Dark Money Matters
How to Steal a State: Season 2
Just a few months after her appointment to the Oklahoma State Board of Education in 2012, the texts and emails would heat up between Joy Hofmeister, the Jenks Public Schools superintendent, the teachers’ and administrators’ unions, political strategists, and dark money experts, as revealed in the subsequent indictments of five individuals, including Hofmeister. Think of those emails and texts as the Burn Book, created by the Mean Girls (and guys) who never intended it to be used against them. To fully understand and appreciate their self-serving and sophomoric exchanges, you’ll need a proper introduction to some new characters and a quick overview of the organizations they represented as the steal began.
The Cast of Characters
Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) – The state union for public school teachers and an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest union in the country. OEA refers to itself as the non-profit “Voice of public education since 1889”, and they were clearly not ready for the people of Oklahoma to have any voice in the matter.
Lela Odom – Executive Director of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA).
The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) – The state union for public school superintendents, principals, and directors. Think of CCOSA as a non-profit to protect the highest paid individuals in Oklahoma public education. CCOSA serves as the umbrella agency for five member unions: Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA); Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals (OASSP); Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals (OAESP); Oklahoma Middle Level Education Association (OMLEA); and Oklahoma Directors of Special Services (ODSS). The agency’s mission statement includes the word “legislation”, and the organization has its own Political Action Committee (PAC) to promote like-minded candidates for public office. CCOSA is a multi-layered, highly political organization who’s purpose is to serve the adult administrators in public education. Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s children and their families don’t have an educational union.
Ryan Owens – Attorney and on-staff general counsel for CCOSA. If Joy Hofmeister is the Regina George of this Mean Girls story, then Ryan Owens is her Gretchen Weiner, at least until the ugly breakup when he rolled over and saved himself.
Steven Crawford – Executive Director of CCOSA and boss of Ryan Owens. Former highly paid superintendent of several small, rural districts, including Moss, Shattuck, Roff, and Byng.
Kirby Lehman – CCOSA member and Superintendent of Jenks Public Schools, a suburban mega-district adjoining Tulsa that pays its superintendent over $250,000 per year. Lehman is representative of highly paid administrators who protect the status quo.
Terry Davidson – Superintendent of Comanche Public Schools, a rural community in SW Oklahoma. CCOSA member and later, Regional Director.
Jarod Mendenhall – CCOSA member and Superintendent of Broken Arrow Public Schools, a large suburban community near Tulsa. Later, Superintendent of Muskogee Public Schools.
Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) – Union formed to provide training, services, political representation, and personnel searches for local school boards and their members. This non-profit heavily influences and supports election candidates for local school board seats across the state. If you’ve ever wondered how certain people ended up with seats on your school board, OSSBA or a similar entity in your state may have a great deal to do with it.
Shawn Hime – Executive Director of OSSBA (2014 – Present) and former Enid Public Schools Superintendent.
Jeff Mills - Executive Director of OSSBA (2008 - 2014) and former Woodward Public Schools Superintendent. Former president of the United Suburban Schools Association and VP of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA).
American Fidelity Assurance Company – Insurance company providing specialized policies for school districts and educators that was offered a position on the board of the dark money entity Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE) formed to defeat State Superintendent Barresi in 2014. The firm opted to contribute $50,000 to OEA and $50,000 to CCOSA for anonymous inclusion in the dark money fund, but rejected more transparent involvement as part of the board.
Bill Cameron – Chairman of American Fidelity and co-owner of the OKC Thunder NBA team along with George Kaiser and several other investors.
Dave Carpenter – Executive with American Fidelity.
Gary Tredway – Executive with American Fidelity. Currently Chairman and CEO of American Fidelity’s Worksite Group.
Glenn Coffee – Attorney and political advisor to Hofmeister. Coffee is a quintessential example of a Republican who started strong in service to the people and then sold out. Coffee began his political career in the state Senate in the early 2000s, then became Governor Mary Fallin’s righthand man in 2011 (Secretary of State) before officially making the move to political grifter for hire. Coffee adds legitimacy to the theory that long stays in and around politics nearly always dissolve positive principles and unselfish motivations.
AH Strategies (and Majority Designs) – Political consulting firm contracted by Joy Hofmeister. From young yet politically ambitious beginnings, the founders and partners of this now dissolved entity continue to have a big impact on who runs and who wins in present-day Oklahoma politics, as well as how those politicians vote and operate once elected. As we move through this five-series adventure, you will come to see these operators as the go-between for politicians and dark money, from campaigning to governing.
Robert ‘Fount’ Holland - Joy Hofmeister’s political strategist and co-founder of AH Strategies along with Karl Ahlgren and partners Trebor Worthen and Chad Alexander. Holland is a local reporter turned political consultant and long-time guide for fake and entrenched Republicans. Previously served as Communications Director for Congressman Tom Coburn (R).
Trebor Worthen – Partner at AH Strategies. With the institution of term limits in 2004, Worthen, then 23, took his father’s (Robert Worthen) seat, becoming the youngest member of the Oklahoma state legislature. Worthen will seem like a minor character in this saga during the first season, but you’ll want to remember him for later. His wife, Jenna Worthen, also participated in the business and has a continuing part in this story.
The Oklahoma education establishment – This is a bit of a catch-all group comprised of public education, higher education, and the governmental agencies who are supposed to monitor their activities. The players may change roles, moving back and forth from school districts or the State Department of Education to unions, non-profits, elected offices or influential boards, but it remains a cozy team. Intertwined within this group are unscrupulous lawyers, consultants and PR heads-for-hire that drift from election to election helping to ensure the power stays within the group.
David Boren (D) – Former Oklahoma governor and US Senator who relinquished his Senate seat in 1994 to become the President of the University of Oklahoma. Boren’s 23-year tenure as OU president ended in both financial and sexual harassment scandals. Previously, gay activists publicly alleged Boren was the unnamed US senator who harassed male staffers in the book Queer in America: Sex, the Media, and the Closets of Power by Michelangelo Signorile. Boren left the university with over $1 billion in debt.
Phyllis Hudecki – As introduced in Season 1 of How to Steal a State, Hudecki was the Oklahoma Secretary of Education under Governor Mary Fallin. As you will see, Hudecki is a practiced politicrat and ideological chameleon, knowing when to shift colors and when to jump in and out of politics to avoid capture.
Shelly & Bill Hickman – Originally a journalist for the Oklahoma Gazette (1999-2001) and OKC Business News (2004-2005), Shelly Hickman jumped up to Press Secretary at the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) for former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett (2006-2011), and then to Director of Public Information and Community Relations for Norman Public Schools (2011-2015). In 2015, Hickman became the State Marketing and Community Director for Stand for Children, a national non-profit group pushing a progressive agenda for public education, with equity outranking all other concerns. She then went to work for EPIC Charter Schools as Managing Director of External Affairs and then Deputy Superintendent (2017-2021) to champion the conservative position of school choice. Currently, she is the Director of Operations at the coveted John W Rex Charter Elementary School. Her husband, Bill Hickman, practiced law at Hickman Law Group with Brad Clark, Joy Hofmeister’s long-time general counsel at the OSDE.
Brad Clark - Former Special Assistant to Sandy Garrett (State Superintendent 1991-2011), then attorney with Hickman Law Group. Clark was also director of legal services and policy at the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC), an educational non-profit funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation, Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation, before becoming general counsel for Joy Hofmeister at the Oklahoma Department of Education (OSDE).
Hofmeister campaign (Friends of Joy Hofmeister) - In the interest of both optics and opportunity, Hofmeister sought the beautiful and media-connected, as well as the operators and education establishment, as an ongoing theme throughout her future career in politics.
Damaris Pierce – Local runner-up Miss Oklahoma and beauty-queen hailing from Sapulpa who served as Hofmeister’s first campaign manager. Later became Director of Media Relations for the Gooden Group, a PR firm specializing in reputation management and audience messaging. Husband Nick Bender was a local tv weatherman and media personality on the local CBS affiliate in Tulsa, then in Oklahoma City.
Ellen Dollarhide-McCoy – Hofmeister’s second campaign manager (replacement for Damaris Pierce). Dollarhide was an 8th grade teacher within Tulsa Public Schools before joining the campaign and lists Hofmeister only as a “candidate” on her LinkedIn resume. For her loyalty during the coming scandal, Dollarhide was rewarded with a taxpayer-funded position as an Executive Director at Hofmeister’s OSDE.
Ashley Stuart – It is unclear what role Stuart, a former Mrs. Oklahoma, played in the Hofmeister campaign, though she is included in communications between Hofmeister, Dollarhide, Holland, Hudecki, Owens and Worthen during the political conspiracy. Stuart is now a Legislative Assistant within the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Alexander Companies – Now dissolved political consulting firm tapped to coordinate Hofmeister’s dark money efforts through Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE).
Chad Alexander – Political consultant, founder of Alexander Companies, former partner at AH Strategies and Majority Designs, and lobbyist with a taste for illicit drugs who made a name for himself funneling large sums of money to beat back Tea Party candidates on behalf of state Republicans. His arrest and laptop are key to this story, so it may be easiest to think of him as the Anthony Weiner, or more recently Hunter Biden, of this saga.
Stephanie Milligan (Alexander) – Ran daily operations of the dark money, non-profit Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), while also serving as VP of Alexander Companies, owned by Chad Alexander. Later married Chad Alexander.
Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE) – Dark money group organized by Chad Alexander, Stephanie Milligan, and Ryan Owens on behalf of the Hofmeister campaign, and funded by the school administrators’ (CCOSA) and teachers’ (OEA) unions, as well as the insurance company serving those unions, American Fidelity. Formed as a 501(c)(4), the entity ran a media-heavy, attack campaign against incumbent State Secretary of Public Instruction, Janet Barresi, in 2014. OPSE originally listed Stephanie Milligan’s (Alexander Companies) home address and Ryan Owens (CCOSA) as registered agent when filing with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) - A non-partisan think tank committed to promoting free enterprise, limited government, and individual initiative.
Margaret Ann Morris – Former Vice-President of Development-Fundraising at OCPA. As you will learn from Morris’ brief interaction with Hofmeister, even an outlet committed to defending citizens with truth must guard its ranks from getting too cozy with the politicrats.
Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office - As the county of residence for the Oklahoma State Capitol and all major state agencies, the Oklahoma County DA holds the keys to prosecution or free rein for state level politicians and bureaucrats.
Gary Eastridge – Even a tale this corrupt needs a hardworking and frustrated good guy. Original Oklahoma County Chief Investigator who uncovered evidence of collusion and the use of illegal, dark money related to the Joy Hofmeister campaign on the laptop and devices of Chad Alexander following his arrest.
David Prater (D) – Oklahoma County District Attorney. Expect to learn much more about Prater in each season of How to Steal a State. For those outside of Oklahoma, if there’s one local character whose actions and non-actions you should be keeping up with, it’s the DA for the county that houses your state’s legislature and biggest agencies.
Cleveland County District Attorney’s Office - Adjoining Oklahoma County where most of the steal takes place, the relationship between Chad Alexander and the Cleveland County DA, both politically and as a false employer, will surface to show just how political Oklahoma’s justice apparatus has become and how entrenched political consultants are within every branch of government.
Greg Mashburn (R) - Cleveland, Garvin and McClain County District Attorney (2007-present). Prior, Mashburn spent a decade as assistant DA in Oklahoma County, making him well connected within state-level politics and its most powerful funders. Mashburn ran uncontested in 2018, a pattern among powerful DA’s you’ll come to better understand in Season 3 of How to Steal a State.
The Start of the Steal
It only took a few months after Joy Hofmeister’s appointment to the State Board of Education for her to prove her willingness to do the bidding of the education establishment by coming up against Janet Barresi’s plan to improve Oklahoma public education. Hofmeister was quickly recruited to unseat Barresi as State Superintendent of Public Instruction during the 2014 election cycle.
Hofmeister’s total alignment with the unions and her ability to look and speak the part made her an ideal candidate for this steal. Hofmeister says the right words and works hard to appear competent, accomplished, and trustworthy. If Hilary was the political piranha in the pant suit, Hofmeister is the shifty schoolmarm in the skirt suit. She has one in every color, always with a lapel pin placed just so.
According to Hofmeister’s thumbs, sometime in the fall of 2012, Ryan Owens, Steve Crawford and Jeff Mills recruited her to run with the full support of the superintendent’s union (CCOSA) and the school board association (OSSBA):
6-11-2013 - Hofmeister text to Damaris Pierce – “Both organizations are preparing PAC’s to endorse me as their candidate. Owens and Crawford (CCOSA) are both giving $5,000 contributions (personally). Dr. Jeff Mills donated $1,000 on Friday. They recruited me to run about 9 months ago.”
In April of 2013, Hofmeister committed to run. With the excitement of a junior high girl before her first real dance, Hofmeister jetted out a flurry of texts and emails to her newly found, education establishment clique:
4-3-2013 – Hofmeister texts Owens: “I am ready to make this commitment, but need guidance and strategy (from the unions). Would like to meet with you too. Still have a list of logistical questions. Timing of announcing candidacy seems key. My gut says needs to occur while legislature in session. Really need to talk.”
4-7-2013 – Hofmeister texts Owens: “I know I couldn’t ask for better advisors than you, Phyllis (Hudecki), Crawford, and the rest.”
From the very beginning, it is clear that Hofmeister is going to work for the public education unions and will take their directives once elected. She is dutifully submissive and flattering, just as a good puppet should be.
Hofmeister to Owens – “Thank you for always being honest, frank, and telling me what I need to know…even if it’s not good news or easy. I am counting on you for that…always. I hope you won’t ever hold back. I am really going to need to lean on you to give me the kind of advice, knowledge of protocol, best way to deal with legislators, the perspectives of school leaders” “I know I have a lot to learn? I’m counting on you and Crawford and others to guide me. I trust you 100%. Jerry (husband) and I appreciate your fierce loyalty, your expertise, talent, intellect, integrity and broad experience.”
Shortly, you’ll come to appreciate how ironic is it that Hofmeister praises Owens and Crawford for honesty, loyalty, and integrity within the context of breaking laws designed to ensure the integrity of our election process. Her 100% trust in Owens will come back to bite her in the navy-blue skirt bottom, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
At this point in the story, it’s important to understand a bit about campaign law. An independent campaign or “Independent Expenditure (IE)” of political ads can be conducted by an outside organization or PAC within the state to promote the purposes of the organization, promote a candidate or even run negative ads against another candidate in accordance with their organization’s mission.
However, an IE and its activities must be completely independent of any candidate’s actual campaign efforts, as donations to IEs remain anonymous, creating a tempting opportunity for collusion behind the very opaque windows of non-regulation. That’s why they call this type of entity “dark money”, as it allows donors and special interests to influence in the shadows with anonymity. IEs can’t coordinate with a candidate to put a hit on their opponent or funnel donations in excess of legal limits through the IE at the behest of a candidate. In short, IE’s cannot collude with a candidate, much less become the candidate’s text bestie. A true and legal IE would have no contact with the candidate, ever.
In addition, and by law, these non-profit, special interest, social welfare entities cannot exist for the sole purpose of supporting or opposing a candidate and must spend the majority (60%) of their budget on non-political efforts to directly support “social welfare". You would expect a social welfare organization to be functioning far prior to anything like a specific election they wish to affect and to be in the business of doing actual work in support of those they claim to exist to serve.
Special interests and/or candidates aren’t legally allowed to set up a non-profit organization just prior to an election, call it an IE, and use it solely or primarily to smear the opponent of their chosen candidate, yet in this case, that’s exactly what happened. And as you’ll see, they used every bit of the dirty money they gathered prior to the primary election to do so, completely disregarding the 40% limit. Where’s the “social welfare” you ask? Like many other political non-profits (IEs), the social welfare work doesn’t exist.
Lastly, there are no limits on the amount an individual or organization can anonymously donate to an IE. In Oklahoma, individual contributions directly to a candidate’s campaign are limited to $5,000 per election, but with an IE, the sky’s the limit and no one will ever know. Dark money is big money, and big money demands a return on investment once a candidate wins a seat.
IEs are the mechanism by which big money seizes influence, control, and power from citizens. Legally, of course. The federal and state legislation behind this non-transparent system was created by politicians already in office and beholden to special interests for their own benefit, in the same way they legislate themselves raises or approve slush funds of taxpayer money to pay off their sexual indiscretions. If political fundraising laws were ever put to a vote of the people and not the politicians, they would read very differently.
Once committed to running for Barresi’s seat, Hofmeister takes to her email, laying out the scheme to fund a ‘not-so-independent’ campaign (IE) against Barresi and confirming collusion between herself as the candidate and all three major educational unions in the state, conveniently leaving her “the high road”:
4/17/2013-4/18/2013 – Hofmeister email to Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman – “Had very, very good meeting 1hour 40 mins with Glenn (political strategist Glenn Coffee) today. Then strategy with Crawford (CCOSA), Mills (OSSBA) and Ryan (CCOSA) for couple more hours. Coffee thinks I should look at AH Strategies, Neva Hill or Chad Alexander for campaign management. He likes Chad Alexander for the independent campaign which would be where he would put CCOSA, OSSBA, OEA money, plus amounts from corporations as it would all be anonymous. This independent campaign would do the negative ads and allow me to take the high road with my own campaign”. “Coffee is willing to consider being retained as campaigns political strategist. Ryan thinks its better to retain him as legal council formally, which would ensure attorney client privilege.” (emphasis added)
Hofmeister seems proud of her newly acquired knowledge of the world of campaigns and its terminology, including how to cover her backside with attorney-client privilege. She clearly goes right to work selecting individuals to coordinate both of her campaigns, the legal and illegal. The candidate is clearly playing HR for the IE campaign and future “social welfare” organization. Does it get more conspiratorial than that? Actually, it does.
Throughout the remainder of the month, Owens (CCOSA general counsel) and Hofmeister get much chummier, with dinner to discuss budgets and strategies to blast Barresi’s support of Common Core and lunch to interview Fount Holland of AH Strategies (recommended by Glenn Coffee), who is subsequently contracted by Hofmeister for campaign strategy. Holland, as an official Hofmeister for Superintendent, front-facing campaign representative, gets right to work illegally coordinating with Chad Alexander on the “independent campaign”:
4-24-2013 – Text string between Holland and Alexander:
Holland: “Will boren (David Boren) get pissed if you do an IE against Baressi”
Alexander: “I will use a different 527 (tax-exempt political entity with no contribution limits).”
Holland: “Money in it”
Holland: “I hear the oea (teacher’s union) and the Kaisers (billionaire George Kaiser) might put mega m”
Alexander: “I know the oea will”
Everyone in Hofmeister’s growing circle quickly seemed to agree that Chad Alexander is the man for the IE and the hit campaign on Barresi. Alexander, a young political consultant and lobbyist, made a name for himself in this type of work by setting up dark money groups for candidates wishing to beat back any Tea Party candidates who threatened the entrenched Republican establishment, eventually landing himself as the youngest ever (27) chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party in 2001.
Alexander cut his teeth on J.C. Watts’ first campaign. In 1994, fresh out of college at the University of Oklahoma, Alexander worked for Watts (R), the former OU quarterback turned politician who served as a U.S. Congressman before “retiring” in 2002. Unfortunately, Watts remained confused during his time in Congress as to whether his primary role was to serve the people or his lobbying clients, ranging from the water to the telephone industries.
Watts quickly moved on from elected life to serve an expansive list of industries, organizations and special interests as a fulltime D.C. lobbyist. Watts Partners, under the umbrella of J.C. Watts Companies, quickly became a top bundler of dark money, a practice that combines funds from multiple interests and industries to catapult selected candidates in or out of office. Can you just feel the power being ripped from the people? Thanks, J.C.! Touchdown for you. A disaster for Sooners. Oklahomans cheered for Watts, then Baptist Youth Minister Watts cashed out on them. At least we know where young Alexander’s skillset was acquired.
Alexander then worked for Watts’ successor, Congressman Tom Cole (R), who remains a powerful member of both the U.S. House Appropriations Committee (chair of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee and member of Defense Subcommittee) and Rules Committee (ranking member). Despite Cole’s record as one of the more conservative Republican members of Congress, Alexander seems to have picked up and learned to capitalize on Cole’s dislike of any power moving outside of the establishment, two-party system, particular when the Tea Party was involved.
Alexander, along with Trebor Worthen who plays a big part in our state steal story, led state efforts in John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and quickly earned reputations as dark money operators willing to test the limits of election law. Alexander and Worthen are both former partners, along with co-founders Fount Holland and Karl Ahlgren, in the consulting group AH Strategies and Majority Designs. Alexander and his sidekick (now spouse), Stephanie Milligan, are connected to the creation of a number of PACs and anonymous entities that funneled money to their clients’ campaigns over the years, such as Oklahomans for a Conservative Future.
During the same timeframe as Hofmeister’s 2014 campaign for state superintendent, Alexander and Milligan, along with the vice president of Manhattan Construction, Xavier Neira, formed Oklahomans for a Conservative Future just days after T.W. Shannon (R) declared his candidacy for US Senate in the special primary against now U.S. Senator James Lankford (R). The group immediately dropped $200,000, and eventually a total of nearly $1.3 million, in television ads painting underdog Shannon as a “conservative champion”, with all contributors and amounts donated to the entity remaining anonymous. The resulting investigation also involved direct collusion with the candidate and allegations of coercive tactics to solicit donations by Neira and Alexander’s team.
Manhattan Construction, along with its subsidiaries Manhattan Construction Company, Manhattan Road and Bridge Company, Cantera Concrete Company, and Manhattan Pipeline, continues to have a financial interest in affecting policy in the state, and Neira was responsible for government affairs and community relations for the company. Chad Alexander had a knack for finding these particularly motivated funders, as Neira continues to be suspiciously focused on education and politics across the state.
Neira’s Manhattan Construction landed a contract to renovate the interior of the Oklahoma State Capitol Building, a project that is behind schedule by years and has cost more than double the amount bid, to date. Manhattan Construction has collected more than $155 million on just the interior renovation. The legislature previously approved a total of $120 million for the entire project, interior and exterior, that involved a total of three vendor contracts, but ‘whatever’ to the taxpayers.
Characters like Neira, who continues to be connected to former Governor Mary Fallin and regularly seeks the spotlight, appreciate the opportunity to influence in the shadowy cover of dark money entities. Alexander knew how to match these types of political benefactors with willing candidates. Hofmeister got what she was looking for in Alexander Companies.
Alexander is proof that political bottom-dwellers with no true ideals wear nice suits. He was a young, ambitious bag man with nine lives, as you will come to see. As a long-time lobbyist for the University of Oklahoma (and president David Boren), Alexander’s ties to the political side of education in Oklahoma were well established. The Hofmeister team eagerly brought Alexander on board as the strategist and keeper for their dark money IE, not knowing how much his current lifestyle would affect their careful planning. When not in his nice suit, or maybe sometimes while wearing it, Alexander had a nose for cocaine and a palette for pills, but more about that later.
Though Hofmeister had been working simultaneously to fill out her team for coordinating both campaigns, the public-facing and her IE, since early 2013, she announced her campaign in January of 2014 with all of the hyperbole of a liberal in a conservative’s skirt suit. Ironically, as she spoke of Barresi’s time in the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction as a “reign of terror” during her announcement conference, Hofmeister squarely blamed Barresi for Oklahoma’s ranking at the time of 41st of the 50 states in academic performance for K-12 students.
It’s ironic that the lady who would go on to claim state-to-state and year-to-year comparisons could not be made about the effectiveness of public education in the state for several years due to differing standards, measurement tools and circumstances would use a state performance ranking to berate her opponent. That is unless Hofmeister’s agency was given another $35 million of the taxpayers’ money for different data systems. Parents, just ignore those testing scores while Hofmeister is running things. Nothing to see here, but keep that cash flowing. If there were any public words Hofmeister would now most like to erase, those stats from the past would likely be contenders. Spoiler alert. Education rankings nosedived during Hofmeister’s reign, but that’s for a future season of this story.
Interestingly, during the 2014 campaign season, Alexander and Milligan (Alexander Companies) shared adjoining office space with then Governor Mary Fallin’s re-election campaign. Let’s put that another way. The governor who appointed Joy Hofmeister to the State Board of Education during Janet Barresi’s tenure as State Superintendent of Public Instruction shared campaign office space with the political consultant running Hofmeister’s dark money campaign against Barresi. All of these players are declared Republicans. You can bet the sincere change-maker in this scenario is the one who’s campaign is NOT officing with the establishment.
Fallin had been in top politics in Oklahoma for over 20 years, as State House Representative, Lt. Governor, US House Representative and Governor. As is all too common, the servant came to see herself as the puppet master, with the state’s educational system as just another state stage to be subversively directed.
From the unholy and illegal alliance between politics and public education, the 501 (c)(4) non-profit organization Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE) was born. You must admire the way these grifty groups disguise their intentions to thwart positive change with the names of their PACs and dark money non-profits, as there was little “Excellence” in the way they were operating. The OPSE was officially filed as a non-profit with the Secretary of State on May 2, 2014, and beyond the snappy name, Hofmeister and her co-conspirators made some newbie mistakes that would quickly come back to haunt them.
Stephanie Milligan (VP of Chad Alexander’s company) listed her home address as OPSE’s address in the entity filing with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, and Ryan Owen appeared as the organization’s original registering agent. Did you catch that? They used the not-so-independent campaign consultant’s address and the general counsel of the school administrators’ union, who was actively advising Hofmeister’s campaign, as registering agent for the group that will run hit after hit on Janet Barresi. It wouldn’t be surprising if there’s a law school somewhere as we speak using this as an example of what dark money collusion looks like.
Panic ensued amongst the conspirators when they realized how these details exposed their underbelly.
Owens emails Alexander and Milligan – “Chad, if it isn’t too late can we change the registered agent info for the IE? Please respond ASAP – Joy and crew are freaking out! Thanks!”
Owens emails Milligan, Attorney Robert McCampbell and Attorney Bill Whitehall (Fellers Snider firm that handled IE filing) – “My apologies for the confusion. Our registered agent will be Cynda Kolar (financial services employee at CCOSA).”
Owens texts Hofmeister – “No longer registered agent”
Hofmeister reply to Owens – “Alleluia. I was going thru Ryan withdrawal. I hope that doesn’t slow things down that was Fount’s (Holland) concern”
All fixed. Just a typo, right? If you’re thinking it may be just as revealing for yet another employee of the school administrators’ union to become the agent for this dark money group, you’re quicker than our co-conspirators. In an exceptional illustration of the incompetence of our state-level, educational leadership, this group can’t even cheat adeptly. Just a day later, they again select another registered agent. For her one-day tenure as registered agent of OPSE, Kolar did just fine. She is now the Deputy Treasurer of the board of CCOSAs PAC. After Kolar, Terry Davidson, then superintendent at Comanche Public Schools and 2012-13 CCOSA Superintendent of the Year, becomes a board member of OSPE, as well as its registered agent, proving that accolades in public education go to the most compliant insiders.
Why would a longtime, small-town superintendent like Davidson jump into election collusion by agreeing to be the registered agent of this dark money entity? Comanche is a very rural community in southern Oklahoma with a continually declining population (1,535 in 2022) where the superintendent of public schools makes $110,000 annually to serve just 99 students from pre-K to 12th grade. Comanche Public Schools would be a logical target for consolidation into a neighboring district or a shared superintendent arrangement. Davidson potentially had a job to lose with Barresi in office and was amply rewarded for his willingness to front the dark money group. He soon retired from Comanche PS, began collecting a healthy retirement from the Teacher’s Retirement Fund, and promptly became the Regional Director of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators within CCOSA. Pay for play at its finest.
Much to the chagrin of our dark money co-conspirators, the internet never forgets. A flurry of new panic moves through the colluders in the days just prior to the 2014 primary election when Shelly Hickman, a long-time education insider and agency jumper, tips them off about Owens’ (CCOSA) name continuing to show up within search engine queries for OPSE. Their nasty ads about Barresi begin running and many will be asking questions about the group responsible, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE).
It's very telling of this group that Shelly Hickman was the one to reach out with the bad news. Hickman is a walking conflict of interest and proof that those regularly holding the public education microphone have no true or unchangeable principles, especially if greater opportunity, position, and money are dangled in front of them. Hickman will happily jump from bureaucratic mouthpiece to diversity advocate to school choice stalwart as the political, social, and financial tides change, and with very touching and personal stories to illustrate her true and sincere commitment to her position of the moment. Hickman has been circling the public education elite throughout her entire career, from journalist to press secretary at the OSDE (2006-2011) to mouthpiece for Norman Public Schools (2011-2015). Hickman’s roles often overlap and are often difficult to fully identify within a given timeframe.
Her email to Hofmeister, on June 19, 2014, was likely from a personal email address or one from Stand for Children, a progressive non-profit focused on “equity” in public education, as investigators label her only as being with that organization within the soon-to-be affidavit of probable cause outlining Hofmeister’s felony conspiracy charges. Stand for Children is an employer Hickman neglects to even mention on her resume, though press releases and communications verify her to have been the organization’s State Marketing and Communications Director, though the true dates of her involvement there are difficult to pinpoint. She dared not use her email from Norman Public Schools, her official employer at the time, to send up the Google red flag to Hofmeister, as open records requests for the communications between districts and agencies happen in public education.
Tipping off Hofmeister to revealing search results related to her dark money group was practically like keeping it in the family for Hickman. Hickman’s husband, Bill Hickman, is a Norman-based attorney who previously practiced with Hofmeister’s general counsel at OSDE, Brad Clark. Shelly Hickman and Brad Clark both previously worked at the OSDE together under Sandy Garrett. Gives you a warm, cozy feeling inside, doesn’t it? Keep Hickman in your thoughts, as she and her husband will resurface in this story, just where Hofmeister wouldn’t want you to connect any dots. It’s EPICally worth waiting for.
Hickman emails Hofmeister with subject “Be ready” and including an attached screen shot of a Google search showing Owens as registered agent for OPSE:
Hickman – “If it was this easy for me to put in the search terms for the organization within quotes to see what I could find, I have to think that Barresi’s campaign has already done that. Supposedly, the Oklahoman is OK with running ‘controversy’ stories until Sunday. Hearing they will honor a black zone on Monday and Election Day, but we’ll see. Just be ready in case they are planning to use this for Sat. or Sun.”
Hofmeister forwards “Be ready” email to Fount Holland and Trebor Worthen:
Hofmeister – “What is this? Ryan (Owens)?”
Worthen – “This is unbelievably stupid of him. Fount told me last night that he was on the paperwork. Obviously we need to remove Ryan from any conversations involving the campaign immediately.”
Texts between Crawford, Shawn Hime (OSSBA), and Owens:
Himes (unsure but appears to be) - “FYI. When you google the Oklahomans for public school excellence Ryan’s name comes up. I’m guessing since you set it up you knew that. It is by far the best commercial.”
Davidson, from little Comanche, wasn’t the only superintendent willing to publicly defend his little kingdom (district), position, and pay by attacking Barresi. The mega-districts wanted her gone as well. Broken Arrow superintendent Jarod Mendenhall joined the team by declaring a public “no confidence” declaration concerning Barresi, primarily related to the school/district accountability system (A-F Report Cards for schools and school districts), and encouraging other superintendents to sign a petition to that effect. Broken Arrow is another one of those affluent and large districts surrounding Tulsa and the superintendent has a lot to protect, like a current annual salary of $221,826.
Mendenhall might have been rewarded for his participation in the takedown of Barresi, but he fell into some bad press of his own when the Broken Arrow school board paid him $103,100 to please go away, with no public explanation provided. Perhaps Mendenhall should have presented his ‘no confidence’ declaration to his own bathroom mirror. Hold your tears for Mendenhall, as accountability is only allowed to go one way in public education. Like many failed superintendents in Oklahoma who seem to be immortal due to the influence of the education unions, Mendenhall was eventually resurrected as superintendent of nearby Muskogee Public Schools.
With superintendents on board, the dark money poured in, even before the OPSE entity had officially been filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. During April of 2014, American Fidelity, an insurance group that had been working closely with the teachers’ union for fifty years to push its income protection policy to the state’s teachers, wrote two $50,000 checks and funneled them through the OEA and CCOSA. The unions held the money until the non-profit IE (OPSE) was officially formed, each adding another $100,000, for a total of $300,000 just waiting to make a media buy of ads trashing Barresi.
To recap, taxpayers pay teachers, who pay the insurance company connected to the unions and pay the union dues, who then use the money to run deceptive ads to convince the public to vote against the candidate who wants to make actual, positive change in public education, which the taxpayers fund.
The collusion in this case is not just proven by the logistics and players behind the funding. It’s the text and email dialogue provided by the players themselves that truly show how intertwined Hofmeister’s campaign and the OPSE (IE) were. These personal communications, in contrast to Hofmeister’s polished podium propaganda, also reveal how little desire she and the others had to improve anything for the children of Oklahoma, with the focus being squarely on gaining the office and the control.
The unions, candidate, consultants, and campaign staff freely, regularly, and illegally collaborate on speech writing, timing, polling efforts, issue positioning, money, media buys, how to disparage Barresi, and how not to get caught, leaving no time to even mention what might need to change in the failing public education system. The examples below are just a few that speak to their motivations, but you are highly encouraged to read the Affidavit of Probable Cause in its entirety. It’s captivating.
Hofmeister to Owens – “He (Holland) really needs your input. It will help him process how to vilify Janet (Barresi). He sees everything through a different lens. He said tonight that he’s going to run two distinct campaigns…the educator’s campaign and the Fox News watcher primary campaign.”
Owens responds – “Lets get together soon. We need to form a cabinet and be able to generate press releases, respond to breaking news, form platform statements, etc…I’m very excited to be a part of your team!”
Owens to Hofmeister – “We need to talk budget and common core before our dinner on Wednesday”
Owens to Holland – “When would you like to get together and talk about Joy’s campaign, position statements, website, etc.?”
Owens texts Crawford – “We have to talk about the anti Barresi campaign in the morning” “Chad (Alexander) is ready for a decision” “I am trying to not let him push me”.
Crawford replies – “We r working on it. Lela (Odom of OEA) next week. What’s the rush now”.
Owens - “He’s worried we won’t follow thru”.
It’s clear that the general counsel for the school administrator’s union (Owens) is part of Hofmeister’s “team” while being up to his neck in the creation of the dark money group. It’s also clear the goal is to “vilify” Barresi, and Oklahoman’s are a bunch of deplorable “Fox News watchers”. Further personal communications reinforce this group’s perception of the public, particularly the conservative majority of Oklahomans, as something to be manipulated and caricatured.
Email discussion between Hofmeister, Erin Madden (OEA), Owens (CCOSA), Worthen and Holland (AH Strategies): OEA, as the teacher’s union, was planning a candidate interview panel where they’d be expected to endorse a candidate for State Superintendent of Education. If the left-leaning OEA endorses Hofmeister, her conservative cover will be blown:
Worthen: “Let’s discuss this. The last thing we need is an OEA endorsement in a Republican primary.”
Owens: “Both Steven (Crawford) me I can visit with Lela Odom to discuss this request. It seems that OEA may want to play in the primary this election. Maybe we can encourage them do it in a different way…”
Holland: “We will lose if they endorse us. I can give them some ideas about how to be savvy and truly helpful. A little savvy would make OEA unstoppable. The question is are they (OEA) for us, and can they be quiet and stomach our right wing rhetoric long enough to get what they really want; a pro education environment for our state.”
It’s not clear what a “pro education environment” looks like to these people, but it appears a “pro education-union environment” might be closer to what they’re thinking. Based on further communications, it looks like you can count on Hofmeister to do the wrong thing behind closed doors. Cooking the books is child’s play.
Damaris Pierce (Hofmeister’s 1st campaign manager) and Hofmeister text conversation regarding a filing to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission:
Hofmeister – “I am concerned about some of these inkind numbers that are even round numbers. I believe they will audit us (Barresi)…Such as Kirby’s (Jenks PS superintendent) and Darren’s?”
Pierce – “It looks like they estimated and Barresi would love to come after Kirby.”
Hofmeister – “Change Kirby’s in kind to $1799.53.”
Throughout their communications, these participants show they are fully aware that their actions and communications are illegal under campaign law. They discuss the need to be discrete, take steps to remain undetected, mockingly mention the secret IE (with smiley face symbols) and seem to be getting a rush out of gaining the system by working in the shadows. They even consider themselves “all victims of bad circumstances on the IE” when a superintendent’s press conference declaring no confidence in Barresi threatens to make it look like a political pig-pile on Barresi, which it was.
Hofmeister texts Owens and Holland about a text from Lela Odom (OEA) who wants Hofmeister to call as soon as possible:
Hofmeister to Holland – “She (Odom) didn’t email, so I think she’s trying to be discrete.”
Holland after being reminded Odom is with OEA (teacher’s union) – “Ah. Have her call me if she would like to discuss how to defeat Janet Baressi.”
Hofmeister to Holland – “So I should call her and say that? Or ask Ryan to deliver that message? …Sorry for being overly cautious, I just don’t want to mess this up.”
Hofmeister has no problem being the dispatcher amongst the dark money operatives. She just wants to be sure she won’t be discovered. As $195,000 of the IE’s negative ads about Barresi are about to run, Hofmeister shares her knowledge of the IE’s plans as well as her concerns with Owens and Holland:
Hofmeister - “Also, if there’s a negative ad push by ‘dark money’ by a ‘dark money group’ at this point….could it backfire now? I’m a little bit worried that we are handing Barresi a golden opportunity to look like the education establishment is fighting her…”
Holland – “Yes it concerns me too.”
Hofmeister – “As long as we don’t add to it with the supts no confidence press conference. Obviously, we can’t do anything about the IE. :D (laughing smiley face)”
Owens – “I agree on the no confidence. However, we are NOT stopping what the IE does. We have NO control over that and it is too late. I’m sorry that we are all victims of bad circumstances on the IE but it is what it is at this point. The positive side is that Barresi likely doesn’t see this coming.”
Strangely, this bottom-dwelling group seems to attribute God’s intervention (sarcasm) to their misdeeds and scheming, as they anticipate the airing of their berating television spots through the IE. In response to Owens’ offers suggesting wording for an ad discrediting Barresi:
Holland responds – “thank you, Ryan! You’re truly a God send in this campaign.”
Ironic, don’t you think? Imagine calling someone a “God send” for being excellent at disparaging others. Later, Holland emails Hofmeister and Owens:
Holland – “the excellence in public education (OPSE) group has spent 195K… And Barresi literally 350K spent for the last week… so I guess I’m now HAPPY that we’re going to be even with that bitch… Because we only have like 130K… So thanks GOD for the excellence in education group”.
Owens to Holland and Hofmeister – “Yes I think we will all be happy”.
Now they thank “GOD” for their dark money creation that will help them get “even with that bitch”. This group mentions no solid strategies for improving public education, but clearly expresses a passion for taking out someone who’s trying and a desire to make themselves “happy”. With both her public campaign and her dark money group in place, Hofmeister busily, gleefully, and illegally goes about the business of fundraising for both entities.
Dollarhide texts Hofmeister – “How did the interview go?”
Hofmeister – “$5,000 check in hand, plus he will likely give to Ryan’s (IE under OPSE) too.”
Hofmeister texts Worthen and Holland – “Bud Vance just gave me $5000 check, plus Margaret Ann Morris (OCPA) said he will want to give more to IE, too”.
Worthen – “Fantastic”.
Holland – “Fabulous!!!!!!!! I’m jumping for Joy!!!!!”
Holland texts Hofmeister – “I need bud Vance phone number and what is his background”.
Hofmeister replies – “Big donor with OCPA. Margaret Ann Morris connected me with him. Said he would want to give to IE.”
Hofmeister texts Holland – “Boren (David Boren) gave me 57 names”
Holland – “5000 each?”
Hofmeister – “I’m asking that”.
Holland – “Wonderful. And some of those can give to us and super pac (IE)……”
Hofmeister texts Holland and Worthen – “Lt. Gov, John Doak, Joe Dorman, me and others here. Head of Texas Co republicans is doing a lift letter for me. Wind turbine lobbiest interested in my IE.:).”
Hofmeister now refers to the IE as “my IE (smiley face emoticon)” and has become its most productive salesperson. This is exactly the type of activity prohibited by campaign expenditure statutes. It’s also the type of rampant dark money collusion that is allowing communities, states, and this nation to be stolen out from under their citizens.
These exchanges also show the pressure put upon teachers to be politically onboard with the unions as they seek to disparage or support a candidate or policy. It is inconceivable that the more than 43,000 public school teachers in Oklahoma share the same political views or wish to support the same candidates, yet the communication below makes their participation in the petition of no confidence against Barresi appear to be an order, not a voluntary opportunity based upon personal thought and conviction. The unions seem to expect superintendents to make the order that all teachers sign on.
Owens emails Holland, Hofmeister and Dollarhide with subject “Janet Costello Barresi NO CONFIDENCE”:
Owens – “We are ready to send out the attached press release. Any last changes or concerns before we hit send?”
Holland – “Also ask your superintendents to make certain that every teacher on their district has signed and also hit the share button in the too right hand corner”.
The pressure for superintendents to contribute to the IE also builds. Hofmeister, the unions, and the sitting Secretary of Education seem to have forgotten that highly paid school administrators are accustomed to taking in taxpayer funds, not letting go of them. Crawford (CCOSA) emails a large group of CCOSA members outlining the “Independent Expenditure Account” that was “discussed in the past as a possibility”. The email vaguely describes the OPSE (IE) as a joint venture between the teachers’ and administrators’ unions for the purpose of “having more political influence for public education in the State of Oklahoma”, with donations to remain anonymous. The message contains an attachment that has not been publicly shared, but the message is clear. Superintendents are highly encouraged to donate.
Several weeks later, Hofmeister and her dark money gang discuss their disappointment about superintendent involvement by text. Worthen texts Hofmeister, Dollarhide, Holland, Hudecki, Owens and Stuart complaining about the lack of monetary support from the district superintendents:
Holland – “I concur. The superintendents as a whole need to do more. There seem to be a handful who have stepped to the plate, but there are many more who need to be targeted for a donation.”
Unlucky Looters: Misfortune Comes in 3
With the pressure on teachers and administrators, and OPSE bursting with union funds, it seemed Hofmeister and her gang would execute their shifty, dark money campaign without a hiccup. Then three events slowly collided to bring their sins to light. It would take some time to connect the dots, but all paths would lead to the same conclusion of collusion.
Event #1 - On May 13, 2014, Chad Alexander, the dark money expert, was pulled over by Oklahoma City Police as his vehicle was straddling lane lines. Alexander had oxycodone pills in the vehicle for which he did not have a prescription and admitted to having a bag of cocaine under his seat. Approximately 3.35 grams of cocaine was confiscated by arresting officers, along with other possessions, including Alexander’s electronics (cellphones and laptop).
Alexander was charged with two felony counts of drug possession and a misdemeanor count of obstructing an officer for claiming he was a Cleveland County assistant district attorney during his arrest. In an apparent attempt to avoid arrest, Alexander presented the arresting officer with a badge from former employment as a part-time public information officer in Cleveland County. Unfortunately, Alexander was in Oklahoma County at the time of his arrest and was never an assistant district attorney anywhere.
Alexander was, however, campaign manager for the Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn (R) and was paid by Mashburn’s office for a time as a public information officer. If it sounds a bit like using taxpayer funds to pay a campaign manager on DA Mashburn’s part, it was. The arrangement was later outed within a lawsuit brought by an assistant DA at the office who stated Alexander “was never in the office or had any work duties or provided any public relations work relating to the district attorney’s office”. The suit also shed light on another scandal involving DA Mashburn and Alexander involving the withholding of mugshots from the public to protect someone’s political image. Birds of a feather do seem to politic together.
While Alexander’s charges related to drug possession and obstructing an officer were significant, the electronics seized during Alexander’s arrest would prove to be the greater threat to Hofmeister and her co-conspirators.
Event #2 – Around the same time, Janet Barresi’s campaign made an Open Records Act request that resulted in them obtaining the email from Joy Hofmeister to Kirby Lehman, the Jenks Public Schools superintendent who helped “recruit” (Joy’s words) Hofmeister to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The email read, in part:
Hofmeister to Kirby - “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.”
A representative from the Barresi campaign turned the email over to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office as evidence of conspiracy between Hofmeister, her campaign and the independent expenditure organization (IE). It didn’t take long for investigators and reporters to discover that OPSE, a newly formed “social welfare” entity spending big money on attack ads against Barresi, had failed to file required spending reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission (OEC) in a timely manner, increasing suspicions that groups were colluding to ensure Barresi’s defeat.
Event #3 – During the early morning hours of June 15, 2014, just nine days before the Republican primary election between Joy Hofmeister and Janet Barresi, someone broke into the unmarked offices of Chad Alexander and Stephanie Milligan of Alexander Companies. While no arrests were ever made and little information was forthcoming about this Watergate-style crime, the police response to the break-in revealed that the intruder spent most of the night going through paperwork in Alexander’s and two other adjoining offices which were also breached. Those offices included the re-election campaign headquarters for Governor Mary Fallin and the office of attorney and political consultant Glenn Coffee.
With Alexander’s arrest on drug charges during the previous month, the news that he was keeping offices connected to Fallin’s team and Coffee brought increased attention to Alexander and his current client list. The connections to Hofmeister were difficult to ignore. Coffee consulted with the Hofmeister campaign and recommended Alexander to handle the IE and its entity, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence. Fallin appointed Hofmeister to the State Board of Education, resulting in trouble for incumbent State Secretary of Public Instruction Barresi.
Hofmeister would go on to defeat Barresi in the primary, on June 24, 2014, as Oklahoma County investigator Gary Eastridge was just beginning to uncover evidence of collusion surrounding OPSE and Hofmeister. Local journalist Clifton Adcock from Oklahoma Watch began to ask questions about the relationship between Hofmeister, Alexander and the dark money group, forcing Hofmeister to prepare some answers.
As the investigation heated up, the players involved continued to collude, but this time about covering their tracks. As Adcock pressed Hofmeister’s office for an interview related to the IE and Chad Alexander, Hofmeister became suddenly convinced she was the victim of “bullying”, or perhaps she’d learned that her personal communications could be used as further evidence in the case and was playing saint for the investigators. Hofmeister communicated with Holland, Worthen and Dollarhide:
Hofmeister – “Maybe my response (to Adcock’s questions) got lost with Trebor’s (Worthen) response in the shuffle. I said to answer no to both questions and the Trebor’s reply. Would you show me that before sending as this could all be in potential criminal litigation.” Later, “No. I’m going to need to deal with this myself and not thru Ellen (Dollarhide). It’s really frustrating because it’s a non-story, manufactured by Barresi but IS an actual criminal complaint that has been lodged—which no attorney in their right mind would want their client commenting under such threat of criminal indictment. I’m completely confident that nothing wrong was done and I have learned that it requires an intentional act, which there was none. It’s Barresi’s bullying and Jennifer Carter had the whole thing calculated. So, where do we go from here politically?”
Translation, in case you don’t speak elitese: It’s not wrong for me to do illegal things and everyone’s just picking on me. I can sling mud all day long, but how dare anyone call me out! Now, what about my power? Do I still get it?” And this is who took over the system that educates all of Oklahoma’s children.
Hofmeister was only concerned with her legal and political future, with no mention of remorse or even self-reflection about her undeniable involvement in coordinating the IE, its actions, and even its donors. The team continued to communicate, with Holland coaching Hofmeister to plead ignorance about the players and campaign law and providing a virtual script for her convenience. Holland emails Hofmeister from a personal account and includes Worthen and Dollarhide:
Holland – “Maybe you should add. Plus it was confusing because Alexander used to be a partner with Barresi’s consultant. You have to understand I had no earthly idea anything about political consultants, but there are only a handful in oklahoma and they all have connections with each other.”
When interviewed by investigators, Hofmeister stated that she had no specific knowledge of the independent expenditure, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Did you really expect any better from her after reading her communications thus far? Like most people who say the right words at the podium, by this time, the schoolmarm in the skirt suit had become an accomplished liar.
Crawford (CCOSA), when interviewed, refused to say if the organization contributed to the OPSE television buy to run at least $195,000 in attack ads against Janet Barresi and initially denied any connection to the Joy Hofmeister campaign. Email and text messages later confirmed that Crawford was connected to the conspiracy. The head of the superintendents’ union certainly sent a message about the growing lack of honesty and integrity in public education.
Ironically, young Ryan Owens, who Hofmeister praised by text for his “fierce loyalty”, appears to be the only member of the duplicitous bunch to turn over all of his communications with the group, pursuant to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s subpoena. In an attempt to save himself from charges, Owens resigned from CCOSA and played the uninvolved victim, conveying to investigators that he felt “pressured” to reveal information about the IE to Hofmeister’s campaign rather than being a willing participant. Owens also conveyed that Hofmeister and Holland were not pleased that he had turned over everything, rather than allowing his attorney to go through each communication prior to release. Ryan Owens slithered out of charges as the trap of truth tightened by turning on the rest of the colluders. Sure he lacks loyalty, but Gretchen Weiner would understand.
The investigation, conducted by chief investigator Gary Eastridge, included interviews, search warrants to forensically examine electronics, and subpoenas for emails and text messages by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The investigation was thorough, taking over two years to complete, and resulting in ample and undeniable evidence of conspiracy between Hofmeister and the dark money campaign against Barresi.
On November 3, 2016, Joy Hofmeister, Stephanie Dawn Milligan, Steven Crawford, Lela Odom, and Robert “Fount” Holland were all indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy. Closed and shut case, right? Well, unless you’re politically connected with the right billionaires behind you. Stay tuned for Season 3. The cast of How to Steal a State is about to grow, physically and financially.
From Oklahoma? Please comment and tell us what you might know or think about the attempted theft of the state.
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