Several of the alleged "straw donors” to Dan Boren's 2004 congressional campaign also contributed heavily to Gov. Brad Henry and two other powerful politicians, records show. The FBI in court papers Thursday identified 21 Boren donors as those who were reimbursed for their donations as part of an illegal scheme to finance Boren's campaign. The FBI alleged former state Sen. Gene Stipe and business partner Steve Phipps were behind the scheme. Informants told the FBI the two men used straw donors to finance a number of political campaigns over a long period of time, according to court records. A straw donor is someone who gives with someone else's money. Agents did not disclose what other candidates allegedly benefited from such schemes. However, campaign records show Henry, a Democrat, received $35,000 from nine of those named by the FBI as straw donors to Boren, mostly in January 2003 after Henry first won election as governor. State Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan, D-Tecumseh, received $35,863.89 in cash and in-kind contributions from 15 of those people during his 2002 campaign, records show. One donor, accountant Rita Benson, admitted to The Oklahoman she was given money from Phipps for her donation to McMahan. Former state Rep. Mike Mass received $15,000 during his 2004 state campaign from four of the same donors and $6,100 during his 2002 congressional campaign from eight of those donors. Mass is a Democrat. FBI agents reported they had not uncovered any evidence yet that Boren knew he was receiving the illegal donations. Boren also said Thursday he was unaware. Henry, through a spokesman, and McMahan also denied knowingly accepting straw donor money. The governor was traveling Friday to Afghanistan. His communications director, Paul Sund, said in a prepared statement: "Like Congressman Boren, this is the first we have heard of the situation. "No authorities have contacted us about the contributors in question, and we do not know if the accusations leveled against donors to Congressman Boren's campaign are applicable to other campaigns,” Sund said. He said the governor received thousands of contributions in 2002 and 2006, "and his campaigns followed all state laws and ethics rules pertaining to political contributions. We are not aware of any problems in either campaign.” McMahan said each donor to his campaigns in 2002 and 2006 was asked to sign statements that say in part, "This contribution was freely and voluntarily given from my personal property. I have not directly or indirectly been compensated or reimbursed for the contribution listed above.” "When we get those, that's all we've got, other than their word,” McMahan said. Mass could not be reached for comment. His home telephone was disconnected last year.
Edmondson donates contribution amountAttorney General Drew Edmondson told The Oklahoman on Friday he voluntarily is donating $3,000 from his campaign funds to the state Ethics Commission because he had donations from Stipe and Phipps. He said Stipe gave $1,000 in 2004 and $1,000 in 2006, and Phipps or his wife gave $1,000 in 2004. Edmondson said he did not know whether those donations to him were illegal but was giving the money away anyway in light of the recent developments. He said he checked his records for any donations from those alleged to be straw donors and found only Phipps. At the time of the alleged illegal donations to Boren, Stipe was under house arrest for a similar straw donor scheme involving the 1998 congressional campaign of Walt Roberts. Giving money in another person's name is illegal, as is agreeing to be the named donor with someone else's money. The FBI affidavit alleges the money used to repay straw donors went through Phipps Enterprises, a company co-owned by Stipe and Phipps, a Kiowa businessman. Investigators claim those men's mutual business interests received nearly $3 million in state money through money earmarked by three legislators. Much of that money went toward a McAlester dog food plant.
Auditor's opponent feels vindicated over claimsMcMahan's Republican opponent in 2002 and 2006 said Friday the FBI has interviewed him about money McMahan's campaign received. "I can tell you that there is nothing in the affidavits that is anything that I said or anything that I provided, said Gary Jones. "Everything I told them, I think they went to someone else who had first-hand knowledge of it.” Jones said he felt vindicated by the affidavit, because he had claimed for two years that McMahan's 2002 campaign was financed heavily by straw donors. "In fact, one of the reasons I ran (in 2006) was because we couldn't get anybody to do anything about it,” he said. Benson, the accountant who admitted to being a straw donor, is listed as a $3,200 donor to McMahan in 2002. McMahan said he doesn't know Benson. That's not unusual, he said, because his campaign held large fundraisers throughout the state. Jones said that's not plausible, considering the size of Benson's contribution. "I guarantee you, every person who gave that amount to me, I know that person. "You'd have to be pretty naive to not know that there's some hidden agenda for these donations,” Jones said. McMahan's office regulates the abstract business. Several of the people alleged to be straw donors work in abstract companies owned by Stipe and Phipps. Named by the FBI as a $2,000 straw donor for Boren was Tim Arbaugh, who heads the abstract division for McMahan. Arbaugh gave $787.49 to his boss' campaign in 2002. Arbaugh was one of two state employees the FBI accused of being straw donors for Boren's campaign. The other was Kent Wilkins, an Oklahoma Water Resources Board employee in McAlester. That agency's director, Duane Smith, said Friday he hadn't heard about the allegation and hadn't spoken to his employee about it. Wilkins didn't return phone messages Friday. Contributing: Chris Casteel in the Washington Bureau
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FBI affidavit (PDF) Rita Benson, an accountant and alleged straw donor, interviewed by Oklahoman reporter Nolan Clay
Karla Hall, a banker and alleged straw donor, interviewed by Oklahoman reporter Nolan Clay.
Gov. Brad Henry
Straw donorsSeveral of the 21 alleged "straw donors” to U.S. Rep. Dan Boren also gave to State Auditor Jeff McMahan in 2002, to Gov. Brad Henry in 2003 and to former state Rep. Mike Mass in 2002 and 2004. A straw donor is someone who gives with someone else's money. To McMahan: •Tim Arbaugh, Guthrie, $787.89. •Rita Benson, Atoka, $3,200. •Carol Coffman, Idabel, $3,000. •Danita Francis, Stillwater, $2,500. •Roy Hatridge, Wardville, $5,000. •Tresa Johnson, Caney, $300. •Lesa Lackey, Caddo. $300. •Jeanette Lambert, Idabel, $3,000. •Joycelin Maye, Idabel, $1,100. •Betty Murphy, Kiowa, $600. •Pat Payne, Antlers, $600. •Brenda Phipps, Kiowa, $2,976. •Steve or Brenda Phipps, Kiowa, $5,000. •Melia Rose, Kiowa, $5,000. •Larry Witt, Stillwater, $2,500. To Henry: •Coffman, $2,500. •Francis, $5,000. •Roy Hatridge, $5,000. •Lambert, $2,500. •Steve or Brenda Phipps, $5,000. •Rose, $5,000. •Kent Wilkins, McAlester, $5,000. •Witt, $5,000. To Mass' 2004 state campaign: •Rex Hatridge, Wardville, $3,000. •Roy Hatridge, $4,000. •Lambert, $3,000. •Steve Phipps, $5,000. To Mass' 2002 congressional bid: •Coffman, $1,000. •Johnson, $400. •Lackey, $300. •Lambert, $1,000. •Maye, $1,000. •Murphy, $400. •Brenda Phipps, $1,000. •Steve Phipps, $1000. Source: Campaign reports