Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Minds Steering Oklahoma's Political Think Tanks



In the battle for Oklahoma’s political hearts and minds, David Blatt and Michael Carnuccio helm the rival political think tanks commonly portrayed as liberal versus conservative juggernauts ... they both really hate that.




Carnuccio, who heads the shrink-government, free-market Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, grates at the label. It too easily equates with Republican partisanship. After all, this is a state where blank campaign signs could be pre-printed with the slogan, “the conservative candidate – (insert name here)” and sell wildly.

They’re both right to complain about the ready-mix media label.

In Carnuccio’s case, consider the council’s October “hit piece” on Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. At least, that’s how the governor described it. She winged off a two-page email to the council’s board members – Carnuccio’s bosses – complaining about it. The scrap was over Fallin’s pending chairmanship of the National Governors Association. She serves on the executive committee in the company of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a national political light with presidential candidate prospects.

“Unfortunately,” she wrote, “OCPA staff seems intent on continuing to demagogue the NGA (National Governors Association) and my leadership within the organization as a ‘big-government lobbying organization’ without presenting the real facts that it serves as an effective advocacy group on behalf of our nation’s governors and state primacy.”

For the council to oppose a self-described conservative Republican governor belies its casual classification as a front group for the party. Despite Fallin’s influential attempt, the council’s board didn’t back off its judgment: The governors association and others like it are “trade associations” to grow the size of government and Oklahoma elected officials should drop out of all of them, Carnuccio says. The council’s mission runs deeper than party lines.

Blatt’s Oklahoma Policy Institute emerged only five years ago, but quickly earned its “liberal” sticker. Its positions against income tax cuts, pro more funding for education and a wide range of government services did that. But in 2010, OK Policy joined Republicans in opposing a big-government, pro-education state question. The proposal would have forced legislators to match the regional funding average of K-12 schools of surrounding states in three years. Despite OK Policy’s strong support for more education spending, the $1.7 billion that the measure would have added to schools would have starved other vital programs.

“We work really hard to avoid being labeled and to show how our positions are rooted in some core principles and values,
not rooted in an ideology or party platform.”  - David Blattd

Blatt’s explanation of setting up OK Policy as an informational, independent policy group applies equally well to the council. “We work really hard to avoid being labeled and to show how our positions are rooted in some core principles and values, not rooted in an ideology or party platform,” he said.

For leading two think tanks with mostly opposite goals, the men share a remarkable number of life coincidences.

Both began their lives outside Oklahoma. Blatt was born in Montreal to a double-minority family: Jews in predominantly Christian Canada, and English speakers in a politically contentious, French-majority province – Quebec.

Carnuccio was born at Methodist Hospital in south Philadelphia, the same place his parents and older brother and sister were born. Both were raised by English-teaching moms, who later delved into teaching it as a second language. Blatt excelled at English. Carnuccio survived it, but took to math.

Their familiar moorings were uprooted when they were both 13. Blatt’s father, an English-only-speaking accountant, foresaw

a dearth of employment opportunities. The family moved far out west to Calgary, Alberta province – the Canadian Bible Belt, oil capital and home to cattle barons. The Carnuccios moved to Mustang for Blatt’s father to manage the Dana Corporation manufacturing plant, which made chassis for Ford Motor Co.

They share other coincidental connections, but work style isn’t one of them.

OK Policy operates from the 10th floor of Tulsa’s Sun Building, a worn relic touted for its affordable leases. Papers pile up on the desks and work tables in Blatt’s office like layers of black-and-white cheese slices in a buffet of policy points that visitors can sidle up to in a pink plastic chair. The headquarters’ main entrance opens onto the break room and its coffee pot.

Carnuccio works from a renovated two-story mansion four blocks from the Capitol. The nicely stained wood grain of his executive desk is easily appreciated because it’s clutterless. A deep leather couch nearby beckons for more casual talk.

The difference is due to the age and influence of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. It’s celebrating 20 years in existence, growing from a state-focused start-up to a powerful player on the national level of public policy research groups.  This September it will host a national convention of free-market think tanks. It expects about 1,000 people at the Cox Convention Center.

The council’s biggest annual event, the Citizenship Award Dinner, involves giving out scholarships, but its list of speakers over the years is a major contributor to the council being labeled conservative. Much like Fox News, with its habit of employing presidential nominees as commentators, who all happen to be Republican, the event’s speakers have included Republican stars like vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich.

It’s true that the state’s “conservative” Republican elected officials align more closely with the council’s political views, but the council is an independent policy advocate, Carnuccio says. He views the council’s mission as an uphill battle even in a red state. The more society depends on free market solutions and trims back government, the more prosperity.

“Because it’s not Republican or Democrat, it’s government,” he says. “There are two views: You break down to whether you believe that a bigger government is better for creating the society that you want, or you believe that empowering the individual  is the better way. We believe the more limits on government, the more power an individual has, and society is better.”

He points to Republican Party control of national government from 2000 to 2006.

“You had Republican control of the Senate, the House and White House. And the approach was, “Well, we’re going to do our things, but we’re still going to do it through government. Compassionate conservatism, but through big government.”

During that time, annual deficits shot up from as little as $250 billion, topping out at $1 trillion by the time President Obama was inaugurated. A free market think tank is going to oppose growing government, no matter who’s doing it, he says.

Meanwhile, the state’s political liberals flock to OK Policy’s work like moths to a flame. But Blatt echoes Carnuccio’s claims – his organization’s focus is on issues and facts, not partisanship.
“We hear from a wide range of people that OK Policy is critical to public debate and decision-making in Oklahoma. Our work is needed and progressives appreciate us as being a progressive voice, but many Republicans, as well, want to hear a range of voices.

“I think most people, including elected officials, don’t think that either side or either party has a monopoly on the right answers. The fact is we can provide the voice for the other side of the debate on a lot of issues.” 


 

Take Your Pick

If there’s anything both the Council of Public Affairs and the OK Policy Institute want for Oklahoma, it’s prosperity. They just have different ways of thinking about how we should get there.

OK Policy – Oklahoma’s government is a strong partner for better schools, up-to-date infrastructure and a healthier population. “This goal of shrinking government to where you can drown it in a bathtub won’t work,” Director David Blatt says. “Oklahomans may not want to be Massachusetts, but we don’t want to be Bangladesh, either.”

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs  – Limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy. “Our challenge is not in the issues, it’s how you want to get there,” President Michael Carnuccio says. “Do you want bigger government, or do you want to empower your people?”

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »You Might Like

Absolute Bedlam

Football is a big, big deal around here, especially if the teams competing both have “Oklahoma” in their names. As longtime rivals the OU Sooners and OSU Cowboys move toward another marquee matchup, Slice takes a look at the history, atmosphere and myriad joys of the madness that is Bedlam.

Happy in the 405

Civic development and housing demand, knockout sunsets and stellar sports franchises and a shared unquenchable spirit … there’s a lot to be grateful for about living in central Oklahoma – and we’re happy for the chance to share some of it with our readers.

Accounting for Taste

A give and take about the joys of parenthood, the value of personal authenticity and setting a goal of being more goal-oriented with star CPA Melissa Prophet.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2019

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Start your Sunday morning by perfecting your practice during our outdoor yoga class. Enjoy the beauty of yoga outdoors in the glow of the Ferris Wheel lights! This class welcomes all levels, from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wheeler Ferris Wheel
1701 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73109
View map »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

MILLER IN MAY HOME TOUR HIGHLIGHTS CHARACTER AND CHARM The 20th anniversary of Miller's beloved home tour Miller Neighborhood's most popular event is back for 2019… and...

Cost: $10 - $30

Where:
Miller Neighborhood
NW 10th to NW 16th, N Villa to N May
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Miller Neighborhood Association
Telephone: 405.642.5982
Contact Name: Elizabeth Beard

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

OKC's premier chamber orchestra, the Oklahoma Virtuosi, presents their season finale concert.  Concert will include: St. Paul's Suite Op.29 No.2 by Gustav Holst,...

Cost: Free

Where:
21C Hotel
900 W. Main St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Website »

More information

As the first anniversary of her sixth album Conversation With A Ghost approaches in June, Italian-born and Austin-based singer-songwriter Giulia Millanta possesses a...

Cost: $15-$20

Where:
The Blue Door
2805 N. McKinley Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The Blue Door
Telephone: (405) 524-0738
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Piedmont Airlines will be hosting a Information Session for ramp agent jobs at Embassy Suites in OKC. Please plan to spend up to 3 hours with us, as we will have you fill out applications, listen...

Cost: Free

Where:
Embassy Suites
1815 South Meridian Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: Piedmont Airlines
Telephone: 704-359-2477
Contact Name: Nick Calo
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Watch happy hour turn to golden hour while we fill the air with live music. For 5 consecutive Tuesday evenings, we invite OKC to come out after work to enjoy a variety of food, views,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Chisholm Creek
1316 W Memorial Rd
Oklahoma City, OK  73114
View map »


Sponsor: OkSessions.com
Contact Name: James
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 90 visual artists will line the streets of the Historic Paseo Arts District, selling original artwork in a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to wood and jewelry, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Paseo Arts District
3022 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Paseo Arts Association
Telephone: 405-525-2688
Contact Name: Paige Powell
Website »

More information

Enjoy all your favorite activities at the Orr Family Farm for a special price! Admission is only $8 per person on this day only.

Where:
Orr Family Farm
14400 S. Western Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73170
View map »


Telephone: 405.509.9312
Contact Name: Lauren Daughety

More information

"Sandy Magrath: Dogs of the Southwest" art exhibit will be open May 1 - June 30, 2019, at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 -...

Cost: $6 adults

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Stacy Moore
Website »

More information

A nationally touring exhibit “Bison: Ancient. Massive. Wild.” will open May 24 at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK. This exhibit explores the significance of...

Cost: $4 - $6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

James Bailey from Missoula, Montana, is ARTSPACE at Untitled's visiting Artist in Residence; his exhibition, Map-ify, is on view May 9th through July 6th.  "My work examines...

Cost: Free

Where:
ARTSPACE at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405.815.9995
Website »

More information

Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass this Memorial Day Weekend! Get a full day of fun at Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park for only $29.99. A Dual Park Pass includes Unlimited Rides &...

Cost: Save $5 on a Dual Park Pass!

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park & Water Park
3300 Market Place
Norman, OK  73072
View map »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags