Sunday, November 6, 2016

Teacher Caucus - Oklahomans For Public Education - Link To Hofmeister Debacle - VOTE NO On OPE-Endorsed Candidates? (PART 2)

Joy Hofmeister and OPE Administrator Angela Little at
the Hofmeister watch party November 2014

Early this year, much media fanfare (Tulsa World, NewsOK, Oklahoma Watch) welcomed a new political action committee (PAC) - one started by Oklahoma teachers and parents specifically to advance public education.  It arose from a Facebook group, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education (OPEPE), and was called Oklahomans for Public Education (OPE).

Administrators of the OPE Board of Directors are listed as Angela Little and Jamie Minter.  Little, once also listed as an administrator for OPEPE, has subsequently been removed. 

A Voter Guide created and distributed by OPE created news when it labeled what it perceived to be 'pro-education' political candidates with apples and those perceived to be against public education with black triangles. One of the, arguably, largest bones of contention with the OPE PAC was its support of both the Republican AND Democrat opponents of Paul Blair in the SD41 Senate race and personal campaigning by Little which included personal attacks on Blair of a dubious nature

While reading the Affidavit of Probable Cause (page 4) in the Hofmeister dark money election case, American Fidelity Assurance Corporation (AF) was identified as providing checks to BOTH the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) in the amount of $50,000.00 each which were then to be deposited in the Independent Expenditure (IE) group, Oklahomans For Public School Excellence (OPSE) to run negative ads against former state superintendent Janet Baressi, allowing Mrs. Hofmeister to, in her own words, "take the high road" in her direct campaign advertising (page 6).

Kelly Dodd, Jamie Minter, Joy Hofmeister, Angela
Little at Joy's watch party, November 2016
Little recently defended Hofmiester in this Tulsa World story
On page 11 of the Affidavit, Lela Odom (former Executive Director of the Oklahoma Education Association) advises the DA's investigator that American Fidelity has been working with OEA for 50 years and that OEA has helped "build their business" by endorsing their "salary income protection policy".  Odom asked Bill Cameron, American Fidelity Chairman and CEO, to contribute $100K, to OPSE.  It was subsequently decided by the AF 'team', however, that AF would give $50K each to CCOSA and OEA who would then donate their funds to OPSE.  CCOSA and OEA then did exactly that, donating a total of $300,000 between them.

After being let go from a position with Devon Energy, Little was hired at American Fidelity in May in 'Strategic Quality Management'.

Most people hired at a large corporation who aren't in a management position, do not rub elbows with the CEO of the company.  Usually, they are hired by someone much lower on the food chain and content themselves with seeing pictures of their boss on the wall in the lobby.

Angela Little, however, posted this to the OPEPE page November 2.

"Group Members - Even though he is not a member of this group, I wanted to publicly thank Bill Cameron for his extremely generous donation to Oklahomans for Public Education.  As many of you know, Mr. Cameron is the CEO of American Fidelity and he's also a true advocate for public education.  He's been really impressed and supportive of our push to get pro-public education candidates elected.  I feel very blessed to have found a job with American Fidelity after the lay-offs at Devon Energy.  A few weeks after I started, I tagged along with a close friend to an event where some of the higher level execs were getting a recap of legislative session.  As I was introduced to people and they were told a little about what I do in my free time, they immediately started chatting with me about session and education policy that did or didn't happen.  They knew details and bill numbers and many already knew about this group.  I can't begin to tell you how awesome this felt because honestly this has never happened to me at previous companies.  It not only made me feel like I had finally found my mothership (smiley face) but it showed me that Mr. Cameron doesn't just say he supports our cause, he lives it and has set that example for his employees."

It is true, in the 3rd quarter filing for OPE, Bill Cameron made a personal donation to the OPE PAC of $2000.00.  

Some people are fortunate enough to have friends able to either employ them or introduce them to people who can employ them.  There is nothing new here and there's certainly nothing wrong with networking to find employment.  There's also nothing wrong with people donating to causes they hold important.  However, when those doing the hiring are the same people donating money to a 'dark money' group to influence politics and the person being hired is an administrator in a PAC that is influencing local political races - sometimes in an unethical way - it is best to beware of the associations being formed.

Last month Little posted to her Twitter account a picture of her appearance on the Chad Alexander show on 1520 - being hosted that day by Trebor Worthen - partner with Fount Holland (also charged with two felony conspiracy charges in the Hofmeister case) in A.H. Strategies, the political consulting firm that ran Joy Hofmeister's campaign (as well as A.J. Griffin and others).  

In fact, Adam Pugh in SD41, was supported in his political efforts by Majority Designs, a division of AH Strategies run by Chad Alexander and Trebor Worthen.

Again, this is America and - for now - everyone is able to support the political candidates of their choice and associate with whom they want. 

There is nothing wrong with any of that. When good people are run out of politics by certain associations and political 'cartels' are formed that prevent some from public service while using money and political connections to forward others - sometimes unethically or illegally - that is not okay and doesn't serve the public at large. 


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