An investigation by state prosecutors of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher has expanded to include a charity he set up in 1999.
"They're welcome to," said Fisher, a Democrat who was re-elected last year.
"I'm not really sure what's the big deal about that, that we're trying to help school children."
His Fisher Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up to provide shoes to children.
At issue is who gives to the charity, how the donations have been solicited and how the money has been spent.
Among the donors are insurance agents who are regulated by Fisher, The Oklahoman has learned.
Also, the charity has yet to buy any shoes from the funds.
The insurance commissioner last week said he will provide an independent audit of the charity to Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
"I was not asked to do it," Fisher told The Oklahoman. "I said, 'Just because there's the controversy and the concern, I'll go do that.'"
Fisher came under investigation by state prosecutors after the Oklahoma Ethics Commission turned over its files on him "for action."
Assistants to the attorney general advise the state's multicounty grand jury on possible criminal charges and then prosecute any indictments.
The next grand jury could begin work this summer.
Assistant Attorney General Lisa Goodspeed said she could not comment.
Fisher said if he has to dissolve the foundation and give the money back to donors, "I'll do that."
"I don't really care. I just thought I was doing something nice for people," he said. "But it seems like in political life you're not able to be nice to people without being criticized."
Fisher predicted the audit will find that "every dime is accounted for."
"Every expenditure, whatever little bit there's been, such as paying for a mailbox and whatever, is right on target," he said.
He also said he is not paid any salary out of the foundation.
"Nobody takes any money out," he said. "That is so ridiculous."
Fisher said his goal is to raise $100,000 "so we could endow it" and use the interest to buy shoes for school children.
He said he was trying to negotiate contracts with shoe manufacturers, such as Reebok and Nike, to pay them the interest in return for certificates or coupons that could then be distributed to school children.
Fisher said he does not know how much the Fisher Foundation has raised.
He also refused to let the foundation's accountant, Randall Compton, disclose details to The Oklahoman about the foundation's finances.
A charitable organization must file a federal tax form and make the form publicly available if it raises more than $25,000 in a year.
The Fisher Foundation has not had to file such forms since its start.
"There really hasn't been hardly anything deposited in that account ... over the last couple of years," said Compton, the foundation accountant.
The charity also has yet to buy any shoes, he confirmed.
"Nothing's been purchased yet. It's all just sitting in the bank account," Compton said.
The foundation's only expenses have been a fee paid to the Internal Revenue Service to get its nonprofit status and the annual fee for its post office box in Oklahoma City, the accountant said.
Funding for the foundation was raised three times by a "Shoes FORE Kids" golf tournament in Oklahoma City.
The 100 or so participants each year "were mostly insurance agents of Oklahoma and insurance people of Oklahoma," said insurance adjuster Phil V. Combs, the tournament's organizer.
"Very few adjusters. We couldn't afford it," Combs said with a laugh.
"We had a pretty good turnout. It was a great tournament. We had a lot of fun," Combs said.
He did not recall how much was raised.
The golf tournament was not held last year.
The Fisher Foundation also was mentioned as a place for memorial donations in a 1999 obituary for Deputy Insurance Commissioner Stanley F. Hopper and a 2000 obituary for Fisher's mother, Laura Frances Fisher.
The foundation also has accepted donations of shoes from at least one insurance company, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
The commissioner said the foundation so far has distributed 400 to 500 pairs of shoes to children across the state.
He said the foundation gave away the shoes through other organizations such as Rotary Clubs and the Red Cross.
"If I went and took my picture with a poor little kid and handed him a pair of shoes, you know good and well there would be those people who would criticize me, saying, 'Look at him. Now he's trying to use children who don't have shoes to benefit his own political career.'
"I don't want that to happen. That's why I've been so cautious and so careful to make sure that there is always an intermediary."
Two incorporators of the Fisher Foundation were interviewed last week by an investigator for the attorney general.
Oklahoma City attorney Pete White and Fisher's former chief of staff, Larry Weatherford, both confirmed they had been questioned.
White said he only helped with the paperwork to form the Fisher Foundation and had nothing further to do with it.
"As a favor, I did that," White said.
Fisher has adopted old shoes as a personal trademark because he wore holes in his own campaigning in 1998.
He gave out shoe lapel pins as souvenirs after that election.
The Ethics Commission referred its files on Fisher to state prosecutors Dec. 13.
Most of the files deal with Fisher's acceptance of $33,421 in furniture, artwork and kitchen equipment years ago from companies tied to the insurance industry he regulates.
Fisher used the donations to furnish and decorate the Insurance Department's offices.
He was supposed to get gubernatorial approval before accepting them.
Last month, Gov. Brad Henry told the commissioner it would not be proper to accept the property as "gifts to the state."
Fisher said last week he is giving the property back.
"I've notified everybody to come get it ... just like I told the governor I would do," he said. "I'm not really still sure why it's necessary.
"We're going to order new stuff. We'll get all brand-new furniture again ... and the state will have to pay for it."
He said he also has canceled his annual continuing education day for insurance agents "because of the criticism of it being political."