Ernest Istook: Wikis


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Ernest Istook

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 5th district
In office
Preceded by Mickey Edwards
Succeeded by Mary Fallin

Born February 11, 1950 (1950-02-11) (age 60)
Fort Worth, Texas
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Judy Istook
Residence Warr Acres, Oklahoma
Alma mater Baylor University, Oklahoma City University
Occupation attorney
Religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)

Ernest James Istook Jr. (born February 11, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas) is a former Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district. Currently, Istook is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., and also a talk radio host. Most currently, Istook is a Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School leading a study on Propaganda in American Politics [1]

Istook was a member of the Appropriations and the Homeland Security committees. He was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2006, running against incumbent Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. Istook lost the gubernatorial race by a very wide margin, getting only 33.5% of the vote to Henry's 66.5%.


Early life and career

Istook's grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary through Ellis Island and spoke Hungarian at home. He graduated from Castleberry High School in Fort Worth, Texas in 1967 and received a bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University (in Waco, Texas) in 1971. He eventually moved to Warr Acres, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

He worked full time as a radio news reporter first at KOMA (now KOKC) and then at WKY in Oklahoma City while attending law school, receiving a law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law in 1976. After graduation, he established his own law firm, and practiced law for 15 years.

Istook also was director of the Oklahoma State Alcoholic and Beverage Control Board (1977–1978), was legal counsel to popular Oklahoma Governor David L. Boren (1978), and was a member of the board of the Oklahoma County metropolitan library system (1982–1986), chairman of the Warr Acres city council (1982–1986), director of the Warr Acres Chamber of Commerce, and an Oklahoma state representative 1987–1993.

U.S. House of Representatives


1992 election

In the 1992 Republican primary, Istook challenged and defeated incumbent Deputy House Minority Whip Mickey Edwards in a three-way primary that also featured former federal prosecutor Bill Price. Both Istook and Price used Edwards' involvement in the House banking scandal to chip away at his support.[2]

Istook narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger, Laurie Edwards, in November, winning by only six points. He never faced another contest nearly that close, and was reelected six more times from what has long been considered the most Republican district in Oklahoma.

Although Istook lives in Warr Acres, he was listed on the House roll as "R-Oklahoma City."

Political views

Istook is pro-life. He opposes abortion, and does not support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Istook supports the position that abortion should be prohibited except when the mother's life is in danger. Istook opposes gay marriage and the adoption of children into same-sex homes. He favors a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Istook favors a constitutional amendment to restrict burning the U.S. flag.

Istook introduced the Religious Freedom Amendment, a Constitutional Amendment to permit school prayer, in 1995 and (slightly modified) in 1997.[3] On June 4, 1998 the House voted 224-203, with 7 abstentions, in favor of it, but it failed as a Constitutional amendment, needing a 2/3 majority to pass. He reintroduced it in 1999,[4] and again with different text in 2001, renamed the Religious Speech Amendment,[5] and in 2003 .[6] The other efforts did not make it out of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution.

Istook opposes more federal funds for health coverage and supports the creation of personal accounts within Social Security. He supports the Bush Administration's tax cuts and want to make those permanent. He favors expansion of free trade; he voted in favor of CAFTA. He wants the U.S. to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, wants the end of the estate tax, and supported Normal Trade Relations with the People’s Republic of China to be made permanent.

Istook voted to make the USA PATRIOT Act permanent and supports intelligence gathering by the military. Istook favors military recruiting on college campuses that receive federal aid. Istook stands behind the Bush Administration and its handling of the War in Iraq and supports higher Defense Department funding.

Istook does not support a U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol nor heavy taxpayer subsidies for alternative fuel sources. He supports drilling in ANWR.

Transit Funding Controversies

Istook is against the current federal funding level for Amtrak. For several years, he chaired the subcommittee on Treasury, Transportation, and Special Agencies, which oversaw transportation funding. In 2004, Istook denied special transportation funding (earmarks) requests for districts of 21 Republican House members because the other Republicans had written a letter supporting of funding of $1.8 billion for Amtrak. Istook took the view that their request for major funding increases for Amtrak took precedence over their requests for their districts, and viewed those requests as trying to "double-dip" into the Treasury.[7] Istook lost the chairmanship in 2005, in large part because others in the Republican party were still upset over his handling of this issue.

Istook introduced language into an FY2004 federal spending bill that would cut funding for transit authorities that sponsored advertisements contradicting current government policies and laws regarding marijuana. Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia later ruled that the "Istook Amendment", as it came to be known, was an unconstitutional on grounds that it violated the First Amendment, stating "the government articulated no legitimate state interest in the suppression of this particular speech other than the fact that it disapproves of the message, an illegitimate and constitutionally impermissible reason."[8]

Jack Abramoff

Istook received $29,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and some of his clients. Istook wrote letters urging the Bush administration to reject a casino proposal that Abramoff's clients opposed. On January 9, 2006, Istook announced he would give $23,000 in Abramoff-related money that was donated to his re-election campaign or his PAC to the Boy Scouts of America. This is in addition to $6,000 in Abramoff-related donations given to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in December 2005.[9] His congressional campaign paid back $5,126 to Abramoff's Sports Suites LLC, for the use in 2003 of skyboxes by the congressman for an American Idol concert and a Washington Redskins game. Istook has denied any connection between the donations and his activities, saying in 2006, "I barely knew the man."[10]

Istook is identified in documents filed in June 2008 against his former chief of staff, John Albaugh, as "Representative 4." According to the documents, Istook called Abramoff in 2003 to thank him in advance for use of one of Abramoff's FedEx Field skyboxes for a fundraising event. Istook asked Abramoff which projects his clients wanted in the upcoming transportation bill. The government filing refers to an Abramoff e-mail saying Istook "had basically asked what we want in the transportation bill," and telling his colleagues at Greenberg Traurig to "make sure we load up our entire Christmas list." Four of Kevin A. Ring's clients later received at least $1 million each in the transportation bill.[11]

On June 2, 2008, Albaugh plead guilty to one count of corruption and conspiracy. According to plea documents, Albaugh received as part of the conspiracy more than $4,000 worth of sporting event tickets, concert tickets (including tickets to George Strait and Tim McGraw)[12] and meals. Albaugh also admitted that, as part of this corrupt relationship, he secured from Kevin A. Ring, Abramoff, Greenberg Traurig, and their clients the use of suites at professional sporting events and facilities and catering at Signatures Restaurant, the costs of which were not timely reimbursed or disclosed as "in kind" campaign contributions in required filings with the Federal Election Commission.[13]


2006 gubernatorial race

Oklahoma gubernatorial election 2006 results map. Red denotes counties won by Ernest Istook, Blue denotes those won by Brad Henry.

Istook announced he would run for governor of Oklahoma against Democratic incumbent Brad Henry on October 3, 2005.[14] He was immediately the consensus frontrunner for the nomination, as a seven-term incumbent U.S. Representative whose district covered most of the Oklahoma City area, the state's largest media market.

In the July 2006 primary, Istook got 55% of the vote to become the Republican nominee. Oil businessman Bob Sullivan was second with 31 percent of the vote.[15]

Henry and Istook faced each other in the November general election after a heated campaign. Henry defeated Istook, gathering 66.5% of the total vote — the biggest landslide in an Oklahoma governor's race in almost half a century. Istook carried three counties; Beaver, Cimarron and Texas, all counties in Oklahoma's far western panhandle.[16][17]

Istook's campaign was managed by campaign manager Chip Englander, a political operative from California. National media attention was attracted when it turned out that Jordan Edmund, one of the campaign's workers from California, had been one of the congressional pages who received unwelcome attention in the Mark Foley scandal.[18]


Ernest Istook is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and host of the conservative think tank's radio show. The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. [19]

In 2008, Istook was appointed to the National Advisory Board for the national children's charity Operation Kids.

Istook and his wife Judy (whom he met through his radio job at KOKC and married in 1973) have five children, two sons and three daughters, and seven grandchildren. Istook, who comes from a Southern Baptist background, is now a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church).

Electoral history

Oklahoma's 5th congressional district: Results 1992–2004[20]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1992 Laurie Williams 107,579 47% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 123,237 53%
1994 (no candidate) Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 136,877 78% Tom Keith Independent 38,270 22%
1996 James L. Forsythe 57,594 27% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 148,362 70% Ava Kennedy Independent 6,835 3%
1998 M. C. Smothermon 48,182 32% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 103,217 68%
2000 Garland McWatters 53,275 27% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 134,159 68% Bill Maguire Independent 5,930 3% *
2002 Lou Barlow 63,208 32% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 121,374 62% Donna C. Davis Independent 10,469 5%
2004 Bert Smith 92,719 34% Ernest J. Istook, Jr. 180,430 66%
* Minor candidates notes: In 2000, Libertarian Robert T. Murphy received 2,658 votes (1%).
Summary of the November 7, 2006 Oklahoma gubernatorial election results
Candidates Party Votes %
  Brad Henry (Incumbent) Democratic Party 616,033 66.50%
  Ernest Istook Republican Party 310,273 33.50%
Total 926,306 100.0%
Source: 2006 Election Results


  1. ^
  2. ^ Edwards Loses, Synar In Runoff in Oklahoma
  4. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  5. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  6. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ American Civil Liberties Union : Justice Department Refuses to Defend Congress in Legal Battle Over Law Censoring Marijuana Policy Ads
  9. ^ "Give tainted money back to donors". The Norman Transcript. January 11, 2006. 
  10. ^ "Istook wages uphill campaign for Oklahoma governor". Associated Press. 2007. 
  11. ^ Sam Hananel (June 2, 2008). "Former House aide charged in lobbying scandal". Associated Press. 
  12. ^ Andrew Tilghman (June 2, 2008). "Former Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty in Abramoff Case". TPM Muckraker. 
  13. ^ "Former Congressional Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Public Corruption Charge". Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. June 2, 2008. 
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ Primary Election Results - July 25, 2006
  16. ^ Henry Scores Historic win Over Istook in Okla. Governor's Race
  17. ^ Election 2004
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ The Heritage Foundation website. Accessed: 2008-03-13.
  20. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mickey Edwards
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Mary Fallin
Party political offices
Preceded by
Dan Burton
(sole chairman)
Chairman of the Republican Study Committee
(alternating with Dan Burton, John Doolittle and Sam Johnson)
Succeeded by
David McIntosh
Preceded by
Steve Largent
Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma
Succeeded by
Most recent


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