Sometime Sunday afternoon, former conservative State Representative Tim Pope passed away of a heart attack. Tim was 52 years old and had been married to his wonderful wife LaDonna for many years. They have 3 daughters, all adults with some grandchildren.
I probably first met Tim around 1988 as he was running for House District 98 which encompassed Mustang, parts of Yukon and a little area South of the South Canadian River. He was the first Republican ever elected to that seat.
Tim served from 1989 through 2002 before deciding to run for State Labor Commissioner in 2002. He had a lifetime conservative rating of 87 on the Oklahoma Constitution Newspaper’s Conservative Index, an impressive accomplishment for anyone in office that many years. There have probably not been more than a dozen lawmakers score that high over the past 30 years.
Tim was an aggressive conservative lawmaker who was always willing to speak his mind. Several years ago he took the moral high ground when it came to exposing the homosexual agenda, which resulted in him being a target of the hateful homosexuals long before State Representative Sally Kern was elected to office. Anyone that is outspoken and aggressive like Tim will have both detractors as well as those of us who liked him and respected him for his courage and willingness to mix it up, rather than play life cautiously, hiding behind the issues of the day.
Following his years of service in the legislature, Tim did political consulting work and coached several of his clients to victory, many times against the better financed establishment candidates in Republican primaries as well as victories against Democrats. He was hard hitting and was well equipped for the rough and tumble world of politics, a competition which is both a science and art.
In an effort to inform citizens of Jim Roth’s county commissioner district, Tim sent out a robotic phone call suggesting Roth was using his position to advance the homosexual agenda. The robo call stated a couple of facts then asked citizens to call one of two phone numbers if they agreed or disagreed with Commissioner Roth’s agenda. That phone call ended up by having Attorney General Drew Edmondson file a legal action against Tim seeking what I believe was a $10,000,000 judgment.
The complaint was not that Tim misrepresented any facts, but that he violated the no call laws by not including his phone number in the script. That suit finally ended up in some level of state court where the Edmondson machine was willing to settle for what I believe was a $5,000 fine. Tim, still believing he had done nothing wrong appealed in federal court to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver where the case was thrown out. The Court declared the law that was supposedly broken was to apply to commercial calls and not political calls which, by the way, is the purest meaning of the First Amendment’s free speech provision.
Tim was elected to serve as President of the Oklahoma Republican Assembly (OKRA) a state affiliate of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. It was during his tenure as President that he formed a PAC which decided to help Brent Rinehart win the election against then County Commissioner Cornet, a rather liberal Republican.
Rinehart won the primary and went on to win in the general election against the Democrat. If I remember correctly, Tim was accused by AG Edmondson of violating campaign finance laws by taking money from three contributors for the PAC which was then used to help elect Rinehart.
The problem was that each of those 3 contributors had already given the maximum of $5,000 to Rinehart’s campaign. I had always believed if Tim did not know they had given the full amount or if he did not promise them it would be used for the Rinehart race when he was soliciting the contributions, there would have been no violation of the law. The legal wrangling went on for several years and Tim finally pleaded guilty, agreeing to pay a small fine. The real damage was the near $200,000 in legal expenses which caused Tim to declare bankruptcy.
I personally believe Tim never intended to break any law. I believe he was so aggressive that it was more likely that he may have gotten careless in his efforts to work for one of his clients or perhaps it was a friend. I have never seen the evidence so I have no opinion on the validity of the case.
With that conviction it made Tim somewhat radioactive as far as consulting for candidates knowing any opponent would use that against a candidate who would hire Tim. The sad thing is that AG Edmondson was successful in taking out, at least temporarily, one of the best conservative consultants in the state. I visited with Tim for a while on Monday, the first of February while down at the Capitol and he expressed his desire to get some time between his fight with Edmondson and when he could use his skills again to help elect conservatives to office.
There were a couple of times I didn’t want to see one of his candidates elected to office and it would always cause a little friction between us, as he was always loyal and worked hard for his client. But Tim was not one to hold a grudge and we would soon find ourselves working together on an issue or on behalf of some other good candidate.
I considered Tim one of the good guys, a friend and am really going to miss him. I believe the funeral will be on Monday, February 22nd. Oklahoma has lost one of its better citizens. Please keep LaDonna and the other members of the family in your prayers.