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More U.S. Senate donors remain anonymous

Organizations have spent more than $100,000 on ads running in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but public information is hard to come by and the leader of one group is apparently shy about commenting.
by Chris Casteel Published: April 24, 2014

photo - US Senate candidates from left, Randy Brogdon, James Lankford and T. W. Shannon participate in a debate Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.
US Senate candidates from left, Randy Brogdon, James Lankford and T. W. Shannon participate in a debate Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.

Two organizations with scant public information available have purchased nearly $110,000 of broadcast television time in Oklahoma for “issue ads” that promote U.S. Rep. James Lankford without specifically endorsing his Senate campaign.

The ads, running in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa markets, are attributed to a group called the Foundation for Economic Prosperity. However, the public forms filed with television stations in Oklahoma City say the money for the ads was provided by the First Amendment Alliance Educational Fund.

There is no information about the Foundation for Economic Prosperity on the public websites of the Internal Revenue Service or the Federal Election Commission. Two political committees with “economic prosperity” in their names were recently established under federal election rules by an Oklahoma City fundraiser and an associate. However, neither have reported any advertising expenses.

The First Amendment Alliance funded ads in the 2010 election cycle, but it has not filed reports with the IRS or Federal Election Commission for years and appeared to be dormant.

The ad running in Oklahoma City makes references to the 2010 health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare and says Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, voted more than 40 times to repeal, delay or replace the law. And it says Lankford “never wavers in preserving our constitutional liberties.”

It’s not clear where the First Amendment Alliance got the money to give the Foundation for Economic Prosperity, meaning two of the Republican candidates seeking to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn now are benefiting from secret donors.

A group called Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, which formed as a “social welfare” organization so it could keep its donors private, already has spent $435,000 on behalf of T.W. Shannon, the former state House speaker from Lawton.

Combined, the groups airing ads promoting Shannon and Lankford have spent more on broadcast time than the candidates themselves.

No comment from First Amendment

A phone number connected to the First Amendment Alliance Educational Fund is actually that of Koch and Hoos, a company located outside Washington, D.C., that helps candidates and nonprofit organizations navigate federal rules about political activity.

Tim Koch referred all questions about the First Amendment group to Anthony Holm.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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