Stipe Investigated In Alleged 'Straw Donor' Scheme

Friday, March 9th 2007, 8:30 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Former state Sen. Gene Stipe is accused of illegally pumping as much $34,600 into U.S. Rep. Dan Boren's 2004 primary campaign, according to an FBI affidavit.

According to the affidavit, all of the contributions to Boren were made in late March 2004 _ two months after a federal judge sentenced Stipe to house arrest and fined him $735,567 for a similar scheme involving Walt Roberts' unsuccessful 1998 congressional campaign, The Oklahoman reported Friday in a copyrighted story.

The allegations are contained in affidavits used to obtain search warrants for the McAlester offices of Stipe and his accountant, Greg Shores. The affidavit was unsealed Thursday in Muskogee.

At Stipe's office Wednesday, agents seized computers and related equipment, Stipe's medical records, loan agreements with one of his companies and financial statements. Agents took boxes of Stipe-related financial records from the accountant's office, records show.

Several confidential informants told the FBI that Boren wasn't aware of the alleged scheme, and Boren also said Thursday he was unaware.

``This is the first that I have heard of this. I am shocked and surprised and certainly had no knowledge that anyone who contributed to my campaign was reimbursed for a contribution,'' Boren said Thursday. ``In campaigns like mine, which have thousands of contributions, candidates must rely upon the truthfulness of the contributors.''

Boren said if any contributions to his campaign are determined to be illegal, he would donate the same amount to an Oklahoma charity.

In the affidavits, FBI agents Gary Graff and James Dawson described a plot in which money used to illegally influence political races was paid by Kiowa businessman Steve Phipps. Phipps Enterprises, a company co-owned by Phipps and Stipe, then would reimburse Phipps through ``consulting fees,'' which were shown on the company's financial records, the FBI alleges. Informants told the FBI that Stipe orchestrated similar contribution schemes for other, unspecified political races.

Stipe's attorney didn't return a phone message Thursday. One donor acknowledged in an interview Thursday that she was a straw donor for both Boren and state Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan.

That donor, Rita Benson, is listed as a $3,200 contributor to McMahan's 2002 campaign. McMahan said he doesn't know Benson and didn't knowingly accept any illegal contributions.

A straw donor is a person who illegally uses another person's money to make a political contribution in their own name.

Other alleged straw donors included employees of abstract companies and board members of the Rural Development Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created in 2002. The FBI affidavit lists 21 alleged straw donors to Boren's 2004 campaign.

One alleged straw donor, Terry Field, confirmed Phipps reimbursed him for his $1,000 donation to Boren.

Field, 52, is a longtime marketer with Simons Petroleum and lives in Burns Flat. He said he has testified before a grand jury and spoke to FBI agents a year ago.

Field said he made his donation at a fundraiser dinner in Guthrie. He said he didn't think it was wrong at the time. ``I was just helping out,'' Field said. ``I wasn't trying to do anything undercover. ... I don't remember whether he reimbursed me before or after. ... I understand now that that's wrong.''