By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Three candidates jockeying to fill the 2nd Congressional District post being vacated by U.S. Rep. Dan Boren were quizzed Thursday by the Muskogee Phoenix editorial board on topics ranging from job creation to Congress’ low approval ratings.
The two major-party candidates also set the record straight with regard to criticisms they have faced during the 2012 election cycle. Michael G. Fulks, who is competing as an independent, acknowledged personal shortcomings despite the fact none of the mud slung in the 2nd Congressional District race has been slung his direction.
Democratic nominee Rob Wallace, whose private-sector business record has been called into question, disputed the veracity of attacks leveled during the primary election cycle. His Republican opponent, Markwayne Mullin, rebutted allegations he may have broken the law by failing to use E-verify to check the legal status of workers used to complete government work.
Wallace said both his primary opponent and Mullin have “talked about my nine failed businesses, and it’s just not true.” He explained his role in those businesses as a lawyer who helped others incorporate.
Typically, Wallace said, a lawyer who drafts the incorporating documents will serve as registered agent. Other than accepting service for legal notices, his involvement with day-to-day business operations of companies later suspended for failing to pay state taxes was nonexistent.
“It’s a terrible distortion of the fact if not an out-and-out lie,” Wallace said about allegations he has failed to pay taxes owed by those corporations.
Wallace also dismissed allegations regarding his involvement with an eastern European gem-mining venture that went belly-up. Wallace said a man for whom his wife had worked asked him to help with the venture. His role was to maintain relationships with overseas officials who oversaw the issuance of export licenses. Wallace said the venture failed because he refused to pay bribes to obtain those licenses.
“I took the Foreign Corruption Practices Act seriously, it’s the law of the land,” Wallace said. “Even if that statute hadn’t existed, we weren’t going to bribe ... government officials. If all this stuff (that has been alleged) was true, I never would have gotten these (security) clearances” as a federal prosecutor.
Mullin, who has criticized Wallace’s business record in both the private and public sector, defended his hiring practices, which have come under attack. His Broken Arrow based plumbing services company was raided by federal law enforcers who found weapons kept on the premises by a former employee and convicted felon.
Mullin earlier said he was unaware of the employee’s criminal record and explained his lack of knowledge by fact he had not done a background check. When asked later about whether he used E-verify to check his employees’ legal work status, something required for every business that performs state and federal contract work, Mullin said he used a different system.
“Before you can get these contracts you’ve got to prove that, you’ve got to show them, you’ve got to get that paperwork to them,” Mullin said, noting the law provides an opportunity to use other verification services. “But I can guarantee we comply with every rule and regulation that’s out there — we obviously have good standing with them or we wouldn’t be able to keep bidding their jobs.”
Fulks acknowledged a business failure but said he is a “vast disappointment to the muckrakers” looking for skeletons in his closets. Fulks described himself as “a very private person who is running for public office.”
“I have made errors in judgment and I have paid for them,” Fulks said about his failed sawmill operation in southeastern Oklahoma and character traits some might consider flaws. “They say good judgment comes from bad decisions, and I’ve had my share. Have I killed anyone? Well, there are no bodies being dug up.”
Voters in the 2nd Congressional District will get a chance Nov. 6 to choose from among Fulks, Mullin and Wallace as their next congressional representative.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or email@example.com.