BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Warren G. Harding, America’s 29thpresident once famously said, “I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends … they’re the ones who keep me walking the floor at nights.”
President Harding, himself an Ohio Republican, kept less than scrupulous friends. A tight circle of his “friends” were called the “Ohio Gang.” Among the group was Harding’s attorney general, Harry Daugherty.
Daugherty ended up as a joint owner of a bank account after he helped free up some frozen assets that had belonged to a German company at the end of World War I. The kickback was approximately one-tenth of the more than $500,000 that members of the Ohio Gang received in payoffs.
Charles Forbes, another Harding friend, became the first director of the Veterans Bureau. Forbes had helped Harding attain the White House by use of the motto, “Return to Normalcy.” In the less than two years that Forbes held the position, he embezzled approximately $2 million, mainly in connection with the building of veterans’ hospitals, from selling hospital supplies intended for the bureau, and from kickbacks from contractors.
A residence at 1625 K Street in Washington, DC was the unofficial headquarters of the Ohio Gang. So sinister and pervasive were the activities of the men who routinely met there, the moniker, “Little Green House on K Street” entered the American lexicon symbolizing political corruption.
The group meeting at the green house devised the “Teapot Dome Scandal.” Teapot Dome involved the transfer and no-bid leasing of military oil reserves and resulted in Harding’s interior secretary receiving no interest loans in addition to gifts that today would be valued at between $5 million and $6 million.
Although no collusion was ever proven between Harding and his friends, Warren Gamaliel Harding passed at age 57 after having served only two years, four months and 29 days. Perhaps President Harding’s demise was due in part to walking the floor at night contemplating the activity of his “friends.”
This past November, Oklahomans elected a number of legislators who claim to support public education. The bills they are filing are betraying their claim of affection.
On its face, SB 360 purports to help children whose parents are incarcerated. What it really does is attempt to channel money away from public education instead of properly funding strong public schools, social supports and criminal justice reform.
Likewise, SB 570 purports to protect children who have experienced bullying. It too takes money out of public schools and puts it in private schools where, I guess, no bullying ever exists.
These “Friends of Public Education” have put forth SB 14, disguised as a bill protecting teachers but instead disregards Oklahoma’s science curriculum and allows “scientific information” that isn’t scientific fact to be taught. It is not the teachers who seek to depart from teaching science and teachers around the country consistently oppose legislation of this type.
Also, SB 592 hampers the ability of any group to peaceably assemble at the Capitol by requiring a $50,000 bond.
Not to be outdone, one member of the House filed HB 2214 to make it illegal for teachers to repeat the walkout of 2018 and just last week House leadership had hallway barriers installed on the fourth floor to keep pesky citizens like teachers, parents and students from getting too close to their offices.
Just like President Harding, Oklahoma public school teachers are realizing, “With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?”
–Chickasha Democrat David Perryman represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House and serves as minority floor leader