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Oklahoma City Council campaign donations a mystery

A political action committee run by Oklahoma City firefighter union leaders received a $125,000 donation they refused to talk about. The money was spent campaigning for two tea party backed candidates.
BY MICHAEL BAKER and JOHN ESTUS Published: February 25, 2011
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Mystery surrounds a $125,000 donation to a political action committee run by Oklahoma City firefighter union leaders.

Campaign finance reports show the money has been spent on political advertising supporting two tea party-backed Oklahoma City Council candidates also endorsed by the firefighter union.

However, the fire union's president refused to provide information about a newly formed company that gave the donation to Better Local Government PAC, which union leaders formed earlier this month.

He also refused to answer questions about whether the existing firefighter union PAC gave money to the new company that was then given to the other union-controlled PACs.

�We have a privacy policy that prevents us from disclosing information on donors, and the only thing I can tell you is what is on the incorporation papers is all the information that you would have at this time,� said Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 157 and chairman of the PAC.

The company that made the $125,000 donation, A Voice for Responsible Government Inc., was incorporated Feb. 8, according to Secretary of State records. Oklahoma City attorney Richard Denny helped file the incorporation papers but would not say who hired him to help form the company.

On Feb. 10, A Voice for Responsible Government gave $125,000 to Better Local Government PAC, which was registered that same day as a campaign committee with the Oklahoma City clerk. As of Feb. 17, the PAC had spent more than $75,000 on personal services, printing, postage and advertising.

Sipe and other firefighter union leaders were listed as the PAC's officers.

The $125,000 donation is the largest single donation made in the city council elections so far, campaign finance reports show.

PAC support

The PAC is supporting Ward 6 candidate Adrian Van Manen and Ward 8 candidate Cliff Hearron, Sipe said. Both candidates have received firefighter union and Sooner Tea Party endorsements in their bid to oust incumbents.

The firefighter union has for years used its existing PAC for political activities in city elections. Sipe would not directly address why he and other union officials formed a new PAC this year.

�Other people that are interested in council races have done the same thing,� Sipe said. �For instance, the OKC Committee for Momentum is funding a number of campaigns. I believe candidates in all four of the wards are being funded by that PAC, and my assumption is that funding is coming from the Chamber of Commerce, although it may be coming from a corporation similar to the one that's funding our PAC.�

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