Lee Zurik Investigation: 'Dirty Deeds' lobbying smells fishy to Mineral Board member

The State Mineral Board says, despite a House resolution being voted down, their own vote counts and the attorney general will still look into questionable leases.

The actions of the past week have at least one State Mineral Board member voicing skepticism.

"Obviously there is something there," says board member Tom Arnold. "Lobbyists wouldn't be lobbying if everything was out in the open, was fair."

Arnold has been monitoring the votes at the State Capitol. In fact, his brother Jeff Arnold chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which voted down the resolution to request that Attorney General Buddy Caldwell investigate those questionable oil leases. Arnold is aware that a lobbyist urged lawmakers to vote no.

You'll recall our previous report, in which we questioned that lobbyist, Ty Bromell, at the State Capitol.

"Who had you lobby on behalf of the House resolution from last week?" we asked Bromell.

"Some friends," Bromell replied.

"Did they pay you?" we asked.

"They did not," he told us. And when we asked who the friends are, he simply said, "Just friends."

Arnold says some Mineral Board members have started to get calls, too. We asked him why it took the lobbyists so long to approach them about the matter.

"I think we blindsided them," Arnold replies. "I think they weren't ready for it."

The Mineral Board voted earlier this month to request the attorney general investigate. Since that vote, Arnold says, he's gotten plenty of feedback.

"During this process of this investigative series, I've been getting phone calls, people [saying] this is wrong," says Arnold. "A lot of them don't fully understand it. A lot of them have questions about it. Well, the public's not sure that it's legal. The attorney general should look at it. He works for the people, he's the public defender in this case."

The Attorney General's Office says it would cost $500,000 to investigate.

"I think it's a good investment," says Arnold. "$500,000 for a $30 million return – it's a good deal."

Cancelling the leases would get the state at least $30 million a year and would cost descendants of three former governors -- Huey Long, James Noe, and O.K. Allen -- tens of millions.

"You shouldn't pay for the sins of your father," says Arnold. "But you shouldn't profit from the sins of your great-grandfather. That's what's happened."

What's happening now is a lot of behind-the-scenes work – not only a lobbyist trying to stop any investigation, but also a state senator, married to Huey Long's great-granddaughter, talking to his colleagues about the case.

It has Tom Arnold wondering whether it's a sign that the state may have a chance to get out of these leases, after all.

"Someone thinks there's a concern," Arnold says of the lobbying effort. "They wouldn't be making those phone calls."