McMahan resigns after conviction

Analysis:  Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Jeff McMahan resigned today in disgrace after his conviction Saturday on federal crimes. 
"It is with sadness and regret that I resign my position as Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, effective immediately," read the one-sentence letter of resignation submitted to Governor Henry.  A federal grand jury in Muskogee convicted McMahan and his wife, Lori, of one count of conspiracy and two counts of accepting bribes.
The McMahans were convicted of illegally accepting excessive campaign money, jewelry and trips from southeastern Oklahoma businessman Steve Phipps. In return, the state auditor, with his wife’s help, provided favors for Phipps’ abstract companies.  Their actions could serve as textbook examples of political corruption.

Following Saturday’s verdict, jury foreman Michael Miracle delivered the most interesting comment on the case, telling reporters that after hearing nine days of testimony and arguments, he considered the state auditor "a small fish in a big pond with a lot of whales.”

"Granted, he’s an elected official and he should be held to a higher standard, but there’s a lot of other people that were involved,” Miracle said. "I just don’t think Mr. McMahan was one of the ringleaders.”

If a state elected official is not “one of the ringleaders,” then how corrupt is Oklahoma government?  How high – or low – does it go?  And when do the “whales” go to jails?

Tulsa Today was the first Oklahoma news organization to cover this scandal.  With respect to the The Oklahoman and, to a far lesser degree, The Tulsa World – the two largest daily newspapers in the state – we beat you guys like a drum, despite your staff of hundreds, revenues in the millions and national news affiliations.

After 13 hours of deliberations over two days, jurors in the McMahan case found the couple guilty on a conspiracy count and two counts of violating the Travel Act to promote bribery. The Travel Act counts involve trips the McMahans took at Phipps’ expense in 2003 and 2004.

Jurors acquitted the couple on five counts of mail fraud.

Congratulations to federal investigators and prosecutors, without whom Oklahomans would have no prayer of honest government as long as Oklahoma Democrats are protected by Attorney General Drew Edmondson.  (Lori McMahan admitted several misdeeds in court, but said they were either state crimes or state Ethics Commission violations.  Prosecutors said that seemed like a convenient excuse, since the statute of limitations for many of her admitted crimes has expired.)

Supported and illegally funded by the slimy likes of Gene Stipe, who served in the Legislature for 50 years, and his long-time partner, Steve Phipps, the Oklahoma Democratic Party makes more Republican victories as individual Oklahomans observe first-hand the corruption of Democratic powerbrokers who are promoted, protected and repeatedly proven evil throughout the state.

For years, Stipe operated as Little Dixie’s Robin Hood – stealing from taxpayers to fund further election of corrupt stooges and personal friends.  He spread the money around.  His admitted activities prove that any party that retains absolute control of the political process for over 100 years inevitably devolves into vile betrayal.

Governor Brad Henry, by law, will appoint a successor, but Henry (as well as U.S. Congressman Dan Boren) also received huge amounts of money from the same network of straw donors as Jeff McMahan.  Don’t expect nonpartisan decisions from that group; but if there is any justice in the world, the man cheated in two elections for the post, Republican Gary Jones, should be appointed.  Jones connected the dots six years ago on McMahan.  Tulsa Today contributer Mike McCarville mused on his McCarville Report Online, “How much better a watchdog of public funds could we find than a guy with that kind of nose for corruption?”

Tulsa Today first started paying close attention as the final numbers became public on McMahan’s first race.  In a story published June 30, 2006, Jones offered a detailed recap of McMahan’s final report of his 2002 campaign reporting. Jones said the report showed McMahan had total monetary receipts of $364,464.16 (line 10 form C1R) and had expenditures made of $289,880.02 (line 17 forms C1R).  Based upon those numbers, Jones said the fund balance should be $74,584.14 on line 25 of the report. Jones noted that the actual figure on McMahan’s report is $2,573.59 – a difference of over $70,000.  The $2,573.59 figure was carried forward and reported as the starting balance on McMahan’s 2006 campaign.

“I believe how a candidate manages their finances in a campaign and how they report them is very important. Jeff McMahan should immediately correct his math and acknowledge his poor bookkeeping to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission,” Jones said. (To read that posting, click here.)

In the next campaign for the same office by the same individuals – McMahan and Jones – things got a little strange in Tecumseh, McMahan’s hometown, when Gary Jones’ campaign trailer was stolen.  It was not a small theft and Jones announced a reward – and in January 2008, we discovered it was McMahan’s brother, Jason, who with a friend committed the crime. (To read that posting, click here.)

Steve Phipps first hit our investigative radar in a story on April 2, 2006, as we found links to a strange beneficiary of Oklahoma tax dollars by the name of the “Rural Development Foundation” that received some $2.5 million  for “pondering” development of a water system that would compete with the City of Tulsa’s water.  Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor facilitated the transfer of funds while serving as Governor Henry’s Secretary of Commerce. (To read that posting, click here.)

Today, House Speaker Chris Benge said McMahan did the right things by stepping down.  "I am pleased Mr. McMahan did the honorable thing for the people of Oklahoma and decided to step down today,” said Benge, R-Tulsa. “The House will now not have to have an expensive and redundant impeachment process that would have cost the taxpayers money."

Yes, it is indeed a wonderful thing to see the enemies of good government float face-down and out with the spring rain – but again, when are the rest of the whales going to jails?

About the Author:
{mosimage}David Arnett began his career in professional journalism in 1985 and has published Tulsa Today since 1996 – before Al Gore invented the Internet.  He has won two national awards as a First Amendment Publisher.  Arnett is a Constitutional Republican, Public Information Specialist and Conservative Media Critic. This analysis may be reproduced without charge with proper attribution and links back to the original source.  Arnett is available for interview by recognized media.