Texan hired a PI firm that tracked legislator, OSBI says
The OSBI has determined a longtime Texas political consultant known as “Dr. Dirt” hired the private investigators who put a tracker on a legislator’s pickup, court records show.
The consultant, George C. Shipley, 70, has been subpoenaed to appear next week before the Oklahoma multicounty grand jury “to provide testimony.”
Shipley was told to bring business records on who hired him to do research into state Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore.
The legislator found a GPS tracking device underneath his pickup on the evening of Dec. 4. He has blamed the wind industry.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation special agent on the case already has tried to determine whether Shipley has ties to a wind organization in the same city.
“A friend ... told him the ‘wind group’ wanted to discredit McBride and for McBride to be careful,” Special Agent Steve Tanner wrote in a court affidavit. “McBride was attempting to write legislation to tax wind energy companies because he felt those companies could pay more taxes to Oklahoma.”
Tanner also wrote, “Through an internet search, I ... learned the ‘Wind Coalition’ offices
at the same address as Mr. Shipley, 919 Congress Ave., Austin, Texas.”
In January, the president of The Wind Coalition called McBride reckless for making the accusation about the tracker.
“I feel confident that this industry would not be a party to any kind of illegal activity,” Jeffrey Clark said at the time.
Clark could not be reached for comment Tuesday, despite repeated attempts.
The Wind Coalition has had a number of addresses in Austin, a review of records by The Oklahoman found. It could not be immediately determined whether it still has offices in the same building as Shipley’s company.
Clark and Shipley are friends on Facebook, The Oklahoman also found.
Shipley is a political consultant who has helped Democrats in Texas for decades. One of his biggest victories came in 1990 when Ann Richards
was elected governor of Texas. He became known as ‘Dr. Dirt’ for his skill at conducting opposition research for his clients.
His company is known as Shipley & Associates.
“Our experience working with national and regional grassroots campaigns includes the repeal of state laws, the passage of several state constitutional amendments, and the creation of an underground aquifer district,” the company states on its website.
“We are able to operate discreetly, with an international reach, and in conjunction with pre-existing political organizations or other agencies,” it states.
Reached at his office Tuesday, Shipley said he was on a conference call and would call back. He did not.
The OSBI agent revealed in the court affidavit that he is investigating the case as “a threat” against McBride. He also revealed he is looking into a possible violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.
The agent also revealed he learned about Shipley’s involvement after interviewing two Oklahoma private investigators, Kyle Eastridge and H.L. Christensen, on Feb. 1.
Through a lawsuit, McBride obtained records from the tracking device’s supplier. He was able to identify from those records the private investigation firm responsible for putting the device on his pickup.
He is suing the firm, Eastridge Investigations and Asset Protection, in Oklahoma County District Court.
The grand jury operates in secret, meeting three days a month in Oklahoma City.
The subpoena for Shipley to testify and bring records became public because a Texas judge must decide whether he has to appear. A hearing is set for Friday.