Gary Jones for State Auditor

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In 2002, Gary Jones, a Certified Public Accountant, ran for State Auditor. He received 48.5% of the vote, losing to Jeff McMahan, a man with no education in accounting, by about 30,000 votes. We now know that Jeff McMahan won that election in part because of massive amounts of illegal campaign money, including $157,882 from Steve Phipps, a business partner with Gene Stipe in abstract companies regulated by the State Auditor's office.

In 2006, Jones ran again, receiving almost exactly the same share of the vote. In the weeks leading up to the election, Jones not only called into question McMahan's competence, but he began to sketch out the connections between McMahan, Steve Phipps, Gene Stipe, Francis Stipe, a dog food factory, and grants and loans orchestrated by certain Democratic legislators. It was a complicated story, too complicated to convey to the voters in a way that had impact. (As in 2002, Jones didn't have any coattails from the top of the Republican ticket.)

Jones continued to follow the money, and eventually the Feds did, too. McMahan and his wife, Lori, were convicted in federal court for bribe-taking and conspiracy. The shady dealings that Jones had uncovered were confirmed by Phipps's testimony and affirmed by the jury.

Jones's tenacity in pursuing corruption in state government, at the risk of being accused of sour grapes or obsession, is just the quality we need in a State Auditor.

I've read comments here and there that Jones is a party hack, because he's served for several years as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party. Chairing a political party is a tough, thankless job, and it's unfair to dismiss someone who has been willing to serve in that role as a "hack."

I remember when Jones first decided to run for chairman. Chad Alexander had resigned following the disappointing 2002 results. As a statewide candidate, Jones, from rural Comanche County, saw how the city-oriented Republican Party had failed to connect with rural voters, despite the conservative values that they share with the GOP. His motivation for seeking the chairmanship was to fix that, and the increasing success of the party in electing legislative and county officials in once-solid-Democrat districts is testimony to his success.

After winning election to a full term as chairman in 2003 and then re-election in 2005, Jones stepped aside to again pursue the State Auditor's Office. Many Republicans, disappointed with the performance of his successor, Tom Daxon, urged him to seek the chairmanship again, and he defeated Daxon at the 2007 state convention.

Gary's bluntness, persistence, and analytical skills have been a great help to the GOP, but those qualities would be put to even better use in the pursuit of waste and fraud in state government. By appointing Gary Jones to fill the vacancy left by McMahan, Gov. Brad Henry would be proclaiming that the era of insider dealing, bribery, and corruption is over in Oklahoma.

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Bob said:

While appointing Gary Jones as State Auditor and Inspector would be a bold, non-partisan move by Gov. Henry, don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Gov. Henry is up to his neck in the same Phipps-Stipe straw-donor manufactured morass as Rep. Dan Boren, McMahan, and other prominent Democrat politicians.

Expect a Democrat party hack as Henry's nominee.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 17, 2008 11:07 PM.

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