| Posted: Monday, May 7th, 2012 | Comments (0)
Corporation Commission Race
By: Constitution Staff
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates oil and gas drilling, electric and gas utilities, trucking, pipelines, and telecommunications in Oklahoma. There are three Corporation Commission seats with six-year staggered terms. Dana Murphy was reelected in 2010. Patrice Douglas of Edmond was appointed by Governor Mary Fallin as an interim replacement for Commissioner Jeff Cloud who resigned before the end of his term. Since Cloud’s term was not up until 2014, there was an election scheduled this year to fill the remaining two years of his term. Douglas was the only candidate to file so she is automatically elected. The third seat is up for election this year. Bob Anthony is seeking reelection to that seat and faces a Republican primary with Commission administrator, Brooks Mitchell. No other candidates filed, so the winner of the Anthony-Mitchell primary will be elected.
Anthony is the grandson of C. R. Anthony, the founder of one of Oklahoma’s greatest department store chains. In 1988, Anthony decided to run for a position on the Commission, which the state Constitution gives the power to regulate certain public monopolies, such as utility companies. He won that race easily, and has been reelected by large margins in subsequent elections in 1994, 2000, and 2006.
While very popular within the Republican Party, Anthony has won amazing support across the electorate. In 2006, in a year in which Republicans were suffering many statewide losses, Bob Anthony was the lone Republican to win a statewide race.
This is not surprising, since Anthony demonstrated his own integrity and high character during the Corporation Commission scandal of the early 90s.
When Anthony was first elected in 1988, the Commission was a cesspool of corruption. William “Tator” Anderson, a utilities lobbyist, was apparently bribing corporation commissioners, and he attempted to bribe Anthony.
Anthony consulted a friend from junior high school, Bill Price, who was then a federal attorney. Price asked Anthony to allow the FBI to “wire” him in a sting operation. Anthony’s undercover work for the FBI won him a special award from the Bureau and enabled federal prosecutors to send Anderson and a Corporation Commissioner to prison.
At the time of his election, Anthony was the lone Republican on the Commission. Since that time, he has been joined by other Republicans. Six years ago, Anthony defeated Cody Graves, who had previously held one of the three posts on the Commission, having been appointed in 1991 by Democrat Governor David Walters.
When the Oklahoma Legislature voted to raise the pay of the commissioners, Anthony was concerned that the increase for sitting commissioners was unconstitutional. He sought an opinion of the attorney general, who agreed with Anthony. Anthony’s own pay was cut by the ruling he had requested, but Graves quit the Commission over the pay cut.
This year, Anthony’s only opposition will come in the Republican primary. Brooks Mitchell was hired by former Commissioner Jeff Cloud, as an aide. He later took a job at the Commission as director of the Petroleum Storage Tank Division. Finally, Mitchell was appointed director of administration at the Commission.
Oddly, Mitchell is making better administration of the Commission a campaign theme, yet that was his job for some time as the chief administrator. In an apparent jab at Anthony, Mitchell said in his announcement that a commissioner needs to be able to work with “the other two commissioners.” Of course, Anthony’s work with the FBI sent a fellow commissioner to prison. Anthony’s insistence on honest government has drawn him powerful enemies in the state, including some fellow Republicans that could be classified as “crony capitalists.” This dedication to root out corruption, and his work for the consumers of Oklahoma in opposition to the monopoly interests has even occasionally garnered him opposition from fellow Republicans on the Commission.
One of Mitchell’s most puzzling statements was that the commissioners “be able to work with the Legislature.” Many conservatives in recent years have found problems with state agencies lobbying the Oklahoma Legislature, even using taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists for that purpose.
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