Release: September 2, 2004
Senator Richard Lerblance (D-Hartshorne) yields to Senator
during a press conference held September 2, 2004. The senators
press conference to request a multi-county grand jury investigate
actions of the Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform.
Senators Rabon, Lerblance Call
for Grand Jury
Probe of Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform
A pair of state senators charged Thursday that an organization
claiming to be independently seeking reform of the state’s
civil justice system has stepped over the line into partisan
politics and its solicitation and use of secret corporate
donations could be in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution
and state campaign laws.
In a letter to
Attorney General Drew Edmondson, Senators Jeff Rabon and
Richard Lerblance asked for a multi-county grand jury investigation
of Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform, claiming that the group’s
blatant solicitation of anonymous corporate donations for
Republican candidates goes far beyond the legal boundaries
for activities by a 501c4 corporation.
obtained a copy of a July 29 fund-raising letter sent by
OLR Chairman John Brock to doctors and corporate officers
in Oklahoma. There’s no doubt that OLR is no longer
operating as a 501c4 as defined in federal law but has instead
become a political action committee,” said Rabon,
D-Hugo. “Today, Senator Lerblance and I called on
the Attorney General of our state to use the multi-county
grand jury to investigate the activities of this organization.”
that Brock’s letter identifies OLR’s new mission
as “electing a majority of Republicans in both houses”
of the Oklahoma Legislature and later specifies support
by the group for “Republican candidates, both local
a difference between a PAC, which can actively raise money
for candidates from one party or the other, and a 501c4
organization, which is limited in its partisan activities.
Mr. Brock’s recent letter clearly indicates that OLR
intends to function as a PAC in raising money for and promoting
Republican candidates,” said Lerblance, D-Hartshorne.
pair said, Brock’s letter tells potential donors,
including corporate officials, that because OLR is designated
under the Internal Revenue code as a 501c4 organization,
that there are no limits to how they can contribute to its
cause. Brock’s letter also says that even corporations,
which are prohibited in Oklahoma from donating directly
to candidates or political action committees, can make donations
to OLR because of its IRS designation.
makes it clear that individuals and corporations can donate
as much money as they wish to OLR and can do it anonymously
and that their money will be used to fund the Republicans’
attempt to takeover the Legislature. This thing sounds more
like a secret slush fund than a non-profit corporation.
if everything is on the up and up, why the secrecy? Why
wouldn’t these people and corporations want the public
to know they are donating money to this effort?” Rabon
In their letter
to the attorney general, the Senators outlined where they
believe Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform has gone afoul of
The pair believes
that Oklahomans for Lawsuit Reform has violated Article
9, Section 40 of the Oklahoma Constitution and two different
sections of Title 21 in Oklahoma State Statutes.
Article 9, Section
40 of the Oklahoma Constitution provides that no corporation
organized or doing business in Oklahoma shall be permitted
to influence elections by contributions of money or anything
Title 21, Section
187.2 of Oklahoma Statutes prohibits corporations from contributing
to any campaign fund of any party committee for the benefit
of such party committee or its candidates.
Title 21, Section
187.1 of Oklahoma Statutes prohibits campaign contributions
to be made to a particular candidate or committee through
an intermediary or conduit for the purpose of evading laws
relating to campaign contribution limits.
for Lawsuit reform walks like a PAC and quacks like a PAC,
then it’s a PAC and it needs to obey the laws governing
how a PAC can contribute to political campaigns or invest
in independent expenditures that can influence elections,”
The recently re-elected
senators said that others besides Brock and OLR co-founder
Mike Cantrell could be drawn into the probe.
who have exceeded the legal donation limit of $5,000 and
officers of corporations which have donated illegally to
OLR could have some questions to answer before the grand
jury,” Lerblance said.
how former Governor Frank Keating advocated the creation
of more GOP-leaning political action committees in the 1990s
as a way for individual Republicans to donate more money
that would eventually find its way into the campaigns of
Republican legislative candidates.
was easily the most partisan governor in our state’s
history, what Governor Keating advocated was governed by
reasonable campaign laws. What OLR is suggesting –
unlimited and anonymous contributions, including corporate
contributions, for the single purpose of electing candidates
from a specific political party – is, in my opinion,
outside of the law and should be fully investigated immediately,”
He said this
type of scheme isn’t new or limited to Oklahoma.
The case of Oklahomans
for Lawsuit Reform seeking unreported, anonymous and corporate
donations in support of Republican candidates is similar
to the case under investigation by a Travis County grand
jury in Austin, Texas. In that probe, a grand jury is investigating
the way corporate donations to a PAC, operated by Houston
Congressman Tom Delay, were used in support of Texas Republican
not just Delay’s use of corporate contributions that
are being scrutinized. Rabon pointed out that corporate
donations to a PAC operated by Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick
have also been criticized. Additionally, the Hugo senator
said, the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives is
under fire for using a non-profit issue-advocacy organization
to funnel corporate donations to candidates who support
becoming an epidemic and we’ve got to keep it from
infecting Oklahoma politics. To giant multi-million dollar
corporations a $100,000 donation is pocket change, but in
a state House or Senate race, that’s a lot of money.
We have to say ‘no’ to this kind of abuse of
campaign financing laws in Oklahoma now before it goes any
further,” Rabon said.
more information contact:
Senate Communications Office -