Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

For AG: Edmondson Charts His Record, Bode Her Qualifications

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

For AG: Edmondson Charts His Record, Bode Her Qualifications

Article excerpt

From changing the way national magazine sweepstakes do business in Oklahoma to a record-breaking telecommunications settlement, the tandem issues of consumer protection and utility rates have played a key role in Attorney General Drew Edmondson's last eight years in public service.

"We have been very active in consumer protection," Edmondson says.

In 1997, he pointed out, he was able to secure additional funding to increase his office's Consumer Protection Section from a single attorney to three and add investigators and support staff. Recognizing that previous attorneys general lacked this backing, Edmondson is proud of the agency's record.

"We've done more for consumers than any other attorney general in the history of the state," he said.

Some deceptive-practice cases, such as the sweepstakes litigation, result in actual monetary returns to consumers, the attorney general pointed out. In others, the financial returns are used for public-service purposes, such as funding domestic violence seminars, shelters and rape-crisis centers.

Even Oklahoma's participation in the landmark tobacco litigation had a consumer-protection component, Edmondson said, halting as it did the illegal marketing of products to children and false claims about the health effects of smoking.

Oklahoma has received about $90 million thus far as its share of the tobacco settlement, and stands to receive more than $2 billion over the next 25 years.

Legislatively, Edmondson said, some of his efforts have been more successful than others.

He cites as a success the new "Do Not Call" law aimed at stopping telemarketers from calling consumers who place their names on a registry maintained by the attorney general's office. The list actually becomes effective at the first of next year.

Edmondson has yet to gain passage of legislation allowing the attorney general to represent directly secondary purchasers of, for example, prescription drugs. Under current law, he said, his office may represent only state agencies, not individual consumers, unless they purchase directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

"We'll continue working on that," Edmondson said.

His office has represented consumers in several utility cases before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and played a lead role in a record-setting $640 million rate-case settlement with Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in 1995.

Edmondson said that a recent settlement with Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. could result in consumer rate savings of $25 million, plus $20 million to $50 million in the future. The settlement comes before the regulatory commission next month.

Edmondson said he is puzzled that his opponent, corporation commission Chair Denise Bode, would say his office has not initiated many utility rate cases before the commission. …

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