State Superintendent Charged With Campaign Violations
OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater filed charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and four others Thursday for campaign violations. The charges stem from a 2014 investigation examining whether Hofmeister used a “super PAC” or dark money group to attack her campaign opponent, Janet Barresi.
According to court documents obtained by News 9, the investigation reveals a conspiracy to commit campaign contribution violations and illegal coordination by members of a registered 501c4 called Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and Joy Hofmeister. The three groups are registered with the state as corporations.
Documents state the group coordinated to fund an Independent Expenditure (IE) by funneling money from a donor corporation through CCOSA and the OEA, into the OPSE. Bank records indicate $300,000 was donated to OPSE. According to legal documents, numerous text messages and emails show Hofmeister was very much aware of and involved in the creation and funding of OPSE. The fund's primary purpose, investigators discovered, was to fund a negative ad campaign against incumbent Superintendent Barresi.
Hofmeister is charged with violating campaign laws limiting contributions to candidates and prohibiting contributions by corporations. She also faces two counts of conspiracy to commit felony. Hofmeister was investigated for violation of the Computer Crimes act, but was not charged in that area.
Campaign laws prohibit donations larger than $5,000 from any contributor and prohibit a candidate from accepting contributions from corporations.
Hofmeister campaign consultant, Stephanie Dawn Milligan, CCOSA Executive Director Steven Crawford, former OEA Executive Director Lela Odom, and owner of AH Strategies Fount Holland also face charges. Each is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit felony.
Milligan is now a high-ranking member in the Trump Campaign. She was promoted from her position as Oklahoma Campaign Director to Midwest Regional Political Organizer in March. She currently lists herself as a Battle Ground State Political Director for Donald J. Trump for President on her LinkedIn profile.
The investigation began two years ago after the arrest of Chad Alexander on drug complaints. Alexander is a political consultant who worked with Holland. A forensic examination of Alexander's phone apparently turned up emails and text messages that were the first indications of alleged collusion between Hofmeister and independent money. According to court documents, investigators did interview Hofmeister this past June and she denied having any specific knowledge about the OPSE's ad strategy.
Governor Mary Fallin responded Thursday in a statement. She says, “I haven’t had a chance to review the charges. There’s a criminal justice system in place to review the allegations. We should respect the process and allow it to work as designed."
Thursday evening, Hofmeister's attorney stated she will, "continue to serve as State Superintendent of Public Education. She will not resign".
News 9 is following this developing story and will have team coverage throughout the night.