How to Steal a State: Season 3
Caught Red-Handed and Released
On November 3, 2016, Joy Hofmeister (R), was charged with five counts related to dark money used to defeat her primary opponent, Janet Barresi, during the 2014 race for Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Hofmeister and four co-defendants were charged related to collusion in forming a 501(c)(4) entity, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), a social welfare nonprofit that created and ran ads attacking incumbent Janet Barresi. Entities such as OPSE, known as independent expenditures (IE), allow donors and amounts donated to remain anonymous and are forbidden by law from being connected to or coordinated by a candidate or their campaign.
With the assistance of the IE, Hofmeister defeated Barresi in the primary and went on to win the general election. By the time the extensive investigation into the conspiracy was completed by the Oklahoma County DA’s office and charges were filed, Hofmeister had been in the role of State Superintendent and head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education for over a year and a half. The charges against Joy Hofmeister, as filed by Oklahoma County District Attorney, David W. Prater (D) included:
21.187.1 Limits on Contributions to Candidates
21.187.2 Contributions by Prohibited Corporation
21.421 Conspiracy to Commit Felony to violate 21.187.1,
21.421 Conspiracy to Commit Felony to violate 21.187.2
21-1958 Violation of Computer Crimes act.
Four of Hofmeister’s co-conspirators each faced the latter three charges involving felony conspiracy and computer crimes:
Stephanie Dawn Milligan - Vice President of political consulting group Alexander Companies
Steven Crawford - Executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administrators (CCOSA)
Lela Odom - Director of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA)
Robert “Fount” Holland – Political consultant with AH Strategies and Majority Designs
Milligan’s boss, and later husband Chad Alexander, while deeply involved with the dark money collusion connected to Hofmeister’s campaign, avoided conspiracy charges. Alexander was arrested in May of 2014 on drug-related charges, pulling him from the group prior to the election, which may have been his silver lining in a pocket full of troubles.
Despite overwhelming text and email evidence of his direct involvement within the illegal coordination between Hofmeister and the dark money group OSPE, Ryan Owens, then general counsel for the school administrators’ union (CCOSA), avoided charges by more-than-fully cooperating with the investigation and claiming victim status. Owens claimed he was “bullied” into sharing information between Hofmeister and OSPE, according to his statements to investigators. You might be a bit confused, since young Owens so giddily and frequently texted with Hofmeister and the others involved in the conspiracy, gleefully moving back and forth between those handling the independent expenditure (IE) and those handling Hofmeister’s public-facing campaign (from the Affidavit of Probable Cause):
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”.
Apparently, Owens’ suffering from the whole ordeal was so great that he eventually sued Hofmeister and his former employer, Jerry Needam (President of CCOSA), in November of 2018, for wrongful termination. With the lawsuit filed, Regina George (Hofmeister) and Gretchen Weiner (Owens) legally and officially split as former besties, with little hope of ever making up. If Oklahoma public education and its self-perpetuating institutions have one point of consistency, it’s a lack of personal accountability or self-reflection when any of its leaders fail or get caught doing wrong. When cornered, it becomes of a battle of who’s-to-blame among the universally guilty.
The preponderance of evidence presented within the Affidavit of Probable Cause would lead any reasonable person to conclude that Hofmeister and the others charged, along with a few others who cooperated to avoid prosecution, actively colluded to establish a dark money campaign (IE) to attack the incumbent Janet Barresi during the 2014 primary election. Chief investigator Gary Eastridge and his team put in an extensive number of man hours at taxpayer expense to gather needed evidence over more than a year and a half.
Who is Gary Eastridge? Eastridge served as an OKC police officer for over 20 years, eventually moving up to the position of Inspector in the Homicide Unit before retiring in 2000. Eastridge then worked homicide investigation with the International Police Task Force (IPTF) for a time before being named Chief Investigator for the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office in January of 2007, as DA David Prater (D) was taking office. Eastridge would remain in his role at the DA’s office for over ten years. It’s fair to say Eastridge had ample experience in criminal investigation, forensic interviewing and evidence collection, as is reflected in the summary of charges against Hofmeister and her co-conspirators. These were serious charges, backed up by a preponderance of evidence that showed Hofmeister was willing to do whatever it took to win an election, including break campaign law.
Billionaire Benefactors to the Rescue
As news broke of the charges against Hofmeister, and state democrats demanded she resign, some high-profile benefactors saw something they liked in Hofmeister and her tactics. Perhaps Hofmeister could be useful to them in her current office as State Superintendent of Public Instruction or in future, higher political positions. Despite the evidence against her, several of the wealthiest people in the state stepped up to form and fund a special committee organization to defend Hofmeister. The Joy Hofmeister Defense Fund was created with a filing to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission on February 23rd, 2017, with Henry Primeaux III of Tulsa as the chair of the litigation fund and Daniel Christner as treasurer. Administrators and contributors to the Joy Hofmeister Defense Fund included:
Henry Primeaux III – Originally from New Orleans, Primeaux is an entrepreneur who owned a network of car dealerships in the greater Tulsa area. Appearing in his own commercials for decades, Primeaux’s image and voice may be the most recognizable among Tulsans. Primeaux is heavily involved in professional and semi-professional sports in Oklahoma, as well as education through Oklahoma State University and Tulsa Community College. Primeaux appears to have formed and chaired Hofmeister’s defense fund entity.
Stacy Schusterman – Tulsa billionaire and philanthropist. Daughter of Lynn (Forbes #333 of wealthiest Americans) and the late Charles Schusterman, founder of Tulsa-based oil and gas firm Sampson Energy. Stacy is chair of Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, which grants approximately $400 million annually to promote a more “just and inclusive society” through racial, gender, reproductive and economic equity, criminal justice reform and education. Schusterman gave over $5 million in political contributions across eight states during the 2020 election cycle including $1.25 million to a group called Abortion Access for All for its now successful attempt to codify unfettered access to abortion in Colorado, and $2 million to Invest in Education, a push to pour more taxpayer funds into failing Arizona public schools. Despite being from an energy family and having no experience in education effectiveness, Schusterman was strongly against Common Core and therefore, Janet Barresi. Schusterman gave $25,000 to Hofmeister’s defense fund (2/27/2017).
Daniel Christner – Operator of his father’s national, Tulsa-based trucking company (John Christner Trucking) along with his brother Darryl, and, at the time, president of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation. Daniel Christner gave $25,000 (3/7/2017) and $5,000 (4/10/2019) to Hofmeister’s defense fund.
George Kaiser – Forbes #76 of wealthiest Americans. Tulsa banking and oil billionaire. Chairman of BOK Financial Corporation, part owner of the Oklahoma Thunder NBA team and big Democrat donor. Kaiser was involved in donation-bundling for Barack Obama, a scheme that funnels taxpayer money to politically like-minded business elites who return the favor with campaign donations through their “foundations”. Kaiser’s foundation owned one-third of the now bankrupt, solar panel company Solyndra, which received a now defaulted $535 million loan from Obama’s Energy Department. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has donated over $1 billion with a focus on early childhood education, giving Kaiser great influence over Oklahoma public education. Kaiser gave $25,000 to Hofmeister’s defense fund (3/8/2017).
H.E. (Gene) Rainbolt – Millionaire Chairman of BancFirst. Criminal justice reform advocate from Norman, OK, Rainbolt was heavily involved in transforming Oklahoma laws to allow for the consolidation of banks into chains. Rainbolt recruited David Boren as president of the University of Oklahoma where Boren enacted liberal policies, spent money they didn’t have and left the university’s two campuses with debt of nearly $1.6 billion and a sexual harassment scandal. Rainbolt’s daughter, Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes, was Chair of the OU Board of Regents. Rainbolt gave $500 to Hofmeister’s defense fund (3/27/17).
Steffie Corcoran – Director of Communications at the State Department of Education under Hofmeister. Gave $100 (4/10/2017).
Phil Bacharach – Chief of Staff at the State Department of Education under Hofmeister. Gave $300 (10/2/2017).
Hofmeister’s connections to those forming and contributing to her defense fund start strong and quickly move to the perplexing. Daniel Christner is a Jenks guy and then president of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation. Hofmeister lives in Jenks, her children went to Jenks Schools, and she was active in the Jenks PS Foundation. While Kirby Lehmann, the Jenks PS Superintendent, clearly had a part in promoting Hofmeister to both the State Board of Education and as candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, with the help of both the teachers’ and administrators’ unions, there is no way a public school system could contribute to her defense. It appears the separate, yet like-minded foundation may have been the stand-in for their hometown girl’s defense fund through Christner and his father’s business. It’s good to be a second-generation Richie Rich from Jenks.
Henry Primeaux’s involvement is less understandable. While he did not donate to Hofmeister’s defense fund, he was willing to put his reputation on the line by forming and chairing the fund. His involvement undoubtedly brought other wealthy Tulsans onboard as donors. When interviewed about Hofmeister’s defense fund, Primeaux stated, “I think she’s innocent. She professed to me her innocence and a few other things.” Primeaux wouldn’t elaborate on what the “other things” were. Primeaux, despite Hofmeister’s texts and emails as presented in the affidavit of probable cause, stated, “I can’t see any guilt on her part.” Either Hofmeister is great at the crocodile tears, or Primeaux didn’t read the document. Perhaps both.
Stacy Schusterman is known as a major champion of progressive causes through her family’s foundation and leftist candidates through her personal donations. In the 2020 election cycle, Schusterman gave nearly $2 million to candidates and PACs, including $100,000 to George Soros’ Senate Majority PAC and $495,000 to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight PAC. While the voting public had fallen for Hofmeister’s more conservative campaigning rhetoric, Schusterman had a year and a half to observe the real Superintendent Hofmeister in office. We’ll talk more about that later.
Like Schusterman, George Kaiser has a history of donating to liberal candidates, including making significant efforts to bundle funds for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and dropping $25,000 into the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016. As a lifelong registered Democrat, Kaiser likes to keep his influence flowing in all directions, often giving to both Democrat and RINO candidates.
It’s good to be a billionaire with politicians like Hofmeister in your debt when you’re trying to mold a conservative state into your liberal idea of perfection. Both Schusterman and Kaiser have invested heavily in early childhood education as a vector for attaining their progressive societal goals. Hofmeister’s charges and current legal issues are their gain.
The smaller donations from Steffie Corcoran and Phil Bacharach are a comedy of backside kissing and self-preservation. Corcoran, at the time, was Hofmeister’s Director of Communications at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Her job was to focus on communication and supports to Oklahoma’s public-school educators and the families they serve. Like many elected state officials, Hofmeister often had her taxpayer-funded, communication’s staff involved in her political communications and campaigning, rather than having a full focus on public education matters. Corcoran was sucking up with her donation.
Bacharach is another example of good media gone bad politics, as a former journalist and now Hofmeister’s current Chief of Staff at OSDE. Bacharach was a little late on the draw with his donation to Hofmeister’s defense fund. Perhaps he assumed, like everyone else who’d reviewed the evidence, Hofmeister would soon be convicted and removed from office at the OSDE so why bother donating to her defense. Ooops! Sorry, boss. Here’s a little something for the fund. I believed in you the whole time. Swear.
Despite the Facts: Charges Dropped
With several highly political billionaires in her corner through the Joy Hofmeister Defense Fund, something extraordinary, yet somehow predictable happened. David Prater (D), District Attorney for Oklahoma County, simply dropped all charges against Joy Hofmeister and her co-conspirators on August 1, 2017, with no explanation beyond the charges being “pending further investigation”. Prater left the impression charges could be refiled.
When Prater’s mystic announcement didn’t satisfy the few members of the local media who had not been robotized by whatever narrative local officials provided, Prater told the website NonDoc, “We’re not done. We’ve had information come to us over the last several months regarding one or more of the defendants that we need to follow up on before we take the case to preliminary hearing.”
Nondoc astutely noted DA Prater had previously prosecuted political corruption, most notably related to State Representative Randy Terrill and State Senator Debbe Leftwich who arranged for Leftwich to step aside in exchange for a lucrative position at the state medical examiner’s office. Despite his previous success, in the months that followed, no new information would be forthcoming from Prater’s office about the progress of the Hofmeister collusion case based on the new information he was “to follow up on”.
A simple hour’s read through the Affidavit of Probable Cause, filed nine months prior, and the pages of Hofmeister’s texts and emails contained within, leaves no doubt that Hofmeister and her band of thieves were entirely aware of and behind the formation of the dark money group attacking her opponent from the beginning. Investigator Eastridge had already done the work. If the information already provided doesn’t clearly show collusion, the so-called safeguards to prevent election corruption and collusion effectively do not exist and a new precedent has been set by Prater, making the illegal now acceptable in Oklahoma.
Why would DA Prater (D) make such an inexplicable decision to vacate charges in a high-profile investigation without any plausible explanation? At the time, with a preliminary hearing just weeks away, Prater had failed to provide any police or investigative reports to defense attorneys in the case. Was he really continuing the investigation, was he stalling, or was he paying off some political IOUs?
As in other states, Prater’s elected office, the county district attorney position within the county housing the state’s capitol, comes with significantly greater influence than the same position in other counties. In Oklahoma, the state capitol resides in Oklahoma City, as part of Oklahoma County. The Oklahoma County DA oversees the investigation and prosecution (or not) of wrongdoing by the state’s highest-level officials and powerful bureaucrats.
In many respects, the Oklahoma County DA controls government corruption within the state by cracking down or turning a blind eye to the questionable actions of everyone involved in state government. A glance across the country will confirm that George Soros understands this power structure well. Soros has fundamentally transformed major cities and states by pouring money into the political campaigns of district attorneys who will then faithfully do his bidding once in office by selectively enforcing laws. The OK County DA is frequently the focus of local media, and connections in that area fall somewhere between very helpful and necessary for survival.
In Oklahoma, two longstanding strategies for budding politicians to ensure positive media coverage are to either be a former member of the local broadcast media or to marry one. You may have seen the same phenomenon in your state where the local media and elected officials swap and merge into a single group. Instead of covering state politics, the media soon comes to cover for state politicians.
Fortunately for DA Prater, as an up-and-comer working within then Oklahoma County DA Wes Lane’s (R) office, he began dating and eventually married a local TV anchor named Tamara Pratt. Prater was abruptly fired by DA Lake after he was found to have discussed sensitive information in a judge’s chamber. During the same time period, Tamara Pratt’s news station (OKC channel 9) broke a story concerning drug charges against Lane’s wife, a local plastic surgeon and former Miss Oklahoma USA (1976), who was struggling with an addiction to prescription medication. The leaky hit worked, and with the support of the media, Prater soon successfully challenged his now former boss Lane for the office in 2006. Remember news anchor Tamara Pratt’s name, as she too will cross the media-politics barrier later in this story.
Being an elected position, it is not historically uncommon for a new Oklahoma County DA to come into this office with prosecutorial guns blazing, as promised to the voters, only to be sucked into the back scratching, political and local media reinforced ideology of the state’s established elitists. This trend gradually results in the DA’s stance softening concerning political corruption and conspiracy. This shift typically occurs when a difficult re-election time is on the horizon and donations or endorsements are needed.
To understand what gives with David Prater, it’s necessary to examine the inner workings of the small group of individuals in Oklahoma who seem to come out smelling like roses, pockets full, with the glare of the adoring press spotlight shining on them flatteringly, particularly after bad or questionable events take place. We’re entering the realm where local media, law enforcement, bureaucracy, non-profits, and big federal dollars meet to enrich themselves and take full advantage of any tragedy that befalls the people of the state, such as the bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building by Timothy McVeigh in 1995, to overreach and extend their powers.
Many will remember the morning of April 19, 1995 in Oklahoma City, when a young, American veteran detonated a Ryder moving truck packed with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion killed 168 Oklahomans, including children, and injured hundreds more. The state was brought to its knees by shock and grief as the search and rescue mission played live and nearly non-stop on local television for weeks. Even as the good people of Oklahoma were rallying from all corners of the state to assist those affected, a group at the state and federal level were brainstorming ways to utilize the tragedy to extend their influence and power.
As a result of the event, The Oklahoma National Memorial Foundation was formed as a non-profit entity to develop an appropriate memorial to the victims of the April 1995 bombing. That simple, stated mission was quickly expanded to include the formation of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) under the foundation’s now wider umbrella of functions.
In 1999, then Governor Frank Keating (R) filled the board of the MIPT with college academics, military industrial complex figures, representatives from large corporations and the wife of Drew Edmondson (D), then Oklahoma County District Attorney. Was it mentioned the Oklahoma County DA has power and influence beyond his office? As a predictable trend, those in offices that would appear above that of the Oklahoma County DA will grab any opportunity to ingratiate themselves, such as appointing or hiring the DA’s spouse to a position that spouse is unqualified to hold. State-level politicians never know when a potentially criminal scandal may be lurking and a return favor from the Oklahoma County DA may be needed to make some charges or opponent go away.
In 2000, the MIPT was granted tax exempt status as its own entity, allowing it to begin raking in federal grant funds, including over $15 million during 2000. In 2001, former army chief of staff Dennis Reimer was hired as executive director of MIPT. The institute, now funded primarily through FEMA’s Center for Domestic Preparedness, quickly partnered with the Rand Corporation to begin housing the Terrorism Knowledge Base, a database of international terrorist incidents, individuals, groups, and case profiles.
MIPT also immediately launched into providing training, such as a Dark Winter Bioterrorism Exercise conducted in 2001 at Andrews Air Force Base. The complex simulation includes geopolitical context (China-Taiwan conflict), release of a virus, assessment of domestic oil supplies and prices, overloaded US hospitals, recommended statements from political leaders, case tracking and lockdown strategies, vaccine distribution and policy, tips for handling criticism of government crisis policies, use of military in “quelling civil disturbances” and “rebellious citizens”, use of the Insurrection Act and Martial Rule, directives for sidestepping civil liberties, and information about the authority of federal agencies to forcibly draw blood from, vaccinate, quarantine and dispose of the bodies of citizens in ways “contrary to personal beliefs” despite their constitutional rights. Sound strangely and recently familiar in many ways?
The Oklahoma National Memorial Foundation, formed to fundraise and build a place to reflect and memorialize the victims of the actions of one, homegrown, violent actor, ballooned seemingly overnight into a multi-organization structure that labels “terrorists” all over the world and conducts international, terror attack simulation trainings across the country. In a page torn from the Power-Hungry Politician’s Handbook, never let a tragedy go to waste, if power, money and control can be gleaned from its ashes.
So, what does the MIPT have to do with David Prater, the future Oklahoma County DA who would come to file and then mysteriously drop felony conspiracy charges against Joy Hofmeister? Prater’s wife and former television news anchor in Oklahoma City, Tamara Pratt, becomes the MIPT’s Communications Director and then their Deputy Director.
Amazing, don’t you think? From the pretty face behind the news desk to Deputy Director of the organization tracking terrorists. Who knew she was qualified for such work? No one, because she wasn’t. For approximately seven years, Pratt was well-paid through federal funds at the MIPT. Coincidentally, and during her tenure at the MIPT, her husband became the most politically powerful DA in the state.
Eventually, the local and national narrative shifted and federal funding for the MIPT began to dry up. The Terrorism Knowledge Database was discontinued in 2008 and its remnants merged with the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) under the control of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. By that time, the MIPT was primarily providing training to police officers related to terrorism and facing a financial crisis.
Instead of considering that the need for the MIPT portion of the foundation had passed, if it ever legitimately existed, and completely closing down the shop and letting the remaining executives go, the MIPT was saved by public education. The group scaled back and became part of Rose State College, a local community college, as their newly formed Homeland Security Institute. MIPT moved to the small campus, and in January of 2015, began offering students four classes in counterterrorism.
And don’t worry about Tamara Pratt-Prater in the MIPT downsizing, as they took care of the DA’s wife. As yet another example of how the media and politically connected always land on their feet and find a new grift, Tamara Pratt became the Vice President of Student Affairs at Rose State College, the new home of the renamed MIPT. Having never been qualified to teach counterterrorism, in April of 2015, they found a higher position for Pratt-Prater because that’s the way it works. Pratt-Prater was paid handsomely to write fluffy PR pieces about students volunteering in the community. Ironically, Pratt-Prater was hired into higher education less than three months after Joy Hofmeister took office as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and all while Hofmeister was under investigation by Pratt-Prater’s husband’s office.
To be fair, Hofmeister’s State Department of Education does not oversee higher education in the state, as that is the job of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. However, the two worlds are cozy, and both fall under the realm of the State Secretary of Education and Workforce Development within the governor’s cabinet. You might recall that Phyllis Hudecki, Governor Fallin’s (R) State Secretary of Education, along with the teachers’ and school administrators’ unions, was directly involved in recruiting Hofmeister to challenge Barresi.
Hudecki stepped down as Secretary of Education in 2013, immediately after recruiting Hofmeister, but continued to correspond with and advise Hofmeister’s campaign team. Within the communications sited within the affidavit of probable cause related to Hofmeister’s charges, Hudecki is referred to as Hofmeister’s advisor (4/7/2013), provides input on a survey instrument (4/23/2014) and discusses political ads (5/7/2014) during the campaign. Strangely, Hudecki also changed her political affiliation to Independent in 2014, then to Republican in 2015. Hudecki seems to know how to shift and grift, but somehow come out clean, as she was not charged along with Hofmeister.
In addition, Hofmeister bragged via text about David Boren, then President of the University of Oklahoma, giving her “57 names” from which to fundraise for her campaign (4/16/2014). Holland and Alexander, the keepers of Hofmeister’s public and independent campaigns who, by law, should not have been in contact, texted back and forth about whether Boren would be upset about them executing a dark money campaign related to education in the state (4/24/2013). The high leaders of higher education in Oklahoma clearly had an interest in promoting Hofmeister, and now saving her from prosecution.
This wouldn’t be the first time Rose State College’s Board of Regents stepped over an ethical line, this time by employing the wife of the DA who was prosecuting the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Their former Chancellor, Joe Leone, was indicted related to fraudulent travel charges and perjury. At the time, the Oklahoma County grand jury provided a scathing reprimand of the board for their lack of oversight and an illegal consulting contract with Leone while he was vice chancellor of the college.
In an ironic twist of fate, Tamara Pratt-Prater’s hiring by Rose State would later come to directly interfere with one of her DA husband’s largest cases related to education in the state. That case lives on and has become quite important to Hofmeister, and DA Prater will fight to bring it back under his realm of control. More about that twist to come in future seasons of How to Steal a State.
Perhaps DA Prater’s wife’s new job in higher education and the existence of the Joy Hofmeister Legal Defense Fund, with its billionaire donors, were enough to make David Prater, who was up for re-election in 2018, rethink the charges against Hofmeister, despite the unquestionably thorough work of investigator Gary Eastridge. Not surprisingly, Eastridge left the Oklahoma County DA’s office in 2017 around the same time Hofmeister’s charges were dropped. Could it be that the hardened homicide investigator couldn’t stomach Prater excusing the political corruption he’d painstakingly uncovered concerning Hofmeister and her team? After all, in homicide, sufficient evidence means moving forward with a prosecution, not excusing the criminal for political gain. If so, his frustration would be understandable and his departure predictable.
The Investigator’s Perspective
Gary Eastridge moved on to employment with CCW Safe, a self-defense legal assistance company that supports citizens in appropriately exercising their 2nd amendment rights. He has remained with CCW Safe since. Eastridge appears to be an advocate for the citizen, not the political ruling class, which may make him the most credible perspective within this real-life tale of conspiracy and thievery. Now five years removed from his time at the Oklahoma County DA’s office, Eastridge was willing to share his thoughts about the Hofmeister case and the prevailing political machine in Oklahoma.
One thing Eastridge would have the reader to know is that he is not a political person. In fact, he appears to distain politics and to have the currently rare ability to remove partisan presumptions from his assessments of people, their actions and their motivations. As a relative outsider to politics prior to his work with the DA’s office, Eastridge found a world of power, money and influence that continues to drive his dislike for the state’s political realm. He quickly learned that a handful of political consultants were, and still are, controlling which candidates’ campaigns were funded, often by tactics that the candidates themselves were reporting as extortionary.
From inside the DA’s office, Eastridge’s perspective about the people and powers seeking to steal Oklahoma is enlightening. He sees Hofmeister’s colluding group as just one set within a larger network of political gang-members. In Hofmeister’s case, the desire for power and position led her willingly into the seemingly clear and shallow waters of Oklahoma politics toward the boat navigated by this network’s extortionists who pose as political consultants. From her own communications, we know Hofmeister eagerly signed on with consultants Fount Holland and Chad Alexander to run her campaign and the independent expenditure (OPSE) at the suggestion of attorney and Mary Fallin office-mate, Glenn Coffee. As Oklahomans will soon be relieved to learn, Eastridge revealed that not all of the state’s candidates go along so willingly. It appears hope remains for a state on the verge of a major steal.
Another quality then investigator Eastridge possesses is the ability to retain compassion for those blinded by the prospect of political power who quickly find themselves in over their heads, dogpaddling for survival with one hand super-glued to that boat of unscrupulous consultants. It’s difficult to cut Hofmeister slack, since she willingly agreed to the illegal suggestion that she, as the candidate, should select someone to run an independent expenditure to benefit her primary campaign, yet Eastridge, perhaps as a result of his broader work experience in criminal and homicide investigation, sees all of the players in this situation through the lens of human nature and the effect of circumstances on behavior.
Eastridge extends this perspective of human behavior to his previous employer and team at the Oklahoma DA’s office, constantly balancing any judgement related to specific decisions with the circumstances and entrenched political structure. Eastridge expresses disagreement with many of the decisions made by DA Prater during his time as chief investigator at the office, but retains and expresses respect for Prater, describing him as “a very principled person”.
Eastridge maintains a constant focus on the bureaucracies and systems that support political corruption rather than any individual. Eastridge reports having had good working relationships with DA Prater, those at the OEC and his fellow investigators, having nothing negative to say about any of them. Eastridge admits Pater could be “fiery”, but seems unaffected by variables like temperament and personality. Five years ago, when Eastridge jumped on a professional opportunity that would allow him to leave politics far behind, he was escaping the flawed and corrupted legal system related to politics, not the individuals he worked alongside. Eastridge is a rare breed.
Unlike Hofmeister, not every potential candidate willingly waded into the waters of the unscrupulous consultants. Some were shoved in and whistle-blew as they went under. Eastridge recalls that the investigation into dark money collusion related to Joy Hofmeister’s campaign did not actually start with Hofmeister, but was rather the result of an existing focus on a higher species of predator within the state’s political food chain. According to Eastridge, both the Oklahoma DA’s office and the Oklahoma Ethics Commission (OEC) were already jointly watching a group of political consultants who were the focus of numerous complaints to the DA’s office from candidates and office holders.
“We met with several candidates on both sides with various campaign issues but one recurring theme of an almost extortive manner of recruiting new candidates,” states Eastridge. “There was a concern that there was some almost extortion-like behavior by some of these political consulting agencies or groups, that there were threats… (example) we represent the Republican party, and if you don’t sign up with us we’ll find someone to run against you and we’ll support that candidate, and if you get elected, you’ll never get your bills heard or anything like that because of all the people we’ve put into power.” “At that point we were receiving complaints of a certain behavior so we were kind of looking into it but we didn’t have anything solid or actionable.”
When asked if there were common players or individuals at the center of those complaints, Eastridge answered, “Yes…I think if you read the affidavit you’ll see some of the players.” “I knew Chad (Alexander) to be one of the members or one of the business partners of one of the consulting firms.” Chad Alexander, as you will recall from Season Two of How to Steal a State, was at one time a partner at AH Strategies and Majority Designs, along with Trebor Worthen and co-founders Fount Holland and Karl Ahlgren.
At the time of Chad Alexander’s arrest, there was some speculation within the local media that the confiscation and forensic examination of Alexander’s computer and cell phones were politically motivated and targeted tactics by the DA’s office. Eastridge’s disclosure of the pre-existing pattern of reports and potentially extortive tactics by local political consultants explains why investigators were obligated to examine all available evidence from Alexander’s drug-related arrest by the narcotics team.
Related to Alexander’s arrest, Eastridge reflected:
“I didn’t have any involvement with his arrest. As I understand it, it was an ongoing narcotics investigation. It was just that arrest was kind of a gold mine to the other investigations that we were on.” “My understanding was that Chad was not the target. They were after a target who Chad met up with and then Chad was caught as a part of that. He was not a target of the investigation. He was a consumer and they were after the guy that sold him the narcotics.”
Eastridge sees the Hofmeister investigation as stemming from the first actionable evidence of the reported pattern of political coercion that his office obtained through the arrest of Chad Alexander.
“That particular case (Hofmeister’s), because of several factors, was the first one that I was able to really follow up. You know a lot of times if one campaign would say we’re being pressured to go with this group, there’s not a whole lot I can do with that. In this particular incident because of a chain of events, Chad Alexander’s arrest and other things, that allowed us access to communications that were then actionable, that we were able to follow up on, follow up with different interviews and warrants and subpoenas,” stated Eastridge.
Eastridge recalled working closely with Geoffrey Long (former General Counsel) and Ashley Kemp (now Executive Director) of the OEC during that time, as his team examined tens of thousands of emails and text communications from Alexander’s confiscated devices, and the OEC issued subpoenas and requested additional communications from the parties involved. As a result of those requests, Eastridge remembers:
“Certain phones were lost, they accidentally fell out the window as they were driving and that sort of thing so there was some efforts not to provide all of the information. We felt there was some effort. There was no way to prove it, but when phones conveniently get lost.”
As a result of the two-year review of the large number of communications collected, the investigative team unearthed what Eastridge described as “slam dunk” evidence to show coordination between the Hofmeister campaign and the IE created to take down Janet Barresi, and equally damning evidence concerning the subversive activities of the political consultants accused of playing statewide gatekeepers for potential candidates seeking a variety of offices. Related to collusion involving Hofmeister, Eastridge commented:
“To be an independent expenditure there can’t be coordination. And in those communications you could start seeing the pattern of communications. For one thing, incorporators on the IE were sending daily texts, daily email and having daily communications with the candidate. I felt…that was coordination. To meet the legal threshold, maybe, maybe not, until we were able to find the information on the rotting apple ad where there is actually approval from the candidate on the IE’s ad, I thought that was a slam dunk… if anything, that is the biggest, that causes me more pause to ask why that was not sufficient than anything else.” “That affidavit sums it up, I thought, relatively well. So did a former attorney general of the state of Oklahoma, who watched it, read it and said well that’s a slam dunk to me…. We used their own words. Their own words were the evidence.”
At the time of Eastridge’s departure from the DA’s office, the charges against Hofmeister and the four other defendants charged were still in place. It was his understanding that the investigation was complete and that the DA’s office would be transferring the case to the Oklahoma Attorney General, who would be taking the case before a Grand Jury for prosecution. As luck would have it, as Eastridge was leaving the DA’s office, Governor Mary Fallin (R) was appointing Mike Hunter (R) to the role of state AG. It’s difficult to think that the same governor who appointed Hofmeister to the State Board of Education, who’s re-election campaign shared office space with Hofmeister’s conspiring consultants, and who’s Secretary of Education advised and communicated with Hofmeister throughout the dark money conspiracy would appoint an AG willing to prosecute Hofmeister.
Some months later, Eastridge reports that he received a text from someone named Jeff from the white collar unit at the Oklahoma County DA’s office who informed that he was taking over the Hofmeister case alongside Joy Neilson, an investigator Eastridge had previously hired at the police department, and asking for a briefing meeting. The call led Eastridge to assume the case was still headed for prosecution. Eastridge says he immediately replied, offered his assistance and agreed to the meeting, but never heard back from the investigator about a date or location for the briefing. After that, Eastridge states, “Then it (the case) kind of just sat in limbo for months and then Prater made his announcement that it was going to be dropped and that was the end of it. So that was probably close a year later.”
Eastridge reports having no other knowledge as to why charges in the Hofmeister case were dropped, but shared that the responsibility to prosecute this type of political corruption by Oklahoma’s office holders is not solely a function of the DA’s office. Eastridge expressed frustration related to the failure of other agencies of responsibility to pursue political corrupt, as well as what he considered to be direct efforts to intimidate the OEC when they attempted to legally address such matters:
“I only know of Oklahoma county because that’s the only DA’s office I’ve worked in. I can tell you that David (Prater) showed a willingness to go after things that other DAs would not, specifically things occurring at 23rd and North Lincoln, such as this case (Hofmeister’s). It was always my feelings that OSBI or a state agency or even a federal agency should have been doing that but it was our experience that they would not. The US Attorneys office would not. I was really disappointed in how much politics is involved in the criminal justice system. I think that was probably one of my biggest disappointments out of my ten years at the district attorney’s office.”
On the Hofmeister case, Eastridge states:
“The US attorney didn’t want to talk about it. You know, we went over and had meetings with them. I still remember one guy saying well should you do this before the election because that could impact the election? I said well the election is the reward for the conspiracy. We don’t not prosecute a bank robber because he didn’t get the bank robbery finished, you know, because he didn’t get away with the money.”
“This to me is just dirty politics in Oklahoma and I think both parties participate in it. I think both parties are guilty of it. And I don’t think there’s a will (to prosecute). I mean during the whole time we’re investigating that (Hofmeister case), the ethics commission (OEC) is being told ‘oh we’re going to move you to another building, oh we’re going to downsize your staff’. And you know, that’s, it’s just to me, it was clear cut retaliation.”
When asked what effect Eastridge believes the dismissal of charges in the Hofmeister case without explanation has had on the use of dark money in Oklahoma politics, Eastridge replied:
“Dark money is here to stay. It’s a part of politics now. Unless they do a major overhaul, it will always be because it’s just a way to get around campaign finance law.” “I didn’t grasp the nuances of an IE and that sort of that thing until I got in the middle of it and learned it and saw what power, influence peddling where you’re allowing special interests to significantly impact your election.”
In discussing the fundraising role of the political consultants at the center of the complaints coming into the DA’s office during his tenure, Eastridge states:
“That’s one of the things these groups do very well. Compiling pools of donors. You know, in the communications you would see it. Reach out to this one, they’re good for ten, this one’s good for twenty five, this one’s good for 50 and 50 for the IE or you know, whatever. It’s political gamesmanship. The average person has no idea how shady politics I believe really are. I don’t believe they do. I don’t believe if you told the average voter that the person they voted for just asked two people who are taking money from tobacco from liquor and construction and the tribes, and that person they voted for is asking for permission to vote ‘no’ on a piece of legislation. I think people would be shocked. If you could get the communications you would see that, because I saw it.” Eastridge further asserted, “The speaker of the house is answering to somebody that paid him.”
Though Eastridge refers only to the speaker of the house by title, and not by name, T.W. Shannon (R) was speaker of the state’s House of Representatives at the time of the communications collected during Hofmeister’s collusive actions with the OPSE (2013-14). Shannon then stepped down as speaker to run in the special election for U.S. Senate to succeed Tom Coburn (R) and became embroiled in his own dark money collusion scandal arranged by the same group of political consultants contracted by Hofmeister, including Chad Alexander and Stephanie Milligan as the coordinators of the tobacco and construction funded independent expenditure Oklahomans for a Conservative Future (OCF). Expect to learn more about T.W. Shannon’s never-ending dance with dark money and controlling special interests in future seasons of How to Steal a State, as he’s up to his old tricks during the 2022 election cycle.
“It’s really disappointing when you look at all those communications and you see certain industries funneling money, certain special interests groups funneling money to campaign consultancies and advisory groups, and then you actually see an email from a politician asking one of those members, can I vote no on this, this legislation. That tells you how corrupt our system is. It has nothing to do with red and blue, I don’t believe. It has to do with power because when you’ve got the power, the money comes,” former Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge (Oklahoma County DA’s office).
Again leaning on his experience with human nature and the circumstances that lead many office holders to abandon their principles, Eastridge further reflects:
“Most of those people, and I’m a firm believer that most of them get into it for good reasons but then they learn I have to play this game this way to win. Then once you are willing to compromise a little bit, then all of a sudden you are indebted to these people that made it happen for you. So maybe nine out of ten times there’s no issue, but that tenth time, when you’re saying can I vote no on this, instead of taking the knowledge of your constituents concerns and making an informed decision that way, you’re doing it because if I don’t, that money may stop.”
Eastridge mentions two attorneys involved in the Hofmeister case who may have had an effect on the dismissal of charges. Gary Wood, counsel for Joy Hofmeister, and Larry Derryberry, counsel for both Fount Holland and Trebor Worthen, made significant efforts to vacate the charges against their clients. Despite overwhelming evidence, Derryberry, now deceased and a former state legislator and attorney general, argued to the DA’s office that the communications in the affidavit of probable cause did not amount to coordination between the IE and Hofmeister’s campaign.
Wood took a different approach and allowed Hofmeister to come in for a voluntary (not subpoenaed) interview with investigators with a play-dumb strategy that claimed Hofmeister was new to politics and knew nothing of legalities and restrictions surrounding IEs. The video-recorded interview was ended by Woods after investigators presented Hofmeister with her own words (email and text) which clearly showed she was well aware of the legal requirements surrounding IEs and continued to coordinate efforts of the dark money group (OPSE) despite her knowledge of the law.
When asked about the billionaire contributors to the Hofmeister Defense Fund and any possible influence they may have had on the decision to drop the charges against Hofmeister, Eastridge shared his thoughts about the efforts a host of factions in the state make to stay in the good graces of the DA, revealing that the relationship lines are expectedly gray and less than solid:
“As far as David (Prater) being the DA, everybody of any real of perceived importance wants to be somehow connected to the DA so whether or not they had ever had any kind of work together, I have no idea and I’m not aware of it and never heard of it.” “I think as any DA of any significance, good corporate partnerships pay dividends. For the candidate, it’s money flowing in. It’s that simple. It’s re-election and campaign finances. And then, you know everybody’s wanting a favor. Everbody’s wanting ‘oh hey my brother-in-law’s niece’s nephew got a DUI. Can you put her on a deferral program or something like that?’ So I think it’s really natural for business leaders to have, whether it’s right or not is different, but to have good relationships with your politician. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with it until there’s a compromising position to where something that should be done doesn’t get done.” “But would that make it more lucrative for a business owner or a politician or a business owner who has a friend that’s a politician to be cozy with the DA? Yeah, it can’t hurt. Again, if that’s right or wrong, a certain amount of that is natural…the private corporations fund different initiatives at the DA’s office. I think that’s a common relationship that is not necessarily a bad thing but can be a bad thing.”
Eastridge seems to have found his natural habitat, away from the political realm he describes, assisting citizens in utilizing and retaining their constitutional rights.
Total Exoneration with No Explanation
Prater and Hofmeister were now members of the state’s elite political circle, with dues demanded by funders in the form of mutual favors through a small group of political consultants acting as extortioners and go-betweens. Once in, it wasn’t enough for Prater to simply let Hofmeister off the felony hook. In October of 2018, as Hofmeister’s re-election campaign appeared to be suffering from the shadows cast by her unexplainable dark money sins, Prater purposefully came back out to be very clear that charges against Hofmeister would never be refiled. Without so much as a mention about the mysterious “new information” about the conspiracy that Prater insisted his office would be following up on just a year prior as charges were temporarily dropped, he publicly threw his support behind Hofmeister. In 2017, Prater told the public the Hofmeister case was to be continued, when what he really meant was that he needed more time for the public to forget so he could cancel the entire matter. Unfortunately, Hofmeister’s re-election campaign couldn’t wait for Oklahomans to forget what her mugshot looked like, and Prater stepped in to save her.
Prater told The Oklahoman:
"It's dead, it's over, (the charges) will not be revived. There is nothing there to look at."
During the same time period, it was a staged exchange at a summit on childhood trauma hosted by Hofmeister’s State Department of Education which revealed the coziness of the obviously enhanced relationship between prosecutor Prater and formerly indicted Hofmeister. Conveniently in the presence of a large audience at the Oklahoma City Convention Center, with local media dutifully present, it became clear that guilt and innocence in the Oklahoma County system depends solely on the relationships of the office holders involved, or perhaps the will of their mutual funders:
"Superintendent Hofmeister and I have a good relationship, I appreciate what she is doing, she has taken the education system in the right direction," Prater said.
After the in-person exchange, Hofmeister told The Oklahoman:
"David and I certainly now have an excellent working relationship on issues of importance, such as trauma-informed instruction."
Now it’s “David”? From prosecutor to “David” in such a short time. Kudos to their relationship-building and repair skills at the expense of justice for the taxpayers and the quality of education for the state’s children. And why would the Oklahoma County DA and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction need to have any regular “working relationship”?
Defense or Offense Fund?
Another interesting phenomenon related to Prater’s decision to drop all charges against Hofmeister involves the continuation of the Joy Hofmeister Legal Defense Fund. With the charges dropped in August of 2017, one would expect the fund to pay any outstanding legal bills to Riggs Abney, the firm of Gary Wood, attorney of record for Hofmeister’s defense, and dissolve the special interest entity completely within a few months. Not only did the fund remain open, but two new heavy-hitting donors, including another billionaire, made substantial contributions as much as two years after there were no charges to defend.
Michael Baab – Founder in 1988 of Paragon Films, a shrink and package wrap producer located in the wealthy Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow with additional manufacturing locations in Washington and North Carolina. Baab sold Paragon Films to Wind Point Partners in 2016 under the financial advisement of Rothschild & Co. and Robert W. Baird. Paragon Films was then acquired by Wellspring Capitol Partners in 2019. Baab donated $10,000 to Hofmeister’s defense fund (1/18/2018).
Chad Richison – Forbes #300 of wealthiest Americans. Billionaire founder and CEO of Paycom, an Oklahoma-based, online payroll system. Having signed on with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, Richison appears to be taking on the mental-health realm of the billionaire clubs’ efforts to reshape all aspects of the American experience through philanthropy. Richison founded Green Shoe Foundation, a mental health non-profit. Richison’s wife, Charis, has a background in the pharmaceutical industry and an interest in both mental health and public education. Charis Richison is involved with medical, mentoring, and cultural volunteerism to the approximately 32,000 students within Oklahoma City Public Schools, according to Superintendent Sean McDaniel, and would make a future donation of $1 million to The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools’ coronavirus relief efforts. Chad Richison donated $20,000 to Hofmeister’s defense fund (9/10/2019).
It leads one to wonder how two wealthy entrepreneurs could possibly benefit from donating to a politician’s defense fund after no defense was needed. Perhaps the funds would be transferred elsewhere once the defense fund was dissolved. Coordinating her own dark money entity, in 2014, led Hofmeister into a rat’s nest of problems, including charges related to exceeding the legal maximum for individual donations. Perhaps an existing defense fund was a less risky way to slide bigger amounts to Hofmeister’s re-election campaign.
There’s additional evidence Hofmeister’s defense fund was priming for future purposes. In late 2019, the fund began paying CLP Consulting to do the fund’s ethics filings and paid OEC a $300 fee, in September 2021, to keep the fund going. In addition, since late 2019, the fund started paying new, larger firms for legal services beyond Riggs Abney, Hofmeister’s legal representation related to her 2016 felony charges. Both Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey and Tippens PC and Hall Estill have been paid by the fund for legal services since that time. Hofmeister was going big-league, at least legally speaking. Long after its intended purpose of defending Hofmeister related to charges filed in November of 2016, which were dropped in August of 2017, the fund continued to take in and expend money, with no currently transparent purpose.
As for DA David Prater, the political gods smiled upon him kindly for his team play. Prater ran uncontested in both the Democratic primary and general elections during his bid for re-election in 2018, something that did not go unnoticed by some in his own party. Labeled one of “Three of American’s Worst Democratic Prosecutors” and frequently facing criticism for his lack of accessibility and tolerance of pushback, such as when it was discovered thousands of rape kits in Oklahoma had gone untested for years and Prater confronted an advocate and rape victim for pressing the issue, it’s surprising no one ever challenged Prater for the office. It’s good to have the political consultants (extortionists) boxing out for you during re-election season.
Strangely, Prater was able to collect donations for his 2018 campaigns, primary and general election, against nobody. After his 2014 campaign, Prater rolled over $41,484.25 into his 2018 committee fund, then took in an additional $75,607 in donations from some interesting donors, to name just a few:
Phil Bacharach - Joy Hofmeister’s Chief of Staff at OSDE (donated $300)
Michael Turpen - Attorney at Riggs Abney, Hofmeister’s defense firm of record that continued to be paid from Hofmeister’s defense fund for more two years after charges were dropped for a total of $93,770.60 (donated $500)
Glenn Coffee – Attorney and political consultant who recommended Chad Alexander to run Hofmeister’s dark money entity in 2013, and shared office space with Alexander and Governor Fallin’s campaign (donated $2,000)
Chad Richison - Paycom founder and CEO who gave $20,000 to Hofmeister’s defense fund after DA Prater had dropped all charges against Hofmeister (donated individual max. $2,700)
Shannon Rowe - Sister of Chad Richison, Co-founder of and retired Paycom employee who donated the same amount to Prater’s non-campaign as her brother during the same week (donated individual max. $2,700)
Prater, having no need for campaign funds in his uncontested race, made some interesting expenditures with the donations:
$4,196.33 (Dec 2021) to cater what must have been an amazing “Christmas dinner for DA’s office staff”
$500 (Dec 2021) for employee awards
$5,000 (Aug 2019) to remodel the DA’s employee break room
$1,209.21 (April 2019) for a “DA staff appreciation luncheon” at Pablano Grill
$800.65 (April 2019) for “Catering and décor for luncheon for executive assistant’s day”
$42,500 ($7,500 in February and $35,000 in September of 2018) to Project Consultants for “Campaign management and consulting services”. According to the Secretary of State, Project Consultants LLC was established in 2010 by Blake Virgin, a Norman based attorney and 30-year municipal court judge who also served on the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.
It’s good to be working at the Oklahoma County DA’s office, as your boss acts like he appreciates you with swanky holiday dinners, luncheons, awards, and office remodels, all on the dime of donors seeking influence. Heck, he even managed to get an “in-kind” donation of $800 in liquor from a local store for one of their staff soirees. What a guy!
Both Prater’s 2018 campaign donations and Hofmeister’s late defense fund contributions, with their obvious overlapping of participants, are listed in the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s (OEC’s) required filings for candidates and committees. That begs some questions about OEC’s review process. If our elected officials are so untouchable that well-earned charges cannot stick and pay-for-play can be made over-the-table through special funds and campaign entities, what is the OEC’s purpose? Has the OEC been historically weak on political corruption as frequently charged, or are their efforts thwarted by the forces investigator Eastridge describes. And given the OEC worked directly with DA Prater’s office on subpoenas to uncover the Hofmeister dark money collusion, how were they feeling about charges being dropped with none of Prater’s promised “follow up”? Not a peep from the OEC, which is likely a learned behavior.
Prater seemed to have found his very political stride, despite frequently facing criticism for his tactics. In 2019, yet another highly qualified Chief Investigator, William Muller, left Prater’s team at the Oklahoma County DA’s office. This time, the investigator, a former law enforcement and Secret Service veteran, did not leave quietly and by his own decision, but filed a wrongful termination claim with the Office of Risk Management that provides telling information about the climate at Prater’s office and his habit of using his powers to both persecute his political opponents and pardon his allies. Within the claim as submitted, William Muller states that he was directed to pursue an unlawful investigation into components of a movement pushing for criminal justice reform and its Republican leader.
The claim states allegations of illegally recorded conversations by Prater, lack of controls within an evidence room, and misuse of grand jury subpoenas to illegally probe into a group called Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and their chairman, Kris Steele (R), former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, as well as the ACLU and its local affiliate. Interestingly, in 2017, according to the claim, Prater asked Muller to obtain a Multi-County Grand Jury Subpoena only after Paycom General Counsel refused to turn over banking and financial records for Oklahomans for Criminal Reform without a subpoena, which “angered Prater”.
Hold the presses. After getting on the wrong side of Prater’s office (2017) for not supplying requested information, the Paycom CEO, Chad Richison, and his sister each donate the maximum allowable to Prater’s non-contested campaign. Then the Paycom CEO gives $20,000 to Joy Hofmeister’s defense fund in September of 2019, two years after criminal charges against her are dropped. Do we have a mafia of intimidation in the Oklahoma DA’s office where people pay to stay on Prater’s good side, and no one dares to run against him for fear of retaliation? Are the kingpin consultants arranging these donations? It’s difficult to say, though further information will be revealed in Seasons Four and Five of How to Steal a State about Paycom and its policies that will shed some light on the Richison’s political motivations.
Investigator Muller’s wrongful termination claim also mentions Muller briefed DA Prater about an ongoing political corruption case with “the evidence supporting moving forward against the target of the investigation”, which angered Prater. After the briefing, Prater called for two sheriff’s deputies, had Muller’s bag searched, seized Muller’s personal firearm, refused to answer Muller’s questions about what was happening and had Muller escorted from the office. Prater then emailed a statewide, government email group of Oklahoma police chiefs to notify them Muller had been terminated.
The “target” of the political corruption case Muller was advising Prater to pursue with prosecution based upon the results of his investigation was not revealed in the claim. Apparently, it was someone Prater would rather not prosecute. Could it be that Muller was doing the “follow up” on the new information Prater sited as his reason for temporarily dropping charges against Hofmeister, Milligan, Crawford, Odom and Holland? Prater didn’t just fire Muller on the day he was presented with Muller’s investigative findings on the “target” of political corruption, he took to an email group or groups in what appears to be an attempt to ensure Muller would not find future work within law enforcement anywhere in Oklahoma. Was Muller being silenced and was Hofmeister’s political conspiracy case the reason for silencing him?
In response to Muller’s claim, Prater got public and personal, just as he had with his former boss and then DA Wes Lane when the two parted ways in a reverse situation where Prater was fired by Lane for leaking sensitive information within a judge’s chambers. Similar to when Prater’s wife’s tv station broke a personal and retaliatory story about Wes Lane’s wife, Prater claimed Muller was released due to an extramarital affair with a co-worker and pushed out texts and photos to the media to make his point and silence his opposition. Prater seems to make a habit of taking politics to personal and nasty heights.
Dark Money Remains Undefeated
The dark money did its job by propelling Hofmeister to office, and with the help of DA Prater, all related charges against her were dropped. Prater’s wife had found lucrative, yet unchallenging work in education. Prater had a great election cycle, with no opponents in the primary or general election and free money to spend. And just in time for Hofmeister’s now re-election in November of 2018, she had the public and glowing endorsement of the DA to cleanse her deservedly tainted image. If you want to know who to keep your eyes on in politics, government, and public service in your state, it’s the people who always land on their feet in a great spot after obvious improprieties.
What did Hofmeister do with her two terms as State Superintendent of Public Instruction? Stay tuned to Season Four of How to Steal a State where a pandemic provides opportunity for only a few, and a new figure emerges to upset the status quo for Hofmeister’s masters and many other powerbrokers in the state.
From Oklahoma? Please comment and tell us what you might know or think about the attempted theft of the state.
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