MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

September 24, 2012

Plumbing deals remain issue in race

Wallace suggests proceeds funded rival’s campaign; Mullin’s denials, bid forms conflict

— Milking the controversy over his Republican rival’s acceptance of work funded by federal stimulus money, Rob Wallace questioned whether profits from those jobs were used to fund his opponent’s congressional campaign in the 2nd District.

Markwayne Mullin, who denied knowing that his plumbing services company profited from federal stimulus projects worth about $370,000, has railed against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided stimulus money. Throughout his campaign, Mullin has described the act as a “horrible waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Mullin’s campaign manager, Tim Ross, dismissed Wallace’s criticisms, describing the Democrat’s attacks against a “successful businessman” as an effort “to distract voters from all of his own many failed attempts in the private sector.”

“It is unfortunate that he is once again running a negative race,” Ross said. “But we are confident the voters will see through it.”

When it was revealed that Mullin’s company won contracts for stimulus-funded projects, Mullin denied knowing the funding source for those jobs. In response to an Associated Press inquiry, he said there was no way he could have known that the projects put up for bid were funded by the stimulus program.

Tribal documents, however, appear to contradict Mullin’s denials. Bid notices and packages put together by the Cherokee Nation for a stimulus-funded housing program for which Mullin Plumbing submitted bids clearly state the funding source.

Bid packets not only identify the projects as part of the stimulus program, they include a four-page section outlining the enhanced duties of the tribe and its vendors required by the stimulus program. Among them is the inclusion of a prevailing wage mandate that seemingly would be an important factor in submitting a bid.

Ross said it was possible that Mullin was “unaware of how the projects were funded due to the fact that Markwayne himself does not review the bids.” He made those comments although Mullin Plumbing documents acknowledge that the company’s bid for a Cherokee Nation job was part of a stimulus project.

“The very capable management team at Mullin Plumbing handles that function,” Ross said. “They seek and win competitive bids many times each year.”

Wallace’s campaign, in a media release Tuesday, raised the question about how profits from those jobs might have seeped into Mullin’s campaign coffers. Wallace charged that not only did Mullin sink a quarter-million dollars of his personal fortune into the race, Mullin Plumbing commercials were used to advance his campaign.

“Mullin profited $370,000 from taxpayers through federally funded stimulus projects, and now he has loaned his campaign over $250,000,” Wallace said, citing what he sees as his opponent’s hypocrisy on the issue. “He’s using our taxpayer money to buy election ads, and that’s just wrong.”

State Republican Chairman Matt Pinnell said in a media release Tuesday that Wallace’s private-sector business record pales in comparison with Mullin’s ability to save a family business.

“Voters have a right to the facts, and the evidence is clear: If they want a successful businessman to represent them in Congress, there is only one choice, Markwayne Mullin,” Pinnell said. “Not an attorney who has spent his career receiving a government paycheck and who has a clear record of failure when he’s ventured into the private sector.”

Mullin and Wallace will compete against each other and Michael G. Fulks, an independent from Heavener, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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