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Costello: Are Oklahoma City Bureaucrats Smarter Than Harvard?

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello

In 1928, the first Roman Catholic ever nominated for president, Gov. Al Smith of New York, came to campaign in Oklahoma at the height of the Ku Klux Klan’s power. Smith was greeted with numerous burning crosses during the night as his train rolled across the state.   When Smith spoke to a rally in Oklahoma City, the KKK burned more crosses outside of the stadium where his campaign rally was held, inciting hatred and fomenting violence.  Some of Smith’s relatives were listening to radio broadcasts of the proceedings and said they believed the atmosphere was so volatile that “they expected a bullet, expected to hear a gun go off.”

Smith then delivered what many consider to be the most courageous speech ever given by a presidential nominee.  In it he said, “There is no greater mockery in the world today than the burning of the cross by these people who are spreading this propaganda …. (the symbol of) the Christ they are supposed to adore… . To inject bigotry, hatred, intolerance and un-American sectarian division into a campaign… . Nothing could be so contradictory of our whole history.”

As a child in 1966, I remember leaflets were dropped by an airplane over Bartlesville that read, “Don’t vote for Dewey Bartlett.  He is a Roman Catholic.”  The fair-minded voters of Oklahoma overcame the religious prejudices and elected the best person for the job — Bartlett, our first Catholic governor.

Despite past hobgoblins in our state history who have insulted Catholics and the Catholic Church, nothing compares in degree or kind to what the government of Oklahoma City has sanctioned at the Civic Center on September 21.  A Satanic “Black mass” is scheduled on government property.   One particular faith is being blasphemed, ridiculed, and mocked in what can only be called in contemporary terms, “hate speech.”  The specious legal reasoning that Oklahoma City bureaucrats used to permit this sacrilege fails standards of reason and civility. Harvard University in May canceled the same event on their campus without fear of legal reprisal or First Amendment abridgement.

It was wrong in 1928 for government officials to stand idly by as the Klan burned crosses on government property to incite violence and hatred against a presidential candidate because of his faith. In 2014, it is wrong for government officials, in the guise of political correctness, to allow Satanists on taxpayer property to blaspheme and incite hatred against the Catholic Church.  Those bureaucrats who have sanctioned this outrage and the city elected officials who have circled around them should be released to industry to seek other opportunities.

Mark Costello is Oklahoma Labor Commissioner.

NFIB Honors Lankford


Congressman James Lankford issued the following statement today after he was awarded the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Guardian of Small Business award.

Dan Danner, President and CEO of NFIB, presented the award to Rep. Lankford for his strong voting record on behalf of small business in the 113th Congress.

“I am honored to do what I can to protect and preserve the thousands of small businesses I represent in the Fifth District of Oklahoma,” Lankford said. “On an almost hourly basis, this Administration attempts to stifle entrepreneurship and innovation with regulatory burdens and excessive mandates. But, in spite of the challenges stacked against them, hardworking American business owners and families work together to create the engine of the American economy. I remain committed to fighting against federal overreach to ensure American businesses can continue to flourish and support our families.”

To view NFIB’s “How Congress Voted” report, click here.

Civics Education Initiative Announced

Honoring the anniversary of United States Constitution, signed on this date in 1787, United States Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Former Congressman Dan Boren and Tulsa Councilor G.T. Bynum today announced the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative.

This state legislative effort aims to ensure all Oklahoma high school graduates have a basic understanding of American civics and history.

“Our country has endured because of the wisdom of our founding fathers and the system of government they established,” said Senator Coburn.  “Everyone should have a basic understanding of American civics and why our country has prevailed for more than 200 years.  The Civics Education Initiative seeks to ensure that our young people understand what makes America great.”

According to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less say what each doesFurther, studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than a four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test – the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.  According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it on their first try.

The Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative will promote an active and engaged citizenry by requiring that all Oklahoma high school students and those seeking general educational development equivalency (GED) pass the 100-question civics test administered by USCIS. The state legislation will allow students to take the test any time during their high school career, and to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.

By using the well-established USCIS test, there will be no need or expense to create a new test or study materials, as these materials are already available online and for free.  The legislation will allow individual schools to administer the test in a way the school as deems adequate to meet the requirements.

“We can do better for this generation of students,” said Attorney General Scott Pruitt. “This initiative is a concrete first step to ensuring that Oklahoma high school students graduate with the fundamental knowledge to become engaged citizens. Those who are educated about our government, by and large, participate at a higher rate.”

The USCIS Citizenship Civics test consists of 100 basic questions about American civics and history, such as:

What is the name of the President of the United States now?

Name one branch or part of the government.

What is the capital of your state?

What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?

To date the CEI has seen broad support across the state.  Co-Chairs of the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative include U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and former Congressman Dan Boren.

Six other states today are announcing similar state legislative efforts including Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.  The goal of the Civics Education Initiative is for every state in the nation to pass this legislation by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the Constitution.  

The Initiative’s national board of directors includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and actor Joe Mantegna who has been nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards.  (National Board Video Message)

The Civics Education Initiative is an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, which was founded to educate American youth on the importance of our country’s unique freedoms, and to inspire them to public service. Joe Foss was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of South Dakota, and first commissioner of the American Football League.

Gumm’s Secretary Embezzeled $400,000

Jody O’Hara
Stone County Enterprise

Drugs and cars.

That was the best Tina Owens Gillespie could come up with as a reason to embezzle more than $400,000 from her fellow citizens.

“I spent it,’ she replied to Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Bourgeois, Jr.’s question as to where the money was. “I had a prescription drug problem and then it escalated into a lifestyle.”

Gillespie pleaded guilty Monday to one count of embezzlement in connection with a scheme which began in September, 2010 and didn’t end until she was caught in December, 2012.
She had served as the Executive Secretary of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership during the time she stole the money.
She had faced five counts of the same crime.
She admitted to forging signatures and cashing checks, ultimately defrauding the SCEDP of $414,795.08.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Burrell said that in addition to the drugs, Gillespie had taken trips and purchased vehicles.
Asked what she had to say for herself, Gillespie apologized to the citizens and the SCEDP Board of Directors.
“Are you sorry you did it; or that you got caught?” Bourgeois asked.
She replied that she was actually glad she got caught.
“How are you going to pay the good, lawful citizens back the $400,000?” the judge asked.
She replied that she did not know.
On behalf of the state, Burrell acknowledged the guilty plea and recommended a sentence of 20 years, with 12 years suspended and eight years to serve. The request included five years of supervised probation after Gillespie’s release.
In addition, he asked for restitution in the full amount which was embezzled but declined to ask for a fine.
He did, however, stipulate that Gillespie provide truthful testimony against former SCEDP Executive Director Jay Paul Gumm, who has also been charged in connection with the embezzlement.
He will make a court appearance in January, 2015.
Bourgeois went with that recommendation, but added a $2,000 fine and ordered Gillespie to pay $300 to the state victims’ compensation fund.
She must begin paying $500 a month once she is released from Mississippi Department of Corrections custody.
At that rate, it would take Gillespie more than 69 years to repay the amount she stole.
Under new guidelines which went into effect July 1, Gillespie must serve 25 percent of her sentence, or two years, before she is eligible for parole.

Execution By Nitrogen Gas?

Rep. Mike Christian says Oklahoma must find a new way to execute prisoners, and suggests it might be by the use of nitrogen gas:

Rand Paul Endorses Lankford

Senator Rand Paul today endorsed Congressman James Lankford’s bid for the open Oklahoma Senate seat.

Paul’s endorsement joins a wave of other major endorsements for Lankford this month, including Chairman Paul Ryan, Governor Mitt Romney, Ambassador John Bolton and Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum PAC.

Paul released the following statement endorsing Lankford in his bid for United States Senate:

“As we strive to retake the majority in the United States Senate, it is critical that we elect principled conservatives who will stand for the values of liberty that Oklahomans and Americans across the country hold dear. James Lankford has already shown leadership in Congress, holding the President accountable for Obamacare and the IRS Scandal. I am proud to endorse and stand with James and I look forward to the addition of his powerful voice for limited government and individual freedom on the Senate floor. I urge everyone to support James Lankford.”

“I am honored to have Senator Paul’s endorsement. I look forward to working with him in the fight for government accountability and reform in the United States Senate,” Lankford said.

Lankford Names Slavonic Chief Of Staff

Congressman James Lankford said today he has named Rear Adm. Greg Slavonic (U.S. Navy, Retired) as his new Chief of Staff effective October 1st. He succeeds Randy Swanson, who resigned to join an Oklahoma City firm.

“I am honored to bring Rear Adm. Slavonic’s background in strategic communications and leadership, earned through a distinguished 34-year career in the U.S. Navy, to our team,” said Lankford.

“Rear Adm. Slavonic will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Fifth District, as he leads our offices in Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C. and helps us complete the work remaining in the 113th Congress. His honorable service in the Navy will translate well as we provide assistance with federal agencies and shape conservative policy solutions in the U.S. House of Representatives. Like me, Rear Adm. Slavonic does not come from a political background, which gives him a real-world approach to finding efficient and effective solutions to the problems we face as a nation. His faith and integrity will undoubtedly complement the honest, hardworking team we have in place to serve central Oklahomans.

“I look forward to putting Rear Adm. Slavonic’s litany of skills to work for the Fifth District, and I hope the community will join me in welcoming him as he embarks on his new role,” concluded Lankford.

“I’m truly honored to be asked to join Representative Lankford’s team,” said Slavonic. “In the coming months, my goal will be to support him in accomplishing his vision for Oklahoma and for our great nation. The world remains a very dangerous place, and I want to provide him with any and all support in his efforts to ensure the U.S. remains safe and secure for all Americans.”

Originally from Kansas but raised in Oklahoma City, Slavonic earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma State University and upon completion of his undergraduate studies, enlisted in the Navy. He received orders to the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CVA 64) and completed two western Pacific deployments in support of combat operations in Vietnam. In 1976, he earned a Masters degree from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Serving the Navy through several additional combat tours, including but not limited to Operation Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom II, Slavonic served as the U.S. Navy’s Deputy to the Chief of Information in Washington, D.C. and Director of Public Affairs (Reserve) from June 2001 to 2005.

In this dual role, he served as deputy to the Chief of Information responsible for all aspects of the Navy’s Public Affairs Program and adviser on Strategic Communications issues. He established and maintained professional working relationships with Navy Secretariat offices, other Department of Defense commands and activities within the Pentagon and in the Washington Capitol Region. In addition, he was responsible for the training and readiness of more than 500 public affairs specialists assigned to 26 different units across the United States.

In his civilian professional life, he has many years of experience as Advertising Director for The Journal Record and senior account executive for NBC affiliate television station, KFOR-TV.  He served as adjunct professor in the Communications Department as the University of Central Oklahoma.

Slavonic and his wife Molly currently live in north Oklahoma City.  They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Dank: Time To End Tax Reimbursement Programs That Don’t Create Jobs

Rep. David Dank
In The Oklahoman

In the next four years, Oklahoma taxpayers will be asked to subsidize tens of millions of dollars in reimbursements to local entities like schools and counties, not because these are broke, but because of an ill-conceived tax credit involving wind farms that many residents question.

The state’s property tax reimbursement program was designed for a valid purpose: to assist schools and counties in dealing with an upsurge in population resulting from new jobs. If a manufacturer built a factory in a rural area and boosted employment, he would receive a five-year exemption from property taxes.

In return, the state treasury would reimburse those local entities for that lost revenue, which they would need to serve those new residents.

Under that system, everybody won. The county got new jobs, expanded its population and ultimately had a larger tax base to fund schools and other necessities. State government received more sales and income taxes to fund essential government services. The manufacturer would get a higher return on investment up front, making the decision to locate there a smart one.

Then came the wind farms and other entities that produced few, if any, jobs. In the early 2000s, legislation made them eligible for the same five-year property tax exemption. Last year, Oklahoma taxpayers ponied up $32 million in reimbursement payments to counties derived from wind farms alone.

The current estimate is that we’ll shell out another $290 million to subsidize wind farms by 2018, from property tax reimbursements and additional subsidies under the zero-emission tax credit system. Some $76 million of that will be in property tax reimbursements in one year alone. Those reimbursement payments are funded from individual and corporate income tax revenues, which means taxpayers in my district are paying their own property taxes and those in other counties as well.

In some cases these payments are simply a boondoggle. Last year we reimbursed Roger Mills County more than $6 million, about $1,700 for every person living there.

What’s wrong with giving wind farms the same tax breaks manufacturers receive? Wind farms produce few, if any, long-term jobs. Once the farms are built, the companies move on to the next project. With no extra jobs being created, there is no reason for state taxpayers to reimburse costs that don’t exist.

Second, many Oklahoma wind farms sell the power they generate out of state. They’re selling the power they produce, with our generous subsidies, to agencies like the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Texas is also a wind farm mecca, but it doesn’t saddle taxpayers with wasteful subsidies. In Texas, local entities are allowed to negotiate tax breaks, but the state doesn’t offer a reimbursement program like ours.

With many communities questioning the wisdom of wind farm development, it makes little sense to spend so much on taxpayer-funded subsidies that bring few, if any, returns.

It’s time to end tax reimbursement programs for projects that don’t create jobs or add to our prosperity.

Dank, R-Oklahoma City, represents District 85 in the Oklahoma House.

It Doesn’t Get More Oklahoma Than This


Iconic photographs are those we remember…and here’s one I’m putting in my “Oklahoma Campaigns” folder.

Check it out: The candidate, in red and black. The sign, in black and yellow, typical rural Oklahoma welcome, complete with uncut grass/weeds growing underneath it. The backdrop, the name of the restaurant on the building with a “Ranch Burger” sign showing at top right. ~ Mike McCarville

Editorial: Poll Focus

The Oklahoman

A recent release from Gov. Mary Fallin’s campaign proudly proclaims Fallin holds “an 18 point lead over Democrat opponent Joe Dorman.” But that poll also shows Fallin with a relatively low level of support for an incumbent GOP governor in a heavily Republican state. Fallin currently draws 50 percent, according to Sooner Poll. That’s only a modest improvement compared with three previous public polls that showed Fallin drawing between 44 percent and 49 percent. Her expanded lead in Sooner Poll is thanks to Dorman receiving just 32 percent when other polls showed him at 40 percent. No one really thinks Fallin is going to lose, but it is telling that the other major GOP candidates atop the ballot are performing far better. If she wants voter support to increase, Fallin would be better served to spend more time discussing a conservative agenda, and less time touting minor polling shifts.


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