State Charges Possible In Alleged Campaign Scheme

Sunday, April 8th 2007, 2:10 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) State and federal prosecutors have discussed the possibility of filing state charges over an alleged illegal campaign-contribution scheme orchestrated by former state Senator Gene Stipe, according to a published report. Attorney General Drew Edmondson told The Oklahoman he has met with U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling about the federal investigation into the alleged "straw donor" scheme.

"We have offered our services," Edmondson said. "And, if there are any charges that they can't reach federally that they would like us to take state action on, they will refer those to us."

The FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating allegations Stipe and a former business partner, Steve Phipps, used straw donors to funnel excessive contributions to several political campaigns.

A straw donor is someone who donates someone else's money, typically as a way to get around limits on how much one donor can give.

The FBI has specifically alleged straw donors were used to finance U.S. Representative Dan Boren's 2004 campaign, although agents say there is no evidence Boren knew. One of the alleged straw donors has testified she used money from Phipps to donate to Boren and to state Auditor Jeff McMahan.

Straw donors also may have been used to make excessive donations to Governor Brad Henry and former state Representative Mike Mass, records show.

Edmondson said Friday he and a top assistant, Joel-lyn McCormick, met with Sperling, the U.S. attorney in Muskogee. McCormick is the assistant in charge of advising the state's multi-county grand jury.

He said the U.S. prosecutor "indicated a willingness to work with us, and if there is anything that we should be handling ... they will so advise."

No charges have been filed out of the new investigation. The federal grand jury meets again this week.

Stipe, 80, is on probation through 2009 over his admitted use of a straw donor scheme to finance Walt Roberts' unsuccessful congressional campaign in 1998. Stipe admitted illegally funneling $245,189 of his own money into Roberts' campaign.

Related stories:

3/9/2007 - Stipe Investigated In Alleged 'Straw Donor' Scheme

3/12/2007 - Questionable Campaign Contributions