Elected in 2008, District 9 Tulsa City Councilman G.T. Bynum is considered by the local media a rising star. He is the grandson of former Tulsa Mayor Robert J. LaFortune and the cousin of former Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune. Currently, he is leading the charge to get water into the Arkansas River, something that has befuddled city fathers for decades. The media tout his civil mindedness. However, most of the local media are unwilling to look beyond their official narrative as it pertains to this rising star.
From the governor to town councilors, elected officials in Oklahoma are bound by an oath when they take their office. This oath is cited below:
ARTICLE XV – OATH OF OFFICERS
Officers required to take oath or affirmation – Form.
All public officers, before entering upon the duties of their offices, shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation:
“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, and that I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law; [Emphasis is mine] I further swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as _________ to the best of my ability.”
This is the oath Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum took when he was sworn into office.
As a newly elected councilman, G.T. Bynum on December 3, 2009 voted in favor of a resolution approving a no-bid contract for the Oklahoma State University Medical Center. He was hired by the The George Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser) to lobby for the OSU Medical Center weeks after that vote. This is the resolution approved by the council:
“Resolution approving certain indebtedness to be incurred by Oklahoma State University Medical Center Trust in the stated principal amount of $22,500,000; in an amount of not to exceed $150,000; and in the stated principal amount of $7,825,000; approving the Trust’s waiver of competitive bidding [Emphasis is mine] to permit the direct placement of said indebtedness. (Emergency Clause) [UED 12/1/09] 09-869-1.”
The Council had met on December 1, 2009 to lay out the details prior to their vote two days later to benefit the Bank of Oklahoma as the lender.
It is important to note all the other council members voted for this no-bid resolution for the Bank of Oklahoma of which George Kaiser is the owner and Bynum’s grandfather Robert J. LaFortune is a board member and owns stock. Bynum could have recused himself in this vote but didn’t.
According to a federal disclosure form dated April 5, 2010, Bynum worked as a lobbyist for Kaiser in 2010 for which he was paid $20,000 in the first quarter of that year. See page one: http://disclosures.house.gov/ld/pdfform.aspx?id=300254455. On page two of this disclosure report Bynum lists on #15 ”Health Issues,” and on page five #16 Bynum lists “Arkansas River low water dam development,” as another area of lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Bynum received a total of $55,0000 from Kaiser for lobbying work on behalf of the Arkansas low water dam and the OSU Medical Center in 2010, Bynum received $10,000 in the second quarter, $20,000 in the third quarter, and $5,000 in the fourth quarter from Kaiser, all while serving as a member of the Tulsa City council.
He led the charge in the city council on behalf of low water dams on the Arkansas.
Bynum has experience with water navigation. According to the Aspen Global Leadership Network, G.T. Bynum “… assisted Senator Nickles in the development and maintenance of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System, which leads to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa…” Bynum is a fellow with the Aspen group. According to their website, the Apsen Global Leadership Network: “…is a worldwide community of successful, high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders, called ‘Aspen Global Leadership Fellows.’ Because of their demonstrated leadership accomplishments and abilities, these Fellows have been selected to be part of one of 13 geographic or sector-specific Fellowships around the world.”
While the Aspen Global Leadership Network claims it chooses “high-integrity, entrepreneurial leaders,” it fails to mention in Bynum’s biography that he works as a lobbyist while sitting on the Tulsa City Council. http://agln.aspeninstitute.org/fellows/gt-bynum
Bynum chairs the task force proposing the development of three proposed low water dams along the Arkansas River. The three dams would cost about $300 million. Voters will be asked to approve this proposal in November. A story in the Tulsa World, June 5, 2015, fails to mention that Bynum did lobbying work for low water dam development on behalf of the Kaiser. In researching this story, I discovered Bynum’s financial relationship to Kaiser was made known to several reporters at the Tulsa World and to the new Lorton family supported online Tulsa Frontier, but not withstanding of this relationship, it was not reported. www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/arkansas-river-task-force-approves-draft-proposal-for-three-low/article_090300b7-020d-59bb-b0ac-475e0fac6b9f.html Perhaps the Tulsa World is not interested in Bynum’s conflicts of interest because he has helped them with their investment in the Palace Building. www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/tulsa-world-gets-approval-for-redevelopment-of-historic-building/article_261937bc-5e6f-5dbf-9397-d92ee0ee531a.html
Councilman Bynum voted to give a tax abatement for $1.16 million dollars to the Tulsa World (owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway) to renovate the Palace Building, which the World owns and adjoins one of their other buildings downtown. Saving the Tulsa World $1.16 million in city taxes in order to renovate a building can buy a lot of good will.
G.T. Bynum has lobbied on behalf of other municipalities in and out of Oklahoma. In 2014 the City of Bartlesville paid Bynum $40,000 for lobbying work. Claremore hired Bynum to lobby the federal government for money for street repairs for which Bynum was paid $30,000 and those federal funds were not secured. Miami paid him $30,000, and the other Miami in Florida paid him $10,000. www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?id=D000065463&year=2014 Bynum’s lobbying firm, Capitol Ventures Government Relations, took in $390,000 for lobbying work in 2014. So far this year, Bynum’s lobbying firm has made $215,000. www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?id=D000065463&year=2015
It is not uncommon for members of Congress to “cash in” as lobbyists once they are out of office. They have connections in the corridors of power and knowledge of how the system works. District 9 Councilor G.T. Bynum’s has not chosen to wait until he’s out of office to use his connections; he has chosen to “cash in” today. Unfortunately, outside of Michael Bates’s website, Batesline.com, no other member of Tulsa’s “fourth estate” seems interested in Bynum’s conflicts of interest.