Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Governor Doubtful Behavior Illegal

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Governor Doubtful Behavior Illegal

Article excerpt

campaign contributors by State Treasurer Ellis Edwards' office raises questions of impropriety, Gov. Henry Bellmon said Tuesday, but "as far as anything unethical or illegal, I don't see anything."

Bellmon was asked at a news conference about a weekend newspaper report that said Edwards' office participated in more than $2 billion in securities trades with five individuals who contributed to his 1986 election campaign after he was elected to help retire his election debt.

reported late Tuesday that federal and state investigations are under way into dealings of the office of Edwards.

Three highly-placed sources told The Associated Press they understood an FBI investigation was under way. Activities being probed, they said, included securities trading and campaign contributions from people awarded state investment funds.

Two sources said Ellis' office also was being investigated by Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, The report said.

``We can neither confirm or deny that,'' FBI spokesman Dan Fogel said when asked if there was a federal investigation of Edwards or his office.

``No comment,'' said U.S. Attorney Bob Mydans.

``We have no knowledge of any investigation,'' said Sara Pyle, public information official in the treasurer's office.

Bellmon said he had not studied the newspaper account, but only scanned it briefly in preparation for his 10 a.m. news conference.

"I need to know more about it," he said. "At this point, I am not clear whether any action is indicated, and I'm not sure what I could do."

Edwards said he has done everything he can to avoid any question of impropriety.

"Our contracts are competitively bid, and the company which has the most to offer the taxpayers gets the job," he said.

"Maybe some of the people involved are my friends and maybe some of them are my enemies. I may not even know some of them, but performance and greater return on the investment of taxpayers' dollars is the only criteria that should be used in awarding contracts."

Edwards said his family has been in the investment banking business for 98 years, so there are not many people in the business he does not know.

"The biggest problem with elective office is that it requires campaign contributions to get your message out to the voters," he said. "Then, once you're elected, people expect you to punish your enemies by not doing business with them . . . and punish your friends by not doing any business with them, either."

Bellmon said the state treasurer is an elected official who is not subject to the governor's office or its commands.

He said he would give the issue further study. Asked if he would consider asking the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to investigate, Bellmon said he would not do so without careful thought, because such an action is often accompanied by the immediate presumption of guilt.

Bellmon said while post-campaign contributions are always risky, candidates for public office have to collect campaign funds unless the state switches to a state campaign funding system.

The governor said he has never run a campaign debt, always ending with some surplus. The rather sizeable surplus that remained following his 1986 gubernatorial campaign was distributed to others.

Post-campaign contributions are sometimes risky because contributors could believe they are buying favors, he said. …

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