Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dirty Politics: Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum

Initially written March 16, 2011; edited March 29 to add Momentum's March 24 Form C-1 reflecting contributions of $415,000, and a Momentum exemplary Ward 2 direct mailer.

Today's March 16 Oklahoma Gazette carries an article that asks some of the right questions, but it is unable to provide any of the right answers. The story, written by Clifton Adcock, is called, Who’s behind the money?

Largely, the article attempts to explain differences between traditional Political Action Committees and §527 groups, and then gives focus to campaign activities during the just past and ongoing city council races. The article perhaps did as well as could be done to explain differences between more traditional PACs and §527's in a short article on a complex topic. I'm certainly no expert on those differences, but this Wikipedia article seems to do a pretty good job in attempting to do so.

One difference is plain enough. Traditional PACs may make direct contributions to individual candidates of up to $5000 per candidate and publicly report who they are, but §527 groups may not make direct contributions to candidates at all. Instead, they run shadow or parallel campaigns to support candidates of their liking.

Two groups directly or indirectly supported incumbents Salyer, ward 6, and Ryan, ward 8, and supported challenger Greenwell against incumbent Walters in ward 5. Sam Bowman not running for re-election in ward 2, Charlie Swinton received those 2 groups' favor in that ward.

The two groups were/are the Chesapeake Oklahoma PAC, which made direct contributions to the foregoing candidates' campaigns, and the Committee For Oklahoma City Momentum, a §527 group, which made no direct contributions to candidates but instead ran its own parallel campaigns to support its favored candidates.

Which gets me to what I really want to bitch about -- the Committee For Oklahoma City Momentum.

This article has nothing to do with my own choices in the city council election. As I've made abundantly clear in earlier articles, I strongly opposed the Tea-Partiers/Windsor Hills Baptist Church candidates, and I strongly favored re-election of my own council person, ward 6 incumbent Meg Ryan, in her re-election bid. I was also pleased that Pat Ryan won re-election in ward 8 and that David Greenwell defeated incumbent Brian Walters in ward 5. I pretty much ignored ward 2 during the primary but am paying attention to it now. For the ward races decided on March 1, my preferences were the same as those of the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum.

But, my preferences are quite irrelevant to the point of this article, just as are your individual preferences. Instead, this article has to do with public knowledge of (1) who are those who form organizations to influence our votes, (2) how much they contribute, (3) how they decide who to favor, and (4) dirty-trick tactics used during campaigns that leave no footprints in their wake, i.e., public accountability.

Right now, we don't know (1) who the contributors to "Momentum" are, (2) how much they contributed, or (3) who made decisions about how the money got spent. There is every reason to believe, and no reason to doubt, that the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum is largely funded by some or several of the big moneyed interests in our city.

It takes no leap of faith to conclude that this group was the one that outgoing ward 2 councilman Sam Bowman had in mind when he said at the March 1 City Council meeting:
And then, in these last few weeks, big money has gotten involved to the extent, my opinion, it has just made a mockery of our city elections. * * * The people, I think, need to know who's behind the money..."

We also know, from observation, that the Momentum group is seriously lacking in principles or ethics. A good example is provided by comparing the direct mail advertising that Momentum did in the ward 5 and ward 6 campaigns.

Ward 5 Campaign by Momentum. The article notes that at least some of Momentum's advertising in ward 5 was directed to making the point that Walters wasn't really a conservative and likening him to or aligning him with President Obama. Now, I'm one who admires our president and is not generally conservative and who has not been a fan of Brian Walters, he being the only council member to oppose MAPS 3 even being submitted to a vote of the people.

That said, Momentum's direct mailing ads in Ward 5 were clearly a hatchet job. Anyone with a brain knows that Walters IS very conservative and is no fan of our President. And the bit about Walters voting for tax increases ... how misleading can Momentum get since the incumbent council members in wards 4 and 6 which it supported did precisely the same thing -- but were not faulted for doing so in either the ward 4 or 6 elections?

Ward 6 Campaign by Momentum. Drive a few miles north to ward 6 and the tone of Momentum's direct mail ads was radically different ...

In this ward, Tea-Partier VanManen was Salyer's opposition, and, in this ward, Momentum emphasized the values of being non-partisan and progressive, showing endorsements by Al McAffrey, a popular and openly gay democrat house member, and Mayor Cornett, our popular mayor and a known republican. The ad featuring Rep. McAffrey quoted him as saying,
I strongly encourage you to go to your polls and support Meg Salyer. She is a non-partisan progressive leader who is moving Oklahoma City forward. We cannot allow a handful of Tea Party extremists to take over our community.
The Bottom Line. Apparently, Momentum's bottom line solely relates to anticipated results. In ward 5, Momentum waved the ultra-conservative flag and said that Walters wasn't conservative enough, but in ward 6 it waved the moderate flag and knocked ultra-conservatives, a good part of ward 6 being progressive and moderate in its political makeup. Momentum's unprincipled approach is to do whatever it takes to win.

The Runoff Election in Ward 2. Now, in the last election, the ward 2 runoff, Momentum is supporting Charlie Swinton just as it did in the primary. When this article was originally written on March 16, there have been no direct mailings; as of this March 29 update, there have been at least three, and each of them follow the nasty approach that Momentum took in the Ward 5 primary. There, recall that Momentum characterized incumbent Brian Walters as not conservative enough. In Ward 2, Momentum casts Ed Shadid as being way too liberal — he might be a good choice for San Fransisco but not for Oklahoma City, one mailer says. There has been some push-pull phone campaigning, judging by multiple reports, and as evidenced by a full first-hand report. The kernel of that report is ...
Phone caller/surveyor: "Would you be more or less likely to vote for Ed Shadid if you knew he ...
  • was for abortion rights
  • was for gay marriage
  • was for less military spending?"
Like such issues will be involved in being a member of a non-partisan city council whose function is to make decisions affecting the city. Right? Wrong -- unless it should be anticipated that the Oklahoma City Council will be called upon to take action on any of those subjects during the next four years, or ever.

Memo to Oklahoma City Big Money: You don't have to be outrageously deceitful to run an effective political campaign. When and if you do, some will be moved to call you to task to show your true colors and/or to vote exactly the opposite of what you intend. You may think that citizens don't think about your inconsistent political activity, but at least some of us do. And, if, as I suspect, Momentum is funded by a few or several big moneyed interests in the city, such campaigns also reflect the arrogant attitude of those moneyed-interests in assuming that ordinary voters are so damn dumb as not to be able to see what is going on.

The lack of identification and accountability of contributors to the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum is appalling and pathetic, or so it seems to me. If these guys were living in the 1940s, their mommas would rightly stick a red bar of Lifebuoy soap in their mouths. Every member of the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum should be ashamed, and every citizen should be appalled and take note of Momentum's political advertisements during the ward 2 runoff election.

Being for the "right" candidates (whomever a citizen or a committee perceives them to be) is not all that there is. Doing so for good and consistent and transparent reasons — and not being just plain dirt-red dirty — are also part of the mix of what makes up responsible campaigns and campaigners.

For further reading, see Michael Bates' Shadowy 527 jumps into Oklahoma City election. Among other things, he opines,
It's obvious enough that there's some project that someone wants pushed through. Perhaps they want to steer funding to a favored developer or general contractor. Control over the Core-to-Shore redevelopment area might be involved. Voters just gave city government a big pot of money to play with, so it would be worth investing money in a campaign to get control of it.

Perhaps they want to clear away urban design and historic preservation obstacles, the sort that slowed down the undevelopment of Sandridge Commons -- tearing down historic structures, like the India Temple building, which once housed the State Legislature, for a 1960s-style open plaza, the sort that has never worked as a public place. Historic preservation has played a key, but underappreciated, role in Oklahoma City's resurgence, while too many people believe that the city's momentum comes from magically transferring money from citizens to contractors and basketball team owners.
And exemplar mailer by Momentum in the Ward 2 runoff is shown below:

To see more of Momentum's Ward 2 mailers, click here.

Addendum. On March 24, Momentum filed with the City Clerk its first Form C-1, the form used to report contributions and expenditures. This filing reflects activity from February 16 through March 20, barely over one month's time. As you see below, $415,000 was contributed, all from "A Better Oklahoma City, Inc.," and $409,764.17 was expended. The particular expenditures are not broken down by wards. The one-page report barely fills says very little else. Click on the image for a larger view.

Both the Oklahoma Gazette (March 28) and Oklahoman (March 29) have written articles looking as deeply as can be done into Momentum's hidden structure — but that's not very far at all. The real, the nitty-gritty, detail, is protected from disclosure under the law.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

OKC Thunder: Is 2010-2011 the Year of the Perfect Storm?

Well, here we are, Oklahoma City, mid-March 2011, as we approach the end of the 3rd season of the Oklahoma City Thunder. And what a year it's been.

When I made the March 8 projections shown below the Thunder were 39-23 and had 20 regular season games left to play. Three games later, we are 42-23. After the Thunder's 1st season in Oklahoma City, 2008-2009, which ended with a record of 23-59, projections were that it would take at least two more seasons before the Thunder would be a playoff team. Instead, at the end of the 2009-2010 season the Thunder's record was (to everyone's amazement) 50-32 and we gave the Lakers a heck of a run in round one of the Western Conference playoffs. On March 13 as this article is posted, at 42-23 we are the 4th seed in the Western Conference of the NBA, behind San Antonio (54-12), Dallas (47-19), and the Los Angeles Lakers (47-20).
We are, perhaps, witnessing precisely the above imagery presented in ESPN Magazine's November 2010 graphic portrayal of the Thunder as, "The Perfect Storm" (above). Consider the remaining schedule, home and away, and see if there may be truth in such a bodacious description.
I posted my March 8 projections for the remainder of regular season at ... since that posting, 3 of those final regular season games have already been played, as noted by the red check-marks in the right column (which will update through the remainder of the regular season) ... and note that last night, March 16, the Thunder defeated the Heat in a game I picked us to lose so, as of the moment, the Thunder have won 5 in a row and have 44 wins a game sooner than I expected.

As you can see, I am a bit of a homer, as I see only one clear loss in the games after March 8 (Miami on March 16). I even pick us to win the Lakers game IN Los Angeles on April 10 since I figure that the Thunder will be on such a roll that the unthinkable will become fact. But, to temper my projections, I've thrown in a 3-game discount factor to project a regular season record of at least 55-27. Is this a silly homer's dream, or is, in fact, 2010-2011 the year of The Perfect Storm?

Some Background. The Thunder has become a, if not THE, recognized model in NBA circles about how to rebuild a team that needs to be. We've been on magazine covers. We've received kudos from just about every press source in the country. We've become one of the powerhouse teams in the Western Conference of the NBA. How can this be? How is it that, in only its 3rd year in the NBA, the Thunder is regarded as a model for how to do things right?

Consider just three recent examples:

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 2011
Collins wants his Sixers to be like Thunder
By Marc Narducci

      When Doug Collins [head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers] looks at his 76ers team, he sees the Oklahoma City Thunder. At least he hopes that is what his squad will become.
      The 76ers had just lost a hard-fought, 110-105 overtime decision to the Thunder on Wednesday before 19,283 charged-up fans at the Wells Fargo Center, and Collins gave the victors their due by stating his goal to emulate them.
      "I want to use that as a blueprint for us," Collins said. "I want us to be built like Oklahoma City was built."
Akron Beacon Journal, March 12, 2011
Cavaliers look to Thunder for inspiration
By Jason Lloyd

      The blueprint for how the Cavaliers want to construct this rebuilding project will walk into Quicken Loans Arena this afternoon. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the franchise the Cavaliers are modeling as they put the wheels back on basketball in Cleveland.
* * *
      In all, it has taken four seasons to put it together. But after the trade for Perkins, Sports Illustrated identified the Thunder as one of five teams on the rise in the NBA.
Washington Post, March 13, 2011
Wizards hope to copy ‘Oklahoma City model’ in Washington
By Michael Lee

      In Oklahoma City, the Washington Wizards see a team they would like to be; one that recognized the need to start over from scratch and reached relevance after an initially gruesome beginning. The Thunder (42-23) has yet to win a championship or a playoff series for that matter, but it already has created a team-building strategy that is referred to around the league as “the Oklahoma City model.”
      It took advantage of lottery luck, established and cultivated a core of young talent, made shrewd trades to accumulate draft picks and/or prospects, created financial flexibility and used discretion in free agency. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis often references how the Thunder assembled quality talent around Durant as an example of what he would like to duplicate in Washington around No. 1 overall pick John Wall.

The Remaining Regular Season Schedule. By "remaining," I mean games after March 8 for the 1st 3 games, when the predictions were posted. For the rest, I'm using games after this article is posted on March 13.
  • @ Philadelphia 76ers: 33-30 (we already won this game)
  • Detroit: 23-42 (we already won this game)
  • @ Cleveland: 12-53 (we already won this game)
  • @ Washington: 16-48; we've done very well against Eastern Conference foes on the road and at home; 1-0 vs. Wizards
  • @ Miami: 43-24; this is the one I see as a probable road loss; 0-1 vs. Heat
  • Charlotte: 28-38; a good team but a home game for us; 1-0 vs. Bobcats
  • Toronto: 18-43; home game for Thunder; 0-1 vs. Raptors
  • Utah: 34-33; a solid team but we've got their number; home game; 2-1 vs. Jazz
  • Minnesota:17-51; home game for Thunder; 3-0 vs. TWolves
  • Portland: 37-29; very good team but home game for Thunder; 2-0 against Blazers
  • Phoenix: 33-31; a good team but this is our home game; 2-1 vs. Sun
  • @ Portland: 37-29; this may be one of my misses, a home game for Portland; 2-0 vs. Blazers
  • @ Clippers: 26-41; Blake Griffin or not, this is our game; 1-1 vs. Clippers
  • @ Denver: 39-27; Carmello Anthony is gone and so is Denver's advantage; 1-1 vs. Nuggets
  • Clippers: 26-41: Double-dittos, above
  • Denver: 39-27: Double-ditto the above, at home; 1-1 vs. Nuggets
  • @ Lakers: 47-20; even though a Lakers' home game, I'm figuring the Thunder-roll is pretty much unstoppable and a win for the Thunder; 0-2 vs. Lakers
  • @ Sacramento: 15-49; another road win for the Thunder; 3-0 vs. Kings
  • Milwaukee: 26-39; last game of regular season, at home; 1-0- vs. Bucks
There you have it ... A Perfect Storm! The final 20 games of the regular season can easily be seen as being between 19-16 wins, which would be a huge roll into the playoffs.

Playoffs. If seeding remains "as is" in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City at 4th seed, the Thunder's opponent in the 1st round of the playoffs would be the 5th seed (and the same would be true, juxtaposed, if Oklahoma City slips to 5th seed). Oklahoma City has much more of a lock on the 4th seed than does any other team on the 5th. As this is written on March 13, the relevant Western Conference data is shown below:

Team & SeedRecordGames Back
(1) San Antonio Spurs54-12--
(2) Dallas Mavericks47-197.0
(3) Los Angeles Lakers47-207.5
(4) Oklahoma City Thunder42-2311.5
(5) Denver Nuggets39-2715.0
(6) New Orleans Hornets39-2916.0
(7) Portland Trail Blazers37-2917.0
(8) Memphis Grizzlies36-3118.5

Home Court Advantage. Again, assuming that Oklahoma City retains its 4th seed and the above teams presently ranked 5th through 8th seeds continue to be seeded,
  • If Denver is the 5th seed: Home court advantage undetermined; the teams are 1-1 against each other and 2 games remain to be played
  • If New Orleans is the 5th seed: Oklahoma City will have home court advantage, they being 3-1 vs. New Orleans
  • If Portland is the 5th seed: Home court advantage undetermined; the Thunder is 2-0, but 2 games are yet to be played
  • If Memphis is the 5th seed: Memphis will have home court advantage, Memphis having won 2 of 3 games vs. the Thunder
But, however you cut it, barring a total meltdown by the Thunder which will almost certainly not happen, the Thunder has an excellent chance of advancing to the 2nd playoff round this season to play ... to be determined.

Wishing and hoping beyond that level I am not willing to do. Bad Karma.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Okc City Council Election Day — What's Right With This Picture?

On the eve of today's election, I finally checked my daily mail late yesterday afternoon. I live in Ward 6 in Mesta Park, and in Al McAffrey's state legislative district. The above is the back side of an interesting flier that I received which was produced by the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, a PAC group presumably made up of chamber individual and corporate members.

Left Panel

Center Panel

Right Panel

What is so "right" about this card?

McAffrey is a progressive democrat and is very popular in my neighborhood, Mesta Park. He is admittedly gay in his sexual orientation. Cornett, the city's very popular mayor, is known to be a republican. I really don't know what political party Meg Salyer belongs to and I don't care to know. But in a non-partisan election in which all three all pulling for the common good of the city, this combo really feels nice to me and is a comfort. It typifies what a non-partisan election is supposed to be about — regardless of where a candidate may fall within the city's political spectrum, they all are pulling for the same thing: progressive city leadership for not just streets, police and fire but more: the improvement of the quality of life in our city.

Front Side

The front page boldly says that this is "the most important city council election in decades," and I wholly concur with that statement.

Here's a very good 22-minute interview of Meg Salyer from KTOK-Radio's Gwin Faulconer-Lipprert Show this past Sunday evening. You definitely know what you're getting if you vote for this candidate, which I just did.

Go vote, today.

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