|Gov. David Walters stands before
District Judge John Amick in Oklahoma County
District Court as he pleads guilty to one
misdemeanor count of violating state campaign
finance laws. The court room was closed to the public
Then in 1990 a scandal emerged from the gubernatorial campaign of winner and Democrat David Walters. Walters won, but the campaign was accompanied by a barrage of press reports that he had raised and spent more money that any previous candidate. Investigations by the state attorney general and Oklahoma County district attorney led to charges of campaign violations. Walters finally pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Critics attacked the outcome as letting him escape too easily from more serious charges. Still, the publicity probably moderated some of the worst excesses of campaign finance. And in this case reform had occurred with little federal intervention, in itself a significant gain.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno showed the headline to his national television audience and quipped: “It’s no secret now. ” The negotiations concluded Oct. 21 with Walters and his wife, Rhonda, being whisked to the Oklahoma County Courthouse where in a late-night rather secretive court session the state’s chief executive stood before a judge and coolly uttered the word - “Guilty” - to a misdemeanor campaign violation.
The governor’s attorney, R. Thomas Seymour of Tulsa, who elbowed reporters out of the governor’s way, described the seventh-floor courthouse hallway as a scene “straight out of the movies. ” A noisy throng of journalists and television cameramen as well as curious onlookers, had crowded into the courthouse that night to see history unfold.
One of the more prominent politicians convicted in the last 25 years of the state’s history was former Gov. David Walters. Walters pleaded guilty in 1993 to a misdemeanor charge of violating a state campaign law in a plea agreement that dismissed eight felony charges of conspiracy and perjury. The conviction also led to his decision not to run for governor again. Walters, a Democrat, became president of Walters Power International, a company that provides huge electricity-generating mobile plants sometimes located in remote regions.