OKLAHOMA CITY — A Republican congressional candidate who argues the federal government should rein in spending was awarded around $370,000 in federal stimulus money distributed through a pair of Oklahoma Indian tribes, records show.
Companies owned by Markwayne Mullin, the GOP nominee for a U.S. House seat in eastern Oklahoma, received the money under contracts with the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) nations, according to documents posted on a government website created to track recovery funds.
Records show some of the awards were made after Mullin entered the race to replace Democratic Rep. Dan Boren, who announced his retirement last year.
Mullin declined to answer questions Wednesday about the contracts. His campaign released a statement in which Mullin criticized the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 as a "horrible waste of tax dollars" but defended his company's acceptance of federal dollars.
"Mullin Plumbing is a plumbing business. When someone hires us to do a job, we don't ask them where the money comes from," the statement said. "Plumbing is plumbing. These projects were Cherokee Nation projects, and our contract was with the Cherokee Nation. We just performed the services we were hired to do and moved on to the next job, like always."
But Mullin's opponent in November's election, Democrat Rob Wallace, said Mullin was trying to have it both ways.
"To take as strong a stand against what he calls wasteful government spending as he has taken, and then to be taking stimulus funds for his business doesn't actually seem to be consistent with one another," Wallace said. "It does seem to be hypocritical."
Mullin, 35, owns a number of Tulsa-area businesses, including Mullin Plumbing, whose red service trucks are a staple on city streets and whose local television commercials give the firm a high profile. His website highlights how he turned the firm around after taking it over from his ailing father more than 15 years ago.
Since he hit the campaign trail last year, Mullin has been a fierce and unyielding critic of federal spending and what he describes as an increasing role of the federal government in the lives of every-day citizens.
"Government needs to have a limited role in our lives. We can take care of ourselves," Mullin told the AP last week after winning the GOP primary in the race to replace Boren in eastern Oklahoma's 2nd Congressional District.
Records show Mullin Plumbing of Broken Arrow had five separate contracts totaling $335,000 for plumbing work awarded by the Cherokee Nation on two separate projects to construct affordable housing in eastern Oklahoma.
According to data posted at www.recovery.gov, Mullin Plumbing was awarded $83,000 as part of a $5 million project to construct energy efficient, affordable homes in Sequoyah and Adair counties in northeast Oklahoma. The company also was awarded four separate contracts totaling about $251,000 as part of a separate, $12 million Cherokee Nation project to modernize low-income rental apartments and privately owned homes for tribal members.
A Mullin Plumbing subsidiary, Mullin Pumping, also was awarded a $34,700 contract on a separate $5.6 million housing project by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
All of the projects were funded by federal stimulus money administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The projects are all completed, and all of the vendors have been paid, said Edward Pound, a spokesman for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.
Although the federal agency provided some accounting on the projects, the individual tribes were responsible for soliciting and awarding vendors, Pound said.
"The money would have gone through (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) directly to the tribe," Pound said. "The tribe would pick the vendor, (but) a particular agency might do some oversight."
The Cherokee Nation solicits bids through its website and applies tribal law, policy and federal funding requirements when awarding bids, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Charles Head said in a statement. The tribe generally uses a formal sealed bid process for major purchases and then evaluates bids with the specific criteria needed to fulfill the project.
Head said the tribe also follows internal policies that allow Indian-owned businesses to receive preferential treatment in the bid process.
The Cherokee Nation has contributed $2,500 to Wallace, according to records from the Federal Election Commission.
Mullin, of Westville, captured 57 percent of the vote in last week's GOP primary runoff over three-term state Rep. George Faught of Muskogee.