AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Oklahoma judge is asking a Travis County judge to order an Austin-based political consultant to go to Oklahoma to testify before a state grand jury. The grand jury is investigating who–and how–a GPS tracking device ended up on a state lawmaker’s pick up truck.
Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, found the tracker on his truck on Dec. 4, 2017, an affidavit filed in Travis County shows. Just three days earlier McBride reported to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that he “believed someone was following him,” the court filing shows.
“A friend of McBride told him the “wind group” wanted to discredit McBride and for McBride to be careful,” the affidavit showed. “McBride was attempting to write legislation to tax wind energy companies,” the court filing stated.
Investigators tracked the tracker back to Eastridge Investigations, a private investigator in Tuttle, Okla. According to court documents, the company’s owner, Kyle Eastridge, told investigators his client in the McBride investigation was Mr. George Shipley from Austin.
Shipley is a well-known Democratic political consultant in Austin, nicknamed “Dr. Dirt” in the 90s for his ability to perform opposition research on political opponents, archived news reports showed. Shipley owns Shipley and Associates, a consulting firm once housed at a high rise in downtown Austin.
Records show Shipley’s office shared the building with another tenant: The Wind Coalition--a nonprofit wind energy group based in Austin. The group is active in recruiting wind energy in Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, the group’s website shows.
When KXAN called Jeff Clark, the president of The Wind Coalition, he denied any connection to Shipley and the GPS tracker allegations out of Oklahoma. “We haven’t worked with George [Shipley], never hired George,” Clark told KXAN. “It’s a very slanted piece. Mark McBride is a very vocal anti-renewable guy, so he’s tried to say it is the renewable industry out to get him…We had an office in that building, but we moved out of that office in 2012.”
When we went to the office building Wednesday, Shipley’s firm was no longer renting a space there. Security officers said Shipley and Associates moved out of the building around 2015.
KXAN was able to reach Shipley by phone. Shipley returned one of the calls, but when KXAN Investigator Jody Barr introduced himself and told Shipley what we wanted to talk about, Shipley hung up. Shipley turned his cell phone off after that call and KXAN could not reach him to finish the call.
Shipley is scheduled for a court hearing in Travis County District Court Friday. At that hearing, a judge will consider whether to force Shipley to go to Oklahoma and testify before the grand jury in the McBride case. The grand jury testimony is set for March 6 in Oklahoma City at the state attorney general’s office.
KFOR, KXAN’s NBC sister station in Oklahoma City, several Oklahoma legislators reported being followed.