What one Oklahoma oilman remembers about Tom Coburn

The late U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn is remembered by thousands who had personal contact with him. One of them is Mike Cantrell, the immediate past president of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, who wrote about his memories of the Senator in the Sunday Oklahoman.

“There are very few truly great men, but I consider former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn right up there with the Founding Fathers in selfless service to his country.

I first met Dr. Coburn when he was a congressman running for the Senate. Unlike my model of a fine congressman who brought home a much-needed infusion of federal dollars to his home district, Coburn’s principles wouldn’t let him do that. He believed building roads was the job of the Oklahoma state highway department, not the federal government. Earmarks were used to bring home the money from D.C. Coburn thought that was bad public policy.

But when I heard this brilliant and principled man on a debate stage, I was all in; even though at the time I was supporting one of his opponents. I told him so after the meeting and, while we sometimes differed in philosophy, I never wavered in that support.

My biggest test with Sen. Coburn was when Congress was debating ending the oil and gas tax provisions necessary to stimulate investing in businesses that were “risky” but vital to our national security. While trying to figure out how to approach this task I was fortuitously seated on a plane to D.C. with Coburn, which allowed me to make my case. His powerful intellect didn’t suffer fools very long. He was already familiar with the very complex tax law applying to the oil and gas industry. I soon realized my angst was unnecessary. He simply understood the issue and followed his principles.

But by far the most memorable encounter with Dr. Coburn was during the 2008 presidential cycle. We were in Florida at a Club for Growth meeting. We got to the dining room early and were visiting until everyone came in. I asked him who we should support for president that year. There were seven or eight Republicans battling it out to get the nomination. He shocked me when he said, “Mike, the most intellectually honest man in the race is Senator Barack Obama.” He continued, “While we totally disagree on what to do with the public’s money — he wants to do more social programs and I want to give it back to the taxpayers — we both abhor government waste.”

While no one was stronger in his principles of conservatism, for Coburn it was never personal nor was he ever really partisan. Tom Coburn fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith.”

(Cantrell is the immediate past president of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, made up of small-business oil and gas producers from across Oklahoma.)

Source: The Oklahoman