Regulator wants Attorney General to rule on constitutional issues affecting Corporation Commission chairman



Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony wants Attorney General Gentner Drummond to settle once and for all some constitutional questions raised previously against Commissioner Todd Hiett and his directorship at a Tulsa bank and campaign contributions received by former Commissioner Dana Murphy.

In a letter to the Attorney General and publicly filed with the commission, Anthony asked for opinions on issues of law unique to the Corporation Commissioners, their business relationships and their fund raising.

“Serious allegations of public corruption have been publicly levied against the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in cases worth billions of dollars, but they remain unaddressed by this state’s law enforcement authorities,” Anthony wrote to Gentner Drummond.

“Consequently, I request your official Attorney General Opinion(s) clarifying two laws, applicable uniquely to Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners, whose violation portends public corruption.” 

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One issue is whether Todd Hiett should be allowed to serve as a director at SpiritBank in Tulsa and also be a corporation commissioner. The issue was raised in a 2021 lawsuit filed with the State Supreme Court by former state Rep. Mike Reynolds who contended Hiett should be removed from office for violation of the state constitution which prohibited conflicts of interest.

Reynolds argued since the bank underwrote commission-required surety bonds for oil and gas operators, it was a conflict of interest. The Supreme Court eventually dismissed the lawsuit in September 2021 after attorneys for Hiett said Reynolds had no standing to file the suit and that the suit was grossly misguided.

“Although it specifically prohibits Commissioners from engaging in almost a score of activities, it neither specifically nor generally bars a Commissioner from serving on the board of a bank,” they argued at the time.

The attorneys also claimed such proceedings could only be brought by the state’s attorney general, a district attorney or a losing candidate with an interest in the office.

The court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit after concluding Reynolds did not have legal standing.

Commissioner Anthony also requested the attorney general’s legal opinion on a state statute that restricts receiving gifts and gratuities outside a specific campaign time period and limits campaign fundraising from people and businesses the commission regulates. 

The issue of campaign contributions was also raised in 2022 by former legislator Reynolds who said such contributions to Corporation Commissioners could only be allowed 120 days prior to a primary election and within 120 days after a general election.

Reynolds pointed out that when Dana Murphy was on the commission, she raised more than $140,000 from nearly 250 individuals, limited liability companies and political action committees “before the statutorily legal period in her 2017-2018 campaign for Lieutenant Governor.” He explained some of the contributions came from attorneys who actively argued the multi-billion-dollar “Wind Catcher” case that was before the commission.

Some of the attorneys also made arguments before the three commissioners over the 2021 winter storm securitization efforts.  Reynolds also charged at the time that Hiett had violated state law in accepting s some campaign contributions and that’s when Hiett responded.

“There’s nothing to it. It’s just a continuation of the Bob Anthony-Mike Reynolds witch hunt.”

“None of it has merit,” added Hiett, who told OK Energy Today at the time, “Bob’s not a well man.”

Again, the Supreme Court did not side with Reynolds.

Anthony reminded the Attorney General that the framers of the Oklahoma Constitution and most lawmakers since have recognized the enormous powers vested in the Corporation Commission might be prone to abuse.

“ Article IX, § 16 and 17 O.S. § 48 are but two of several provisions of law put in place to deter conflicts of interest and prevent public corruption among commissioners that could diminish public confidence in the fairness of its rulings and decisions.” Anthony wrote. 

OK Energy Today is seeking comments from Hiett and Murphy.

Read Anthony’s full letter to Attorney General Gentner Drummond here: