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Open Records: Meeting with the Tulsa Chamber goes from “Absolutely” to “Ugh”

wayne coyne mary fallin

Throughout the week, we'll be posting interesting tidbits, observations and oddities from the of 1.2GB of open records dumped on us and other media outlets this past  Friday. In case you missed it, we already detailed one odd exchange where Mary Fallin's Chief of Staff Denise Northrup complained that a State Senator stared at her breasts during a discussion on Tort Reform.

At least we may post that stuff. In all honesty, most of the records have to do with serious and boring issues that fall more under the scope of enterprise journalism than obscure local social blogging. We'll leave those issues to the big boys that went to journalism school and stuff.

Before we get to today's open record, I want to touch base on a few things.

1. Our partners on this endeavor, the ACLU of Oklahoma, have posted all the information on their website. Go there to check them out.

2. I wish the mean letter the ACLU sent on our behalf had something to do with it, but I think dumping the records on the media on the Friday before Easter was the plan all along. It makes sense. If I wanted to do something controversial, like signing a horse slaughter bill, I'd do it on the Friday before a holiday.

3. Despite the release of records, they still may be violating open records law. The Governor's office withheld about 100 pages of records that we requested. We're going to consult with our partners at the ACLU to determine if their reasoning is valid, and if we should pursue legal action.

4. The Governor's Office misrepresented the amount of records released.  The Governor's office claims they released over 50,000 records, but that's misleading. Basically, they organized the records into 10 PDFs labeled A - J. Each PDF contained about 5,000 records or so. While skimming through the files, I noticed a few things. One, many of the same records appeared on multiple CDs. I'm not exactly sure of their reasoning for that. Also, many of the records were angry constituent emails, meeting presentations and press releases. And once again, many of the same documents were in the various PDFS. I don't know how many individual records were released, but I know it wasn't 50,000.

5. Chief of Staff Denise Northrup's favorite bad word is "shit." Attention people older than 27! Remember back in elementary school when you'd look up bad words in the dictionary only to see that some other kid had already circled the word? Well, I was that kid! Anyway, one of the first things I did when I got my hands on these records was search for bad words. "Shit" came up like 5,000 times and I think they were all from Northrup. Actually, it wasn't the often, but so many of the same emails appeared in various PDFs that it just felt that way. And by the way, "Shit" was probably the worst bad word in the records. Nobody used ******* or **** or !@#$%&.

Anyway, today's open record has to do with an email exchange between Northrup and former House Speaker and current Tulsa Chamber Senior VP Chris Benge. He wanted to talk to the Governor about the possibility of accepting Medicaid funding. It's kind of humorous:

Here's the exchange between Northrup and Benge:

Northrup Screen 2

What's wrong with that? She just replied "Absolutely" to an email from a powerful business and political figure.

Well, check out the email that Northrup sent Katie Altshuler, Fallin's Policy Director, the following Monday.

Northrup Screen Shot 1

Couple of things:

1. I think we've all sent similar emails. Hell, I know we have. It's just kind of funny seeing that the people who run our state do the same thing.

2. Why did she send the "Ugh." Does she know that expanding Medicaid was the right move for Oklahoma, and that the Tulsa Chamber wanting to pitch an expansion of it would put pressure on the Governor to chose between tea party wacko politics or doing what's right for Oklahoma people and business, or is's probably that. Or maybe she got him confused with Eddie Fields.

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