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Oklahoma Foundation Aided By State Legislators

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A southeastern Oklahoma foundation received more than 1.2 million dollars in state money for special projects because of the efforts of two legislators, according to public records examined by The Oklahoman.

Using the Kiamichi Economic Development Fund, through which legislators fund pet projects, Democratic House members Mike Maas of Hartshorne and Randall Erwin of Nashoba requested the earmarks for the Antlers-based Rural Development Foundation.

Records show that Maas earmarked $849,560 for the foundation, all during fiscal year 2005. Erwin -- who left the House in late 2004 -- earmarked $384,914 during fiscal year 2004.

Almost $825,000of that money apparently was specified for a for-profit dog food plant in McAlester that is not in either legislator's district.

The foundation's address is the same as an abstract company co-owned by Steve Phipps, who has identified himself as the foundation's consultant. He's also the majority owner of National Pet Products, the dog food plant that received the state money.

Erwin said that was unaware of Phipps' ties to the dog food plant when the money was earmarked for the foundation. Maas did not return e-mails or messages left at his state capitol office by The Oklahoman.
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