To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Observercast

Red Flags Are A-Flyin’

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BY KEVIN ACERS

Ryan Walters’ face must be stinging from all the red flags flapping around him. Surely at least one has snapped across his cheeks.

As has been widely reported, Walters used taxpayer money to hire a public relations firm to raise his national media profile. This in itself hoisted a large red flag. Thanks to the admirable work of Oklahoma journalists pulling at threads, Walter’s scheme is starting to unravel. The more details that emerge, the more crimson banners unfurl.

First, Vought Strategies, the DC-area PR firm, was not registered as an LLC in Oklahoma [required to do business with the state] until a State Department of Education staff member filed paperwork on their behalf.

The timing of this is interesting. The OSDE staff member secured Vought’s LLC status on the last day that bids for the contract were being accepted. That staff member, David Martin, was promoted within the OSDE around the same time.

The day after Oklahoma Watch and Fox-25 News reported this unexplained favor, Martin resigned.

Why did the OSDE – the contracting agency – direct its staff to file paperwork on behalf of one party in an open-bidding process? Did OSDE demonstrate a conflict of interest by helping Vought meet the proposal requirements – and then awarding them the contract? Further, why is Vought Strategies – known for its right-wing clientele – the contractor of choice?

With a fee of $200 per hour [after a $30,000 payment for the first four months], how will Vought be serving taxpayers’ [and not just Walters’] interests?

OH, LOOK!

Even more red flags are flying over the Oliver Hodge Building. Walters also has awarded a juicy contract to another out-of-state player, Precision Outreach.

This Houston firm will rake in $50,000 of your money and mine to produce social media videos. We have seen their work before. Walters hired them last year for similar services, paying $22,500 in return for a single, five-minute video.

Their tabloid-like propaganda can be found here. It has been discredited for its numerous cherry-picked, out-of-context sound bites unrelated to Oklahoma, misrepresenting our state’s teacher unions.

Like Vought Strategies, Precision Outreach has a built-in option to renew its new contract for another two years after its initial work period.

Slurrrrrp! To paraphrase the late Ross Perot, you may hear a “great sucking sound” of Oklahoma tax dollars being siphoned to these out-of-state businesses. It is Ryan Walter’s lips sucking on the hose.

One might wonder about the connection between the OSDE and Vought, and between OSDE and Precision Outreach. It appears that the common link is Matt Langston, Walters’ top policy advisor. He was also Walters’ campaign manager. Langston draws a handsome, six-figure OSDE salary courtesy of taxpayers.

According to a KFOR-TV News story, Langston primarily lives in Austin, TX. He reportedly put both Vought Strategies and Precision Outreach on Walters’ radar, possibly based on personal connections. Listen, dear readers, to the fluttering of the flags.

Walters’ explanation about using taxpayer dollars to raise his media profile is dubious at best. [Actually, like much of his verbiage, it is more than dubious – it appears to be made of lies.] Walters claims that the national publicity he seeks is for teacher recruitment. However, reporters’ investigations have turned up no evidence of this.

Vought’s emails about the type of exposure Walters can expect to receive, which they shared with reporters, mention zilch about recruiting teachers. As Oklahoma Watch reported on Mar. 13, “None of the email pitches obtained by FOX 25 and Oklahoma Watch contain any reference to teacher recruitment.”

It is fair to conclude Walters is lying about why he’s spending our money to promote himself.

KUDOS TO THE FOURTH ESTATE

The reporting on this from Oklahoma Watch and Fox 25 News is appropriately dogged. Reporters Jennifer Palmer [Oklahoma Watch] and Wendy Suares [FOX 25 News] have been collaborating on the investigative coverage, and other outlets have picked up the story – not the kind of media attention Walters presumably was hoping for.

Fox 25 News and Oklahoma Watch deserve thanks and congratulations, as do other state journalists for shining a light on all the red flags.

As for what Walters deserves …

Impeach, impeach, impeach.

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Kevin Acers is a social worker, educator, and poet living in Oklahoma City. He advocates for sound education policies, human rights, and other social justice issues. He recently attended a Communities in Action summit at the White House.

Kevin Acers
Kevin Acers
Kevin Acers is a social worker, educator, and poet living in Oklahoma City. He is a former board member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.