Wednesday, February 14, 2007

100 Ideas: A Thinly Veiled GOP Agenda Tactic

In the world of good ideas the ones that include being straightforward to the voting public and providing full disclosure are the best. However, these ideas aren’t something you’ll see coming from Republican House Speaker Lance Cargill’s 100 Ideas Initiative. Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Lisa Pryor said the 100 ideas ploy, a cheap knock-off from the Florida GOP, is a thinly veiled preview of the Oklahoma Republican legislative agenda and the party’s campaign talking points for 2008.

She said the most disturbing and questionable thing about the alleged “bi-partisan” organization is that Thad Balkman, an ultra-conservative former Republican legislator, is heading the effort at an undisclosed salary. His new executive director salary is a mystery. He said only that it ranges from $38,400 (what he made as a State Representative) and not more than $100,000; in other words, he revealed nothing.

“Now, I’d like to give Lance Cargill and Thad Balkman the benefit of the doubt, that they truly want the best ideas for Oklahoma, but don’t kid yourself, this is really a first step in trying to reshape the Republican Party into something it can never be, the party of the people, progress, and ideas,” Pryor said.

In a recent Tulsa World interview, Balkman indicated that consideration is based on an idea’s agreement with Speaker Cargill’s political philosophy, one which has proved to be on the extreme right wing of his own party. His raw ambition and ideological driven antics were central to his removal as majority floor leader by former Speaker Todd Hiett during the 2006 legislative session.

Balkman also said that the initiative contributors will be identified quarterly, but that those who wish to remain anonymous would be allowed to do so.

“Where is the transparency in that? If great ideas lead to great projects then why all the cloak and dagger tactics?” Pryor said. “A look at the group’s board of advisors shows all registered Republicans, save two lonely spots for a Democrat and an Independent. If gathering this group of extremist ideologists under the guise of benefiting working Oklahoma families is such a great idea, then I ask the House Speaker, why not have your House leadership team openly working on this public project?”

Pryor said the 100 Ideas Initiative is a shadowy and secretive project to keep Republican values like protecting corporate bottom lines in the forefront of the legislative agenda.

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