BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Beginning in 1965, Green Acres was the place to be. “Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside,” was the message contained in the theme song of the light-hearted sitcom that poked fun at rural life.
The rehabilitation of the old “Haney Place” was the main occupation of Oliver Douglas, the city slicker lawyer who had escaped the concrete jungle to pursue a simpler life with his upscale wife who had never been west of Park Avenue.
Green Acre’s characters were colorful caricatures within a larger caricature of rural Americana frozen in time and place. Aside from Mr. and Mrs. Douglas, much of the show revolved around the comings and goings at the Hooterville General Store.
The store was technically owned by Sam Drucker although he said that he had six mortgages to the bank and was working on number seven. City folk had nothing on Sam however, since he kept plastic pickles in a barrel just to humor them.
Perhaps due to the meager cash flow generated from the sale of groceries and hardware, Mr. Drucker also served as Constable, Mayor, Justice of the Peace, Voter Registrar, Superintendent of Schools, Postmaster, Fire Chief as well as the Editor, Publisher and sole employee of the Hooterville World-Guardian.
Mr. Drucker departmentalized his various occupations with ethical prowess. It was clear what role he played by the hat he wore as he performed any “extra-duty. Whenever his role switched, so did his hat. For instance, when he was postmaster, he would stand behind a small “regulation” post office grille that was situated next to the cash register in the store.
In one episode, Sam had to explain to Oliver that he could appeal a decision made by the Constable to the Mayor and in turn to the Justice of the Peace and that a fair trial would be received each time.
Hooterville’s version of dual office holding was tongue in cheek. However, at the state Capitol there are few checks or balances on the power of a group of men and women who dictate policy, draft legislation and lean on legislators to vote in a manner that is contrary to the best interest of their legislative district.
Lobbyists are a part of government; however, when lobbyists become involved in the selection of candidates and actually own or manage companies that run the campaigns of the selected candidates, there is little room for imagination about the allegiance of those chosen legislators.
Likewise, there is little doubt where the lobbyist will or will not direct the funding of the corporations or industry groups that he lobbies for. Successful campaign managers make successful lobbyists and the industry has little reason to question the practice.
The final insidious piece of the puzzle occurs when employees of the campaign managing companies are hired by elected legislators as state compensated staffers after the election.
Everyone deserves an opportunity to earn a salary whether as lobbyist or campaign manager or state staff person but when lines are crossed, the likelihood of corruption is present.
Ethics rules must be developed to guard against abuse of a system that already involves too much money and will continue to involve more and more as unchecked amounts of corporate money flows into the system.
Campaign finance reform on both the state and federal level is imperative, but it will never be initiated by the party in power, whether Democrats or Republicans.
The system is complex and, as always, it is important to “follow the money.” The job of being an engaged citizen is never easy.
Checks and balances are necessary in our form of government. Step up and demand reform. Otherwise, this government will never again belong to the people no matter how many hats are available to wear.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives