Executives with telecommunications giant AT&T appear to have rewarded Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for taking a legal position that has benefitted their company.
Dozens of contributions from officials with AT&T flowed into Pruitt's political campaign within a period of about three weeks in the fall of 2014. The donations came on the heels of a decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on an lawsuit that had significant financial stakes for the company.
The lawsuit, filed by two former Southwestern Bell customers against its current corporate incarnation, AT&T, claimed that a 1989 rate case known as PUD 260 should be ruled null and void because it was later shown that the deciding vote, cast by Commissioner Bob Hopkins, was bought by an attorney for Southwestern Bell.
What's more, the suit argued, AT&T should have to return about $16 billion that attorneys for the plaintiffs estimate Oklahoma customers have overpaid as a result of the PUD 260's controversial approval.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined AT&T in arguing that reopening the case was not in the public interest.
On September 8, 2014, the Supreme Court announced, by a 7-0 vote, that it did not have the jurisdiction to rule on the case.
According to records obtained by OK Energy Today, beginning approximately two weeks after the ruling, AT&T executives began making donations to Scott Pruitt's campaign committee -- Scott Pruitt For Attorney General 2014. Contributions from 46 AT&T officials, from September 25, 2014 through October 17, 2014, totaled $41,000.
Pruitt ran unopposed for a second term last year.
More recently, the same plaintiffs, with the addition of Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks and a few others, filed the same complaint with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Since the Supreme Court said the case was not theirs to decide, the plaintiffs are hoping the current Commission will reopen the 1989 rate case and throw it out.
Attorney General Pruitt has again filed a motion in opposition.
Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Mr. Pruitt issued this statement: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has maintained the position that the PUD 260 matter should not be reopened for nearly 20 years. As Attorney General Drew Edmondson stated to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 1997, and again in 2010, “[t]he public interest would not be served by reopening an evidentiary hearing occurring nearly [two] decade[s] ago. The resources of the Commission and of the parties could be better utilized than by rehashing ‘ancient history.’ Accordingly, a rehearing of this cause is not in the best interests of [Southwestern Bell Telephone]’s customers and is not advocated by the Attorney General.” Our recent filing with the Corporation Commission is consistent with this position.
A hearing at the Corporation Commission is scheduled for November 3.