Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Deception of Markwayne Mullin

Markwayne Mullin seems to have a problem with honesty.

Today marks eleven months since the FEC caught Congressman Markwayne Mullin raising funds and making expenditures for a 2018 reelection campaign without filing the paperwork declaring his candidacy. The next day, Mullin officially filed the paperwork declaring his candidacy for a fourth term in Congress, thus breaking his oft-repeated pledge to only seek three terms in office.

Almost three weeks went by before I caught the move, but when I published my post, some media outlets picked it up and prompted some reaction from Mullin and his campaign. A couple days later, Mullin went on air with Tulsa talk radio host Pat Campbell and said that "we're still praying about it [running for a 4th term]", and that he was "not even close to made up our minds".

Throughout the interview, he made numerous comments that filing the statement of candidacy was not a declaration of candidacy, but that it was merely routine paperwork filed so that he could be involved with NRCC activities, and that he had not decided whether he would run or not.

However, two days after my first post, and two days before his interview with Campbell, Mullin's campaign made some expenditures that seem to counter Mullin's comments to the contrary.

In the months between his 2016 re-election and his 2018 statement of candidacy filing, most of Mullin's campaign spending dealt with consultant retainers, fundraising expenses, staff salaries, and miscellaneous office expenses. There were some notable exceptions.
  • January 25th, 2017: $24,500.00 for polling
  • February 27th, 2017: $3,850 for redesigning his website. An Internet Archive capture of shows that between February 2nd, 2017, and March 14th, 2017, Mullin's campaign website underwent a major overhaul -- which included moving in a new Donate section to a prominent spot on the front page, with the phrase "Support the Team Mullin re-election campaign by contributing today." According to Mullin's interview with Pat Campbell on April 19th, there was no re-election campaign because he hadn't decided yet.
  • April 17th, 2017 (two days before his KFAQ interview): a $15,000 payment to Peak Enterprises, Inc., for Digital Media Consulting/Advertising. From what I've been able to find, this is the first time Mullin's campaign used this company for any work, indicating that this likely went beyond simply maintaining his existing 2016 campaign on a "holding pattern" until his decision was made regarding a fourth campaign.
Mullin's campaign would probably argue that some of the other expenditures were for keeping his infrastructure in place awaiting his final decision on a 2018 campaign, but the above items seem to indicate that was not the case, and that Mullin's public posturing was simply an effort to obscure an anticipated campaign rollout.

What seems to be more likely is that Markwayne Mullin had already planned to break his term limits pledge and run for a fourth term, but the FEC warning letter and subsequent attention messed up the timeline for his announcement. Mullin's campaign spending indicates that the decision to run had already been made, despite his comments to the contrary on KFAQ with Pat Campbell.

Mullin released a video ad on July 4th, 2017, where he announced that he would be breaking his term limits pledge.

Oklahoma has had other members of Congress make term limits pledges. Tom Coburn, J.C. Watts, and Jim Bridenstine made three-term pledges in the House, in addition to Markwayne Mullin. Steve Largent made a six-term pledge, but only ran for four. Coburn again made a two-term pledge in the Senate, resigning before completing his final term.

Until Markwayne Mullin, J.C. Watts was the only member to break his term limits pledge. He has since publicly said that breaking his pledge was his biggest regret from his time in office. At a 2010 speech to the Muskogee County Republican Party, Watts said that he had made a pledge before God and to his constituents, and when he broke it that fourth term became his worst time in office politically and with his family.

In a 2010 interview with National Review, Watts had this to say: “I saw people come into Washington thinking it was a cesspool and after being there for two months, thinking it was a jacuzzi. Regardless of what arena you’re in, the cheer of the crowd can be so seductive.” He also said, “I am an adamant supporter of term limits, and I recognize you get the good with the bad if you adopt term limits, but I say let’s start down that track and protect all of us as elected officials from ourselves, because the cheer of the crowd is just too intoxicating.”

Markwayne Mullin had been seduced by the cheer of the crowd -- and the pull of power.

In 2012, Markwayne Mullin made a pledge, a vow to the people of Oklahoma. that he would only run for three terms. He repeatedly confirmed that promise, and campaigned on it across the entire 2nd Congressional District. He signed it, put his name to it.

Mullin likes to say that he's "A Businessman, Not A Politician." I doubt as a businessman that he signs a contract, and then goes back and breaks it. You don't make it in business if you're a crook who won't keep his word.

Markwayne Mullin is the consummate politician, deceptively saying one thing, then doing the opposite. Voters should reward that dishonesty and lack of integrity by booting him from office in the June 26th primary. They should replace him with a person of virtue and character who has demonstrated true honor and integrity (I have a recommendation).