OCPA: OBA and Far Left Attack Pruitt

By OCPA President Jonathan Small

A liberal U.S. senator investigates a member of the Trump administration.

The storyline is uninteresting, except that the target is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt and the senator’s strategy involves filing a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA). Add in an Oklahoma higher education employee and you’ve got one intriguing story.

The Senator is Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, whose liberal record is solid and whose relationship with the truth is shaky. The PolitiFact website notes him making false statements about everything from entitlement reforms to budget policy and environmental regulation. He once defended crony capitalism for companies like now-bankrupt Solyndra, claiming it would end reliance on foreign oil, even though oil is used to generate about a whopping one percent of our nation’s electricity.

Sen. Whitehouse claims Pruitt did not answer enough questions during his confirmation process. This is absurd because Pruitt answered more than 1,000 written questions and another 206 oral questions during his hearing. For comparison, the last EPA Administrator nominee faced just 133 written questions and only 69 more at her confirmation hearing. In fact, no nominee for this position has ever faced anything like the volume of questions that Pruitt was asked—and answered—earlier this year.

Despite all this, Whitehouse claims Pruitt was “evasive,” that he was “stonewalling,” and that some of the answers were insufficiently clear.

The Oklahoma higher education employee in this tale is law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos of the University of Oklahoma, who has a past association with Whitehouse and donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Joining her is a group called the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson-based radical environmental group that seems to exist primarily to file lawsuits. Kristen van de Biezenbos and company have now filed an ethics complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association demanding that Pruitt be disbarred or otherwise punished.

Why would these liberals look to a private state lawyers’ group to go after a member of the President’s cabinet? Two reasons: the Oklahoma Bar Association is a private group that possesses government power, and it has a track record of taking far-left political stances.

In Oklahoma, old state laws give the bar association real power. It gets to license lawyers and to manage part of the process of lawyer discipline. It also gets a guaranteed say in who does and does not get to be an Oklahoma appellate judge. This is a lot of power for a private group that takes political positions.

What kind of positions? Just last December, Oklahoma Bar Association President Garvin Isaacs was interviewed by The New Yorker about the incoming Trump Administration. His measured opinion: “We are in danger. The whole country is in danger. Our kids are in danger.”

Actually, Isaacs was not talking just about the Trump Administration, but about … Scott Pruitt’s nomination to be Administrator of the EPA. Isaacs, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but it’s no wonder a group of liberals believe the Oklahoma Bar Association will do their dirty work. The OBA is even publicly commenting to the far-left Huffington Post and legitimizing Whitehouse’s attack.

Hopefully, the OBA will do the right thing and not be used as a tool of the far left. But either way, the episode is a reminder to Oklahomans that we let a private political group have government power at our peril.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (www.ocpathink.org).

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