Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, a Democrat, has charged State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister with two felonies involving dark money donations to her campaign plus two felony counts of conspiracy.
According to the charges, Hofmeister violated campaign fundraising laws in 2014 by colluding with a dark money groups. Prater alleges that Hofmeister used Oklahomans for Public School Excellence – a dark money group – to accept illegal, excessive donations and illegal corporate donations.
Hofmeister’s chief campaign consultant, Fount Holland, and Stephanie Dawn Milligan, a consultant for the dark money group, have also been charged with conspiracy.
Holland is one of the founders of A.H. Strategies, a controversial political strategy company. Holland primarily works with Republicans. Milligan also worked in the Donald Trump presidential campaign this year.
Two other defendants – Lela Odom, a former executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, and Steven Crawford, the executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Adminstration – have been charged with felony conspiracy.
Prosecutors say they all conspired to create and fund the dark money group.
According to an affidavit filed by Prater, the primary funding to the dark money group was the Oklahoma Education Association and the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration. They donated a total of $300,000, using $100,000 they accepted from an insurance company, according to the affidavit.
The insurance company is not accused of wrongdoing.
“The conspirators used these funds to finance a negative campaign ad focused on Hofmeister’s opponent, Janet Barresi,” the district attorney’s chief investigator wrote in the court affidavit. “Such expenditures are required to be made independently and without coordination with a candidate … to avoid becoming illegal corporate and/or excessive contributions to the candidate.”
Hofmeister has denied the allegations.
“I will vigorously defend my integrity and reputation against any suggestion of wrongdoing and fight the allegations that have been made against me,” she said in a statement. “…I will fight these charges, but I will not be distracted. The state of Oklahoma, our parents and children, deserve my continued focus, and they will have it. We have accomplished so much in 20 short months, and there is much more to be done. I look forward to continuing to work on improving the educational opportunities for Oklahoma’s schoolchildren now and for many years to come.”
The Oklahoma Democrat Party issued a statement blasting Hofmeister and Holland.
“Republican candidates, supported by Hofmeister, Holland and Milligan, are public education foes putting their own agendas first, and have refused to truly make teacher’s pay and education a top priority,” according to the ODP. “This is another setback for education. Oklahomans continue to suffer at the hands of unethical and criminally negligent behavior among Republicans and those claiming to be working for our children and education.”