SPECIAL: Watchdog’s 25 Scariest People, version 2012

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MEET Watchdog’s ’25 Scariest People of 2012’


By Watchdog.org

It was an especially good year for badness. There were droughts, freak storms and big-government programs designed to transform America into a happy, Hobbit-like utopia. We were plagued by a sluggish economy and bickering, largely vision-free politicians, by wars and rumors of wars.

But the amplified noises out of Washington, D.C., masked a dark reality. In city councils, county commissions and state capitols around the nation, equally grim projects were hatched, largely unnoticed by the public and the media.

Largely unnoticed but not entirely: Every day, in state capitals across the nation, the Franklin Center’s Watchdog reporters seek out waste, fraud and abuse. Their goal isn’t merely to satisfy their (admittedly disturbing) appetite for bad news, but to spotlight bad people behaving badly: Terrifying elected officials. Deeply disturbed government employees. Entire government departments gone rogue. Union leaders whose vision for America seems to have been shaped by a 1960s fascination with socialist experiments in Cuba. Even a few wealthy Hollywood directors nosing aside their competitors at the public trough for millions in taxpayer subsidies.

Watchdog’s “25 Scariest People, version 2012” is not for everyone. Children and even many adults who read this document will likely will come away shattered. But it’s what we do. Like cats bringing dead mice to their masters, we bring you a few — certainly not all — of the worst people we’ve met this year.

If you’re like us, and we think you are, we don’t have to ask you to enjoy our work. We know that you will.

1. COLORADO: Kerrilee Ann Crosby

Kerrilee Crosby

We’ve all felt like writing poison-pen letters at one time or another, but National Renewable Energy Laboratory employee Crosby? She threatened to murder the staff of Colorado Watchdog. In response to a Watchdog.org report revealing that her employer spent billions in pursuit of green-energy solutions while paying out salaries up to $1 million per year, Holmes tweeted, “Have you ever felt like going on a murderous rampage? Start at @WatchdogCO ‘s offices. They perpetuate lies like this.” Asked why she was so worked up, she followed with, “Because you deserve to die.” MITIGATING FACTOR: Crosby lives in the same county as James Holmes (the Aurora theater shooter) and in the same state as Columbine High School. So maybe “I want to kill all of you” is just young Colorado’s way of saying “Hello.” (Tori Richards)

2. VIRGINIA: Patrick Moran

Patrick Moran

Though his father (U.S. Rep. Jim Moran) and uncle (former state Democratic Party chair Brian Moran) are prominent Virginia politicians, few people had heard of Patrick Moran before Oct. 24. On that day, just two weeks before Election Day 2012, all that changed when James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas aired video of the younger Moran discussing the ins and outs of voter fraud with an undercover reporter. The reporter approached Moran with a dubious scheme to cast ballots in the names of inactive voters. Moran —then serving as field director for his father’s campaign — suggested how the reporter might forge the forms of identification needed to pull off the enterprise. At the same time, Watchdog.org also uncovered evidence of connections between the 23-year-old and his father’s high-profile campaign contributors. That’s when young Moran resigned from the campaign. The Arlington County Police, Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and state attorney general jointly opened an investigation into the alleged fraud, which is still ongoing. “As soon as we get anything, I am sure (Virginia Attorney General Ken) Cuccinelli’s office will release something,” said Dustin Sternbeck, public information officer for Arlington PD. “If not, then we will.” MITIGATING FACTOR: NoVa conservatives call father Jim Moran “a ticking time bomb.” But it was Patrick who went off: In December, just weeks after his resignation from Dad’s campaign, Moran the Younger pleaded guilty to assaulting his girlfriend outside a Columbia Heights bar. A police report claims Moran grabbed “a white female by the back of her head with his hand and slam her head into the metal trash can cage.” Nevertheless, Moran reached a plea deal with prosecutors to reduce the charges from felony assault to simple assault and received a year of probation. Once the plea deal was announced, Congressman Moran released a statement calling the incident an “embarrassing situation.” Moran’s girlfriend suffered a broken nose and fractured skull, but later released a statement blaming her injuries on a broken high-heel shoe. She called the police report “inaccurate.” (Carten Cordell)

3. WISCONSIN: Graeme Zielinski

Graeme Zielinski

A former newspaper reporter, the Official Mouthpiece of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin spends his days attacking reporters for their failure to communicate the Democratic Party line. Yes, Zielinski has kicked Wisconsin Reporter staffers out of some of his party’s finest gatherings. But he’s also blacklisted others: when Capitol Times reporter Jack Carver wrote an article on Zielinski’s botched handling of Wisconsin Reporter, Zielinski barred him from party events. Zielinski’s greatest hits include his Tweet on the 45th anniversary of Medicare (“Celebrate by punching a Republican”) and Tweeting unfounded accusations that Gov. Scott Walker bankrolled the defense of a man accused of child enticement — an allegation that earned him a “Pants on Fire” rating from his former colleagues at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After his public temper tantrums about some prominent liberals, Zielinski earned this Tweet from Democratic campaign veteran Melissa Ryan: “At the end of the day you’re just a bully. And not even a competent bully.” MITIGATING FACTOR: Incompetent? Yes. But Zielinski is an equal-opportunity lunatic. (M.D. Kittle)

4. PENNSYLVANIA: Prison-bound politicians

Bob Mellow

As 2012 comes to a close, eight former legislative leaders are cooling in prisons throughout Pennsylvania. Some say it might be a record. They’re all there on varying public corruption charges connected to using public money and public time for personal or campaign purposes. Most recently, former Senate Majority Leader Robert Mellow was sentenced to 16 months for using his staff for campaign activities. Outside of the legislative branch, suspended Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is accused of using her taxpayer-funded staff to help with her campaign. Her trial starts in January, and there’s no doubt all eyes will be on Pittsburgh, where the federal case will take place. MITIGATING FACTOR: The general sentiment in the capitol is that these crimes had been taking place for years. These guys and gals just happened to get caught. (Melissa Daniels)

5. OHIO: Sherrod Brown

Sherrod Brown

U.S. Sen. Brown is a Marxist — not in the hyperbolic sense that he’s a liberal or even very liberal. He’s a Marxist in the only way that matters now: economics. Read his book, “Myth of Free Trade,” and you find page after page of Marx’s preoccupations — from theoretical contradictions of capitalism such as surplus capacity, to riffs on the labor theory of value, class struggle and exploitation. He even blames World War II on “industrial capitalism,” which puts him to the left of Leon Trotsky. In the world according to Brown, all the money goes to the wealthy, and must be dislodged through taxation or unionism so that the lower classes can get some and buy stuff with it. Then there’s the race crap. He’s made a career out of Yellow Peril demagoguery, and gets away with calling Chinese people “obsequious and obedient.” To attack his Jewish opponent in the Senate race, he dug up some ancient payday lender vote, playing off the Shylock stereotype. He even ran ads borrowing Hitler’s famous critique of the Jews, that they were masters of “the big lie.” MITIGATING FACTOR: As Brown’s paranoia worsens, he will almost certainly have a very public Mel Gibson meltdown. (Jon Cassidy)

6. PENNSYLVANIA: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan

A Pennsylvania-based filmmaker who lives in the affluent Chester County suburbs of Philadelphia, Shyamalan has had plenty of help from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. He has received more than $48 million from the state’s taxpayers through the Film Tax Credit, an annual part of the state budget that is little more than a give-away to Hollywood studios guised as “economic development.” Though he is known for scary movies like “The Sixth Sense” and “Signs,” the truly scary thing about Shyamalan is the financial performance of his most recent publicly subsidized film, “The Last Airbender.” The film got $36 million in tax credits from the state, but grossed a measly $131 million when it was released in 2010. And if you want to be really scared, read the reviews (or check the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes) for that flop of a taxpayer-funded initiative. But until the state shuts off the spigot of corporate welfare, expect Shyamalan and his Hollywood ilk to keep raiding the treasury. MITIGATING FACTOR: The tax credits do not benefit Shyamalan exclusively. They are awarded to multi-billion studios from California, making them the real villains in this horror flick. (Eric Boehm)

7. OHIO: Tom Feran

Tom Feran

As a reporter for PolitiFact Ohio, Feran has the job of diving deep into the minutiae of policy debates to figure out who’s lying. But Feran is a terrible diver who belly flops hard on the surface of his own prejudices. Smack! That was Feran betraying a total ignorance of tax brackets while arguing that schoolteachers pay higher taxes than hedge fund managers. Fwap! That was Feran arguing not just that businesses shouldn’t be allowed to deduct costs in calculating profits, but that deductible expenses are in fact a form of taxpayer subsidy. Kerronnngthwpshhhsplash! That’s Feran catching his Speedo on the diving board rail during a failed backflip and tumbling naked into the pool, our strained metaphorical equivalent of the time he acknowledged U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown had voted for billions in foreign aid, yet still gave a “Pants on Fire” to a Republican making the same point. Skkrunch! That’s Feran diving headfirst into the concrete deck, because sometimes the pool just isn’t broad enough context. Fortunately, Feran already knows who’s lying. Surprise: it’s the Republicans — those racist, hateful, Neanderthal sadists who want to give trillions of dollars to the richest Americans. MITIGATING FACTOR: Feran’s work is so atrocious that it crystallizes the flaws in the “fact-checking” genre, making them obvious to all. (Jon Cassidy)

8. NEBRASKA: Colleen Lawry

Coleen Lawry

What makes the humiliated ex-city administrator of the tiny Nebraska town of Gretna so terrifying? It’s not the $5,000 in personal expenses she charged to her official City of Gretna charge card. It’s not the $3,000 she pocketed after a local university cut her a check thinking they had overcharged her. But when someone handed her a check for $1,000 — a donation for the local senior citizen center — and she kept it, well, that’s when Ebenezer Scrooge moves over. That money wasn’t for some new brick-and-mortar project, or the latest in tight-turning wheelchairs, or The Complete Matlock DVD series. It was for food — and that was enough for the judge to deny her probation and send her to the local slammer for six months. MITIGATING FACTOR: The judge said, “I don’t think there’s an innocent explanation.” But it’s possible his judicial skepticism was aroused by Lawry’s sartorial instincts: As Nebraska Watchdog reader Chris Begley Shouse observed, “Carrying the Louis Vitton bag into court was a bad idea.” (Joe Jordan)

9. WISCONSIN: The Protester

Protester Jeremy Ryan

Shouters of stupid slogans, scarers of small children and annoyers of working folk, the protester earns his designation among Wisconsin’s scariest people. Like cockroaches, Wisconsin’s political protesters crawl from parts unknown to show up at parties uninvited and freak out the guests. They shouted “Scott Walker, you suck” at a police memorial service while a young widow grieved the loss of her husband, threw roofing nails into the driveways of state senators, and yelled “homosexual child porn” at grade-school students on a field trip at the Capitol. They sang the death of a longtime statehouse reporter, quoted Marx from the steps of the Capitol and shrieked his class-war slogans from the Assembly balcony during a State of the State address. The only thing these blue-fisters lacked more than shame or dignity (and sometimes a shower) in 2012 was a clue. After hijacking a return to normalcy in the 2012 legislative session with an $18 million taxpayer funded recall, the protester failed to recognize the will of the people they claim to represent who again elected their arch-nemesis, Gov. Scott Walker. Like old men reveling in their glory days as high school football standouts, a merry band of government union groupies refuse to give it up, continuing to sing out against The Man daily at the Capitolsupporting their comrades elsewhere, chorusing, “Which side are you on, oh, which side are you on?” Not yours, guy. MITIGATING FACTOR: Free-thinking Wisconsin protesters are open to consider another’s opinion, as long as it coincides with their own. (Ryan Ekvall)

Ed Perlmutter

10. COLORADO: Ed Perlmutter

It’s one thing to vote on a congressional bill to help your friends and quite another to create a legacy that leaves taxpayers on the hook for billions. Rep. Perlmutter, D-Colo., managed to do both during the early morning hours of June 26, 2009. That’s when he did an end-run around Republicans and inserted language into a mammoth energy bill. In doing so, helped put taxpayers on the hook for something called “green banking,” giving bankers the right to make federally guaranteed loans based in part on the environmental initiatives of their borrowers. MITIGATING FACTORS: Perlmutter owned stock in one of the banks that benefits from the green-banking designation, and that bank buys recycled printer cartridges — thus making the planet better one foreclosure document at a time! (Tori Richards)

11. KANSAS: Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex

Juvenile Corrections Complex

Juvenile Corrections Complex

The Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka exists to provide a safe environment for the education and rehabilitation of 240 male and female juvenile offenders. That’s the theory. In practice, the facility and it supervising body, the Juvenile Justice Authority, have made such a mess of things that state auditors were forced to split their report on inadequacies at KJCC into two parts just to give every failure its proper time in the spotlight. From lapses in security to denying female inmates an equal education, the facility has earned itself a black mark in public opinion. But the cherry on top is former JJA Deputy Commissioner Dennis Casarona’s use of a loophole in state statute to buy his way into a public pension, despite the mess he left behind. MITIGATING FACTOR: Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and Interim Commissioner Terri Williams is working to give the facility a thorough scrub-down. (Travis Perry)

12. FLORIDA: Alan Grayson

Alan Grayson

When he’s not attempting to unionize Walmart employees, calling fellow House colleagues Taliban members or accusing an entire political party of wishing quick and easy deaths on millions of Americans, Grayson enjoys dusting off the Democratic Party talking points and pushing back against his fellow members of the 1 percent. He’s a favorite among the Occupy Wall Street crowd for bashing anyone opposed to government-operated health care. He lost his seat in the tea party wave of 2010, and he’s been indignant ever since, even leading him to hand out sandwiches in the local Walmart to make his point about “greedy corporations.” Now the progressive firebrand is back in Congress after a one-term hiatus, ready to fly the Occupy banner and make Florida proud on the national stage. MITIGATING FACTOR: He’s the 1 percent attacking the 1 percent, out to assure the 99 percent that he’s got dollars and sense. (Yael Ossowski)

13. ILLINOIS: Westside Chicago voters

Derrick Smith

We could have named indicted and expelled state Rep. Derrick Smith the scariest person in Illinois government in 2012. The westside Chicago politician stands accused of accepting a $7,000 bribe in connection with his work as a freshman state lawmaker. Federal prosecutors say they have him on wiretaps cutting deals and counting cash. Incensed, his colleagues in the Illinois House in August voted 100-6 to send him packing, making him the first lawmaker to be expelled from the House since 1905. Yes, we could have dinged Smith. But why do that when it’s far more appropriate to ding the westside Chicago voters who voted him back into office during the November election, despite having a choice on the ballot. That means Smith will reclaim his House seat when a new General Assembly convenes in January. His ethics in question and his reputation on the line, Smith will be woefully ineffective because few lawmakers will want to associate with him on business – not until his court case is cleared up, at least. MITIGATING FACTOR: Smith is innocent until proven guilty, of course, and he’s awaiting trial in federal court in Chicago. (Jayette Bolinski)

14. MONTANA: Barrett Kaiser

Barrett Kaiser

Kaiser is Montana’s Democratic man of mystery. The boyish grin suggests an innocent, but Kaiser is, in fact, a cunning political operative and consummate D.C.-insider. He worked in Sen. Max Baucus’ office and helped propel Sen. Jon Tester to victory in 2006. He reached the apex of his dark powers in the recent 2012 U.S. Senate campaign, commanding a phony national security organization (backed by Big Labor) and a fake sportsmen’s group (backed by environmental groups) to promote the Libertarian candidate in the race. It worked, peeling 6.5 percent from Tester’s Republican challenger in a 3.7 percent race, and putting Tester back in office for six more years. MITIGATING FACTOR: His front groups say, “Get government off our backs,” but his hat screams, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” (Dustin Hurst)



Mary Bell

Bell describes herself as a Wisconsin Rapids schoolteacher who simply heard the call. In fact, she is years removed from the classroom, a handsomely paid activist who heads the state’s most powerful lobbying organization — the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Most Wisconsinites simply call it “the teacher’s union.” WEAC paid Bell $186,705 in 2010, the most recent year such data is available; Gov. Scott Walker, her arch nemesis, clocks in at $144,423. In return for such largess, Bell has led her union into a string of defeats: Collective bargaining for teachers has been curtailed. Teachers are now required to contribute toward their own pensions. The Wisconsin Education Association Trusts near monopoly on health insurance for school districts came to an end. The gubernatorial recall candidate Bell supported, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, lost badly in the Democratic recall primary, despite receiving $3 million in contributions from WEAC. In June, WEAC’s effort to drive Walker from office failed. Badly. “There was a time when WEAC was the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” said Steve Baas, vice president for government affairs at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “That is really not the case anymore.” MITIGATING FACTOR: Not being 800 pounds, a lowly primate with a reputation for angry outbursts, and locked in a room? That probably deserves a “shows improvement.” (Scott Reeder)

Vicki Truitt

State Rep. Truitt amassed $350,000 over eight years in no-bid deals and contracts with a publicly funded hospital district. When Texas Watchdog revealed details of those cozy arrangements, Truitt, a seven-term veteran of the state House, got all in a huff: “Let me tell you something, we’ve had a small business that I started in 1984. My service to the hospital district has nothing to do with my humbling (sic) public office.” It had a few things to do with her campaign, though, whose donors happened to also be signing off on some of the deals. The news was the latest PR blow for a lawmaker whose last big headlines came from a bill she sponsored making Texas public pension records even more secret. Truitt, R-Keller, had said she was open to revisiting the law in the upcoming session. She won’t get that chance after being defeated in May. MITIGATING FACTOR: As the GOP primary got away from her, Truitt resigned herself to the results with grace. “This is not about power,” Truitt told the hometown paper. “It’s about service.” (Lee Ann O’Neal)

17. OREGON: Karen Finley

Karen Finely

If you’re in Oregon at a red light, chances are Redflex is watching you. CEO and President Karen Finley’s Australian firm (“formed to provide digital-imaging solutions for traffic enforcement and management”) holds the most government contracts for red light cameras in Oregon, managing ticketing for nine of the 11 municipalities that use cameras to catch red-light runners or speeders. Redflex came under fire in Chicago in October for alleged ethics violations, including bribery. According to a Chicago Tribune investigation, a company consultant paid a large luxury hotel tab for the city official in charge of the Redflex contract. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has since barred the company, calling it a “nonresponsible” — not “irresponsible,” mind you — bidder. MITIGATING FACTOR: When contacted by Watchdog.org, most Oregon officials knew nothing about the company’s Windy City indiscretions. Sgt. Tony Moore of the Salem Police Department was pretty typical. He said his city’s Redflex system is great and called Chicago and its Redflex problems “half a world away.” In reality, it’s just one-fourteenth of the world away, but where accurate measures of speed and distance are concerned, what’s 23,138 miles? (Shelby Sebens)

18. NEBRASKA: John Edwards

John Edwards

It’s bad enough when public employees steal from the treasury, but when prosecutors do it, well that’s just one more sign of the Apocalypse. In Nebraska, criminal prosecutor John “Blake” Edwards was convicted this summer of a felony for stealing funds from Keith County from 2007 to 2009. State auditors found that nearly $19,000 in pre-trial diversion fees were never transferred to the county treasurer. Instead, using a secret bank account, Edwards paid himself and his wife (his legal assistant) $12,489 without the county board’s approval and “donated” $3,726 to a nonprofit trapshooting club he belonged to. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, nine months of house arrest, 1,200 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution. But that’s not the end of the story. Though the voters of Keith County did not re-elect him in 2010, Nebraska Watchdog learned that Edwards found work prosecuting fellow criminals 80 miles away in Dundy County. The state auditor was outraged, saying, “It’s time for the Dundy County Commissioners to wake up and smell the coffee. Mr. Edwards should not be holding public office anywhere.” MITIGATING FACTOR: Edwards has since been disbarred and no longer is prosecuting in Dundy County. And it’s hard to find good help in a town of 1,000 in the middle of nowhere. (Deena Winter)

19. WISCONSIN: Gwen Moore

Gwen Moore

Don’t look for Moore on the final round of “The Voice” anytime soon — though it’s possible the Milwaukee congresswoman and music-killing crooner spends her time watching the popular NBC show because she doesn’t seem to be devoting her attention to voting. A Wisconsin Reporter review found the Democrat in the second quarter of 2012 missed nearly 17 percent of House votes. She seems to have made time to campaign, paying $7,000 to former “The View” host Star Jones to speak at a “Not For Sistah’s Only” campaign event. Also in her vast free time, Moore presided over the day the music died when she crooned her pro-recall, anti-Gov. Scott Walker ditty, “Hit the Road, Scott.” MITIGATING FACTOR: Wisconsin Reporter showed the Queen of the 99 percent doesn’t mind living like the 1 percent on her campaign coffers. (M.D. Kittle)

20. IOWA: Des Moines School Board

Des Moines School Board

Des Moines School Board members oversee the state’s largest school district, serving roughly 30,000 students with a budget of more than $400 million. Their job: to represent the public’s best interest. But don’t tell the seven-member board. Board members told the public Superintendent Nancy Sebring was resigning because she needed more time to prepare for her daughter’s wedding and for a new job leading the Omaha school district. That cover story was blown up — and Sebring resigned — shortly after reports of intimate correspondence from her district email account to her lover, a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Army who was forced to leave once the affair was revealed. Despite their lies, board members offered no apologies and didn’t face any discipline. One member said she wasn’t honest because she figured the media would eventually find out, anyway. The board now faces a lawsuit regarding a closed-door meeting they held to discuss Sebring’s resignation. MITIGATING FACTOR: Sebring was once considered a rising star who was sought after by urban districts to help turn around poor student achievement and to be a leader and role model for staff and students. (Sheena Dooley)

21. KANSAS: Walt Chappell

Walt Chappell

Chappell, an educational consultant and closet gadfly elected to the Kansas State Board of Education in 2008, scares the hell out of his fellow board members — holds the distinction of being on the short end of more 9-1 votes and offering more un-seconded motions than any board member in recent memory. That’s why we admire him. Chappelle opposes what he sees as the state’s adherence to unconstitutional federal education standards and believes many schools provide dismal educations for students. He once accused fellow Board of Education members of violating Kansas open meeting laws when they met without him to discuss how to deal with his public dissent. Critics say his Old Testament prophet-style advocacy — of tighter grading standards, stricter budgeting and consolidating small schools — is disruptive and time consuming. MITIGATING FACTOR: Other observers, such as John LaPlante, a policy analyst and commentator with the Kansas Policy Institute in Wichita, call Chappell “a useful dissident.” Board of Education members can, and in the past have voted to, use consent agendas to spend millions on contracts and consultants with little public discussion. (Gene Meyer)

22. NEBRASKA: Alexander Payne 

Alexander Payne

Nearly a year ago, award-winning Hollywood director Alexander Payne went to the Nebraska Capitol to ask for money. The Greek filmmaking god – he’s the man behind movies such as “Sideways,” “The Descendants” and “About Schmidt” – told state lawmakers he’d like to make his next movie in Nebraska (the movie is, after all, called “Nebraska”) but might not because the state didn’t offer any film incentives. Payne is a Nebraska native who has filmed three movies in Nebraska already, but he told lawmakers he was being pressured to make “Nebraska” in … Kansas, which has film incentives. “Frankly, I am hard pressed to offer resistance,” he told a panel of starry-eyed lawmakers. The irony of a Hollywood producer coming to the Capitol with his hat in his hand was lost on Nebraska media. They drooled over his appearance at the Capitol. (And it’s fair to say those committee hearings could use a bit of Hollywood drama.) The bill sailed through the Legislature, authorizing cities to reimburse businesses for giving discounts on film production purchases. MITIGATING FACTOR: Today, Payne is filming “Nebraska” in Nebraska, but he didn’t even apply for the incentives. Sen. Colby Coash, a lawmaker and sometime actor who sponsored the incentives bill, said because the bill didn’t become law until summer, “He needed to get started filming and didn’t have enough prep time to get the materials he would need to apply.” Instead, Coash said one community gave him a $5,000 gift certificate to use for supplies, and businesses were making “a lot of in-kind donations.” “Everybody cut him a deal,” Coash said. (Deena Winter)

23. OKLAHOMA: Lela Odom

Lela Odom

Odom leads the Oklahoma Education Association, the NEA’s affiliate and the state’s largest labor union – known for misinformation and retaliation. Even as Republicans have gained dominance, Odom has not abandoned commitment to social and economic policies entirely at odds with many teacher-members. This year, the OEA dumped a lobbyist known for working with Republicans. Odom has run off a variety of OEA employees for reasons ranging from political moderation or conservatism to insufficient adoration of the boss. She always wants more tax money for teachers, yet Odom’s stock in trade is blocking such proven reforms as charter schools, choice, accountability and measurements of teacher effectiveness. MITIGATING FACTOR: Even as her time is fading, Odom claims — with a straight face — the OEA has 40,000 members, despite evidence the ranks have plummeted to 20,000 or less. (Pat McGuigan)

24. TEXAS: Local officials lawyering up to kill sunshine laws

Texas judges

We call them the Furtive 15 — 15 city officials from across Texas who got lawyered up to waste taxpayer money and squander the time of judges and clerks all the way to the Supreme Court because they have been inconvenienced by the Texas Open Meetings Act. In every court in Texas, most recently the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the fabulous Furtives have been smacked around by judges who have found baseless their contention that the Open Meetings Act curtails their freedom of speech. The case actually got its start with a similar group of malcontents who sued in 2006. Their case was dismissed because most of the plaintiffs had already cycled out of office. When the Furtive 15 returned before U.S. District Judge Robert Junell, he lavished them with a 37-page decision that said the Open Meetings Act broadens and deepens discussion of public business, increases transparency and promotes trust in government. We’ll let that last questionable benefit slide, knowing the judge’s gavel was in the right place. MITIGATING FACTOR: In pursuing their case, the Furtive 15 point to nothing less than the First Amendment and the right to free speech enshrined in it. (Mark Lisheron)

25. IOWA: Matt Schultz

Matt Schultz

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz came into his position just two years ago with no experience and a pledge to find fraudulent voters. In that time, Iowa’s top election official has faced a lawsuit for targeting immigrant voters, an ethics complaint and a request for a federal and state investigation into his spending. He also hired his younger brother, Andrew Schultz, as an intern, breaking state ethics laws. But that’s not all. Schultz, 33, was also at the center of an identity left case, in which a former campaign staffer for President Barack Obama sent an email from an address nearly identical to Schultz’s email saying Schultz’s brother received inappropriate payments from former GOP presidential nominee Rick Santorum. And that’s where things got weird. Schultz refused to release the email or talk about it. In an interview with Watchdog.org, his brother, Thomas Schultz, sent his best wishes to the impersonator, Zachary Edwards, saying Edwards had already repaid his debt to society with a sentence of community service and a modest fine. And the attorney who got Edwards off the hook? A prominent Republican Party official and attorney who served in President George W. Bush’s administration. MITIGATING FACTOR: Schultz has gone out of his way to say that he is always going out of his way to do what’s in the best interest of Iowans. (Sheena Dooley)


Kelly Carson was formerly the managing editor of Watchdog.org.