Arnold Hamilton, the editor/owner of the Oklahoma Observer, was the guest speaker at the October 17th Creek County Democratic Party meeting at Freddie’s Steakhouse and BBQ in Sapulpa.
The Oklahoma Observer has been the state’s only intellectual journal of free voices for 51 years. Focusing on political and social issues within government and society, the Observer’s valiant effort to expose hypocrisy and public corruption has earned the publication the reputation as “The conscience of Oklahoma.”
Hamilton began his talk speaking about the upcoming 35 percent pay raise for Oklahoma legislators. “ You can make a compelling, or at least a reasonable argument that a salary increase could be a good thing.” He asserted that the current salary does not attract the best candidates, it attracts candidates that view the position as a stepping stone to something bigger, and that “Makes them particularly susceptible to special interests.”
The veteran journalist said “I see this as a moment where we have a real opportunity to change Oklahoma for the better.” He proffered a scenario where the Oklahoma taxpayers agree to the $1,000 a month increase with some caveats.
“First of all, no special interest gifts for legislators….That levels or begins to help level the playing field.” Hamilton lamented the influence that the “big-money” special interests had over the legislature and that the average citizen had a more difficult time gaining an audience with his or her legislator.
The second proposal that Hamilton made was that there should be a two year “cooling off “ period for legislators. This means that a legislator could not be a lobbyist for at least two years after leaving office. This has been twice rejected by the state legislature.
The third caveat was to abolish leadership PACS. Hamilton explained that the House and Senate leadership sets up political action committees and they turn to special interest groups to contribute large amounts of money, which is doled out to candidates who leadership wishes to be elected, “It’s all about political power.” Hamilton submits that Oklahomans should rise up and demand that these changes be made in exchange for the pay increase. “Maybe we’ve got a chance to begin to lift that thumb off the scale, and create a fairer public policy process.”
Hamilton concluded by giving examples of special interest groups persuading legislators and the governor to make policy to benefit them, not the average Oklahoman.
The next meeting of the Creek County Democratic Party will be January 15th, at 6 p.m., at Joseph’s in Drumright.