagan’s trip to Japan, where he received $2 million or $5 million in “speaking fees” for destroying American industry during his presidency. How proactive for West to sit on the state council overseeing the company that pays his salary. But his actions only mirror the national stage where Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke and others are following President Trump’s lead to transfer tax dollars into their pockets.
Not sure how West’s position – or his voting record – jibes with that part of our Constitution which forbids a legislator from voting on any measure in which he has “a personal or private interest.” After noting that West went to work for Simmons Foods prior to his election to the House, Adcock points out, “West has received at least $11,000 in campaign contributions from individuals in poultry industry since 2015, according to Oklahoma Ethics Commission records.”
Ah, the Ethics Commission, the same Ethics Commission that Oklahoma’s Republican-run Lege has budget-cut toward extinction.
In mid-September, The Oklahoman’s Nolan Clay reported that the Ethics Commission “adopted for a second time rules that bar legislators and other elected officials from becoming state lobbyists during their first two years out of office…. “The watchdog agency adopted the same rules in February but they never went into effect because of legislative opposition.” The House vote was 64-27 against the rules; the Senate, 34-8. Gov. Fallin, who will be looking for work soon, also opposed the rules, which will take effect at the end of the next legislative session unless Republicans continue to endorse such blatant conflicts of interest.
Which brings reminds us that GOP State Sen. Paul Scott’s business was the recipient of contract with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs despite the verboten wording in our state constitution that “nor shall any member during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within two years thereafter, be interested directly or indirectly, in any contract with the State…”
Oh, yes, Scott sits on the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee of Health, which oversees budget bills from ODVA. So much for the sacrifices of service.
We’re still waiting for our law-and-order Attorney General or a tough-on-crime district attorney to investigate this infringement.
Democratic AG candidate Mark Myles is not beholden to the corporate socialists. He would put the interests of the people of Oklahoma ahead of those of Status Quo Tories. Scott is just following the lead of Greed’s Own Party’s Grifter-in-Chief, who rakes in millions of U.S. tax dollars for his own companies with every visit to one of his resorts. Yet, while our State Supreme Court denied the Ethics Commission’s request for sufficient funding to function, ABC News reported recently that a federal judge has given congressional Democrats his approval to to “’sue the President for allegedly violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.’
“The clause at issue states, ‘And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State….’ In other words, the Democrats argue, members of Congress must vote to consent to whether a president can keep a gift or thing of value from a foreign power, and they couldn’t do so if they didn’t know about the payments…. Foreign government guests have frequently stayed at the Trump hotel in Washington.”
ABC’s Lucien Bruggeman noted, ‘The judge’s order, and a similar case in Maryland, could give Democrats a way get hold of President Trump’s tax returns through pre-trial discovery. Democrats say the documents could shed light on possible conflicts of interest involving the president, his foreign business deals, and even Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. The president would likely fight any such efforts.”
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)