The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was asked Monday to investigate an email that warned a state senator he would become “the laughing stock of the Senate” unless legislation passed out of his committee.
The co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party admitted in an interview with The Oklahoman that he sent the email to state Sen. Cliff Branan.
“We will expose that man's dirty laundry. We will show people what he is like,” Al Gerhart said. “It is not a threat. I put down there clearly: This is a promise.”
In the March 26 email, Gerhart wrote about House Bill 1412, which would prohibit Oklahoma communities from having anything to do with the United Nations Agenda 21 plan.
Misspelling one word, Gerhart wrote: “Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don't hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, yoru family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”
Branan, R-Oklahoma City, confirmed Monday that he turned a copy of the email over to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain at the Capitol.
“It really doesn't matter what they say about me, but it's when they bring in the family into it, which really kind of concerned me,” Branan said.
Blackmail or protected free speech?
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol on Monday asked the OSBI to investigate. Once an investigation is complete, the OSBI is expected to turn over its reports to Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater for a decision on prosecution.
At issue is whether the email could be considered blackmail or protected free speech.
Under Oklahoma law, blackmail can involve a written communication that threatens to expose information about someone “which would in any way subject such person to the ridicule or contempt of society.”
Under the law, blackmail occurs if the intent of the communication is “to extort or gain any thing of value from another or to compel another to do an act against his or her will.”
Gerhart said passage of the HB 1412 is critical.
“It's all about property rights. It's about whether or not you can build that pool in your backyard or whether you can put a fence up there,” he said. “And Agenda 21 is one of these issues that is real. It's out there. They're implementing it. It's going to take decades for them to do it but it's coming and now is the time for people to stop it.”
Gerhart, 54, of Oklahoma City, said troopers visited his carpentry business Friday. He said he wasn't there.
“They're harassing me because we're focusing the power upon them, because we're making them look bad. My friend, they get me, they'll be after you next. That's all I can say,” Gerhart said of politicians.
He said the Sooner Tea Party will do what he promised in his email.
“We want to know what is going on down there. We want to know if his wife has got a criminal history. We want to know everything about him. We want to find out if this man is a responsible citizen, if he's even got his family under control much less control of his office,” Gerhart said.
Gerhart denied doing anything illegal, saying he is a constituent telling a senator that there will be political repercussion even though the senator is term-limited and cannot be re-elected.
“These politicians need to know that it doesn't end when their term is over,” Gerhart said. “They need to know that their decision's going to follow them for the rest of their days. They need to know the Tea Party is not going away — that if we don't win it the first time, we're going to come back the next year and the next year and the next year after. And we don't forget these people that are traitors to the Oklahoma people.”
He said the Sooner Tea Party will report what is found on the Internet, in Branan's district and at Branan's church.
“I want the people in his church to know what he is doing. That it's wrong,” Gerhart said.
Gerhart complained HB 1412 passed the Oklahoma House overwhelmingly but Branan has been sitting on the legislation in his Senate committee.
Branan is chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, which next meets Thursday morning.
Branan said he got another email Monday about the bill from someone else that referenced his family. He said he will turn that email over to law enforcement, too.
“As far as the bill goes, our decision to hear any sort of bill in my committee is based upon whether this is going to result in good public policy for our state,” Branan said. “I was concerned and disappointed that the advocates of the bill would have resorted to that kind of rhetoric because you never know where others may take the whole thing.”