Paid Punditry

By David Arnett    
Monday, 24 July 2006
Publisher’s Editorial

While few actually read the local free rag mostly known for come-hither escort and dating advertisements and go-yonder entertainment listings, Urban Tulsa Weekly has further weakened its offerings with recent political commentary by Michael D. Bates.  While the publication has referenced Bates as a “journalist,” he primarily writes opinion telling Tulsans how to vote – without revealing that he is also a paid political vendor of campaign services.  This failure betrays accepted journalistic standards.

As previously published, Bates wrote for Tulsa Today years ago, but during the Vision 2025 campaign, Bates took his leave to lead the opposition to that local infrastructure package that Tulsa Today and over 60 percent of the voters supported.  Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of the disagreement Bates has exacerbated within the community.

Bates has run for City Council twice, losing decisively in Council District 4.  He has also been active in neighborhood issues and pontificates profusely on planning and development issues, but is not known to hold any academic or professional training in those areas.

Bates also publishes an Internet blog – – where he reflects on politics and personal interests.  Bates is also a frequent guest on Michael DelGiorno’s morning talk show on KFAQ 1170.  Interestingly enough, both DelGiorno and Bates have inspired others to establish blogs critical of their respective positions.  DelGiorno’s critic publishes and Bates’ critic publishes which calls itself “a blog dedicated to pointing out the comedic error that is Michael Bates.”  Both of those sites are irregularly updated, but remain available at this writing on the Internet.

Bates also serves as a State Committeeman for the Oklahoma Republican Party.  In the spirit of full disclosure, Bates and this writer are both members of the Executive Committee of the Tulsa County Republican Party, where we have engaged in spirited political disagreements.  We are not the same kind of Republicans.

Tulsa Today made several calls to Bates for comment on this story, but those calls were not returned.  Our questions revolve around the duplicity of his political manipulations.  While claiming to be a reformer, his paid position(s) as a campaign service provider have not been revealed on his blog or during his appearances on the DelGiorno show or in his regular column in Urban Tulsa Weekly.

U.S. Representative John Sullivan’s staff confirmed Friday that they continue to employ Bates – as they have for several years – as a vendor who produces walking and mailing lists of registered voters.  An honest pundit would have disclosed this financial relationship specifically in his piece recommending the reelection of Rep. Sullivan in the July 6-12 edition of Urban Tulsa Weekly.  What other campaigns Michael Bates is paid to assist are unknown at this time, but his continual promotion of Chris Medlock – former Tulsa City Councilor and mayoral candidate currently campaigning for Oklahoma House District 69 – in print and on-air raises a serious question.

The ethical issue for both the radio station and his print publisher is how many of the races for public office has Bates promoted as a pundit (one would assume a paid pundit) while being paid by political campaigns he wrote about.  Did he inform his journalism platforms of those relationships?  If not, why not?  It is a question of honor.

In a previously published piece on Tulsa Today titled “Political Posits,” this writer questioned if Bates was not railing against conspiracies to promote his own ambitions, but ambition is not a bad thing.  Bates is certainly welcome to work for anyone who will hire him.  He is indeed free in America to pontificate as a pundit in any format that will allow him the platform, but to fail to disclose a relationship in both is dishonorable at best.

And he resorts to name-calling.  Bates has attacked me personally, by calling me the “scum of the earth” on one of his local radio rants – all because I have a day job.  To help fund Tulsa Today, I earn a living as the public information manager for PMg, the private firm hired by Tulsa County to implement all the Vision 2025 projects.  For them under authority of Tulsa County I produce and believe as a result of that work Vision 2025 is the most transparent public building program ever implemented in Oklahoma.  Liberal or Conservative all Americans want to know how government is spending tax money and transparency in such expenditures may be the one position all political parties support.  When I write about Vision 2025 projects on Tulsa Today, I make sure to disclose that relationship.

I rarely feel it necessary to resort to name-calling when there are more proper forums available – but if I did, what would I call him?  His critics in apparent reference to Bates’ pompous condescending delivery call him Master Bates.  (

I would prefer to call Michael Bates a friend, as he once was.  I would prefer to welcome open, lively debate on public policy issues without the politics of personal destruction.  Tulsa Today, over the 10 years we have published at this domain, has always welcomed diversity of opinion, but apparently Bates, as one of his critics suggests, is operating in “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” the title of an essay written 40 years ago by Richard Hofstadter.

Hofstadter wrote that those “who feel their country has been taken away from them and their kind develop an angry, suspicious and conspiratorial frame of mind.  It is never enough to believe their opponents have committed honest mistakes or have legitimate purposes, they insist on believing in malicious conspiracies.”  The paranoid spokesman Hofstadter wrote “sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms – he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values.  He is always manning the barricades of civilization.  Because his opponents are so evil, the conspiracy monger is never content with anything but their total destruction.”

The hatesline author wrote further, “To have a fruitful discussion or debate, one has to believe that the other side isn’t evil – you have to believe they are rational and that they present their ideas in good faith … to call their opponents names and make up conspiracies where none exist … they fail to serve the public and their ultimate goal of making Tulsa a better place.”

None of the conspiracies Bates has alleged over several years has been proven.  Now with the revelation of his employment by at least one candidate who Bates promoted as a pundit – calling into question all his election recommendations – one has to wonder if it is not Michael D. Bates that is the evil conspiracy in Tulsa.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 July 2006 )