FBI behind illegal contributions to Oklahoma lawmakers

The FBI was the source of $10,000 a lobbyist used to make illegal campaign donations to two Oklahoma legislators in 2008, federal prosecutors revealed last week.
by Nolan Clay Published: May 6, 2012
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©Copyright 2012 The Oklahoman

The FBI gave a lobbyist $10,000 to make illegal campaign contributions to two Oklahoma legislators during a 2008 undercover operation, federal prosecutors revealed last week.

The FBI created a fake Georgia company for the undercover operation. That company then hired an unsuspecting lobbyist, Andy Skeith, to promote its interests, records show.

Skeith, 53, of Edmond, was acquitted this year at a federal political corruption trial of extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud counts.

He was not charged for anything he did for the undercover company. His role has come up again because he wants the federal government to pay his defense expenses.

The federal prosecutors allege Skeith violated state laws while working for the fake company. His defense attorney, Warren Gotcher, contends Skeith did nothing wrong.

“They spent a lot of money for nothing. It all showed that Andy was doing things like he was supposed to do,” Gotcher said. “I don't know that he violated any state laws. Nobody's looked at that. They certainly didn't make any referrals to any state agencies.

“The bottom line is that lobbyists give campaign contributions all the time,” the defense attorney said. “They're not paying for anything other than that somebody will at least know who the heck they are. It's just a cost of doing business.”

The Oklahoman first reported in February about the FBI's phony company, Road Safety International LLC.

Last week's legal filing, though, reveals new details about the undercover operation. Most significantly, it shows the lengths to which the FBI went to make the company appear legitimate to Skeith and others.

Those lengths include supplying $10,000 to Skeith to make donations to two legislators in a way that violated Oklahoma's campaign laws, according to the prosecutors' filing.

Ethics breach claimed

The prosecutors reported Skeith, who also is an attorney, created a fictitious invoice for “legal research” to disguise why he was getting the money. Prosecutors reported it was Skeith's idea to make the donations in his name.

“Mr. Skeith committed a crime under Oklahoma law by facilitating a conduit contribution,” prosecutors reported to a judge. “To shield the company from public disclosure of its financial support for the legislators, he knowingly and willfully evaded Ethics Commission rules on reporting the sources of contributions.”

Prosecutors also reported, “He assured the company representatives that the two legislators knew the company wanted legislation and were ‘on board.' He also commented that ‘you won't get f - - - - - by the people you give money to.'”

Undercover agents at times must get involved in breaking the law to maintain their covers. It happens all the time in undercover drug operations, officials say.

Any state charges out of the undercover operation would be unlikely at this point because of limits on how long after a crime a prosecution can began.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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