OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of Oklahomans seeking a $16 billion refund for AT&T customers is taking its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Officials say a bribed vote in the late 1980s resulted in commissioners letting Southwestern Bell reinvest millions of dollars in excess revenue into its infrastructure rather than returning it to customers.
One of the commissioners and a Southwestern Bell attorney ended up going to prison for bribery over that vote.
In September, the Corporation Commission voted 2-1 to dismiss the application for a refund. The commissioners also decided to dismiss the application “with prejudice” so the issue cannot be brought before them again.
In December, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's decision in an 8-1 vote.
“We took on this fight when the Attorney General stopped representing Oklahoma ratepayers and started defending AT&T,” said bribery refund applicant and Nichols Hills Mayor Sody Clements. “We hoped the Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Supreme Court would finally do the right thing – declare once and for all that bribed votes don’t count in this state, and give the billions stolen by AT&T back to the ratepayers. Unfortunately everyone has passed the buck and claimed it’s someone else’s problem to fix. We believe the buck will stop at the United States Supreme Court.”
Now, Oklahomans Against Bribery is seeking to have the case heard by the U. S. Supreme Court.
On Monday, the group filed a petition, asking the nation's highest court to hear the case.
[D]enying citizens the right to further petition their legislative bodies on legislative matters – especially matters involving proven public corruption – threatens and undermines our very republican form of government,” the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court argues. “The high importance of this case to the public interest, both from a monetary standpoint and from the standpoint of harm done – now and in the future – to ‘the good order of society,’ warrants review[.]”
“Sometimes it takes an outsider like the United States Supreme Court to hold up a mirror and force you to take a hard look at yourself,” said Mayor Clements. “There are folks in the business community that want to ignore this case and pretend the bribery never happened. But this idea that ‘bribed votes do count’ if you’re a big corporation willing to make big campaign contributions and drag things out in court is contrary to the fundamental values of honesty and fair play held by most Oklahomans. We’ve taken up this cause on behalf of Oklahoma ratepayers because we believe – and we believe they believe – it’s the right thing to do.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the petition before the end of its term this summer.