Originally published in the Newcastle Pacer, June 10, 2010.
We asked for it.
We wanted our legislators to really know the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold, didn’t we?
But which is worse: Having a Federal government that would just as soon forget the Constitution entirely, or a state government that knows it well enough to work the system to its every advantage?
In conservative Oklahoma, every successful talk radio show, editorial page and commentator broadcast is dedicated to deriding the Obama administration for policies that are described as everything from liberal to Marxist.
But last week, a bombshell hit the state Capitol and our neighbor to the north when Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater announced Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) and two others would be the focus of a multi-county grand jury investigation.
At issue is whether Terrill and others conspired to create a new $80,000 position for Sen. Debbe Leftwich (D-Oklahoma City) at the state Medical Examiner’s office in exchange for vacating her Senate seat so Rep. Mike Christian (R-Oklahoma City) could run without incumbent opposition.
The position would have been ternporary, only three years, but enough to nearly double Leftwich’s state retirement package when she allegedly finished.
But to get around a Constitutional ban on legislators taking state-funded positions for at least two years after leaving office, Prater alleges conspirators wrote legislation funding the job from wire- transfer transaction fees, a fund Terrill created last year.
Since the money would come from fees and not from state tax revenues, they may have believed Leftwich would be eligible for the position, Prater said.
Gov. Brad Henry has since vetoed both the bill that created the position and the
bill that provided the funding for it.
So at least we know that, despite the attacks on open meetings, open records
and government transparency this session, the legislators really do know the
Constitution. They know it well enough to allegedly dodge every snare and real-
ize every loophole.
I mean, I get it. Imagine what you could get accomplished if you could just
hand pick all the legislators you wanted to work for you at the Capitol, without
all the interference from those jerks that don’t see things the way you do. It
sounds great to me.
Unfortunately, that’s one part of the Constitution on which our lawmakers
need to brush up.
I have a Constitutional right to be a jerk if I want to. And so do you.
If these three, and possibly many more, really did conspire to stack the deck in the next election, then they violated the spirit of the Constitution, if not
Let the District Attorney and the grand jury do their work. That’s what they were designed for.
And watch out for the next names to come out of Prater’s hat. Politics can make strange bedfellows.