Straw donors gave a total of $77,600 to Jeff McMahan’s campaign, using money supplied — illegally — by businessman Steve Phipps.
Turns out, that barely scratched the surface of Phipps’ generosity to McMahan’s first political campaign.
Phipps testified Tuesday that he and business partners Gene Stipe and Larry Witt contributed a total of $157,882 in cash and in-kind contributions. Most of that amount was his own money, Phipps said.
$77,600 through straw donors.
$27,000 in cash to Lori McMahan.
$24,000 for radio spots on four McAlester radio stations owned by Stipe.
$23,157 for materials and labor for political signs built at Phipp’s house in rural Pittsburg County.
$5,000 to rent the Pollard Theater in Guthrie for two fundraisers.
$1,125 for roughly half the cost of recording a campaign jingle.
By contrast, McMahan’s Republican opponent, Gary Jones, raised a total of about $150,000 most of which was his own money.
Jurors heard Phipps describe numerous times when he either gave Jeff and Lori McMahan, took them on expensive trips or bought Lori McMahan fine jewelry.
One new revelation involved the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. The indicment against the McMahans has alleged Phipps provided $3,500 — at Jeff McMahan’s request — so the couple could attend. Jeff McMahan’s campaign also paid $2,600 toward the Boston trip, a campaign and auditor’s office staffer testified.
Phipps said Tuesday that in addition to his $3,500, he also said he provided an extra $3,000 to save McMahan from embarassment.
A Democratic Party tradition required certain office holders to sponsor a meal for all that state’s delegates. Phipps said he learned from Obera Bergdall, a retired employee from the state auditor’s office, that McMahan didn’t have the necessary $3,000 to sponsor a meal. As a former state Democratic Party chairman, Bergdall knew all about the tradition.
Phipps said he agreed to front the money. Party officials rejected his ideas to either pay it by credit card or to make a donation to the Democratic Party.
“Ultimately, she (Bergdall) took the funds out of her retirement account, and I reimbursed her,” Phipps said.