Okla. GOP Lawmaker to Return Insurance-related Campaign Donation

February 14, 2008

An Oklahoma Republican House leader said he will return a $5,000 campaign contribution from a donor who sought legislation that would have helped insurance companies tied to the donor’s family.

House Majority Leader Gregg Piatt initially decided to keep the contribution from Bradford Phillips, but said newly elected House Speaker Chris Benge encouraged him to return it.

Some Republican House members have criticized Piatt for keeping the contribution.

“There was a problem with perception by our members,” he said. “But there was nothing unethical or illegal about anything that was done.”

During last year’s session, Piatt proposed an amendment to the legislation sought by Phillips. He received the donation in June at an Ardmore fundraiser; the legislative session ended in late May.

Political campaign donations are limited to $5,000 for each campaign.

The bill Piatt attempted to amend, which was proposed by state Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland and patterned after a national model, would have allowed an insurance company to make commercial real estate loans based on a cap of 2 percent of assets. Piatt succeeded in passing an amendment in the House committee to raise the amount to 20 percent. The committee approved the bill, but it never made it to the House floor.

Bradford Phillips is the son of Gene Phillips, who is alleged to have bribed former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.

A state grand jury in 2004 alleged Fisher illegally received money, gifts and gratuities from “Gene Phillips, his family and business associates.” Fisher faces a bribery trial in May. Gene Phillips was not charged and denies wrongdoing.

Piatt said he likely would not accept future contributions from Bradford Phillips because it is a “lightning-rod issue.”

Information from: The Oklahoman, www.newsok.com

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