Dark Money Multiplication – The Big Takedown - Sooner State Leadership Fund
How to Steal a State: Season 5, Episode 3
In this episode, we continue to dissect the power-grabbing, political Ponzi scheme currently flooding Oklahoma with dark money and the Steal Team making a play for complete control of the state. To have any chance of stopping the theft of their state, the good people of Oklahoma will need to pull back the curtain on the candidates’ podium talk and a flood of hyperbolically deceptive ads, carefully crafted by political consultants to be fully and falsely aligned with the voters’ beliefs and convictions. Voters will need to truly come to know and understand the motivations of those behind that curtain.
By letting Joy Hofmeister, then a Republican, and her co-conspirators get away with illegally coordinating a dark money entity (IE) along with her public campaign for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2014, Oklahoma County DA David Prater gave a green light to any candidate or special interest wishing to brandish dark money against their targets in Oklahoma, with no realistic concern about the legally required separation of such entities from a specific candidate (See Season 3 of How to Steal a State).
No longer must these social welfare groups spend most of their funds on actual social welfare work, as required by law. After all, Hofmeister’s Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE) used nearly all of $300,000 supplied by the teachers’ and administrators’ unions during the 2014 campaign to bash incumbent Janet Barresi, blatantly coordinating between Hofmeister’s campaign and the IE. Somehow, and with no explanation, DA David Prater dropped all resulting felony charges in the case and never looked back. All five of the charged co-conspirators not only walked away, but continued in state politics, public education, or both without missing a beat.
By neglecting to enforce campaign law in the Hofmeister case, Prater has created a dark money free-for-all in 2022. The use of dark money media buying in Oklahoma nearly doubled from the 2015-16 to the 2017-18 election cycle ($1.4 million to $2.7 million). From there, the increase is exponential. Already, this year, in the lead up to the November 2022 election, tens of millions in dark money has already been identified as specifically working against incumbent governor Kevin Stitt (R). David Prater is still the Oklahoma County District Attorney, at least until his strategically pre-announced retirement in 2023, so there’s little to quell the cyclone of dark money swirling in the political skies over Oklahoma.
Beginning in 2021, multiple “social welfare” organizations, political non-profits and PACs began popping up and directly disparaging incumbent Governor Stitt to clear the path for Joy Hofmeister, now a Democrat, all the way to the governor’s office. PACs, while often deceptively named, must report the amounts and sources of all donations, making them somewhat more transparent than IEs, which fully shield donors and amounts from the public eye. Often, shady entities are the major donors to PACs, making the money behind the messages much less transparent. The Oklahoma Project (PAC), which we came to know in Episode 2 of this season, and the source of approximately 95% of its funding, an entity named Oklahoma Forward, are a perfect example of this deceptive tactic. Oklahoma Forward was registered by attorney, Brian Ted Jones, who’s website prominently states:
“Brian Ted Jones is a lawyer dedicated to serving clients by helping them navigate the complex and rapidly changing landscape of Oklahoma medical marijuana law.”
Given Jones’ involvement, a thinking person might assume that The Oklahoma Project is the cannabis industry’s attempt to oust Governor Stitt and his efforts to better regulate an industry that is wreaking havoc on everyday life for many Oklahomans due to an increase in criminal and cartel activities, black-market growing, labor and human trafficking, foreign entity purchases of land, strain on rural utility networks, homelessness and medical/mental health issues, particularly among younger people.
Shadowy PACs and IEs, like The Oklahoma Project, have a habit of delaying the required reporting of their donors to the Oklahoma Ethics Committee, despite state deadlines, keeping voters in the dark until after elections. In the case of The Oklahoma Project, omissions in the PAC’s last OEC reporting in April somehow lost $219,000 from their free-flowing pot fund, but perhaps they’re planning to get that corrected after the November election. Whether completely non-transparent or sufficiently opaque, these duplicitous entities tend to get the job done.
The numerous PACs and IEs springing up both in Oklahoma and across the DC beltway, with their sights set on controlling Oklahoma, are each linked to a group with an ax to grind against Stitt’s efforts. There’s also some messaging crossover, which smacks of collusion between these special interests. Think of it as dark money in stereo, perhaps even surround-sound. The negative messages often having nothing to do with the stated interests or missions of these entities. Further, once the money trail leads past the entity to the main funders involved, their attack narratives are often revealed to be pure hypocrisy. The red clay mud is slinging at Stitt, and these hidden groups don’t appear to believe in or care about what it’s saying, as long as it sticks.
In this episode, we’ll explore another of these duplicitous entities, led by a well-known Steal Team favorite, and again add some context to their attack narratives.
Sooner State Leadership Fund
Repeat hit narrative #5 (Also used by The Oklahoma Project): Swadley’s Smoked Scapegoat
New hit narrative #6: Soft-on-Crime Stitt
In Mid-March, a group called Sooner State Leadership Fund began running a series of ads about ‘skyrocketing’ violent crime in Oklahoma during Stitt’s governorship. At the time, even the mainstream local media pointed out how odd this attack campaign was, given the message was coming from a purportedly conservative group and, at that time, Stitt did not yet have a Republican challenger. The messaging became a common theme among those trying to take Stitt out of office.
Strangely, violent crime in Oklahoma, as defined and tracked by the FBI, actually went down in 2019, the first year of Stitt’s term. Stitt claims the group has raised $10 million to spend on ads, mailers, and online attacks against him, which has been confirmed by the entity’s founder. By April, the group ratcheted up their message with a focus on recent sentence commutations in the state and the particularly heinous case of murderer Lawrence Anderson, a theme that will be shared in synchronicity by other, supposedly non-connected political groups currently attacking Stitt.
In a clear trend, Stitt has been pushed by differing, non-conservative factions throughout his first term to take action on issues such as criminal justice reform. Stitt, in several areas, has responded by considering all sides of those issues and, rather than digging his boots into the ultra-conservative soil, showing a willingness to support reasonable and necessary reforms, only to be publicly attacked related to those actions during the re-election cycle. As you will come to see, the inch that Stitt gave those pushing a more progressive approach to criminal justice would quickly be stretched into a yard-long club with which to bludgeon him by the Steal Team’s liars for hire.
The irony of this narrative is that in acting to reduce incarceration, Stitt was simply putting action to a decision made by a vote of the people, as elected officials are obligated to but rarely do.
Oklahoma has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country and Stitt, a conservative by nearly all standards, moved forward to release a select number of those with lesser, non-violent and primarily drug-related charges, as approved through State Question 780 by a vote of the people in late 2016. Chronic overcrowding in the state’s prison system was long overdue to be addressed, the people had spoken with their votes, and Stitt’s administration took nearly immediate action after he was sworn in as governor to implement the voter-approved plan.
State Question 780 reclassified simple drug possession and minor property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and Stitt acted retroactively to support the will of the people on this issue by commuting the sentences of many incarcerated under the previous felony standards. These historic commutations, celebrated by state and community leaders from both parties, were coordinated through an extensive screening process by the state’s Pardon and Parole Board and accompanied by a commitment to related treatment and reintegration services at the county level. Those services were supposed to be funded by the state’s legislature, as outlined in State Question 781 which passed by a vote of the people along with 780.
Under 781, the funds saved by releasing these individuals from the prison system were to be distributed to provide services supporting their reintegration. To date, the legislature has failed to provide this funding, so it appears Stitt has followed the will of the people’s vote through commutations while the state legislature has continued to underperform in their related responsibilities. It’s strange that no dark money is taking aim at the legislature on criminal reform consequences.
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute:
“As of 2022, the Legislature has failed to adhere to the requirement of SQ 781 that the savings attributable to SQ 780 be made available to county governments for mental health and substance abuse service.”
More recently, Sooner State Leadership jumped in with The Oklahoma Project by running an ad about the Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchens contract to revamp and run the state park’s restaurants (See Season 5, Episode 2). This pig-pile on Stitt with strangely similar language smacks of potential conspiracy between these groups.
Who’s behind Sooner State Leadership Fund?
Sooner State Leadership Fund initially appeared to be taking extra precautions to conceal its identity through its entity designation. Suspiciously, the group registered with the Oklahoma Secretary of State as a foreign not-for-profit corporation on March 3, 2022, just days before the first ads aired. In terms of registration, a ‘foreign’ entity is one that is already formed in another jurisdiction, state or country, so Sooner State Leadership is out-of-state influence reaching into Oklahoma on behalf of a special interest.
A group by the same name registered in Delaware just a few weeks prior (February 10th, 2022), but this time as a domestic corporation (for profit) utilizing the Corporation Trust Company, a well-known address front for over 285,000 American businesses and other entities. Sooner State Leadership, as a foreign not-for-profit 504 (c)(4) in Oklahoma, is even less transparent than other IEs flowing anonymous money into Oklahoma’s elections, as all such foreign entities have only “secretary of state” listed as their registering agents. One look at the entity’s single-page website at soonerstateleadership.com will tell you several very important things about Sooner State Leadership Fund:
It should not be registered as a foreign corporation, as it states a mission of “Promoting Conservative Leadership in Oklahoma”. This is DC-gathered money trying to sway Oklahoma voters.
It is not a social welfare effort, as its only real content consists of commercials bashing Stitt.
It is the dark money behemoth of one of Joy Hofmeister’s previous co-conspirators, Trebor Worthen. Worthen publicly takes claim to the entity, playing the part of the average, concerned citizen, completely disconnected from the Steal Team.
Trebor Worthen is once again swinging his bat for Hofmeister’s benefit. He not only reveals himself boldly on the entity’s front page but is boastful about his political accomplishments. Attempting to appear separate from the rest of the Steal Team who are always less than an arm’s length away, Worthen must falsely believe his fellow Oklahomans are stupid. Perhaps Worthen thought enough time had passed and the memories of Oklahomans had faded, allowing him to emerge from the shadows he’s been consistently operating within since the Hofmeister scandal to regain the spotlight he clearly craves.
Worthen devotes most of the text on the hastily developed website to singing his own praises:
“Sooner State Leadership was founded by former Representative Trebor Worthen, who serves as the Chairman and Treasurer of the organization. Rep. Worthen served two terms in the Oklahoma State House (2004-2008) where he received accolades from various conservative, pro-business groups including the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee Freshman Legislator of the Year. Rep. Worthen is a successful entrepreneur and investor who has built businesses, created jobs, and made a payroll. Rep. Worthen also spent a decade working as a strategic advisor to dozens of elected officials in Oklahoma and throughout the country. He currently lives in Tulsa with his wife, Jenna and three young children: Bobby (8), Jake (6) and June (2).”
Like a political ad itself, Worthen’s claims of being a successful entrepreneur/investor, with no detail, and having “made a payroll”, as if simply paying employees is the bar of success in business, hint at his ego and current circumstances. On the site, Worthen also makes a convincing case that this group, as a foreign entity whose principle is located in the DC area, is insincere in its purpose. Supposedly, this foreign entity lives and breathes to serve only the citizens of Oklahoma by focusing on only Oklahoma’s issues, though it didn’t originate in Oklahoma:
“Sooner State Leadership, LLC is a 501c4 social welfare organization dedicated to promoting strong leadership in the State of Oklahoma. Sooner State Leadership will engage in issues of importance to the future of Oklahoma and will support and oppose policies and actions that may affect those issues.”
Further evidence against the group’s legitimacy of purpose as a foreign entity is found in an interview Worthen completed with The Oklahoman about Sooner State Leadership Fund. Worthen describes the group as consisting of business and community leaders in Oklahoma, never mentioning its East coast roots.
Worthen defends the group’s ability to keep its members and donors secret by describing them as being “just a group of concerned individuals advocating for quality leadership and sound policy.” He goes on to say, “Thankfully, the law protects individuals by allowing them to exercise their First Amendment rights without fear of retribution.”
So, this is just some average Oklahomans exercising their First Amendment right to say Stitt has made the state less safe. And this local group needs both a foreign non-profit entity at the state level and a domestic corporation from the DC area to do so. This may be the least transparent money flowing through Oklahoma politics this year.
Given everything Trebor Worthen does turns out to be a carefully crafted mirage, like the photo above of a seemingly random American family voting that appeared in select publications across the country, this entity necessitates further scrutiny.
Let’s do some things dark money hates as we consider what Trebor Worthen is up to with Sooner State Leadership Fund:
Take a walk down political memory lane concerning Worthen and his past political sins.
Discuss how dark money funding is the family game for the Worthens.
Explore how Trebor Worthen is currently connected to the other Steal Team members and dark money messaging during this election cycle.
Get inside the heads of those, like Worthen and his favorite partner in deception, Fount Holland, who make a generous living getting inside the heads of voters. The stakes could not be higher, and voters deserve to know those on their way to executing a complete takeover of the state.
Worthen’s Political Past and Hofmeister-Helping History
Worthen (R), a former two-term (2004-2008) member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, became the state’s youngest member of the Oklahoma legislature at age 23 by taking his father’s seat after term limits were voted in by Oklahomans. Don’t get too enamored with the young prince yet, as this story goes downhill rather quickly. As you may remember from Season 2 of How to Steal a State, Trebor Worthen is the former partner of Fount Holland and Karl Ahlgren at AH Strategies and Majority Designs, its design and mailing arm. His wife, Jenna Worthen, also did work for the political consulting company. AH Strategies was Joy Hofmeister’s campaign management firm during her 2014 run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction that resulted in her, Holland and three others being indicted for felony conspiracy, among other charges.
Worthen’s political consulting and lobbying slowed after his close brush with felony charges related to Hofmeister’s dark money campaign. While remaining “active” within the Oklahoma Ethics Commission’s filings, Worthen hasn’t filed a lobbyist report with the OEC since January of 2017 (4th Q 2016 report). Worthen was very much involved in the compromising conversations outlined in the affidavit of probable cause which indicted his then partner Holland, Hofmeister and three others, but it is unknown how and why he evaded charges.
Worthen’s communications within filed charges:
Worthen responds within an email group including Hofmeister, Holland, Ryan Owens (CCOSA) and Erin Madden (OEA) on November 14, 2013. The education unions (OEA and CCOSA) were contributors of $150,000 each to Hofmeister’s dark money group Oklahomans for Public School Excellence. Regarding the OEA’s possible public endorsement of Hofmeister as a Republican candidate and AH Strategies efforts to falsely paint Hofmeister as a conservative, aligned with most Oklahomans:
Worthen – “Let’s discuss this. The last thing we need is an OEA endorsement in a Republican primary.”
Owens responds – “Both Steven (Crawford also of CCOSA) me I can visit with Lela Odom (OEA) to discuss this request. It seems that OEA may want to play in the primary during this election. Maybe we can encourage them do it in a different way…”.
Holland replies – “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 for us, and can they be quiet and stomach our right wing rhetoric long enough to get what they really want”.
In addition, during an email exchange in January of 2014, Worthen, along with Holland, reject one creative idea for a Hofmeister campaign commercial that becomes a highly utilized spot for the dark money (IE) campaign against Hofmeister’s primary opponent. The ad, as described by Robert Kish of Third Wave Communications to Worthen and Holland, describes the time-lapse capture of a rotting apple sitting on a teacher’s desk to visualize the supposed deterioration of education under Barresi. Ironically, the ad becomes the “core” of OPSE’s (IE’s) hit campaign on Barresi.
Hofmeister continued to discuss fundraising efforts for both her public and dark money campaigns with both Worthen and Holland throughout the election cycle:
March 19, 2014 via text:
Hofmeister to Worthen and Holland – “Bud Vance just gave me $5,000 check, plus Margaret Ann Morris said he will want to give more to IE, too”.
Worthen replies – “Fantastic”
April 29, 2014, Worthen texts a group including his wife Jenna Worthen, Holland, Hofmeister and her campaign manager Ellen Dollarhide, former state secretary of education Phyllis Hudecki, Lela Odom (OEA) and Ashley Stuart complaining about the lack of contributions to the IE from superintendents:
Holland replies to Worthen’s text – “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.”
May 2, 2014, Hofmeister texts Worthen and Holland:
Hofmeister – “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.:).”
Despite her inability to spell ‘lobbyist’ and her in-your-face smiley face to the people of Oklahoma, Hofmeister leaves no doubt that she, Trebor Worthen and his partner Fount Holland were knee-deep in conspiring to load their dark money group, OPSE, with funds to take down Hofmeister’s primary opponent. During the same month, Worthen participates in the sharing of polling data between Hofmeister’s legal and dark money campaigns and crisis management over the group’s identity being exposed.
June 19, 2014, when a google search of OPSE reveals the co-conspirators used a registered agent (Ryan Owens of CCOSA) on filing documents that blows their cover as a campaign “independent” of Hofmeister as a candidate, Worthen provides prompt advice for covering the group’s tracks.
Worthen text to Hofmeister and Holland – “This is unbelievably stupid of him. Fount told me last night that he was on the paperwork. Obviously we need to remove Ryan (CCOSA) from any conversations involving the campaign immediately.”
Worthen was interviewed during the investigation, but no further information was ever forthcoming from Oklahoma County DA David Prater’s office as to the contents of the interview. Prater mysteriously dropped all charges against Holland, Hofmeister and three other charged co-conspirators. Worthen may have, like Ryan Owens of CCOSA, rolled over on his conspiracy team to save his own skin and live to reinvent himself within Oklahoma politics, though his current connections suggest that is unlikely.
The Worthens: The Steal Team’s Devious Duo
After Hofmeister’s mysterious release from all charges, the Worthens were able to quietly assist with her 2018 re-election by briefly remaking their consulting services as Marathon Consulting, again in partnership with Karl Ahlgren. Ahlgren is a known “smear merchant” with a long history of being connected to Hofmeister’s billionaire backers, George Kaiser and Stacy Schusterman, through other unscrupulous candidates over more than 30 years of bottom-dwelling in Oklahoma politics. Fount Holland and the stigma clinging to his recent felony charges were publicly left out of Marathon Consultants, at least for the time being. The Oklahoma Secretary of State has no record of Marathon Consulting as a company, but the business was planning fundraising events for political candidates for a short time in the immediate aftermath of the Hofmeister scandal.
Marathon Consultants appears to have morphed or sidelined into Jenna Worthen’s political fundraising firm James Martin Company, where she is “founder and CEO”. Interestingly, in her bio on the company’s website, after extolling her efforts saving foster kids, curing cancer, adopting strays and being the champion of working single moms, she refers to her kids by name but Trebor as just “her husband”. Perhaps the name association still stings a bit in a business where her public persona is carefully crafted to represent something between Mother Teresa and Joanna Gaines. There’s no explanation on the site as to who James Martin may be, but Jenna Worthen is not talking by name about Trebor Worthen in the political consulting world.
As the want-to-be, Oklahoma version of political power-couple Kellyanne Conway, advisor to President Trump, and George Conway, co-founder of the Trump-hating group The Lincoln Project, Trebor and Jenna Worthen often appear to be a political house divided, with each being involved on differing sides of Oklahoma politics, though it is difficult to find sincerity in any of their positions. Politics is the family game, and they are both for hire, regardless of the effect that game has on the actual lives of Oklahomans.
Trebor Worthen , from 2008 to present, has filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State to create six domestic limited liability companies (LLCs), ranging in function from real estate to imports to drilling. Jenna Worthen has five LLCs, two LLC name reservations, and one professional fundraising entity filed since 2011. This couple knows how to set up entities and does so with frequency.
Powher PAC: A Worthen Side Hustle
In 2021, Jenna Worthen and former Stitt employee and current campaign manager Donelle Harder, recently with Pinkston Public Relations out of Virginia, partnered to form Powher PAC, with Worthen as the founding treasurer and Harder as the founding chairperson of the group. Harder has been in political public relations at nearly all levels, including a decade in DC. The Powher PAC’s public purpose is to financially support the re-election campaigns of Republican women, including Jessica Garvin (State Senate, SD-43), Stephanie Bice (US Representative, CD-5), Tammy West (State Senate, SD-43) and Angela Marsee (District Attorney, District 2).
The anti-Stitt PAC The Oklahoma Project, which was featured in the previous episode of How to Steal a State, is using Harder and her connection to Stitt to cast doubt related to Stitt’s ethics and suggesting that Harder has followed Stitt’s policy decisions to personal profit by way of state contracts. Yet somehow, Harder is linked to the Powher PAC, which they would have the public to believe is a truly conservative effort.
Several contributors to Powher PAC may cast a shadow over this conservative window dressing and the candidates it promotes. Lisa Johnson-Billy, former state and current Chickasaw Nation legislator, AJ Griffin, Director of Government Affairs for Paycom, and Jennifer Howard, Manager for Corteval Agriscience have each donated $1,500 to Powher PAC. The Chickasaw Nation has been openly opposed to Stitt’s re-election, Paycom’s founder contributed generously to Joy Hofmeister’s Defense Fund and re-election campaign while publicly admonishing Stitt’s Covid policies, and Corteval Agriscience, a spinoff of Dupont Chemicals, is an agricultural firm focused on climate change, diversity, inclusion and equity. According to its website, Corteva’s African Biofortified Sorghum project (ABS) is an example of their efforts to genetically modify staple food products to “combat micronutrient deficiency” in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and is “supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others”.
While Worthen and Harder’s brainchild in Powher PAC leaves voters questioning the group’s true motivations, at least part of its purpose may be to recruit new candidate clients for The Steal Team. The group devotes much of its website space to encouraging new candidates to apply for endorsement by the PAC. Once the client pipeline was set up, both Jenna Worthen and Donelle Harder found replacements for their registered roles in Powher PAC and moved on, with donor Lisa Johnson-Billy (Chickasaw legislator) becoming treasurer and donor Jennifer Howard (Corteva Agriscience) becoming chairperson.
While Johnson-Billy served as a relative conservative in the Oklahoma legislature, she is now representing a Tribal Nation in their legislature and is arguably the face of the Chickasaw Nation as spokesperson for a major PR push to promote Chickasaw contributions to Oklahoma’s culture and economy. How to Steal a State will devote future content to exploring the strained relationship between Oklahoma’s Native tribes and Governor Stitt.
Powher PAC, like everything Trebor and Jenna Worthen touch, looks okay until you lift the hood, then confusion sets in and nothing quite makes sense. With Harder again working for Stitt as his re-election campaign manager, it seems odd that she would have been involved with Jenna Worthen in any capacity.
How the Worthen’s Illustrate the Need for Campaign Finance Reform
As former Oklahoma County investigator Gary Eastridge warned, based on his examination of thousands of pieces of communication between the parties, this small cabal of political operators controls the actions of many of the state’s legislators. In an example of how this group uses its control over officials to gain further power and influence, Jenna Worthen now serves on the board of directors for the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs.
It’s unclear what specific expertise State House Speaker Charles McCall (R) saw in the resume of this political fundraising pro that prompted him to appoint her to the group overseeing the state’s justice and rehabilitation system for minors. Perhaps it was the money collection work she has in the past and is currently performing for his campaigns, as listed in candidate McCall’s expense filings with the OEC (James Martin Company LLC paid $17,588.01 thus far from 2022 campaign; $29,727.03 from 2020 campaign). In addition, prior to James Martin Company, McCall’s 2018 campaign paid Worthen’s Marathon Consulting $60,000 for consulting, and his 2016 campaign utilized Worthen’s Majority Designs for campaign mailers. Once again, the Steal Team bagmen (and bagwomen) keep the money flowing, and by doing so, control Oklahoma’s elected officials.
Rather than search out someone truly helpful to the youth involved with Juvenile Affairs, McCall, who was first elected as speaker in 2016, chose a purely political alliance working to ensure the money flows in support of his re-election. Once again, the most vulnerable children in our state lose to political corruption.
The influence of this tight band of hit specialists has infiltrated the state’s legislature (example House Speaker McCall), agencies (example State Superintendent Hofmeister) and policy-making institutions (example OJA board member Jenna Worthen), making an overwhelming case for campaign finance reform as Oklahoma’s most pressing need. They collude in a coordinated effort to support, repel, and control candidates and officeholders, shift entity names to avoid public detection though never actually parting ways, and remain connected in their efforts by a maze of business names and alternate addresses.
Company Name Changes: The Steal Team’s Shell Game
While Trebor Worthen would lead the public to believe from the Sooner State Leadership website that he is currently independent of his former partners, Karl Ahlgren and Fount Holland adopted yet another name change, this time forming the Oklahoma branch of a particularly nasty duo of firms specializing in political attack campaigns. Ahlgren and Holland are making a hand-holding, curtain call as both CAMP (Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals), a political consulting firm, and CAMP Mail, a political mailing company “bound by a common respect for those who dare enter the political arena and compete to win”. They’re here to win, so leave your integrity elsewhere.
Holland appears proudly on both websites as founder of the firms, while Ahlgren only acknowledges his involvement as founder in less public spaces, such as his Camp Mail Zoom account page. Ahlgren historically knows how to coach from the booth, nearly always avoiding the more visible sidelines.
Sharp Justice: The Steal Team, EPIC and a Takedown Gone Bad
Holland, the Wreck-It Ralph of preposterous, political postcards, and his CAMP activities have most recently come under increased scrutiny. Within a criminal complaint filed against EPIC Charter Schools founders Joshua Brock, David Chaney and Benjamin Harris, on June 23, 2022, Holland, among his unscrupulous clients, was found to have accepted $20,000 from EDTECH LLC, a shell company for the founders of EPIC Charter Schools, in March of 2021.
Strangely, the payment to CAMP followed the completion of a political assassination, which is an ongoing, delayed payment plan for Holland and company (See Season 4 and Joy Hofmeister’s late payments; also see Season 2 and DA Greg Mashburn’s late payments in the form of fake employment to Chad Alexander on the taxpayer’s dime). On behalf of EPIC, Holland produced negative ads against incumbent state senator Ron Sharp, labeling him as a “liberal”. Sharp lost in his 2020 primary election.
And how did Sharp earn this attack by EPIC through the Steal Team? He did his job, sought to serve the people who elected him, and committed himself to routing out corruption within public education. Sharp was one of the first and most persistent voices requesting an investigation into EPIC Charter’s structure, long before state superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who’s job it is and was to audit and verify school district enrollment and appropriate use of public funds, was forced to acknowledge the situation publicly.
Patrick Howley of the National File reported an Oklahoma source stating, “State senator Sharp was like, this doesn’t make sense (EPIC use of funds), so they nuked him. And they used taxpayer money to do it.”
There’s much more to talk about in future episodes concerning the timing of the recently filed charges against the EPIC founders, but Howley also notes that state auditor and inspector Cindy Byrd faced a similar attack campaign after requesting a full audit of EPIC’s use of state education funds, though Byrd won her primary race despite the negative campaign.
It’s clear the Steal Team protects those with EPIC Charter Schools, like Hofmeister, and seeks to irradicate those who challenged the arrangement between EPIC and the State Department of Education that went on for years unchecked. In a rare case of belated justice, a judge recently (July 2022) ordered EPIC Charter Schools to pay Ron Sharp over half a million dollars related to the hit-job, which violated Oklahoma’s anti-SLAPP law. SLAPP, short for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, refers to Oklahoma HB 2366, passed in 2014:
“The purpose of the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act is to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely and otherwise participate in government to the maximum extent permitted by law and, at the same time, protect the rights of a person to file meritorious lawsuits for demonstrable injury.”
While Hofmeister was conspiring in 2014, honest journalists, office holders and the voters were fighting back with HB 2366, which allows for the dismissal of lawsuits against a defendant if the suit was based on the defendant’s exercise of first amendment rights. Within SLAPP cases, the court must award legal costs to the defendant and can sanction the party bringing the SLAPP suit, in this case EPIC. Given Ron Sharp’s positive results, candidates and office holders should feel more confident in speaking up about corruption as enabled by the extortive tactics of the Steal Team’s political consultants. An independent publication called Oklahoma Digest is doing a thorough job of compiling the latest information within this space where the courts and politics meet, for those looking for more information.
Masters of Malicious Mail Take No Responsibility
Somehow, EPIC Charter Schools was brought to some sense of justice in the court’s recent award to former state legislator Ron Sharp, but CAMP more often appears to be made of Teflon when it comes to consequences for doing the mailing and dirty work for their special interest clients. The Steal Team simply denies any knowledge of the situation and moves on to the next hit. Long before becoming CAMP, AH Strategies and Majority Designs alumns, Ahlgren, Holland and Worthen have years of comedic timing down when it comes to denying being the source of the most inaccurate of their infamous political mailers.
During 2011, they did a media bit reminiscent of The Three Stooges related to a series of hit mailers funded through the dark money group (IE) Greater Oklahoma City Momentum which the entity identified as the messaging work of AH Strategies. Ahlgren told local reporter Clifton Adcock, then with the Oklahoma Gazette, he hadn’t been involved in the mailings and had no idea if his partner Holland had either. Holland and Worthen stayed silent. I didn’t send the mailer, did you? I didn’t, did you. Not me. No scruples required, Ahlgren and Holland are back as CAMP and CAMP Mail, and Trebor Worthen would have you to believe he was left on the outside looking for a grift of his own this time. Is he really?
The Steal Team: How Does Trebor Worthen and Sooner State Leadership Connect?
Trebor Worthen speaks confidently as he leads the public to believe he’s just a concerned citizen leader of a group (Sooner State Leadership Fund) fighting for the benefit of Oklahomans, completely independent of his former partners. Corporation Wiki has other ideas, graphically representing how several entities from multiple states connect Trebor Worthen to Robert “Fount” Holland and others on the Steal Team. The graphic leaves out Holland’s newer CAMP and CAMP Mail, but The V1SUT Vantage will show you where that fits in.
Worthen Industries – This now ‘inactive’ company was registered in Oklahoma (July of 2007) by attorney Christopher Smith with an address of 2200 Belleview Drive, a residence in the Belle Isle area of Oklahoma City and then offices of Chris Smith Law. Worthen Industries is connected to Good Printing LLC.
Good Printing LLC (Oklahoma) – This company was first registered in Oklahoma, during January of 2017, with a registered agent of Smith Simmons, PLLC, the law firm of Christopher Smith at that time. Smith has since moved on Ball Morse Lowe PLLC, also in Oklahoma City. According to his LinkedIn page, and with all the humility of Trebor Worthen, Smith is very proud of being a labeled a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyer Magazine and specializes in “high-conflict divorce and custody matters involving high net worth individuals”.
Good Printing LLC (Texas) - Registered in Texas in November of 2018, this entity shows Trebor Worthen to be a governing person, with Matt Parker as the registered agent. Matthew Parker is the COO of Fount Holland’s CAMP (Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals) and CAMP Mail, the source of much of the nasty mail flowing throughout Oklahoma campaigns. Despite being a Texas company, Good Printing LLC lists a mailing address of 401 NE 46th Street in Oklahoma City, which is also CAMP’s headquarters.
Team Thrive LLC (Texas- Registered January 2017) and Team Thrive LLC (Oklahoma – Registered January of 2021) – Team Thrive is directly associated with Good Printing LLC. Also registered in both Texas (January 2017) and Oklahoma (January 2021), both have Matt Parker of CAMP as registered agent and an address of 2630 E 65th Place in Tulsa, a residence near Southern Hills Golf Course that was sold to what appears to be an unrelated party in November of 2020, prior to the Oklahoma entity being registered. It’s unclear what role Team Thrive LLC currently has, but it’s clearly part of the Steal Team portfolio, even without a legitimate physical location. Perhaps, Team Thrive is the future of the Steal Team, just waiting for the next scandal and the need for a quick, public name change.
Keeping it simple, CAMP and CAMP Mail appear to be Good Printing LLC and are the newest iteration of AH Strategies and Majority Designs. Same players, same game, different façade. Trebor Worthen, Fount Holland, Karl Ahlgren (always silently), Matthew Parker and Christopher Smith are all very much connected in 2022. That makes Sooner State Leadership Fund a duplicitous shell and Trebor Worthen a liar for hire.
While it is impossible to say who is actually funding this dark money group, recent polling showing increasing public support for Stitt’s proposed voucher system, which would allow Oklahoma families to walk their children and education funding away from failing public schools, certainly gives us a strong contender. Could Trebor Worthen be back in cahoots with Hofmeister and the education unions in protection of the public education status quo? Could they be using the “soft on crime” narrative as a red herring just to keep your tax dollars flowing to public education with no true accountability? Hofmeister certainly had the unions’ backs on the issue as Covid money flowed to school district’s, open or closed, over the past two years. With a Delaware-based entity of the same name, are the national unions getting in on the action to flip Oklahoma?
Are Oklahoma’s local billionaires back to see the candidate they saved through the Joy Hofmeister Legal Defense Fund into a higher office and clench the complete theft of the state? It’s unlikely DA David Prater will be asking any questions, so Oklahomans will have to decide for themselves if Sooner State Leadership Fund is truly about reducing crime.
Inside the Head of Public Manipulators: Reverse Vader-Skywalker Syndrome
As is true across the heartland, most Oklahomans are amazing, generous, faith-filled, honest people, making it difficult for many to understand why political actors like Trebor Worthen, who is clearly grifting with Sooner State Leadership Fund, and Fount Holland, who’ll go after a great state legislator for $20,000, would spend their careers supporting corruption in the state’s government. Money and power are the obvious motivations, but these are men who have or are raising families in Oklahoma.
They specialize in getting inside voters’ heads and crafting messages strategically and falsely aligned with their values, virtues and beliefs, all while promoting candidates who will corruptly answer to outside interests and funders once elected. The actions of these manipulators will leave little for their own children and grandchildren with respect to quality of life, educational options, safety and health. It’s a bit like burning down their own homes during a housing crisis for the insurance money and finding their own families homeless.
“I don't know of any great man who ever had a great son.” – Anthony Mann, American director
In an effort to better know Oklahoma’s true, underlying enemies, it might surprise readers to know that both Worthen and Holland have deep roots in Oklahoma and were raised by what appear to be great and beloved fathers. In a not uncommon reverse version of the Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader relationship, their fathers, both born and raised in Oklahoma, were highly appreciated servants of the people. Perhaps the fathers’ shadows were too wide, and these sons of Oklahoma rebelled against a role they felt unqualified to inherit.
Dr. Robert Fount Holland, father of Fount Holland (Robert Fount Holland II) of CAMP and CAMP Mail, was a U.S. Marine and Purple Heart recipient who went on to shape the lives of thousands of students at all levels of education. Even after retiring as a professor and dean of education at Northeastern State University, he founded QuESTT, an organization that supported underprivileged and Native American middle and high school students from northeastern Oklahoma in becoming first-generation college students. He never stopped in his mission to help Oklahoman’s children and worked until the last week of his life, in 2019, at nearly 90 years old. These were shoes no ill-gained money or power could ever fill:
“Fount was such a great person to have conversation and he always had a smile on his face! From speaking with Fount it was easy to notice what he valued most in his life.... making other people happy... his country...and military family. Fount was one of the most unselfish people I have ever met.”
“It was an honor to be one of his students. I will remember Mr. Holland.”
“Will always remember Fount as being thoughtful, caring and very accomplished.”
Holland’s father worked for others until his last days, while his son takes whatever he can get, earned or otherwise, like over $20,000 in Covid PPP (Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans) for his ‘sole proprietorship’. It’s unclear exactly which entity the money went to, but no one remembers elections stopping during 2020.
Similarly, Trebor Worthen comes from a multi-generational line of Oklahoma City men committed to the service of others. His grandfather, Robert E. Worthen, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Robert D. Worthen, father of Trebor Worthen, served in the state house from 1986 until 2004, and if not for enacted term limits, would likely have served much longer. Representing District 87 in Oklahoma City, Robert Worthen was described as a solid conservative who served his constituents with fidelity. The Oklahoman in 1998, a very different publication at that time, eagerly gave Robert Worthen their endorsement, stating:
“He has served District 87 capably since 1986 and is widely known for tax reduction and pro-life efforts. This Oklahoma City district falls from NW 10 and NW 50 between Pennsylvania and Meridian. Many older citizens in this area have found in Worthen a provider of excellent constituent service.”
Trebor Worthen attempted to follow directly in his father’s footsteps and was elected to his father’s former seat in the state legislature for two terms (2004-2008). By the end of his first term, it was clear Worthen would eventually lose the seat his father held admirably for 18 years. Worthen won re-election in 2006 by only 278 votes and the writing was on the wall. Worthen did not seek re-election in 2008 and moved full-time into the world of political consulting, lobbying for special interests and undermining the will of the people.
What will he say when his own son comes of age and realizes his father’s job is not actually cool because his father lies for a living and has made the world a worse place? By then, Sooner State Leadership Fund and its pile full of dark money will have long since served its purpose and Worthen will likely be on to the next grift, if there’s anything left of value to take. This group defines success much differently than most Oklahomans.
There’s much more dark money to evaluate in this unprecedented year. In the next episode of How to Steal a State, the overlap of messaging continues and a previously unidentified funding source is revealed.
From Oklahoma? Please comment and tell us what you might know or think about the attempted theft of the state.
From another state? Please comment and let us know what’s happening in your state and who’s plotting to steal the place you call home.
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