Truth Test: How True Are Pay-to-Play Charges Against Edmondson?

Thursday, October 25th 2018, 9:25 am
By: Grant Hermes

In a new ad from the Kevin Stitt campaign, the Republican hopeful alleges former Attorney General Drew Edmondson worked a pay-to-play scheme while he was in office.

The ad contends he drove millions of dollars to a law firm to get a job after he left office.

“As Attorney General Drew Edmondson steered $30 million to one law firm. $1500 bucks an hour. They then turned around and handed Edmondson a cushy job and are now bankrolling Edmondson's campaign,” the ad’s narrator said.

So, did Drew Edmondson steer millions to a law firm that later hired him? Sort of. Here's what happened.

That law firm is the Oklahoma City firm Riggs-Abney. The firm’s member list boasts prominent Oklahoma Democrats like Former State Senator David Riggs and Attorney General Mike Turpen. Current State Senator Kay Floyd is also a member of the firm.

Riggs-Abney was chosen by a pair of national law firms in charge of the tobacco lawsuit settlement from a list put together by Edmondson in the early 2000s. While Edmondson had the final say, there doesn't appear to be any evidence he favored Riggs-Abney. The firm would end up as one of three firms in the state which was paid $30 million for their work. But to say Edmondson steered that money to the firm is misleading. While he likely knew that firm would get a sizeable payment, Edmondson also wouldn't have been able to predict how much the firm would get.

Edmondson does have a job at the firm right now, but according to a representative from Riggs-Abney, he's not considered a full-time employee. Edmondson doesn't collect a salary, instead splits a portion of his intake with the firm. Edmondson did not land a position at Riggs-Abney right away; he worked for another firm before joining Riggs-Abney. But he still got the job. We give the second claim a rating of true.

What about bankrolling his campaign? That's misleading too. Here's why.

According to campaign finance reports, members of the firm are among the list of donors to Edmondson and have given tens of thousands to Edmondson's campaign. To be clear, the firm itself hasn't given any money. According to records, the firm has donated to several causes in the past including the inauguration of Gov. Mary Fallin.

However, to say they're bank-rolling Edmondson, implying they're making up a large chunk of Edmondson's funds isn't right. At best, they account for a small fraction of the campaigns $2.2 million in contributions.

The ad also makes two other claims We're going to skip the first two claims in this one. The ad shows images of Edmondson’s lengthy career in politics and his support of Fmr. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2016. It's no secret Edmondson has been in Oklahoma politics for decades and that he supported Democrats for President. We’ve tested that before.

Overall, we're giving this ad a one 'true' rating and two 'misleadings.'

Read all of Grant's 'Truth Tests' related to the 2018 elections in Oklahoma:

Truth Test: Truths And Half-Truths About Drew Edmondson's Funding

Truth Test: Kevin Stitt Falsely Says He's Stepped Down From His Company

Truth Test: Vice President Pence Tells Truths, Falsehoods In Tulsa

Truth Test: Did Kevin Stitt Call Politicians Great?

Truth Test: Does Something 'Stink' In Edmondson's Record?