DALLAS - Oklahoma Gov. David Walters twice this year vacationed at the Nantucket island, Mass., resort home of a senior executive of Oklahoma's leading bond underwriter, a gubernatorial aide said last week.
Bill Crain, a spokesman for the governor, said the Walters family later reimbursed $1,250 to their friend, Robert M. Cochran, the executive vice president and manager of public finance in Oklahoma City for Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., the leading underwriter of state bond deals.
The governor's office denied there was anything improper about the use of Mr. Cochran's resort home, saying there was no link between such favors and the firm's success in winning bond deals in Oklahoma.
"This governor, unlike any other governor in recent history, has not been involved, has not placed himself in a decision-making position on bond issues," said Mr. Crain.
Wayne Von Feldt, executive vice president and resident manager in Stifel's Oklahoma City office, deferred any questions, saying, "I just don't really know what the situation is. I'd suggest you call Bob" Cochran.
Mr. Cochran did not return telephone calls placed over three days last week.
The use of the private home by the governor was first reported last week by The Oklahoma, a statewide newspaper that has detailed the political links between bond firms and state officials.
"There is no way this governor could preclude the appearance of impropriety to the satisfaction of that newspaper or its reporter," said Mr. Crain, referring to past reporting.
A spokesman at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission declined to comment on the incident, but one state official said such an arrangement is not likely to violate state law because the governor was not conducting official business and because of the reimbursement.
The report last week describes the sometimes close relationship that bond dealers enjoy with public officials, investment bankers acknowledge knot they often arrange everything from baseball or concert tickets to vacation-style meetings for influential public officials.
But such favors are rarely disclosed, as in this case in which the governor's office said that Mr. Cochran made his home on the Massachusetts island available to the Walters family on two occasions this year.
Mr. Crain said the family spent three days at the home in January after the suicide of the governor's son, Shaun, and a week spanning the Fourth of July there vacationing with another family.
He said the governor's family provided its won air travel and that the $1,250 was intended to cover the Walters' share of lodging, food, and transportation on Nantucket Island.
But that rate may have been a bargain. Two leasing agents on the island quoted a price of $1,600 for a week's rental of a standard, three-bedroom seaside cottage. That did not include food or local transportation.
One agent said that private homes such as Mr. Cochran's are generally more expensive and difficult to come by without reservations often a year in advance. The agent declined to speculate on what such a home might lease for.
Oklahoma reporters began to ask questions about the arrangement after rumors, later found to be groundless, that the governor was staying at a Manhattan apartment, owned by Mr. Cochran during the recent Democratic National Convention.
Mr. Crain said the governor did stay at a private residence while in New York, but said it did not belong to the bond executive.
The acknowledgement by the governor that he stayed at Mr. Cochran's Nantucket home comes a year after news reports about the links between Oklahoma bond firms and political fund-raising for politicians.
For instance, campaign finance records show that in the two election cycles since 1986, Stifel, its political action committee, and employees had contributed at least $163,000 to 73 candidates or campaigns at all levels across the state.
Mr. Walters reported contributions totaling $25,445 from the same sources for this 1990 gubernatorial race. Also, bond executives, including some from Stifel, serve on the governor's fund-raising team for his expected 1994 re-election.
While the governor has insisted that he stays out of underwriting selections, those decisions are often made by boards that he appoints.
When the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority recently sold a $608 million transaction, Stifel was a co-senior manager. That was not unusual, though, since the firm consistently ranks as the top underwriter of state bond issues and of all debt sales sold in Oklahoma.
In the first half of 1992, for instance, Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., ranked number one in state-level deals with 34.8% of the market, according to Securities Data Co./Bond Buyer.