Texan hired a PI firm that tracked leg­is­la­tor, OSBI says

The Oklahoman - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Writer nclay@ok­la­homan.com BY NOLAN CLAY

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.

Ge­orge Ship­ley

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