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Embattled Oklahoma Senator digs deeper



As Will Rogers said, the first step to getting out of a hole is to quit digging.

Dig a recent report involving state Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. If his recent bouts with his late-paid taxes weren't enough, Coffee's senior policy adviser took a jaunt down Mexico way in December with a lobbyist, according to a recent story in the Tulsa World.

According to that story, lobbyist Brett Robinson, who represents GEO, a private prison company, joined Coffee's adviser (and former Republican House member) Fred Morgan and, along with their wives, vamoosed down to Punta Mita, Mexico.

Coffee insists it was all in fun and had nothing to do with a recent bill he proposed that would, um, do away with the state Board of Corrections and an analysis he reportedly requested looking into closing three state-run prisons. (Well, gosh, what would we do with all those prisoners?) Coffee said his request was misconstrued by the agency and there are no intentions to close prisons in Oklahoma, according to the World.

As it so happens, GEO has a facility in the Lawton area, according to the story, and the state spent around $41 million with the company.

Well, Coffee said there is no validity to implications of wrongdoing surrounding the trip and added that Morgan paid his own way.

"They had a prior relationship before they were a lobbyist and a government official," Coffee told the World. "I think people have personal relationships and they have lives outside of the Capitol building."

They sure do. For instance, lobbyist Robinson's wife, Karma, reportedly raised money for Coffee and for some political action committees prior to this.

"If it is as explained, then there is nothing improper," said Senate Minority Leader Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee. "Does it look bad? With this private prison stuff going on, I guess people will just have to judge for themselves whether it looks bad."

Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, had a little something to say to the World as well. "You just don't know what they did " all that stuff. That is what makes it hard, a deal like this," he said.

The lobbyist disagreed that anything untoward happened on the friendly excursion south of the border.

"They are good friends of ours," Robinson said about the Morgans. "I have known Fred since before I became a lobbyist."

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