OKLAHOMA CITY – In his weekly column for The Journal Record, a business newspaper based in the Sooner State’s capital city, Professor Andrew Spiropoulos delivered a blunt synopsis of the superintendent of public instruction’s recent behavior. In his November 30 essay, he wrote:
“Joy Hofmeister is out and about pitching her department’s draft plan for revamping how we measure the success of our state’s public education system. Observing her, you wouldn’t have the least idea that she’s under felony indictment for conspiring to conduct an illegal campaign operation to help win the office she holds.
“I can’t blame her for pretending nothing is remiss. After all, once you’ve been charged, arraigned and had your mugshot lead the news, what do you have to lose? If no one seems interested in forcing you out of office, why not hold on and take your chances with the legal system?”
Then comes a kicker, and it counts: “The interesting question is why we haven’t heard a word from Gov. Mary Fallin or the incoming Republican legislative leaders about Hofmeister’s future. One can’t help believe that if Hofmeister were a Democrat, they would demand that she immediately resign.”
In his provocative composition, Spiropoulos says:
“How can anyone in good conscience ask families and teachers to trust a system whose elected leader stands credibly accused of running a campaign founded on conspiracy and deceit? But must she not be considered innocent until proven guilty? That principle applies only to legal culpability, not to political judgment. Political leaders are obliged to examine the information contained in the public record and then decide if an officeholder maintains sufficient credibility to do her job.”
Then comes a heavyweight left-jab aimed at Hofmeister:
“The evidence arrayed … is remarkably damning. Because of the freak arrest of a well-connected campaign consultant on unrelated charges, prosecutors secured a treasure trove of communications from Hofemeister and other participants in the alleged conspiracy no one would have ever uncovered. Multiple emails and texts from Hofmeister clearly describe her campaign’s effort to organize and coordinate with a supposedly independent group tasked to attack her campaign opponent, including who should be hired to run the independent campaign, how and by who it should be funded and campaign advertising strategies. In two messages, just for laughs, she comments on the irony of calling this effort independent, punctuating her jests with smiley face emoticons. Flouting the law isn’t enough – we must mock it too.”
Then comes the roundhouse from the Right-hand, aimed at targets other than Hofmeister:
“Most suspect that Republican legislative leaders have stayed mum because Hofmeister’s accused co-conspirators ran many of their campaigns as well. Funny, I would think that if you wanted to show you were clean, you would be more likely to demand Hofmeister’s resignation. How else can you distance yourself from her?
“And the governor? I speculate she wants this scandal out of sight long enough to make her run for a Beltway job. What lesson do these leaders teach our kids? The adults’ interests are always more important than theirs.”
The Oklahoma City University professor of law is known for his passionate and informed views, with a decidedly conservative political perspective and an “originalist” approach to legal interpretation. All of this commends his words to broad consideration.
He can never be taken as an apologist for elected officials who profess devotion to the rule of law and constitutional protections if or when those same officials belie said professions through their actual behavior.
Some closing observations about the woman Hofmeister defeated in the 2014 Republican primary.
In public office, Janet Baressi often seemed tone-deaf in dealings with legislators, fellow conservatives and journalists. In political parlance, she sometimes didn’t play well with others.
That is political, not a moral, fault. It is one that can be overcome with time and the development of wisdom. In any case, it does not equate with playing dirty.
Baressi has a place in state history that can never be taken away, as one of the half-dozen or so key players in establishment of public charter schools, and in governance of one of the best of those schools.
I am not necessarily calling for her return to the superintendent's job, but I am trying to speak a few more words of truth to augment what the good professor has presented.
Janet’s heart was always in the right place. And she’s looking better every day.
The headline for Andy’s essay was spot-on: “What lessons are state leaders teaching children?”