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Comments by the Oklahoman Editorial Board are reason for concern

The Oklahoman Editorial Board recently published an opinion piece called “Comments by Oklahoma Bar Association president are reason for concern.” The Editorial Board is concerned that the Oklahoma Bar Association has too much influence and is “too ideologically left-wing” to have that influence. Or rather, “critics” are concerned about this. Who these critics are remains a mystery.

The influence the Bar has is the ability to select 6 of the 15 members of the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which is the group that presents candidates for nomination to state appellate courts to the governor. The other 9 members come from a few sources: 6 of them are appointed directly by the governor, 1 is appointed by the Speaker of the House, 1 is appointed by the Senate pro tem, and 1 is voted in by the other members of the commission.  This means that, as it stands now, the commission is completely controlled by the Oklahoma Republican Party, as the simple majority required for all commission decisions is guaranteed to stand for the foreseeable future.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Bar appointees actually matter. What is it that the Oklahoman is so afraid of?

Isaacs [Bar President] is quoted saying Pruitt’s nomination is “the worst thing in the history of our environment! We are in danger. The whole country is in danger. Our kids are in danger. People have got to do something about the Citizens United decision that is turning our country into an oligarchy, run by oil-and-gas interests.”

The New Yorker indirectly quotes Isaacs as saying Trump “has outsourced his environmental policy to the Republican Party’s most powerful private donors — the oil-and-gas magnates who have funded Pruitt’s campaigns in Oklahoma.”

There’s a lot packed into those statements. Safe to say they indicate an extremist view of environmental issues that is out of sync with most Oklahomans, as well as hostility toward a large share of state residents who work in the energy industry [emphasis mine].

The Oklahoman says it’s “safe to say” that Isaacs holds an “extremist view of environmental issues” and “hostility” toward energy workers. This kind of despicable nonsense is exactly why distrust of the media is at an all-time high. Scott Pruitt quite literally takes his orders directly from energy lobbyists. The super PAC Liberty 2.0, which runs out of Pruitt’s office, took about half of its donations from the energy industry. Anyone who informs themselves knows that Pruitt is a cheerleader for the energy companies. It is not an “extremist view” to believe that oil and gas companies should not be deciding our environmental policies. It is particularly shameful for the Oklahoman to act like opposing corporate control of the government somehow demonstrates hostility toward energy workers. Energy workers will not see any benefit from relaxing our environmental laws, but they will endure the same polluted air and water that the rest of us will. The only people who will benefit are the boards of directors and the major shareholders for the oil and gas companies.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board continues:

Isaacs’ comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision suggest unwillingness to accept settled law and a lack of support for the First Amendment free speech rights upheld by that decision.

The Citizens United decision is opposed by 80% of Americans. To call it settled law is a bit premature. To call Isaacs’ opposition to that decision “lack of support for the First Amendment” is just insulting. Citizens United enshrined the ability for for-profit corporations to spend as much money as they wish in influencing the government, so long as they do it “independently.” In the case of Scott Pruitt, being independent means that the headquarters of his super PAC is in his hometown office. How that supports freedom of speech is a magic trick that most of us cannot understand. This paragraph really makes it clear: the right to engage in blatant corruption is apparently something the Oklahoman proudly supports.

Thus, it’s not unreasonable for critics to ask if an organization led by a man espousing such views can be trusted to nominate judges who will be impartial and decide cases based on the law, not political leanings.

…if attorneys believe their role in judicial nominations should be preserved, it would help if their leadership wasn’t voicing views far outside Oklahoma’s mainstream.

Never mind the fact that the Editorial Board spent a good deal of their article lying about a private citizen. Never mind the fact that the members of the Bar vote on the appointees. Never mind the fact that opposing corruption is not outside Oklahoma’s mainstream. The Oklahoman Editorial Board, or rather, “critics” (God only knows who they could be) are asking “if an organization led by a man espousing such views can be trusted to nominate judges who will be impartial and decide cases based on the law, not political leanings.” Their implication is that the lawyers of our state are unreliable when it comes to the law, and somehow the politicians are not at all politically motivated. I think it goes without saying that this is absurd, and I think one would have to be pretty naive to think that the writers of this article don’t know that.

What could be their motivation in writing such a slanderous and malicious article? It’s not unreasonable for critics to ask if an organization led by people espousing such views can be trusted to be impartial and print the news based on the facts, not political leanings.

Published on December 22, 2016.

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