In a little-publicized, little-noticed state government regulatory hearing in Oklahoma, Sen. Hillary Clinton, former White House Chief of Staff Thomas F. “Mac” McLarty III, the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and a convicted Clinton fund-raiser were linked by witnesses to a scandal involving massive overcharges in natural gas prices, money laundering and more.
Nolanda Butler Hill, a former business partner of Brown, testified before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission January 31 that Hillary Clinton, Brown and McLarty were all up to their eyeballs in a scam designed to bilk consumers out of $35 million to $65 million in overcharges.
The story was first reported in a little alternative publication called the Oklahoma Constitution.
It’s an ugly, complicated and twisted little scandal that may involve more than money — as two of the principals have met untimely, mysterious deaths.
Last month, the commission voted to require two Oklahoma Natural Gas suppliers to provide records to determine if customers were getting bilked. There is suspicion that at least one supplier, Dynamic Energy Resources, has charged far more than market prices.
Dynamic Energy Resources was started by Nora and Gene Kung Ho Lum, who had no prior experience in the oil and gas business. But they were politically connected. The Lums, associates of John Huang and James Riady, would later be sentenced to prison and fined for illegal campaign contributions to President Clinton as well as tax evasion.
To get their feet wet in the gas business, however, the Lums called on Stuart Price, a Democrat congressional candidate for Oklahoma’s first district and himself a Clinton fund-raiser. Price, too, was well connected. His wife’s uncle was Sen. George Mitchell, then majority leader of the U.S. Senate. But to cover all the bases, the Lums also cut in Michael Brown, son of the Democratic National Committee president and later Commerce secretary, for 5 percent of the deal.
Helen Yee was also placed on the board. Her daughter, Melinda Yee, was Ron Brown’s personal assistant at Commerce. Yee the younger had handled arrangements for foreign trade missions involving Democratic Party contributors. Yee had also worked for the Lums during the 1992 presidential campaign. The Lums’ daughter, Trisha, had worked for Ron Brown at Commerce.
In other words, this was one real inside job. It wasn’t so much a matter of what you knew at Dynamic Energy Resources, but who you knew.
On Oct. 2, 1992, Commissioner Bob Anthony announced that he had been assisting the FBI in uncovering corruption inside the regulatory agency. ARKLA (Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co.) lobbyist William Anderson and Commissioner Bob Hopkins were later convicted in a bribery case. There were allegations against other utility executives, but the Clinton Justice Department reportedly passed on prosecution. It’s little wonder why.
Anthony says he received covert payments from top executives at ARKLA when it had multimillion-dollar rate cases before the commission. The chairman of ARKLA was none other than Mac McLarty.
And that’s where Hill’s January testimony comes in.
“I learned several years ago, through my association with the late Ronald H. Brown, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and secretary of Commerce, about the involvement of a highly placed Clinton administration official, Mac McLarty, in what became an egregious financial transaction centered around the supplying of gas to ONG,” she said.
Hill recalled a spring 1993 meeting with Brown and first lady Hillary Clinton in which she “acknowledged his efforts toward resolution of Mac McLarty’s problem in Oklahoma.” Hill said she warned Brown off any involvement. But Brown told her “it was critically important for him to help Mr. McLarty in any way he could, as he, Secretary Brown, remained an outsider as regarded what he called the ‘Arkansas Mafia.'”
Brown later died in a plane crash in Croatia. A cylindrical hole in his head, the size of a .45-caliber round, was never explained. No autopsy was performed.
Ron Miller, a principal in GAGE Corp., another utility, began cooperating with the FBI shortly after Anthony announced his role with the agency, vowing, according to sources, to “vigorously pursue those who directed the conduct of Mr. Anderson.” After selling his company, Miller also helped news reporters and other government authorities — including investigators with the Government Reform and Oversight Committee — to nail the Lums.
Miller turned over to the FBI on Aug. 5, 1997, 165 tape-recordings of conversations he had with the Lums and their associates. He was interviewed by the congressional committee staff Aug. 12. On Sept. 2, the committee subpoenaed documents from Miller concerning Brown, the Lums and Dynamic Energy Resources.
Three days later, the committee deposed McLarty. He denied knowing the Lums, and questions about ARKLA and its convicted lobbyist were largely diverted by his attorneys. Seven days later, PBS “Frontline” broadcast interviews with Miller and Anthony. The congressional committee was set to begin formal proceedings Oct. 8.
But on Oct. 3, Miller, 58, was admitted to the hospital with an unknown illness. He died nine days later. The cause is still unknown. Earlier, Miller told a few people he feared for his life. In a police report in January 1997, he identified Don Sweatman as the man who told him: “You hadn’t been shot at yet.” And who is Sweatman? He was associated with the Lums, often dropped Ron Brown’s name and, according to others, sometimes identified himself as “Bill Clinton’s personal representative.”
Miller’s death is a mystery four years later. The medical examiner’s office speculated that it might be a case of the rare Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The office could identify only one other possible case — on June 8, 1997, Maxwell Dennis Hames, 41, died under nearly identical circumstances, the office said.
Hames was a technical investigator for the Oklahoma City Police Department who received — sit down for this one — special recognition for his work on the Alfred P. Murrah bombing case.