Transparency Needed: Ed Shadid For OKC Ward 2

(Here’s some information about a rally for Dr. Ed Shadid from 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 31 at Picasso’s, 3009 Paseo, Oklahoma City.)

I had intended to remain neutral in the Ward 2 Oklahoma City Council race between local physician Dr. Ed Shadid and Charlie Swinton, but that was before a shadowy, secret group started viciously attacking Shadid with bogus, clichéd right-wing mailers.

I urge everyone in Ward 2 to vote for Shadid on Tuesday, April 5 for many reasons, but mainly because at least we know who has supported him and what he stands for. We know who he is. At this point, Swinton and some of his major, anonymous backers, don’t pass a political “smell” test when it comes to transparency or openness.

Basically, some undisclosed people spouting the right-wing mantra want Swinton elected and are willing to spend money to make sure it happens, using their money to fund typical fear-mongering tactics that denigrate some basic Democratic Party ideals and positions. The only possible reason they’re doing this is they believe Swinton will do their bidding. What else could it be?

Swinton says he “detests” what’s happening, “but it’s something we have to live with,” according to the Oklahoma Gazette. But we don’t have to just live with it. We can speak out against these undemocratic actions in clear, unqualified terms. Swinton, for example, could have withdrawn from the race once the anonymous attacks against his opponent began.

The Shadid-Swinton race is getting skewed by attacks generated against Shadid by a group known as the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, which gets at least some funding from an economic development group created by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. But, according to a report in The Gazette, Momentum has so far been able to hide some its specific donors, adding “another layer of secrecy to the flow of money.”

The chamber economic development group, Forward Oklahoma City IV, donated money to one organization, which then gave it to Momentum, according to the report. As The Gazette pointed out, donors listed on the Forward Oklahoma City IV site include “Devon Energy, Love’s, the Chickasaw Nation, OGE, Sandridge Energy, Chesapeake Energy, American Fidelity Corporation, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Oklahoma Publishing Co. and Dorchester Capital.” But it’s unclear whether these companies directly contributed to the organization A Better Oklahoma City that then contributed the money to Momentum. In any event, it’s all apparently legal, but it seems like an obvious attempt to hide information from the public.

Is this the future of local politics? We won’t know the specific people funding campaigns? In the future, will everyone here have to ascribe to a right-wing philosophy (or at least fake it) in order to get elected even when it comes to a council race in Oklahoma City Ward 2, which has its fair share of progressives, including state Sen. Andrew Rice? (Rice recently announced his support for Shadid.) The larger, future implications are enormous, and all Democrats should think twice before allowing the right-wing here to dictate the terms of any election, but especially in this city ward.

Let’s consider a Momentum mailer titled “Birds of a Feather Flock Together.” It claims, among other things, Shadid, who has run as an independent candidate for office in the past, has a “Left-Wing Flock,” which includes a relationship with consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the Sierra Club, labeled incredibly by the mailer as an “environmental ‘extremist’ group.” Look, I’m as frustrated as any Democrat that Nader chose to run for president in 2000, which led to the election of former President George W. Bush, but Nader is a respected consumer advocate and writer who has fought for middle class people his entire life. The Sierra Club is a mainstream environmentalist organization that has broad support. The mailer also makes sweeping claims about Shadid’s support for the Green Party’s agenda, and “big” labor unions—he does support firefighters and police officers—and the always nebulous “Out-of-State Special Interests Groups.” None of this has anything to do with Oklahoma City, all of it is exaggerated, and the mailer itself is from a sneaky, shadowy “special interest” group. The mailer is about itself really.

Another Momentum mailer, known as the Grid mailer, which essentially is just a reframing of the “Birds of a Feather” mailer, argues Shadid is “too extreme” for Oklahoma City because, well, he’s a “vegetarian” and lives in a “solar-powered house.” A lot of people are vegetarians and a lot of people would love to live in a solar-power house. What in the world is inherently wrong or ultra-liberal about this? Are vegetarians under attack here in the land of extreme obesity and poor medical outcomes when compared to national averages? (Here’s the front of the mailer. Here’s the back of the mailer.)

The “Birds of a Feather” mailer claims “Shadid has aligned himself with organizations that seek to stop and reverse MAPS 3 progress.” But Shadid himself has said, “I support the implementation of all aspects of MAPS 3 as promised to the voters with maximum openness, transparency and public deliberation." Does that read like the words of a radical? Maybe it is radical these days to have “maximum openness” in government.

Shadid supporters have also criticized a telephone push poll, which also tries to frame the candidate as an extremist.

All of this is politics, of course, and if Swinton were standing up for the tactics as an ultra-conservative Democrat in the tradition of U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, then so be it. But he told The Gazette that he didn’t know the backers and operators of Momentum. He said, “I detest it, but it’s something we have to live with. We’re winning without it. I think it’s an influence that we wish didn’t happen, but the Supreme Court (in the Citizens United case) has ruled and it’s part of the democratic process.” So he apparently wants it both ways. He “detests it,” but oh well . . . Will Swinton be this complacent about important issues as a city councilman? Can Ward 2 residents count on him to be upfront about what’s going on the council?

If some Democrats think that demonizing basic progressive principles, principles such as transparency and inclusiveness, with right-wing scare tactics will be helpful to regenerate the state party after its historic, abysmal performance last November, then they need to rethink the issue.

Here’s one thing about ideologues such as Republican state Reps. Sally Kern and Randy Terrill: We know where they stand. Where does Swinton stand? Where will Swinton’s complacency about these right-wing attacks lead in the future?

By sending Shadid to office, Ward 2 voters can make the statement they want open elections in which they know specifically who is backing candidates with large sums of money. What are the interests of these anonymous people who are supporting Swinton and why would they spend so much money? Does anyone stand to benefit financially if Swinton is elected? Do some Democrats here think the financial backers of Momentum are doing it for altruistic reasons?

Shadid would make an excellent councilman. As a physician, he obviously has the intelligence and energy to serve the city well. Born and raised here, he has strong, historic roots in the community, and he cares deeply about the city and its neighborhoods. Above all else, he’s not hiding anything. Who for certain can believe that about Swinton?

Oklahoma City has made a lot of progress in the last decade or so, and Shadid will continue that progress. Who knows what Swinton will do or who will be pulling his strings?