Business and labor union leaders praise court’s quick decision

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 13-Feb-2010

In a succinct order early this week, the state Supreme Court decided not to re-open a 24-year-old rate case involving AT&T, formerly Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. A coalition of business and labor union leaders, gathered together by Richard Rush of the State Chamber, quickly hailed on the decision.

At a state Capitol press conference, the group called on Corporation Commissioner Robert Anthony to accept the rate decision as settled law and not continuing raising it for judicial review. Anthony had recently asked for the court to take a new look at the case. He made similar requests in 1992, 1997 and 2003.

Rush, retiring next month after a long career at the State Chamber, was respectful but pointed in his criticisms of Commissioner Anthony, who sat quietly in the back of the broadcast press room as the coalition held its press conference. Rush called on Anthony to cease raising the case for further review. Rush contended continued elevation of the issue was both wasteful and harmful to business confidence about settled issues in regulatory and administrative law.

The group that gathered to praise the court decision included an unusual alliance of business interests and labor unions. Rush, president and CEO of the State Chamber, joshed good-naturedly with Jimmy Curry, president of the AFL-CIO, about the uniqueness of their accord in the matter.

Curry said in his prepared statement, “This issue has been addressed and resolved many times. It’s a shame that the court had to take the time and spend taxpayer dollars to once again reiterate its position on this closed issue. We need our state leaders to focus on the future, instead of constantly looking back to something that dates to when the Reagan administration was in power. Let’s move ahead, not backward.”

When reporters asked about the original decision, in which then- Commissioner Bob Hopkins was found to have accepted a bribe from a representative of the Southwestern Bell Company, Rush stressed that Hopkins had been tried and found guilty and punished for the crime. 

This week, veteran Capitol reporter Frosty Troy recalled that Bill Anderson, the Southwestern Bell representative found to have given Hopkins the bribe, confessed to the wrongdoing on his deathbed.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Commissioner Anthony said he wanted the state High Court to decide, “Do bribed votes count?” 

Anthony said his view was the court avoided that issue by emphasizing no new issues had been raised in the rate case.

Participants in the February 9 press conference at the Capitol included Rush, Curry, Phil Kennedy, chairman of the State Chamber, Steve Turnbo, past chairman of the Tulsa Chamber, Mark  Landingham of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, and Jerry Butler, president of Local 6069, Communications Workers of America.