Records Show Taxpayers Paid For 6 Brad Henry Trips

Sunday, August 27th 2006, 10:50 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Taxpayers paid for six out-of-state trips taken last year by Gov. Brad Henry, including one to a Las Vegas convention for an Oklahoma-based legal firm.

The Oklahoman's investigation of state records indicated that taxpayers spent more than $46,000 as Henry traveled to four University of Oklahoma football games, a show in Washington and the convention in October for Ada-based Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc.

Pre-Paid Legal had contributed almost $100,000 to Henry's re-election campaign, according to records.

Henry, a Democrat, defended the cost of the trips, saying he was ``going to work.''

``It's not like I do that all the time, to Vegas in particular,'' he said. ``Those trips were in my official capacity as the governor of Oklahoma, as the official ambassador and the chief economic development officer of the state of Oklahoma.''

Henry said he gave two speeches at the Pre-Paid Legal convention and that company officials did not ask him for anything.

``Anytime any Oklahoma company _ good corporate citizen _ asks me to visit with them or represent them, I'm going to do that,'' he said.

He said it's important to let Oklahoma companies know that state officials value their presence and the jobs the companies create. He called Pre-Paid Legal ``one of the premier corporate citizens in the state of Oklahoma.''

Pre-Paid Legal founder Harold Stonecipher said he did not expect anything from Henry in exchange for political donations.

``If I thought they'd do something like that I probably wouldn't support them,'' Stonecipher said.

Henry's football trips last year were to OU games against Southern California in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla., in January; Texas in Dallas in October; Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., in October; and Oregon in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego in December.

The four trips cost taxpayers about $31,000. Most of that cost was for travel and security.

``Anytime your teams are in the national spotlight, the governors of the respective states are just expected to attend,'' Henry said.

He said he tries to conduct business when he travels outside Oklahoma for games.

Henry has taken almost 30 official trips out-of-state last year and this year. Expenses for some of the trips are paid for by private funds.