Repeating Patterns from OK's Mugshot Club - Hofmeister's Payback with EPIC Funds: Is Drummond Using Similar but Bigger Payback Plan?
How to Steal a State: Midterm Minute - November 2, 2022
Within this brief Midterm Minute:
A hard-hitting debate and the Muskogee Politico uncover Hofmeister’s use of EPIC Charter’s campaign donations to pay herself back.
Are Hofmeister (D) and AG candidate Gentner Drummond (R) using the same crooked campaign finance strategy?
Welcome to the Mugshot Club: Drummond is personally $1.8M in and all tied up with Hofmeister’s indictees from 2014 election.
Did the OEC forget how Hofmeister got started in politics? Will they ever be even a half-step ahead of the most predictable corruption?
A hard-hitting debate and the Muskogee Politico uncover Hofmeister’s use of EPIC Charter’s campaign donations to pay herself back
Since flipping parties to run for governor, Joy Hofmeister (now D) has taken to being a liberal Democrat like a duck takes to water, running around the state accusing others of corruption and cronyism. In their most recent debate, incumbent Governor Stitt (R) directly called Hofmeister out for failing to return approximately $50,000 in campaign donations to now indicted EPIC Charter Schools co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, and EPIC CFO Josh Brock.
According to a full audit of EPIC Charter Schools and state oversight systems by State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd, it was Hofmeister’s (OSDE) failure to properly audit EPIC’s enrollment numbers and use of public funds that allowed the virtual education company to swindle taxpayers out of tens of millions in education funding.
To be fair, prior to being caught, EPIC was spreading money around to nearly everyone’s campaigns. Hofmeister was the biggest taker and, unlike Stitt and others, never returned those campaign contributions in light of the scandal.
Independent news outlet Muskogee Politico, followed up after the debate, uncovering a trail of self-payments Hofmeister made to herself from her 2018 re-election campaign that oddly coincided with contributions to her campaign from the EPIC administrators. In 2014, Hofmeister loaned her own campaign $50,196.08, and it appears the now indicted EPIC administrators largely paid her back during the next election cycle.
In addition, Hofmeister also kept $8,100.00 in campaign contributions from EPIC Charter CFO Josh Brock as their application to open a virtual alternative school was pending:
Back in June, The V1SUT Vantage reported on Hofmeister’s payback scheme, and speculated as to which donor’s money might be flowing back to her personal bank account (From Season 4 of How to Steal a State series):
“It was during this time that Hofmeister does something very telling about her personality. She begins to pay herself back for “debt from prior committee” from funds donated to support her re-election campaign. In total, Hofmeister pays herself $19,000 from her 2018 re-election campaign to offset her reported personal loan of $50,196.08 to her previous, 2014 committee. In addition, at the end of her re-election campaign, she forwarded $5,217.71 to her 2022 election committee.”
“Whose donated money was Hofmeister playing accounting games and paying herself back with?” The list of contributor suspects included none other than:
“Executives from EPIC Charter School David and Kristin Chaney, Ben Harris and Josh Brock – Gave $34,299.09 (2018 campaign only) including in-kind contribution of $1,003.09 for food and beverage at a fundraising event.”
Are Hofmeister (D) and AG candidate Gentner Drummond (R) using the same crooked, campaign finance strategy?
Given the pattern within Hofmeister’s personal payback schedule and her acceptance of donations from EPIC Charter, someone should probably take a closer look at the $1.8 million current state attorney general candidate and cannabis financier Gentner Drummond “loaned” his current campaign at the end of a very close primary race.
It doesn’t take much imagination to construct a list of the special interests and entities willing to pay off Drummond’s personal loan to himself once in office. Big cannabis comes to mind, since Gentner Drummond’s BlueSky Bank makes a bundle financing cannabis and handling funds derived from a federally illegal industry that more discerning banks won’t touch.
The cannabis industry has already pushed $6.4 million into previously reported PACs The Oklahoma Project and Imagine This Oklahoma through shell funding entity Oklahoma Forward to ensure Hofmeister becomes their governor puppet. Another $1.8 million to Drummond, either through their already established, BlueSky Bank arrangements or PAC contributions to his next campaign, would be chump change for an industry their size.
Welcome to the Mugshot Club: Drummond is personally $1.8M in and all tied up with multiple Hofmeister indictees from election 2014.
Don’t be confused by political parties. Hofmeister (D) and Drummond (R) have a great deal in common and none of it is good for Oklahomans. That’s what makes a personal payback plan for Drummond so predictable. His campaign is being masterminded by the same cabal that coordinated Hofmeister’s 2014 campaign and dark money disaster where the payback pattern begins.
Several of Drummond’s current and highest paid campaign consultants were indicted along with Hofmeister, and others were up to their necks in the illegality yet avoided charges. Drummond is paying them generous amounts to make him Oklahoma Attorney General.
This is the same group former Oklahoma County lead investigator Gary Eastridge identified for their extortive tactics and backroom control of the state legislature as he fielded complaints from potential candidates back in 2014.
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.”
This group’s reach was reported as going far beyond elections, as they played go-between for funders and office holders, doing the bidding of special interests.
Who are these operators on the Gentner Drummond for AG team, and how much have they profited to date?
Back in July, The V1SUT Vantage outlined Drummond’s reuniting of Hofmeister’s indicted campaign team of 2014. Since then, the total amounts Drummond has paid to these office-holder handlers has grown substantially. An AG’s seat appears to be more expensive than anyone ever imagined:
Fount Holland & CAMP (Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals) - $945,044.44
Jenna Worthen & James Martin Company - $174,535.63
Trebor Worthen (spouse of Jenna Worthen) & Sooner State Leadership Fund - Worthen is not contracted by Drummond but is being paid an undisclosed amount to run the dark money group Sooner State Leadership Fund previously identified as supporting Hofmeister through millions of dollars in Stitt attack ads.
Stephanie Alexander & Strategic Consulting - $55,890.84
Matthew Parker & Team Thrive (also with CAMP) - $72,398.75
Drummond’s campaign was masterminded by none-other-than Stephanie Alexander, co-indictee of Joy Hofmeister for her role in coordinating the dark money group Oklahomans for Public School Excellence in conjunction with the Hofmeister campaign back in 2013-14. Then Stephanie Milligan, she was the partner (and now spouse) of Chad Alexander whose arrest on charges of driving under the influence of cocaine and pills and the subsequent confiscation of his devices provided critical evidence related to the political conspiracy. Drummond’s campaign, to date, has paid Alexander more than $35,000 (update: $55,890.84) for her services.
Alexander is joined on Drummond’s campaign team by Jenna Worthen, spouse of Trebor Worthen, former partner in AH Strategies and Majority Designs, the now dissolved consulting firm of record for Hofmeister’s 2014 campaign. Trebor Worthen’s partner at AH Strategies, Fount Holland, was also indicted along with Hofmeister, though communications also revealed Trebor Worthen’s nearly equal involvement. Jenna Worthen’s consulting firm, James Martin Company, has thus far collected over $154,000 (update: $174,535.63) from Drummond’s campaign for a range of services including strategic consulting. Worthen served as filing agent for Drummond’s campaign with the Oklahoma Ethic Commission (OEC).
Not to be left out, former indictee Fount Holland, through his newest entity Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals (CAMP), has billed the Drummond campaign over $676,000 (update: $945,044.44) for mailers, Facebook and social media services, and strategic consulting. I hope you have a calculator handy, because the Steal Team is not done with Drummond yet. Holland’s current partner at CAMP, Matthew Parker, has yet another entity called Team Thrive LLC that has billed Drummond’s campaign over $49,000 (update: $72,398.75) to date for field staff expenses.
Drummond is now $1.8 million in of his own money this election cycle and rounding $1.25 million in with Hofmeister’s former Steal Team, the same group reported to be controlling the votes of numerous state legislators. Don’t expect AG Drummond to be prosecuting any wayward politicians during his purchased term. And with cannabis and tribal money flowing his way in the wake of the McGirt decision (see previous reporting), Eastern Oklahoma is poised to be out of control.
Did the OEC forget how Hofmeister got started in politics, and will they ever be even a half-step ahead of the predictable corruption?
Without a proactive agency overseeing political activity in the state, dark money and its influence has overtaken Oklahoma. When Oklahoma County DA David Prater (D) inexplicably released Joy Hofmeister (now D) from well-earned felony charges, the avalanche of outside funding and corruptive influences gained in both mass and momentum. Oklahoma desperately needs campaign finance reform. A great place to start would be to demand your representatives within the state legislature limit the amount any candidate can contribute to or “loan” their own campaign. Let’s close one of many open doors for corruption in Oklahoma.
Vote wisely next Tuesday, Oklahoma.
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