Wednesday, December 2, 2009

by Steve Fair
Gary Jones, state Republican chairman, filed a lawsuit last week against his former political opponent Jeff McMahan and McMahan’s wife Lori along with four other defendants. Jones is seeking reimbursement of nearly $250,000 for what he personally spent on the 2002 and 2006 State Auditor and Inspector races.

Jones alleges, and Steve Phipps verified in McMahan’s trial, the two elections were “stolen” from him. Jones lost both elections by razor thin margins. In an opinion/editorial on Thanksgiving Day entitled, “Jones’ stew: State GOP chairman can’t let elections go,” ( The Oklahoman said. “We’d like to think the state’s GOP chairman has better things to do. Surely Oklahoma’s court’s do.”

Is Jones’ lawsuit sour grapes? Does the state GOP chairman have better things to do than sue his former political opponent? Is this a frivolous lawsuit?

Let’s address these questions in reverse order. First, do the courts have better things to do? Is this a frivolous lawsuit? According to a legal dictionary a “frivolous” lawsuit is defined as, A baseless lawsuit that is filed with little or no prospect of success.

Jones’ lawsuit is not baseless as the editorial itself admits. The Oklahoman says, “his opponent each time, Jeff McMahan, proved to be as crooked as the day is long, and now is serving eight years in prison for accepting illegal campaign contributions.” There is no doubt Jones’ was cheated in both elections and the federal court system bore out that fact with the conviction of the McMahons and Phipps.

Does Jones’ have a prospect of success with this lawsuit? Only a jury knows, but he certainly deserves his day in court for having the two elections stolen from him. The implication by The Oklahoman that political candidates relinquish the right to legal recourse when opponents lie, cheat and steal to win an election is flat wrong. The lawsuit is not frivolous and if Jones wins, it will act as a deterrent to like-minded cheats and crooks that seek to “steal” future elections.

Second, does the state GOP chairman have better things to do than sue his former political opponent? I’m not sure what The Oklahoman thinks the GOP chair’s job involves, but it’s not one of “going gently into that good night” or overlooking corruption. The chair is charged with leading by example and with making sure GOP candidates are treated fairly in elections. The chair coordinates the state party’s efforts to recruit candidates, train them, and exhort them to play by the rules in the elective process. Jones’ filing of this lawsuit sends the message the GOP plays by the rules and expects everyone else to play by the rules or face the consequences. That’s a huge part of what the GOP chair’s job should be- lead by example. Jones filing of the lawsuit is consistent with that mantra.

Third, is Jones’ lawsuit sour grapes? The contention Jones’ can’t get past the two elections he had stolen from him is probably accurate, but who could? It’s human nature to play the “what if” game in our mind. Jones ran competitive well-organized campaigns that needed ‘just a little more’ to get over the top. He lost both elections by less than 40,000 votes statewide. Secondary statewide races are tough races to raise money for, hence the reason Jones ponied up nearly a quarter of a million of his own money in the two races. The input of the illegal campaign contributions likely resulted in Jones’ close defeat. Some say Jones should just duck his head, sigh and go on? Even some Republicans agree with this 'laissez faire' approach, but those same Rs are not very courageous and avoid the “tough” issues like the plague, so their creditability is seriously lacking. The “right” thing to do is insure cheats and crooks are sent a message that stealing elections has consequences and the best place to send that message is through the court system by hitting these cheaters in their pocketbook.

The Oklahoman endorsed McMahan when he ran in 2002. In 2006, they were presented compelling evidence of McMahan’s illegal campaign finance scheme, but instead of endorsing Jones, they chose to “stay out of the race.” They endorsed no one. In either year, the race was so close, an endorsement by the state’s largest newspaper would likely have swung the election in Jones’ favor.

Instead of attacking Jones for filing a lawsuit against people who wronged him, The Oklahoman should be apologizing to the people of Oklahoma for helping get McMahan elected. As to their catty, immature comment about Jones’ “mental anguish” in the editorial, it was The Oklahoman who gave the citizens of Oklahoma five years of “mental anguish” by promoting a crook for elective office.

Jones’ shouldn’t let those elections go. They exposed major corruption in Oklahoma government and in the elective process. Oklahoma citizens are better off because Gary Jones had the courage to run for office and to expose corruption in the elective process.

The definition of stew is, “to be in a huff; be silent or sullen. Jones isn’t the one “in a stew-“ it’s The Oklahoman and wimps who wrongly believe McMahan and his cronies are the only ones that want to steal elections. This lawsuit sends a message that if you cheat, you pay!

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