Democrats seek criminal investigation of former speaker

Thursday, September 18th 2008, 8:54 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The state Democratic party is asking the Oklahoma County District Attorney to launch a criminal investigation into ethical misconduct by former House Speaker Lance Cargill.

Republican leaders are calling the request politically motivated because there was already a criminal investigation

Following the release of an Ethics Commission report and its reprimand of Cargill last month, the state Attorney General's office looked into whether they should pursue a criminal prosecution of the former House Speaker. The state Attorney General's office decided not to.

"So now, to ask another prosecutor's office to review the matter is really inappropriate," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said.

Prater said he'll do the investigation, but doesn't like the obvious political overtones.

"We don't allow ourselves to be pulled into partisan fights, and I resent this because I think that's exactly what this is an attempt to do," Prater said.

The state Ethics Commission report said Lance Cargill and other GOP operatives took campaign contributions that were intended for the state Republican party and redirected them, without the donors' knowledge, to the Oklahoma County Republican Committee. This was clear violation of state ethics rules.

State Democratic party leaders said requesting further investigation is not politically motivated.

"I just want to see an investigation done, and if something was illegal, then I want justice to take place," Oklahoma Democratic party chairman Ivan Holmes said.

But state Republican leaders said this is not about justice, it's about the Democrats shopping for a better verdict.

"It went through the proper authorities with the Ethics Commission. It went through the reprimand. It was given to the Attorney General, he didn't get the outcome. Well, now we're going to go venue shop and try to get somebody else to come up with a different outcome," Oklahoma Republican party chairman Gary Jones said.

In a statement released through his attorney, Lance Cargill concurred, saying "the current attempt by the Democratic party to resurrect this investigation is mere partisan politics during election season."

Democrats insist this is not a witch hunt, but they said, with the ethics report concluding that there was "a deliberate intent to circumvent the law" they don't know why the Attorney General isn't pursuing criminal charges.