Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, former teachers' union chief charged with conspiracy to commit election felonies

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Sometimes when a public figure's deviant behavior crosses over into criminal activity, the process of investigation turns up emails that point to a completely unrelated crime.

chad-alexander-477px.jpgLast week we heard about Anthony Weiner's selfie problem leading to a search of his computer, leading to more of Hillary Clinton's emails, including many that weren't among those she turned over to the FBI. It was enough to prompt the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton Foundation corruption.

In May 2014, political consultant and lobbyist Chad Alexander was pulled over for driving erratically. His car was searched, and he was busted for possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) without a prescription.

Alexander is aligned with what I call the wheeler-dealer faction in Oklahoma politics (as opposed to the fair-dealers), the bunch that believes that government is about favor trading and politics is about which rival gang will get access to money and power.

Alexander is a consultant for Coalition for Oklahoma's Future, which raised large sums from corporations and individuals in 2012 to help Republican incumbents in the Oklahoma Legislature beat back tea party challengers.

Alexander was also working for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), a 501(c)(4) independent-expenditure group opposing Janet Barresi's reelection as State Superintendent and supporting her opponent, Joy Hofmeister. While there were communications hinting at illegal collusion between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE, enough for the Oklahoma County DA's office to open an investigation, the affidavit by Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge says that forensic examination of Alexander's cell phones and computer in connection with his drug arrest turned up text messages and emails pertinent to the relationship between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE.

joy_hofmeister.jpgState Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has been charged by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater with two felony counts -- accepting personal campaign contributions in excess of the law's limits and accepting corporate contributions. Additionally, Hofmeister and four people connected with her campaign -- campaign consultant Fount Holland, campaign consultant Stephanie Milligan, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Executive Director Steven Crawford, and Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) Executive Director Lela Odom -- have been charged with conspiracy to commit the two felonies, which charges are also felonies.

Fount_Holland-mugshot-20161108.jpgThe affidavit includes a timeline of about 20 pages of selected text messages and emails, supplemented with information gathered from interviews with key participants, emphasizing that "these are but a small sampling of the documented communications."

When we set legal limits on how much an individual can give to a campaign and block corporate contributions, and when the outcome of elections often can lead to financial windfalls for connected businesses, money will look for other outlets to influence the election. Under the First Amendment, you have a right to spend your money to voice your opinion, but courts have ruled that government can limit how much of your money you can use in direct support of a candidate.

For those campaign finance limits to be meaningful, there can't be any coordination between a campaign supporting a candidate and independent groups seeking to influence the outcome. The two groups are like bridge partners. You can combine your knowledge of your partner's personality and strategy with the cards he actually plays to guess what else he might have in his hand and what he might play, but if he tells you what he has or you ask him to play a particular card, you've broken the rules.

(The interests of transparency would be better served by unlimited, but fully disclosed contributions.)

The legal process will determine whether all this rises to the level of illegal coordination, but even if no wrongdoing is found, the trail of communications reveals that influential political consultants, who have been involved in the campaigns of many of Oklahoma's top Republican executive and legislative officials, were in cahoots with groups that oppose reform of education in Oklahoma, groups that want lower-income kids to remain trapped in poor-performing schools with no way out. The OEA, state affiliate of the far-left National Education Association, and CCOSA want no change to education in Oklahoma other than more money for our existing system. These emails and texts appear to show that Joy Hofmeister was a Manchurian Candidate, recruited and backed by the teachers' union and the school administrators' lobby, to ensure that nothing threatens their gravy train.

Speaking of gravy train, it was interesting to see American Fidelity Assurance Company mentioned as the source of corporate contributions mentioned in the indictment:

BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED CORPORATE MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS, SPECIFICALLY MONETARY OR IN KIND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES....

Lela Odom advised in her interview that OEA and American Fidelity have had a 50 year relationship. OEA has helped AF build their business by endorsing their "salary income protection policy".

Here's how it looks to me: An insurance company has a favorable deal with the teacher's union, and it's in the company's financial interest if the teacher's union continues to be in a favorable situation for maintaining and growing its membership, so the company gives to help elect the teacher's union's preferred candidate. A state that offered meaningful school choice including private schools and charter schools will have fewer unionized teachers, and the favored insurance company will have to find another way to build its customer base. That's my speculative impression of the situation, based on what I read in this file.

I encourage you to read through the 32-page indictment of Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, Lela Odom, Stephanie Milligan, and Steven Crawford for yourself. I've taken the scan that KJRH posted with their story and put it through optical character recognition to make it easier to search.

When the state had a revenue failure earlier this year, there was a lot of blame-casting -- "see what happens when you let the conservatives run the state!" Those of us who are conservatives will tell you that we're not in charge here; the state is run by the wheeler-dealers, backed by the Chamber Pots, with campaigns run by the likes of Fount Holland and Chad Alexander. Ask Jason Murphey and Gary Jones about the roadblocks that have been put in the way of their efforts to improve government transparency. Ask the OCPA how much cooperation they got from "conservative" officials for their plan to prioritize spending so that teachers could get a raise without a tax increase. Oklahoma has replaced one set of legal looters with another.

MORE:

David Van Risseghem comments at Sooner Politics:

This narrative has replayed itself over and over. The big money often wins the GOP primary and becomes the nominee. If the liberal lobby groups can buy the GOP nomination, they really don't care if the Democrat loses, because they already own the elective office. ​ The Hofmeister election is exactly what that looks like.

After the jump, excerpts from the indictment.

Here are the four counts in the indictment:

COUNT 1: BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CONTRIBUTIONS IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM AMOUNTS PROVIDED BY LAW WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS IN ACCESS OF THE MAXIMUM AMOUNTS PROVIDED BY LAW, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.1 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES;

COUNT 2: BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED CORPORATE MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS, SPECIFICALLY MONETARY OR IN KIND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES;

COUNT 3: BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT A FELONY IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 SECTION 421 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES WAS KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, ROBERT FOUNT HOLLAND, STEPHANIE DAWN MILLIGAN, STEVEN CRAWFORD AND LELA ODOM WHO, ACTING CONJOINTLY AND IN CONCERT WITH ONE ANOTHER, ENTERED INTO AN AGREEMENT AMONG THEMSELVES OR BECAME PARTIES TO SAID AGREEMENT AT SOME TIME AFTER IT WAS MADE, TO KNOWINGLY SOLICIT AND ACCEPT MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS TO JOY HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM AMOUNTS PROVIDED BY LAW, SPECIFICALLY BY COORDINATING ACTIVITIES BETWEEN THE CANDIDATE COMMITTEE OF FRIENDS OF JOY HOFMEISTER 2014 AND THE OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE COMMITTEE AND CHANNELLING SAID EXCESS CONTRIBUTIONS TO OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE TO BE USED TO DIRECTLY BENEFIT FRIENDS OF JOY HOFMEISTER 2014, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 2I§ 187.1 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES AND IN FURTHERANCE OF SAID CONSPIRACY HOFMEISTER COMMUNICATED BY TEXT MESSAGE ON OR ABOUT JANUARY 15,2014 WITH RYAN OWENS AND FOUNT HOLLAND TO ARRANGE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE HOFMEISTER CAMPAIGN AND OKLAHOMA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR LELA ODOM FOR THE PURPOSE OF DISCUSSING HOW HOFMEISTER COULD DEFEAT THE INCUMBANT STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION IN THE ELECTION;

4: BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT A FELONY IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 SECTION 421 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES WAS KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, ROBERT FOUNT HOLLAND, STEPHANIE DAWN MILLIGAN, STEVEN CRAWFORD AND LELA ODOM WHO, ACTING CONJOINTLY AND IN CONCERT WITH ONE ANOTHER, ENTERED INTO AN AGREEMENT AMONG THEMSELVES OR BECAME PARTIES TO SAID AGREEMENT AT SOME TIME AFTER IT WAS MADE, TO KNOWINGLY SOLICIT AND ACCEPT MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS TO FRIENDS OF JOY HOFMEISTER 2014 FROM CORPORATIONS IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 SECTION 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES, AND IN FURTHERANCE OF SAID CONSPIRACY LELA ODOM MET SOMETIME IN MARCH OF 2014 WITH EXECUTIVES OF AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY AND ARRANGED FOR THE PAYMENT OF $50,000 EACH TO THE OKLAHOMA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND THE COOPERATIVE COUNCIL FOR OKLAHOMA SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION, WHICH FUNDS WERE THEN USED BY OKLAHOMAN FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE IN COORDINATION WITH AND FOR THE BENEFIT OF FRlENDS OF JOY HOFMEISTER 2014;

The affidavit from Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge begins by citing the specific language of the law alleged to have been violated, then continues:

These statutes criminalize, in part, improper coordination of "Independent Expenditures" and "Electioneering Communications." Expenditures by a corporation engaged in political advertising are typically "Independent Expenditures" or "Electioneering Communications." These expenditures advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or make reference to a clearly identified candidate. Such expenditures are required to be made independently and without coordination with a candidate committee to avoid becoming illegal corporate and/or excessive contributions to the candidate committee. This investigation shows the defendants conspired to use a corporation organized under section 501c4 of the Internal Revenue Code, and entitled OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE (OPSE), to exceed campaign donation limits and accept corporate donations in violation of Oklahoma law. The evidence shows that the defendants knowingly operated OPSE outside the guidelines of a 501c4 and coordinated with the Friends of Joy Hofmeister 2014 campaign while hiding their actions under the guise of an Independent Expenditure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVESTIGATION In 2014 the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office opened an investigation into campaign violations by candidate for Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister. The investigation reveals a conspiracy to commit campaign contribution violations and illegal coordination by members ofOKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, INC.(OPSE), Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) and Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) with political candidate Joy Hofmeister. All three of these groups are registered with the Secretary of State as corporations. As a result of this coordination a scheme was put in to place to fund an Independent Expenditure (IE) by funneling money from a donor corporation, American Fidelity (AF), to OPSE via OEA and CCOSA. American Fidelity wrote checks to both OEA and CCOSA for $50,000.00 each. OEA and CCOSA each added $100,000.00 of their own funds and donated the whole amount to OPSE. The conspirators used these funds to finance a negative campaign ad focused on Hofmeister's opponent, Janet Barresi. The advertisement relevant to this investigation is more accurately defined as an "Electioneering Communication"; however, the individuals responsible for the advertisement refer to it as an "Independent Expenditure. (IE)" Regardless, neither Electioneering Communications nor Independent Expenditures can be coordinated with a candidate committee. Therefore, the advertisement will be referred to as an "Independent Expenditure" to remain consistent with the statements by the individuals named in this affidavit.

The idea for an Independent Expenditure was conceived by OEA Executive Director Lela Odom, CCOSA Executive Director Steven Crawford, and CCOSA General Counsel Ryan Owens. By pooling OEA and CCOSA resources the group would be able to advance their desired candidate for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction by attacking her opponent, incumbent Janet Barresi. OPSE was formed with input and cooperation from Odom, Crawford, Candidate Hofmeister, CCOSA General Counsel Ryan Owens, and campaign consultants Stephanie Milligan and Chad Alexander. Executives of American Fidelity were asked to donate to the group and offered a position as board members ofthe IE. The executives of American Fidelity declined to be involved, however they agreed to provide funding for the group to do with as they saw fit. Records indicate that OEA and CCOSA each agreed to provide OPSE with $100,000.00 plus the $50,000.00 they each received from American Fidelity. Banking records confirm that a check from American Fidelity for $50,000.00 was deposited into OEA's account and a check from American Fidelity for $50,000.00 was deposited into CCOSA's account within days of each other. A review of bank records and statements from Owens, Crawford, and Odom confirm that $150,000.00 from OEA and $150,000.00 from CCOSA were deposited in OPSE's bank account.

Investigators reviewed numerous email and text communications and conducted numerous witness interviews. The reviewed emails and texts show frequent communications between candidate Hofmeister and Owens. Owens was instrumental in Hofmeister's campaign assisting with strategy, guidance, and speech writing. Owens was also instrumental in the formation and operation of OPSE. Owens met with Alexander seeking guidance on forming an IE (OPSE) and helped pick the board of directors. In fact Owens was the legally registered agent for OPSE until the conspirators realized this exposed the illegal coordination between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE at which time his name was hastily removed as the service agent.

THE INVESTIGATION

During the 2014 election year, the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office received numerous calls of election improprieties by candidates and various groups supporting those candidates. During this same time period but unrelated to these events local political consultant Chad Alexander was arrested for possessing cocaine resulting in the seizure of his cellular phones and computer. These devices were forensically examined pursuant to search warrants. Around the same time, a representative from the Janet Barresi campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction contacted the District Attorney's Office. This person provided an e-mail obtained via an Open Records Act request, dated April 22, 2013 and sent by Joy Hofmeister to Jenks Public Schools Superintendent Kirby Lehman. This e-mail reads as follows:

"Just wanted to update you. I am meeting this morning in OKC with Fount Holland (AH Strategies) at 11 am, and Chad Alexander (probably better fit for the independent campaign) at 1 pm."

The following communication and information obtained from interviews layout clear coordination between Hofmeister, Owens and others involved in the conspiracy. Note: these are but a small sampling of the documented communications.

After the 20 page timeline of communications, the indictment concludes with this summary:

SUMMARY

The communications and subsequent interviews of Lela Odom, Ryan Owens and Steven Crawford show that they set up the board of OPSE. Lela Odom selected M. Wade Smith and her nephew Josh White. Steven Crawford recruited Terry Davidson. According to interviews of Crawford, Odorn, Owens, and Davidson, the board rarely met and exercised virtually no control over OPSE. The communication indicates Stephanie Milligan made decisions based upon input of Odom, Owens and Crawford.

During Ryan Owens interview he advised that Hofmeister campaign consultant, Fount Holland pressured him monthly for details about what the IE was doing. He wanted to know how much money the IE had, when the IE was going to run and ad and who was producing the ad. Owens advised he knew the ad was going to target the primary election. Owens admitted that he shared this information with Holland. Owens learned from Milligan that the ad was going to run by the 16th of June but thinks it actually ran on June 18th. Owens admitted he shared this with Holland. Owens advised investigators that after being pressured by Holland and Hofmeister he shared with them that OPSE had $300,000.00.

The evidence is clear that in late April 2014 Owens and the campaign coordinated on the poll done by Public Opinion Strategies. The communications show Fount Holland of the campaign asked Hofmeister for input on the poll questions. Hofmeister forwarded this communication to Owens. Owens, in his email response, provided suggested changes in the survey directly to Holland while copying Hofmeister on the email. The poll was done for the campaign and shared directly with the IE via Ryan Owens during a conference call on May 9, 2014. The candidate, Joy Hofmeister, is included in the communications arranging the conference call. Ryan Owens shares the information from the conference call with Steven Crawford. The same evening Fount Holland emails Owens and Hofmeister reminding them of the importance of confidentiality concerning the survey.

On June 9th 2014 Milligan emails Bob Kish of Third Wave communications about a media buy. On the same day Milligan emails Owens and Crawford. The subject line of email reflects "OPSE". Milligan discusses media buys, fund raising and operation of OPSE.

On June 11 2014 Kish emails Milligan concerning the proposed anti-Barresi ad stating "Attached is the ad I would like to edit tomorrow if you are OK with it. The visuals will be writing on chalkboard and time-lapse footage of an apple rotting on the corner of a school desk. Let me know if I can proceed." Milligan forwards this email to Odom and Crawford with the ad attached saying "Please see below for your approval. I think it is great, but defer to you."; Odom says: "I'm ok with this if the polling indicates these are . her biggest negatives." At the time of this communication OPSE had not done polling. During an interview with Jennifer Carter of the Barresi campaign she emphasized the importance of polling before advertisements were purchased. As disclosed above, Ryan Owens stated in his interview, and communications confirm, he was part of the 5-9-2014 conference call with Hofmeister, Worthen, and Holland concerning polling conducted for the campaign. Owens shared this information with Crawford. Odom's response shows she was aware of the polling. This would indicate that the advertisement was based on polling by the campaign and clearly shows coordination with the IE. On the same day $150,000.00 check from CCOSA is deposited in the OPSE account.

June 122014 Lela Odom emails Milligan saying "Do you know when we can expect them to start running?"; Milligan responds "15th or 16th, running through Election Day."

June 13th 2014 Kish emails Milligan saying "Wanted to make sure you got the proposed Barresi ad. As we are getting that approved, we also need to begin moving the $200k for the media buy. We need to wire or overnight it today so that we can buy on Monday. It's getting extremely difficult to secure time in the final week. This needs to happen soon." Milligan then emails Crawford saying: "Are you good with the ad? If so, I am about to process the wire."; Crawford responds. "I'm good". On same day $150,000.00 from OEA is deposited in OPSE account.

Interviews were attempted with the board rr,tembers. Numerous voice mails were left for Josh White and M. Wade Smith witilaut response. Terry Davidson was interviewed at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Davidson advised that Steven Crawford had expressed an 25 interest in a pro public education organization. Crawford had asked Davidson if he was willing to help and Davidson agreed. During a later conversation Crawford discussed a 501c4. Davidson advised he had experience with 50lc3 but agreed to help Crawford with his 501c4. Davidson knew CCOSA and OEA would be supportive of the group and were going to put money into it.

On 6-2-2016 I contacted Stephanie Milligan by telephone. Milligan agreed to an interview and it was scheduled for Tuesday 6-7-2016. The following day Milligan left a voicemail stating that after giving it thought "she would decline to participate in the interview process". Milligan offered to answer questions if submitted by email.

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a 50lc4 as a Social Welfare Organization. From the IRS website on Social Welfare Organizations:

To be tax-exempt as a social welfare organization described in Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501(c)(4), an organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, a section 501 (c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity. Further the IRS gives the following guidelines on political activities:

Political Activity and Social Welfare

Promoting social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. However, if an organization is organized exclusively to promote social welfare, it may still obtain exemption even if it participates legally in some political activity on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office. Political activities may not be the organization's primary activities, however.

In addition, a brief filed with Oklahoma Ethics Commission on September 11,2014, by Robert McCampbell, the attorney for OPSE at the time, who provided legal services in forming the organization, states in the leading sentence, "OPSE is an independent expenditure organization ('IEO') which paid for a television advertisement concerning Janet Barresi, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction ."

Interviews with four of the conspirators show that they were aware of those rules. Evidence indicates that 100% of the expenditures were for political purposes. While there has been a concerted effort to re-fund OPSE and bring the expenditure's in line with IRS rules, these actions took place long after the election. Steven Crawford advised that he learned from Chad Alexander that moneys spent by a 501c4 had to be 60/40 split with only 40% political activities. Crawford advised that Milligan had overspent the percentages. Additionally the communications show coordination and collusion by Candidate Joy Hofmeister and the IE. Hofmeister and Ryan Owens communicated several times a week. While Hofmeister and Owens deny that Owens had a role on Hofmeister's campaign team the communications show otherwise. Hofmeister knew that Owens was the registered agent on the IE as evidenced by the emails. Even after Hofmeister and the campaign realized that it was public knowledge that Ryan Owens was integral to the campaign and the independent expenditure, Owens role with the campaign was left intact.

Hofmeister, accompanied by attorney Gary Wood and Richard Mildren, met with investigators on 6-17-2016. Hofmeister stated that she had no specific knowledge of the Independent Expenditure. She advised she knew there would be an IE only because Glenn Coffee told her there would be. Also starting in April of 2013 Hofmeister discussed an IE with Kirby Lehman. Hofmeister advised Lehman that Chad Alexander would be a better fit to run the IE. On 5-2-2014, the same day Articles of Incorporation for OPSE are filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, Hofmeister refers to a lobbyist's interest in donating to "my IE." The subject matter and content of emails indicate Hofmeister had knowledge of events that should have been unknown if the IE were truly independent. On June 16, 2014, the very day payment was wired to Third Wave media for the ad, Hofmeister emails Holland and Owens expressing concern over a negative ad campaign by "dark money" group. She follows it up with "Obviously, we can't do anything about the IE. :D" using the emoticon for a smiley face. When pressed to explain the communications where she referred to her IE and the communications that appeared to show knowledge of its operation, Hofmeister's attorney Wood halted the interview.

According to Ryan Owens he felt then that Hofmeister was asking him to have Milligan stop the ad as it might backfire on her campaign. Owens felt he was being asked to do something that was clearly illegal. Owens told investigators that Holland and Hofmeister were concerned that he had turned over all of his communication to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission pursuant to their subpoena. They expressed to Owens that he should have had his attorney go thru each item he was turning over.

The evidence clearly indicates Hofmeister realized that her communication and coordination with Ryan Owens, CCOSA, and OPSE was improper. This is evidenced by the frantic effort to come up with a response to Oklahoma Watch's inquiry into her knowledge into the Independent Expenditure. On July 10th 2014 Oklahoma Watch reporter Clifton Adcock sent a follow-up email to the Hofmeister campaign stating

"Thanks, Ellen! Hope your travels are going well and safe. I imagine there's a million things swirling at once on your end, so I'll be brief. Since we last spoke, I've been able to do a little more research and fact checking. If you don't mind, I have three follow up questions that shouldn't take too much time, and that should be it:

1. Did Mrs. Hofmeister know about the group Oklahomans for Public School Excellence that participated in the primary election, and if so would she or you be able to tell me, to the best of your knowledge, who was running it, who helped organize it, and who might have been funding it?"


2. Did anyone from CCOSA ever approach or discuss Oklahomans for Public School Excellence or making independent expenditures with Mrs. Hofmeister's campaign?

3. Did Mrs. Hofmesiter, or anyone involved with Mrs. Hofmeister's campaign, ever discuss the group, making independent expenditures, or campaign strategy with an individual named Stephanie Milligan.

Several emails between Hofmeister, Trebor Worthen and Fount Holland later with long and short answers debated the answer that was sent to Mr. Adcock was:

Mr. Adcock,

The answer to your questions is no.

Thanks,

Ellen.

The evidence shows this was not truthful. The evidence shows that the campaign coordinated with the independent expenditure/electioneering communication resulting in the expenditures being in-kind contributions from corporations and in excess of campaign donation limits.

The above described facts show there is probable cause to believe that defendants conspired to use the 501c4 OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE (OPSE) to exceed campaign donation limits and accept corporate donations in violation of Oklahoma law. The evidence shows that the defendants knowingly operated OPSE outside the guidelines of a 501c4 and coordinated with the Hofmeister campaign while hiding their actions under the guise of an Independent Expenditure.


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 4, 2016 1:37 PM.

2016 Oklahoma state question summary was the previous entry in this blog.

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