Lawmaker charged with child prostitution filed odd bills
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican state senator charged with child prostitution once proposed a bill to prohibit the use of human fetuses in food and spent 17 years working with a program that introduces young people to government.
Sen. Ralph Shortey, who was elected to represent part of the Oklahoma City area, planned to resign Wednesday after being accused of soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy, according to his attorney.
Joe Dorman, a former Democratic state representative who was active in the same youth program, said the 35-year-old lawmaker was “peculiar” and “a little quirky.”
“But in politics, you see all kinds of personalities,” Dorman said. “But I would have never expected this.”
Police in suburban Moore arrested Shortey last week after finding him with the boy in a hotel room off the interstate. The FBI and Secret Service said they have joined the investigation.
Attorney Ed Blau declined to comment Tuesday on the allegations. Shortey has not responded to phone and text messages from The Associated Press.
Shortey was an early supporter and volunteer last year for Donald Trump’s campaign in Oklahoma, but Blau said he did not believe the FBI or Secret Service’s involvement has anything to do with his client’s political work.
The FBI conducted a search of Shortey’s home, and the Secret Service often lends its expertise in computer and cellphone forensics to local law enforcement agencies.
A physically imposing man standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 315 pounds, Shortey frequently wore a fedora or straw hat that made him appear even taller.
Aside from his legislative work, he was known for his long-running involvement in a YMCA’s youth government program.
Shortey became active in the program in high school and later served as a chaperone on several out-of-state trips. YMCA spokeswoman Brenda Bennett said she did not know of any allegations of wrongdoing involving his work.
He also volunteered as a bus driver for children who attended Oklahoma City’s Southwest Baptist Church, where he attended services since his own childhood.
“He was very outgoing, never met a stranger,” assistant pastor Ted Inman said. “We’re all flabbergasted.”
Shortey was a staunch conservative in the GOP-dominated Legislature, but also a bit of an outsider in the Senate fraternity, according to many of those who served with him.
“I was unaware of him having any close friendships here in the Senate,” said Republican Sen. David Holt, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010, the same year as Shortey. “He was here so seldom that it made it hard to get to know him.”
Shortey’s voting record shows that despite living in the state’s capital city, he missed nearly half of the votes before most of his Senate privileges were suspended last week, according to eCapitol, an online bill tracking service.
He also frustrated the occasional security guard posted at the state Capitol entrance by breezing through the metal detector and setting off the alarms but refusing to stop and be screened like all other visitors.
“If a legislator wants to carry a firearm in the Capitol, I think they have a constitutional protection to do that,” Shortey told the AP last year, despite a Department of Public Safety prohibition on anyone bringing a gun into the Capitol building except for licensed law enforcement officers.
Court records show Shortey had some past financial difficulties dating back to before his time in the Senate, including an eviction, debt-related lawsuits and foreclosure proceedings.
He launched a political consulting firm, Precision Strategy Group, in 2014 that assisted numerous Republican candidates.
Campaign finance reports show his company has received more than $300,000 in payments from various campaigns for consulting, direct mail and polling services.
Shortey also worked earlier this year as a consultant for former state Rep. Dan Kirby, a Republican from Tulsa who resigned after being accused of sexually harassing two former legislative assistants.
When it came to legislation, Shortey developed a reputation early in his career for his harsh stance on illegal immigration, an unusual juxtaposition since he represents a heavily Hispanic district on the south side of Oklahoma City.
Among the early bills he wrote was one to deny Oklahoma citizenship to babies born to parents in the country illegally and another that would allow police not only to question people about their immigration status, but also to confiscate property — including homes and vehicles — belonging to those in the country illegally.
He later developed a niche for legislation targeting the bail bond industry, including one eventually signed by the governor to regulate bail enforcers that earned Shortey a visit from noted bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman and his wife, Beth, stars of the reality television show “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
But Shortey was best-known for more eccentric bills, including one that would allow property owners to shoot down drones and the fetus bill, which drew national ridicule in 2012.
At the time, Shortey cited his own internet research that, he said, uncovered suggestions that some companies use embryonic stem cells to develop artificial flavors.
“He was always coming up with off-the-wall stuff,” Holt said, citing Shortey’s worries about drones and electromagnetic pulse attacks.
“I always wished that kind of creativity could have been channeled into legislation that was more relevant in the daily lives of Oklahomans.”
Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy .