Republicans Vie for Corporation Commission Nomination

by Stephanie Stone

United Press International - August 18, 1988

If it happens, it will be the first time in 60 years and only the second time since statehood. 

But four GOP candidates vying for a seat on the state Corporation Commission say this will be the race in which a Republican is elected to the body that regulates utility rates, oil and gas production and many other areas of Oklahoma's economy. 

The Republicans competing for the nomination will include Bob Anthony, chairman of the board of the C.R. Anthony Co. of Oklahoma City; Jack Leebron, an Edmond oil and gas attorney; Al Stine, a Tulsa petroleum engineer; and Tom Guild, a Central State University political science professor. 

The four will compete in Tuesday's primary election for the chance to face the Democratic nominee, and state Republican Party officials say they are optimistic about their chances. 

Anthony, considered the frontrunner by some, says the commission has a reputation of corruption he would like to see eradicated. 

He says he will bring his business experience to the commission and work to eliminate unnecessary expense. The candidate said a recent increase in drilling fees not only hurt oil and gas producers, but provided the commission with an unnecessary surplus. 

''They had a $2 million surplus at the end of this fiscal year,'' Anthony said. ''It's ludicrous for them to have said they needed more money.'' 

Anthony said utility companies should control rates by controlling expenses. 

''A business person knows that prices and rates are fundamentally determined by costs,'' he said. ''I think someone who has experience running a large business would be able to scrutinize unnecessary expenses.'' 

Anthony, 40, serves as chairman of a 65-year-old company begun by his father. He says his experience in Oklahoma's business climate would make him a knowledgeable commissioner. 

Knowledge of commission operations is the central theme of the Leebron campaign. The 39-year-old attorney once served as a legal intern on the commission staff. He now represents clients before it in private practice. 

He said commissioners must read through ''volumes and volumes'' of documents for every case before the body, particularly those dealing with utility rate increases. 

''If one is trained as a lawyer, one can look through the evidence,'' Leebron said. ''I know the rule book backward and forward.'' 

Leebron said he would work against what he called the ''police mentality'' of current commissioners, a mentality he said prompted a recent transport license revocation that effectively cancelled 189 Oklahoma jobs. He also said he supports closer
scrutiny of utilities. 

''I would ask questions of them,'' he said. ''I would ask, 'Why are you guys, as a monopoly, getting on television every night and telling us why we need to use natural gas?'' 

Leebron has some other things to say from his experience at the commission. 

''I think what it needs is some strong leadership,'' he said. ''I think they need someone who is willing to come in earlier than anyone else, and stay after everyone else is gone. If you go over to the Corporation Commission offices at 3:30 in the afternoon, you won't find a living soul there.'' 

Commission ethics also play a large role in the Guild campaign. Guild won the nomination to the commission in 1984, but lost the seat in the general election to Commission Chairman James Townsend. He lost the nomination in the 1986 primary, but says he is optimistic this time around. 

Guild, 34, says ethical standards governing contributions and discussion of cases are ''virtually nonexistent'' in commission operations. He said he would like to see the commission come under the umbrella of the Code of Judicial Conduct. 

''It's common practice for commissioners to have meetings with lobbyists before a hearing,'' he said. ''We have two sets of information going to the commissioners. One set is the formal record. The other set is informal and extremely inappropriate.'' 

Guild proposed ways to achieve a structure of ethical rules, including the adoption of internal rules by the commission and policy changes passed by the state Legislature. 

Stine, a petroleum engineer, has run on a platform of criticism of recent commission rulings. He has criticized the establishment of new drilling fees, which he says have had a chilling effect on an already ailing oil and gas industry. 

The 57-year-old petroleum engineer also favors the construction of cogeneration plants, which are plants that generate electricity from waste heat. 

''The electric companies are trying to prevent anyone from manufacturing electricity, even if it is a by-product,'' Stine said. ''They want a reason to keep building more and more power plants. They make a ton of money that way.'' 

Commissioners have approved two cogeneration plants, one in Oklahoma City and one in Poteau. A third is now under consideration.

© 1988 UPI

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