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Councilman Ed Shadid calls out Devon CEO Larry Nichols…

8:30 AM EDT on August 1, 2011

During last spring's city council elections, a controversial 527 organization called "The Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum" spent $400,000 to influence local city council campaigns. The campaign was controversial because it used clichéd and misleading negative campaign tactics, shattered a record for city council campaign spending and the actual source of the money was a mystery.

Well, consider the $400,000 mystery to be (possibly) solved. In a recent city council meeting, Councilman Ed Shadid — one of the biggest victims (and beneficiaries) of the negative campaigning — claims he knows where the money came from.

From a story in the Oklahoma Gazette:

Shadid also stated during today’s meeting that one of the most powerful men in Oklahoma City was behind a much-criticized election campaign and held sway over many of the important decisions made in the city. Shadid named Devon Energy Executive Chairman Larry Nichols as one of the driving forces behind this year’s City Council elections...

Shadid said Nichols, who sits on multiple public boards and subcommittees, wields an enormous amount of power, and expressed concern that it was not good for a democracy that only a few high-powered individuals make decisions that affect everyone.

“Everyone indicates Larry Nichols is a very good man who deeply loves Oklahoma City, that he for me personally would be a tremendous ally for building density and walkability and a healthy city, but he and the people around him are engaging in policy making the way a surgeon does surgery: They’re telling everyone what to do and then executing,” said Shadid, a spinal surgeon. “It’s not particularly democratic. You can have a benevolent plutocracy, you could agree that what he is doing is best for the city, but it’s still a plutocracy and not a representative democracy.”

Here are some thoughts:

• First of all, this news isn't very surprising. I think most everyone figured the money came from the pockets of one of Oklahoma City's super wealthy elite. I guess I'm just surprised it only came from one of them.

Then again, Larry Nichols never seems to fit in with the downtown billionaire boy's club. Just look at his name. It's Larry. That's the same name of your uncle's best friend who paints houses for a living. The other guys have names like Aubrey, Clayton, Jeffrey and Thomas. Those are the same names found on a majority of all polo teams throughout the country.

• Councilman Shadid brings up some great points as to why it's bad for one person to wield so much power in one election, but then again, I think the over-aggressive negative campaigning by The Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum worked out to Shadid's advantage.

No lie, after I received my 10th postcard and 8th robo-call from Charlie Swinton — the person backed by Nichol's money — I was pretty sure he wasn't receiving my vote. I would have voted for George Bush, Sally Kern or one of you "clever" f*ckers who likes to complain about my typos before voting for him.

• Don't you love the Oklahoman's coverage of all this? Wait. They really haven't reported anything about it. If you are wondering why, check out this quote from Arnold Hamilton in the Expert Panel Q&A from last June:

The [Oklahoman] paper still is all about protecting its friends and punishing its enemies, often via decisions on what to publish and where (page one or buried?) and what to ignore. In fact, there is a case to be made that the Oklahoman is worse than ever because it is more sophisticated at concealing its biases. It takes more work than most Oklahoman readers are willing to invest to determine what was edited out of stories (but appeared in other papers or on-line media), what was left out of the Oklahoman altogether but given significant attention in other media, etc

One could argue that Hamilton's point is proven with the lack of coverage on this story, but I don't think so. I just think there are better things to publish. You know, like how some conservative businessmen are trying to get rich off natural gas or the sad confessions of Oklahoma City cab drivers.

• Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Nichol's ever admits he funded the controversial and negative campaigns, and if the group tries to influence the next round of civic elections. I guess I should hope he does. I may need some funding when I finally run for mayor.

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