Paul Jacob

Sometimes courts make the right decision. Really. It happens. But it didn’t happen this past week in Oklahoma.

Oh, we should probably be glad it’s not another petition with hundreds of thousands of voter signatures being tossed out. And no, it’s not nearly as crazy as that ruling allowing a man to photograph up the skirts of girls at the mall.

This week’s decision by Oklahoma’s highest court simply means that former State Senator Gene Stipe is entitled to an $84,000 a year state pension.

Sitting Oklahoma legislators get paid $38,400 a year, so I wonder about a pension that pays a retired legislator more than twice what a working legislator makes. That’s fishy, no?

You probably wonder: Who is this guy, Stipe? And why should anyone give a hoot about his pension?

Gene Stipe was a state legislator for 54 years. He held onto his senate seat longer than anyone else in Oklahoma history. But in 2003, already facing imminent removal thanks to term limits, Stipe was indicted by a federal grand jury for illegally funneling money into a 1998 congressional race and for perjury. Stipe resigned.

It would not be unusual for someone to resign the seat in such a circumstance, of course. But Stipe is not your average politician. He had been indicted before. Repeatedly. And yet had not given up his political perch.

In 1968, he was indicted on income tax evasion. He was later acquitted of the charges. In 1975, he was alleged to have illegally diverted funds in a bankruptcy case and agreed in an out-of-court settlement to repay $60,000. In 1979, he was indicted again, this time for his involvement in securing a fraudulent Small Business Administration loan. Again, he was acquitted. Before the SBA loan case was concluded, Stipe was indicted for a fourth time. The charges? Fraud, extortion and conspiracy stemming from the extradition case of a Colorado man. And for the fourth time, Stipe was acquitted.

Talk about an experienced legislator!

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.