Oklahoma County Commissioner Focus Of Campaign Finance Investigation

Saturday, August 5th 2006, 12:45 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An Oklahoma County commissioner is the focus of a state investigation into alleged campaign finance law infractions, officials said.

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown said Friday that Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart is under investigation on suspicion of violating campaign finance laws and ``other financial matters.''

Rinehart, a Republican, said he expects to be interviewed by the OSBI but that he does not have details of the investigation.

``It's news to me, and so I don't know if I can even comment on something that I don't know anything about,'' Rinehart said. ``I don't know what they're pointing their finger at. I just have no idea.''

The OSBI is also investigating Rinehart's 2004 campaign manager, former state Rep. Tim Pope, Brown said. In February, The Oklahoman reported that Pope's political action committee, the Oklahoma Republican Assembly, had accepted contributions from people who already had given their legal limits to Rinehart.

Pope told The Oklahoman in February he took at least one donation from a contributor who had given the maximum amount with the intention of using the money for a mailing to benefit the Rinehart campaign.

It is illegal for a political action committee to earmark funds for a particular candidate when accepting donations, according to Marilyn Hughes, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

Pope has said he did nothing wrong.

When asked whether he had a hand in financial decisions regarding his campaign, Rinehart said: ``I wrote the checks.''

Pope also is being sued by Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who alleges automated phone calls paid for by Pope violated federal law.

The calls were made in late January and accused one of Rinehart's political opponents, Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth, of ``advancing the homosexual agenda in Oklahoma County.''

The $10 million lawsuit claims the calls violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which requires automated phone calls to include the identity of the person or entity making the calls and a return telephone number.

Pope's attorney, Stephen Jones of Enid, said the nature of the calls was political, making them exempt from the federal law.