I posted recently about how no big-name Democrats have emerged to challenge Republicans for top statewide positions in the upcoming 2014 elections.
Beyond overcoming what we might call the “Obama-effect”-the president remains deeply unpopular here among many Oklahomans-Democrats must also deal with Oklahoma’s conservative corporate power structure, which pretty much aligns itself with Republicans and their political strategy to demean anything the president supports.
That’s no more apparent than in the recent announcement that Harold Hamm, pictured right, chief executive officer of Continental Resources, Inc., an Oklahoma City energy company, will serve as Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s honorary campaign chairman in the 2014 election.
Hamm, as you might recall, served as presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy advisor in 2012 in a losing and abysmal campaign that openly and arrogantly privileged the wealthy over the middle class. Hamm’s certainly not one of the 47 percent of Americans Romney denigrated in his famous talk at a $50,000 per person fundraiser during the campaign. Forbes indicates Hamm’s net worth is $11.3 billion.
It’s probably worth noting that a Wall Street Journal article in May outlined some of “the close ties between Mr. Hamm’s private interests and the public company he runs,” just as “investors have become increasingly wary of close ties between energy companies and their executives.” The article also pointed out investor concerns with Aubrey McClendon at Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Tom Ward at Sandridge Energy, Inc. Both McClendon and Ward left those companies after shareholders expressed worries about possible conflicts.
That type of information, as far as I can tell, didn’t make it in the local stories about Hamm’s appointment, but would it even matter?
Pruitt, pictured left, serves as a type of personal attorney for the energy industry in Oklahoma, leading the charge among 12 states in suing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for basically sticking to its own rules and regulations. Pruitt has also sued the EPA after it rejected a weak state plan to reduce coal plant emissions.
Pruitt is quick to pull the trigger when it comes to suing the EPA, putting corporate interests above the environment. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has been under environmental scrutiny for hydraulic fracturing drilling methods, which critics claim pollute water supplies and cause earthquakes. Pruitt is more than just friendly to energy companies. Essentially, he’s using taxpayers’ money to advocate on the behalf of these companies in his lawsuits against the EPA. But doesn’t the state also need to worry about safe drinking water? Isn’t that a more compelling use of taxpayer money?
Of course, helping out energy companies is nothing new for Oklahoma politicians, but the Hamm and Pruitt connection takes it to a level of “in-your-face” openness that goes unchallenged in the corporate media here.
Hamm also recently came out openly and strongly in favor of continued tax breaks for horizontal drilling in the state. No surprise there necessarily, but Hamm’s political activism and his personal wealth makes it seem swarmy and depressing. How can an average person have any influence in the political process in Oklahoma or anywhere for that matter? The ultra wealthy control our political processes, and it truly threatens our democracy.
So that’s what Oklahoma Democrats are up against, along with the bizarre Obama hysteria, and that’s why it will be difficult for them to challenge the GOP in 2014 for top statewide offices.