|Screenshot taken from a Common Sense Conservatives, LLC dark money ad.|
While every political campaign has numerous points for failure from fundraising to voter contact, a post mortem of Jake Merrick's re-election campaign shows that a combination of dark money and redistricting probably did more than anything to sink the re-election campaign of a fine man and public servant.
When I wrote Part 1 of the series, I reported that OCPA, through their Dark Money group Catalyst Oklahoma, had spent $50,620 FOR Merrick's challenger, Kristen Thompson after spending over $100,000 FOR Merrick's special election through their dark money group People for Opportunity last year.
I also reported that Senator Merrick - while voting yes in the Senate Education Committee - voted no on the Senate floor on the extremely contentious bill - SB1647 - which would provide publicly funded vouchers to private schools.
INDIVIDUAL CAMPAIGN DONATIONS
Searching the Oklahoma Ethics Commission website is painstaking, but not hard.
According to Kristen Thompson's campaign Pre-Primary Ethics Commission report, she had a bit over sixty thousand dollars in her campaign account.
According to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Jake Merrick had a little over $12 thousand dollars.
Lucia Frohling and Jill Shero both work for ECKO - Every Kid Counts - an organization run by Education Secretary Ryan Walters which supports school choice, including vouchers.
Ryan Martinez wrote a $1,000 check from his campaign account (Friends of Ryan Martinez) to Thompson's campaign in December of 2021. Martinez is a Representative from the Edmond area who was the House Chair - along with Senator Lonnie Paxton, the Senate Chair - of the state's legislative redistricting efforts. In March, Friends of Ryan Martinez donated another $1,700 to Thompson.
Mike Cantrell - an originator of Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) and an 11-year member of the Board of EPIC Charter Schools, who left the Board as depositions began for the criminal investigation which culminated in the arrest of EPIC's founders, David Cheney and Ben Harris for alleged embezzlement of state tax dollars, donated $1,000.
Josh Cockroft - Governor Stitt's Political Director.
Glenn Coffee - former Oklahoma Senator and Pro Temp and General Counsel for the Oklahoma State Chamber who was implicated in the Joy Hofmeister/Fount Holland conspiracy to coordinate with an independent campaign working for her election against former State Superintendent Janet Barresi.
Jim Dunlap - A long-time lobbyist in Oklahoma.
Donelle Harder - who has worked for Governor Stitt - by way of Washington, D.C. - in several capacities and currently manages his 2022 re-election campaign.
Linda Huggard - a long-time Oklahoma Republican party member gave the maximum allowed for an individual donor - $2900.00.
Chris Kannady, an attorney and State Representative for Cleveland County wrote a check from his campaign account (Friends of Chris Kannady) for $1500 to Thompson's campaign. Kannady told the New York Times that he had led an effort to purge then-elected Republicans from the State House in 2018 because they were a "cancer" to the Party. In July, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission made public that it will sue the Conservative Alliance PAC, from which dark money donated via the Prosperity Alliance was used to oust as many as 11 Conservative House members that year. His campaign pays a consultant called the James Martin Company LLC, owned by Jenna Worthen, wife of Trebor Worthen, former partner with Fount Holland of AH Strategies, an organization who, with client Joy Hofmeister, was charged in a 2016 dark money scheme to oust former State Superintendent Janet Barresi. Today, Trebor runs Sooner State Leadership, a 501C4 dark money group running adds against Governor Kevin Stitt. Kannady also apparently works with CAMP (Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals), run by Worthen's former partner, Fount Holland. Just a quick glance Kannady's campaign account is eye-opening. For the first filing period in 2022, Kannady had $341,154.42 and his contributions are a "who's who" of Oklahoma and national PACs including $10,000 of donations from the OKC Fraternal Order of Police $5,000 and Marathon PAC $5,000.
Trent Smith, the CEO of Accentra, is also co-owner of Sooner Medical Staffing with House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and was appointed to the Oklahoma State School Board by Governor Kevin Stitt.
Republican House member Preston Stinson donated $1,000 to Thompson via his campaign fund - Stinson for House. Stinson was prominently featured in the state audit against EPIC Charter Schools management organization, Community Strategies. Ben Harris appointed Stinson to the Community Strategies Board - the governing body for Epic One-on-One Charter School and Epic Blended Charter School in 2016 - and later Community Strategies-CA, alleged to be the 'shell' company used by Epic Youth Services through which to receive management fees from Epic California creating profits for Harris and Chaney (#49 of Affidavit of Probable Cause). Preston Stinson received 55% of all campaign donations from EPIC founders and family for his 2020 campaign for the House of Representatives.
Former one-term State Superintendent Janet Barresi not only donated the $2,900 maximum to Kristen Thompson, she introduced her at an Oklahoma Conservative PAC meeting where Kristen shared her message with the audience AFTER OCPAC had committed to endorsing Jake Merrick again for his second campaign for Senate. Fully committed to Common Core during her tenure as State Superintendent, ROPE was nevertheless able to help repeal the bill mandating Common Core in 2014.
Jennifer Carter, former Cheif of Staff for Superintendent Janet Barresi is now the Oklahoma liaison for the American Federation for Children - an organization fronted by the DeVos Foundation to push school choice (vouchers) across the country. Jennifer's husband Ray Carter writes for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs - an organization working for vouchers - recently in the news for its alleged mis-treatment of the wife of House of Representatives member and attorney, Anthony Moore. Moore's wife dismissed the filed Victim Protective Orders after the primary election.
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber PAC provided $1,500.
The State Chamber PAC kicked in $1,000.
Friends of Anthony Moore - who now has had an Oklahoma Bar Association complaint filed against him by OCPA President Jonathan Small for the VPO's filed by his wife prior to the primary - donated $1,000 from his campaign fund (Friends of Anthony Moore 2022).
OKC Firefighters Association PAC Fund - $5,000.
Turnaround Team Pac donated $1,500 to Thompson. Governor Stitt has frequently called his first four years the "Oklahoma Turnaround". In fact, his latest TV ads for his re-election campaign prominently feature this concept. The Oklahoma Ethics Commission filing for Thompson list a PO box in Jenks, Oklahoma as the PAC's address. It is listed as an 'unregistered' PAC and there is no filing for the PAC with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, but Turnaround Team PAC is registered with the FEC in Newport, Kentucky. The treasurer for the PAC is listed as Kevin Broghamer from Newport, Kentucky, who is also the registered treasurer for Governor Stitt's Oklahoma campaign account. As of 7/14/22, the PAC has $110,000. Donors include;
- Edward Hilliary and Dustin Hilliary ($5k each); The Hilliarys own Hilliary Communications, a broadband and telephone service covering southwestern OK and northwest TX. They also publish the Comanche County Chronicle in Elgin and the Southwest Ledger out of Lawton. Governor Stitt has appointed Dustin Hilliary to the Board of the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.
Robert "Bobby" Stem (5k). Executive Director, General Contractors of OKC. Former EPIC Board Member who said publicly that Senator Sharp’s accusations against EPIC (for which he won a lawsuit) were false. Became a lobbyist for EPIC Youth Services after leaving Board.
Clinton Renzi Stone (5k). CEO Of Saxum which launched Every Kid Counts for which Oklahoma's Secretary of Education, Ryan Walters, works. Jennifer Monies, former Executive Director of Oklahoma Achieves (for which Secretary Walters worked briefly before his appointment by Governor Stitt) and former Senior Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Oklahoma State Chamber is on the Board of Every Kid Counts and also works for Saxum.
- Friends of Anthony Moore
- Friends of Chris Kannady
- Friends of Ryan Martinez
- Stinson for House 2022