Three Okla. Lawmakers Return Donations Linked to Former Commissioner Scandal

January 18, 2008

Three Oklahoma state representatives, all Republicans, say they are returning campaign contributions given to them by the son of a man linked to convicted former state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.

Reps. Jeff Hickman and Earl Sears say they’re both returning $600 donations to Bradford Phillips and Rep. George Faught says he’s giving back $645 from Phillips.

Phillips is the son of Texas insurance company owner Gene Phillips. Fisher is accused of accepting $25,000 in gifts from Gene Phillips, his family and his business associates in exchange for favorable treatment of his insurance companies.

Gene Phillips has not been charged in the case.

Various Oklahoma lawmakers were criticized recently for attending a Dec. 18 fundraiser hosted by Gene Phillips for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the Republican former governor of Arkansas.

House Speaker Lance Cargill and six other state Republican House members attended the fundraiser at Gene Phillip’s Dallas home, the Associated Press reported.

Cargill and some representatives confirmed that they accepted a bus ride to the fundraiser from lobbyist Bill Case, a former state lawmaker with ties to the businessman. Another state representative and state GOP chairman Gary Jones said they traveled to Dallas for the fundraiser on their own.

House Democratic leader Rep. Danny Morgan said he was “floored” when he heard Cargill attended the fundraiser.

Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Goodwell, said “it never clicked” in his mind when he and others went to Phillips’ home.

Other Republican lawmakers who attended were Reps. T.W. Shannon of Lawton and Mike Jackson of Enid. The Oklahoman reported that Republican Reps. Ron Peterson of Broken Arrow, Colby Schwartz of Yukon and Rob Johnson of Kingfisher also attended the fundraiser.

The Oklahoman reported that lobbyist Bobby Stem and former Republican state Sen. Scott Pruitt, an unsuccessful candidate for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in 2006, also attended last month’s fundraiser. A short time later, Pruitt became Huckabee’s chairman in Oklahoma.

Case and Stem work as lobbyists at a firm called Capitol Gains. Stem lobbies for American Reserve Life Insurance Co., where Phillips’ son is a top executive.

Shannon said he went to the fundraiser not knowing that questions had been raised about Phillips.

“I learned all of this after the fundraiser,” he said. “It was just a chance to get to see Mike Huckabee.”

Stephen Jones of Enid, who has been Gene Phillips’ attorney, was one of the co-sponsors of the event.

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