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More (Political) Red Means Less Green For Oklahoma; Feds Table Tribal Recycling

President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk in the Oval Office following their Nov. 29, 2012 lunch.
Pete Souza
The White House
President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk in the Oval Office following their Nov. 29, 2012 lunch.

For the past three presidential election cycles, Oklahoma has cemented its status as the “reddest of the red states.” No Democratic presidential candidate has won a single county in Oklahoma since Al Gore in 2000, and in 2004 neither incumbent President George W. Bush nor Democratic nominee John Kerry visited the state nor spent any advertising dollars here.

Oklahoma received only $1,300 in ad revenue from national GOP and Democratic organizations during the 2012 election cycle, according to campaign finance data analyzed by FairVote and The Journal Record's Brian Brus:

And FairVote noted that while the national parties held 73 campaign events in Ohio and 40 in Florida, they didn’t bother with one such event in Oklahoma that season. “There’s no reason for a Democratic presidential candidate to step foot in Oklahoma, especially if his name is Barack Obama,” said Richard Johnson, political science professor at Oklahoma City University. “I think we overgeneralize when it comes to the presidential nominating campaign. There will be Democrats who come to Oklahoma to stump for delegates, so we will attract some campaign funds, at least,” he said. “But there’s no doubt that the money is being concentrated in competitive states. New Hampshire and Iowa definitely do retail politics better than Oklahoma does.”

The Journal Record’s managing editor Adam Brooks says this type of political hegemony can make it easy to form public policy, but it can also push people to extremes.

“The Brookings Institution also said that the solid red states get 15 percent fewer federal grants than the swing states,” Brooks said. “And it might be breaking out into open warfare here in Oklahoma.”

And those cracks are forming. On Wednesday, state Rep. Paul Wesselfhoft issued a statement saying the Oklahoma State Chamber was actively targeting him, according to The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt:

The representative argued he faced an opponent recruited and funded by the Chamber, as did state Sen. Josh Brecheen of Colgate, state Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie and El Reno state Rep. Dan Fisher, all Republicans. “The State Chamber has long not been an ally of conservative Republicans,” Wesselhoft wrote. “Therefore, I call upon those business members who pay dues to the State Chamber to urge the firing of their inept CEO Fred Morgan who crossed the political and ethical lines of a lobbyist organization.” The [chamber] did not immediately respond to Wesselhoft’s claims.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials meet with tribal leaders at the Regional Tribal Operations Committee meeting Wednesday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa.
Credit Rip Stell / The Journal Record
The Journal Record
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials meet with tribal leaders at the Regional Tribal Operations Committee meeting Wednesday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa.

Federal Action Jeopardizes Tribal Recycling

Last week tribal officials and federal regulators met in Catoosa to discuss an Environmental Protection Agency rule change that could shut down many Native American recycling programs.

Brooks says under new EPA rules, tribes can’t use federal money to start recycling programs, nor used to collect, sort, or transport material.

“It's not a cut in money, but it's just a new restriction on the use,” Brooks said. “It can be used for HR and financial management of recycling programs, but the tribes say you can't really do one without the other.”

During last week’s meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino just outside of Tulsa, Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend argued the EPA grants used to run the recycling programs are essential to many federally recognized tribes, The Journal Record’sSarah Terry-Cobo reports:

Those initiatives are important in rural areas, Friend said, because they help citizens cut household costs. Without those programs, people could turn to dumping trash or burning garbage in their backyards, which could pose contamination risks.

Wes Davis, director of the Modoc Tribe’s Office of Environmental Quality, said the rule change could possibly have immediate and long-term negative effects on his recycling program. He has received EPA funding since at least 2007 for his tribe’s recycling program. Before the program, he also dealt with illegal garbage dumping and backyard burning.

“Decisions being made in Washington directly affect Modoc people,” Davis said.

But the tribes could have some recourse, thanks to a two decade-old White House action.

President Clinton signed an executive order that said the government must conduct formal consultation with tribes before changing rules that affect them,” Brooks said. “Friend is optimistic that regional EPA officials will pass his concerns up the chain, and that the decision will be reversed.”


The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.

As a community-supported news organization, KGOU relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

The Journal Record is a multi-faceted media company specializing in business, legislative and legal news. Print and online content is available via subscription.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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