Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, confirmed the agency is examining bribery allegations against Al Gerhart, who admitted at Tuesday news conference that he sent a threatening email message to state Sen. Cliff Branan, R-Oklahoma City.
Gerhart sent the March 26 email warning the lawmaker that he would become the “laughing stock of the Senate” if a specific bill was not heard and passed out of his committee. Gerhart was referring to House Bill 1412, which seeks to prohibit all government entities from implementing United Nations Agenda 21 policies.
The measure passed the state House, but Branan has said he will not hear it in the Senate Energy Committee, which he chairs.
Gerhart defended his aggressive political maneuvers, telling reporters at the state Capitol, “As ugly as they (tactics) are, they work. I’m not proud of it — not at all. What other choice do we have left?”
He had written to Branan, “Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. … We will dig into your past, your family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”
Branan said he chose not to hear the measure because he did not want to “make a bunch of new laws to keep really bad stuff from happening.”
“It’s a solution to a problem that didn’t exist,” he said. “It’s more of a fringe-conspiracy issue that is bad public policy.”
That didn’t sit well with state Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, a prinicipal author of HB 1412.
“Unfortunately, it appears that Sen. Branan did not check too much into the bill or he would have learned that this is a very real problem that threatens our personal property rights as well as the sovereignty of our nation,” she said in a written statement. “One has to wonder who is really influencing the senator on this issue: the citizens of Oklahoma who are extremely concerned about losing their personal property rights or the chambers and city planners?”
Gerhart boasted at his news conference that if the Sooner Tea Party did not get its way on specific legislation, the group would “intimidate and punish” House and Senate members. He added that his email was “political advocacy” and not blackmail.
“Blackmail is done in the shadows,” he said. “This was not a private message.”
Branan forwarded the email to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which then asked OSBI to conduct an inquiry.
Gerhart said he has sent similar emails to other legislators in connection with previous bills.
“At the Sooner Tea Party, we make them listen,” he said. “I’m not Joe Six-Pack in a trailer park throwing out threats. They (legislators) know if they hand us a club, we can beat them with it.”
His tactics are not endorsed by all Tea Party members.
“Gerhart does not speak for the Tea Party movement in Oklahoma,” Margie Drescher, executive director of the OKC Tea Party, wrote to Oklahoma Gazette. “He merely speaks for himself and an independent organization or group, if you can call it that, he founded in 2009 called the Sooner Tea Party, based in Moore.”