POSTED ON NOVEMBER 28, 2007:
Irked by a few photographs, a state lawmaker jumps to conclusions
Jumping On Board. Dan Howard, of Dan Howard Aircraft Sales, took a picture at the Tulsa Jones-Riverside Airport of the Rev. Victor Orta boarding a private Beechcraft King Air owned by PrePaid Legal Services.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the accompanying photograph of the Rev. Victor Orta boarding a private Beechcraft King Air owned by PrePaid Legal Services speaks volumes to state Rep. Randy Terrill's suspicions about the legal arsenal arrayed against his new immigration reform law, HB 1804.
Dan Howard, of Dan Howard Aircraft Sales, took the picture at the Tulsa Jones-Riverside Airport.
Howard told UTW that the logbook reads that the flight was to Ada, where PrePaid Legal Services' headquarters is located.
Orta is the state coordinator for the National Coalition of Latin Evangelical Clergy and Christian Leaders, a.k.a. CONLAMIC, the organization chiefly responsible for a pending federal lawsuit seeking to repeal the new law.
So, when the Republican from Moore caught wind of Orta's collaboration with PrePaid Legal, he connected some dots that, in his view, create a clear picture of broader conspiracy against the new law.
The beleaguered lawmaker said he's heard rumors of a potential legal attack from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so he said it's no coincidence now that a member of their board of directors, Harlan Stonecipher, who also happens to be the founder and CEO of PrePaid Legal Services, is meeting with one of the principal opponents of the new law.
"Why else would they be shuttling plaintiffs in a lawsuit against my bill?" Terrill said.
Acknowledging that it sounds somewhat like a wacky conspiracy theory, the lawmaker said, "It's not a 'theory' if there really is a conspiracy."
Terrill said, as a publicly-traded company, "PrePaid Legal's customers and shareholders would be very interested to know that they're backing this lawsuit against 1804."
Except, according to John Long, PrePaid Legal's vice-president of corporate development, they're not.
"We're not taking a side either way on HB 1804," he told UTW.
He acknowledged that the company had met with Orta, and discussed HB 1804, but not for the purpose of joining in the lawsuit.
At least, not that lawsuit.
"As a company that markets legal service plans, people are going to need legal representation related to this," said Long.
"We recognize that it's a controversial bill, and its ramifications are pretty significant," he added.
Long anticipated that landlords, business owners and legal immigrants who utilize his company's services will need legal advice on how not to run afoul of HB 1804, and representation in the event that they do.
Along with Orta, he said his company has also met with several Chamber of Commerce representatives and other representatives of the business community about the new law's ramifications.
Terrill and Howard, though, are skeptical that their agenda ends there.
"That cost them three or four grand to fly that plane to get Orta out there," said Howard.
"Why couldn't they have just talked to him on the phone?" he added.
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