Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater confirmed Wednesday he is reviewing “for potential criminal conduct” complaints against the campaigns of T.W. Shannon, a U.S. Senate candidate, and Joy Hofmeister, a state schools superintendent candidate.
“We’re in a fact-finding mode,” Prater said. “We’re trying to find out if the allegations are credible. And, if they are, if proven, are the allegations criminal in nature.”
The allegations are that there was improper collusion between the two Republican candidates’ campaigns and dark money groups supporting them, The Oklahoman learned. Candidates and such groups are supposed to act independently.
Prater stopped short of calling his inquiry at this point an investigation.
Both Shannon’s campaign and Hofmeister denied there was any coordination with groups supporting them.
“There has been absolutely no coordination between our campaign and any of the groups conducting independent expenditures. Any allegation to the contrary is completely false and without merit,” Shannon’s campaign stated Wednesday.
Hofmeister said Tuesday, “That’s absurd. ...Absolutely not. ...I know that we have been very, very careful to follow all the ethics rules. That’s just a given.”
Prater made his comments about the inquiry into the campaigns in response to questions from The Oklahoman.
The Oklahoman contacted Prater after learning from state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi’s campaign that he had been sent emails written by Hofmeister.
“Today we turned over documents to District Attorney David Prater's office regarding what we believe is illegal coordination between Joy Hofmeister's campaign and an independent expenditure campaign,” Barresi’s campaign manager, Robyn Matthews, said Wednesday.
One document is an email Hofmeister wrote on April 22, 2013, about planned meetings with political consultants in Oklahoma City.
“I am meeting this morning in OKC with Fount Holland (AH Strategies) at 11am and Chad Alexander (probably better fit for the independent campaign) at 1pm,” she wrote.
Without identifying who complained, Prater said Wednesday of the Hofmeister allegation, “I’m aware of that and we’re reviewing it.”
Asked if he had received any similar complaints this year, Prater confirmed there was an allegation of improper coordination between Shannon’s campaign and the group Oklahomans for a Conservative Future.
He would not say who had made the complaint but did say it was not anonymous. He also said he had met with the person.
The district attorney also confirmed the accusation about Shannon’s campaign came in a few days after Alexander was arrested during a drug stop.
Alexander helped organize Oklahomans for a Conservative Future but resigned his duties with the group after his May 13 arrest. His attorney, Tommy Adler, declined to comment Wednesday on the new allegations.
A spokesman for Oklahomans for a Conservative Future also declined to comment. “I’m certainly not going to comment on something like that,” said Evan Kozlow, a Washington-based political consultant.
The group, which does not disclose its donors, has now reported spending $1.2 million.
Alexander, 40, of Choctaw, has been charged with two felony counts of drug possession and a misdemeanor count of obstructing a police officer in the performance of his official duty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Alexander is accused in the felony counts of illegally possessing cocaine and illegally possessing prescription pain pills. He is accused in the misdemeanor count of telling an Oklahoma City police officer he was a Cleveland County assistant district attorney.
Authorities seized Alexander’s cellphone and laptop computer after his arrest, The Oklahoman has learned.
Hofmeister did not hire Alexander as her campaign strategist, instead using A.H. Strategies.
She said she wasn’t even a candidate yet when she wrote the email stating Alexander was probably a better fit for the independent campaign.
She said she did not know at the time that there would be any independent groups supporting her. She said she knew Alexander “handles that kind of thing so that’s what that’s a reference to.”
Hofmeister also said, “I had just heard he was someone that was probably not who I was going to like working with. So that’s all that is. It’s a comment about him.”
A newly formed group, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence, began airing ads Wednesday critical of Barresi. The group was formed in May.
Prater, a Democrat, has taken on politicians before. He has successfully prosecuted two former legislators for bribery offenses and the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party for political blackmail.
It was unclear Wednesday what state charges — if any — could arise out of allegations involving a federal race.