Bridenstine’s TASM dispute

In a hastily called press conference Wednesday Jim Bridenstine, candidate for the First Congressional District claimed current Representative John Sullivan is distorting his record.  So what is that record?

Asked to provide a compelling reason for voter support in the race, Bridenstine begins, “It comes down to leadership.”  

Then he lists swim teams and academic success that, while significant, are not leadership.  Bridenstine notes multiple assignments as a combat Navy pilot.  All of that is honorable and patriotic, but not leadership.

“I have leadership at [Tulsa’s] Air and Space Museum,” (TASM) he declared then launched into an attack on Congress and the direction of the country which, from public statements, are in agreement with those of his opponent Rep. John Sullivan.

“We have a congressman that has been there eleven years and has voted to extend the debt ceiling eleven times,” Bridenstine declared.

Rep. Sullivan is just now beginning his tenth year in Congress.  He was sworn in late February 2002.

It is Bridenstine’s 21-month stint as the executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum that is at issue and an official statement from Board Chairman Barbara Smallwood was distributed that begins, “The Tulsa Air and Space Museum is neither for nor against any candidate in any election.”

“While at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, Jim Bridenstine developed the QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show and the Land the Shuttle Campaign, both of which garnered tremendous visibility for the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. While Mr. Bridenstine was executive director attendance increased at the museum. In August 2010 Mr. Bridenstine voluntarily resigned from his position as Executive Director at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum in order to follow his orders in the Navy Reserves. “

In direct response TASM board member James E. Bertelsmeyer, released the following:

“As a longtime supporter of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum (TASM), it is my opinion that the best day for the museum was the day that Jim Bridenstine left.

“While these issues have since been corrected by his successor, during Jim’s tenure at TASM, as I recall, the membership numbers were down, employee and volunteer morale was very low and the finances and certainly the financial reporting were arguably the worst they had been in recent years.

“While I respect Jim’s service to our Country as an aviator, I can’t imagine how he is qualified to run a Congressional District if, in my judgment, he can’t effectively manage our Air and Space Museum," Bertelsmeyer wrote.

The planetarium at TASM is named after Bertelsmeyer.

Later in the day, Sullivan spokesman John Tidwell said, “Jim Bridenstine doesn’t want to own up to his past failures.  But the facts don’t lie.  Tax records show that under Jim’s leadership, revenues and memberships at the museum were down significantly.  IRS tax forms show that in 2009 and 2010, TASM lost memberships and lost revenues in excess of $700,000.

“At the end of the day, we have a case of board member versus board member, each offering up their personal opinions. In cases like this, we have to look at the concrete information available — the forms filed with the IRS are the final word. He has long held that his time there was a success and we strongly disagree with his assessment.

“It’s no surprise that Jim doesn’t want to talk about the only real records we have to judge him by: he’s only voted 3 times in the 3½ years he’s lived in Oklahoma, or the fact he lived here for 17 months before registering to vote. He still doesn’t want to address why he did not vote on Super Tuesday. This is just a last minute attempt before Tuesday’s election to mislead voters,” Tidwell added.

Tulsa Today will post more on this race in coming days.  To read more from each candidate, click here for John Sullivan or click here for Jim Bridenstine.

Tulsans vote next Tuesday June 26 in this race.