The OSBI has found new evidence linking a wind energy group to the political consultant who had a state legislator tracked, The Oklahoman has learned.
“It’s pretty obvious,” Rep. Mark McBride said of the evidence from the subpoenaed phone records of Texas political consultant George C. Shipley.
McBride, R-Moore, has blamed the wind industry ever since finding a GPS tracker on his pickup the evening of Dec. 4. He was told about the new evidence Thursday when a special agent from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reinterviewed him.
“After going through the phone records, they have matched phone calls between George Shipley and Jeffrey Clark, the president of The Wind Coalition, to specific dates I had given them on my suspicions of being followed or tracked,” McBride said.
McBride has been an outspoken critic of the wind industry and has called for wind farms in Oklahoma to pay more in taxes. Clark has denied that The Wind Coalition, a trade association, had anything to do with the tracking incident.
Clark repeated his denial Friday.
“Once again, neither I nor The Wind Coalition has ever hired George Shipley or his company to do any work in any state,” Clark said.
Clark acknowledged Friday for the first time that the two have spoken at times but provided little detail.
“Mr. Shipley is politically engaged in multiple markets and we’ve occasionally spoken about the business climate and issues in several of those markets,” Clark said in an emailed response to questions from The Oklahoman about the phone calls.
Both Clark and Shipley live in Austin. Years ago, The Wind Coalition and Shipley’s company had offices in the same building there.
McBride said he was told there were multiple calls between Shipley and Clark last fall.
The phone records indicate the two spoke on Nov. 13, the same day Shipley paid private investigators $5,000 to start looking into McBride, The Oklahoman has learned.
The consultant instructed the Tuttle-based investigators to get photos of the married legislator if they caught him “partying around.”
“I appreciate this very much and good hunting, good hunting,” the consultant said in a Nov. 13 phone conversation that was recorded and turned over to the OSBI.
The phone records also indicate Shipley and Clark spoke more than 30 minutes the morning of Dec. 6, the day after the private investigators suspended their physical surveillance.
The private investigators halted their “lifestyle investigation” Dec. 5 after learning by happenstance the tracker had been discovered. Shipley was notified that afternoon.
The OSBI is investigating the tracking incident as a possible “threat” to the legislator. The key questions that remain are who hired Shipley and why.
“It’s still an active, full investigation,” OSBI Special Agent Steve Tanner told The Oklahoman on Friday. “We’re still following up on leads.”
The special agent confirmed he visited with McBride on Thursday about the status of the investigation. Tanner said he could not disclose what was said.
Shipley, 70, is a longtime consultant for Democrats in Texas and became known as “Dr. Dirt” for his skill in finding information. He has not spoken to the media about the tracking incident. His Oklahoma attorney, Garvin Isaacs, declined to comment Friday.
Shipley had been subpoenaed to appear before Oklahoma’s multicounty grand jury in March but a Texas judge ruled he did not have to come. He may be subpoenaed again this week.
The grand jury next meets May 15-17.
In the Nov. 13 recorded conversation, Shipley told private investigator H.L. Christensen any information found would not be used to blackmail or extort the legislator.
“I give you my word on that,” Shipley said.
McBride doesn’t believe that.
“People putting cameras behind your house and a tracker … on your vehicle, I don’t know that there’s anything else but some type of extortion. You’ve heard the tapes,” McBride said.
McBride is suing Shipley in Oklahoma City federal court. McBride is seeking actual and punitive damages on six grounds.
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