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Stitt Chooses Political Games Over Halting Walters’ PR Efforts…

Great news, everyone!

State agencies – especially the one in charge of public education – will no longer be able to use taxpayer funds to hire independent PR and communications to push right-wing propaganda and nutjob agency directors to the national media!

Well, at least that's what Governor Kevin Stitt would like you to believe.

Late on Friday night, the Oklahoma political scene did a double-take when Kevin Stitt line-item vetoed a section of the state budget agreement that would have obstructed Ryan Walters' and Matt Langston’s ability to hire their buddy’s PR firms to produce propaganda, only to then turn around 30-minutes later and prohibit all state agencies from engaging in the unethical practice.

From a superficial, headline optics PR perspective, that’s not a bad move by Stitt!

As I mentioned last Monday, he didn’t have anything to gain politically from signing the provision that would have singled out the OSDE and banned the agency from using contracted PR hacks to promote Walters. Not only would it have angered Stitt’s political base, but he’s also a big supporter of Ryan’s effort to privatize public education, so why ruin a good thing?

By issuing his executive order instead, it makes him look like a fair, cost-cutting, ethical conservative who’s above partisan political games, and against any and all wasteful government spending. Unless, of course, it involves a $50-million corporate welfare gift for his donors in the energy industry. Then he’s all for it.

Stitt’s move to veto the section of the agreement, and then issue the executive order, seemed to take most people by surprise.

For example, when news of the veto hit the Friday afternoon social media sphere, Ryan and Matt danced around like Yosemite Sam finding a hidden treasure and shot off this typical statement:

Question – when did Oklahoma become home to millions of parents? Granted, I didn’t learn biblical math at a fancy university like Harding, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that “millions” of our state’s 4-million or so residents don’t currently have children, much less children in Oklahoma public schools. Ryan and Matt should fire the out-of-state PR firm that wrote that!

Although Ryan seemed pumped to stick it to “teachers unions” and “radical RINO leftist Mark McBride,” his reaction was more subdued after Stitt issued the executive order:

That’s cool. If there’s one thing we know about Ryan Langston-Walters it’s that he’s a man of his word and can always be trusted. As he’d tell his AP history students at McAlester High School, he’s as honest as Abraham Lincoln caught cutting down a cherry tree, and would never lie to the Oklahoma people.

Although the executive order looks good from a PR perspective and is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s also a bit toothless and superficial and filled with enough loopholes that any motivated politician, political consultant, or grifter could find a way to crawl through.

For example, agencies are only prohibited from entering into “sole source contracts” with PR firms. Most contracts are already put out for open bids, but with enough qualifiers and provisions to make them sole source contracts. 

PR vendors will also not be allowed to have an “active contract related to any campaign-related matter” or “policy-based 501(c)(4) at the time of their bid submission,” but I’m sure there are plenty of ways lawyers, ghost LLCs, etc., can get around that. 

Even if Stitt’s restrictions limit the ability of contracted propagandists to do their things, I think motivated agency heads will still find ways to get the job done, and more importantly, get Oklahoma taxpayers to pay for it.

For example, instead of doling out $5,000 a month to a DC-based political hack to get them featured in the right-wing media, agency directors can simply go the Stitt route and hire their own pack of Carly Atchisons to get them on Fox News, NewsMax, or some stupid podcast.

Seriously, in the whole scheme of things, what’s the difference?

Would you rather the state hire contractors to promote agency directors – and Governors – in the national media, or hire a stable of Aitchisons, Isetts, and Langstons to do the job instead? It doesn’t really matter to me, and political optics aside, I doubt it matters to Stitt either. 

Anyway, whether it’s a PR firm owned by a guy who worked with Matt Langston in DC or a new agency hire who interned for him in Austin, we wish whoever’s tasked with wasting Oklahoma taxpayer money by promoting Ryan Walters on the national stage the best of luck giving us stuff to write about.  

Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised.

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