One of the consultants to Rogers Mayor Steve Womack's campaign for the 3rd Congressional District is just two years removed from being forced to resign as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Lance Cargill, a partner in Harrah, Okla.-based J.C. Partners, ran for the Oklahoma House of Representative in 2000 and defeated a 12-year Democrat incumbent. In 2004, he became the leader of the House GOP political team and was part of the effort which won the first GOP majority in the Oklahoma House in more than 80 years.
Womack recently hired Cargill and Jessica Caswell, the other half of J.C. Partners, to help with campaign strategy and marketing for his bid for the 3rd Congressional District.
But Cargill’s time at the top was limited. In January 2008 he resigned as House Speaker following revelations of his repeated delinquencies — six consecutive years of late payments in once case — in paying property taxes.
At the time, Cargill apologized for the tax delinquencies, saying he alone was “irresponsible” in the matter.
The resignation preceded an August 29, 2008 public reprimand by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission related to Cargill’s redirection of campaign checks related to the Oklahoma GOP “Victory Fund.” The checks were intended for a statewide effort, but were instead sent to the Oklahoma County Republican Committee to support specific candidate campaigns.
“Simply put, this is a case of the redirection of campaign contributions intended for one party committee, to another, contrary to the intent of the donors. It resulted in the contributors being made to support candidates against their conscience and in violation of several provisions of the Ethics Rules, which are designed to safeguard campaigns in Oklahoma,” the commission noted in its ruling.
Cargill was then criticized for attempting to use his House Speaker postage privileges after he resigned to send apology letters to his constituents, according to this report by the Tulsa World.
Contacted on Monday, Womack said he was unaware of any problems with Cargill’s past. Womack said Cargill and Caswell have a “limited-scope relationship with the campaign,” and he talks to Cargill about once a week. When asked about Cargill’s past, Womack said he was not “going to make a knee jerk reaction on some allegations” without first visiting with Cargill.
Womack also said Cargill “created a revolution in 2004” in Oklahoma and suggested that past problems could have been the result of political opponents hoping to settle scores.
“Sometimes there’s a political price to pay for that kind of thing,” Womack said.
Womack e-mailed this response to The City Wire after talking to Cargill: "I am fully aware of the personal issues Mr. Cargill faced while serving as Speaker of the House in Oklahoma and his decision to step down as Speaker for the benefit of the Republican Caucus he led. While his issues were critical to his work as a public servant, they were not criminal in nature. He has assured me that these infractions have been corrected and all taxes, penalties, etc. have been paid in full. I also realize that a young politician engaged in the historic change in the political landscape of his home state becomes a huge target for the opposing party. For that, I believe Mr. Cargill has suffered from the 'penalty of leadership'. His work with my campaign is part-time and advisory in nature on matters of campaign organization. My campaign chairperson is Susan Barrett, former CEO of Mercy Hospital in Rogers. I have a terrific group of additional volunteers who form the finance, fund-raising, and outreach programs of my campaign. Bottom line--this race is about Steve Womack--my experience, my record, and my ability to represent the Third District."
Gabe Holmstrom, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, had another opinion of the matter.
“When you see who (Womack) chooses, what does this say about his judgment? What does this say when he selects people like this to advise him on matters that are so important?” Holmstrom said. “This is a story that definitely speaks for itself.”