Opinion: Oklahoma State Capitol Frequently Held Captive by Out-of-State Special Interest Lobbyists

But a New Future is Talking Hold ….

May 30, 2024

There is a little term called “regulatory capture.” It is unpoetic, uninteresting, and dull sounding. But it rules the Oklahoma State Capitol, certain state agencies, and many influential state legislators. Its impact reaches into human health, air molecules, water droplets, a great malaise of animal suffering, and the conscience of good people everywhere who pause long enough to care about such things.

“Regulatory capture” is when regulatory bodies (elected and government) cozy up to the very industries they are charged with regulating. It’s Corruption, capital C. Even though modern society has become desensitized and even accustomed to this type of pay-to-play (with a tinge of threat), it remains corrupt. I personally refuse to accept the premise that “this is just the way things are done.” Rule of law determines actual corruption, and that requires willing lawyers (public and private) to ferret it out at every turn. As Oklahomans, we must hold to that standard.

Here is the definition from Wikipedia: “In politics, regulatory capture is a form of corruption of authority that occurs when a political entity, policymaker, or regulator is co-opted to serve the commercial, ideological, or political interests of a minor constituency, such as a particular geographic area, industry, profession, or ideological group.” @wikipedia

And from Investopedia: “Regulatory capture is an economic theory that says regulatory agencies may come to be dominated by the industries or interests they are charged with regulating. The result is that an agency, charged with acting in the public interest, instead acts in ways that benefit incumbent firms in the industry it is supposed to be regulating.” @investopedia

The good news is that a new lobby is emerging at the Oklahoma State Capitol that aims to fight back against legislation in service of these unethical practices. Ten years ago, by my cursory count and inexact memory, there were few registered Oklahoma lobbyists in the camp of a global consciousness based on a moral interpretation of what’s right and good for our people, water, animals, and the environment. Today, that’s changing.

This new lobby—let’s call it the Good Lobby, for simplicity’s sake—crosses parties, gender, age, regions of the state, and other demographics. It involves citizen advocates and paid lobbyists who actually care about our collective futures, who embrace the common good, commonsense, and fundamental American values (individual freedom and responsibility, to start) as the forefront of their missions. Oklahomans are fighting back and believe me when I say that it’s making a particular few among the “regulatory captive” nervous. Some are even coming unglued in the hallways of the Oklahoma State Capitol, enraged that the charade is over and they’ve been found out. It’s been interesting to watch.

In the spirit of understanding regulatory capture, I recommend that anyone who isn’t actively protesting Oklahoma HB 4118 and SB 1424 (vote no!) watch Dark Waters (2019) newly streaming on Netflix. Corporate pollution is pollution. Yes, it is sad to me that certain Oklahomans—the captive—betray their fellows Oklahomans and “ride for the brand” in this way. No one in Oklahoma wins in this scheme. But we can all rest assured; the times, they are a-changing.


Louisa McCune is a volunteer board member at Kirkpatrick Policy Group and serves as treasurer.

Kirkpatrick Policy Group is a non-partisan, independent, 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization established in 2017 to identify, support, and advocate for positions on issues affecting all Oklahomans, including concern for the arts and arts education, animals, women’s reproductive health, and protecting the state’s initiative and referendum process. Improving the quality of life for Oklahomans is KPG’s primary vision, seeking to accomplish this through its values of collaboration, respect, education, and stewardship.