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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
/articleid/3543738/1/pictures/1375580">Photo - Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 157 and chairman of the PAC, is seen in this 2009 photo by Jim Beckel.
Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 157 and chairman of the PAC, is seen in this 2009 photo by Jim Beckel.

A Greater Oklahoma City Chamber vice president, Cynthia Reid, said the chamber has not given any donations to Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum.

Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum registered as a campaign committee Feb. 17, which was four days after the end of the first reporting period for Tuesday's election.

As a result, little is known about the group's funding. It is supporting incumbents Meg Salyer in Ward 6 and Pat Ryan in Ward 8, as well as Ward 2 candidate Charlie Swinton.

The PAC's chairman, Fellers Snider attorney William Whitehill, declined to disclose the PAC's donors.

Campaign finance laws for city elections do not require PACs to disclose donations and spending in the weeks leading up to city elections.

As a result, the true source of the money will remain hidden until after the election from voters who are receiving thousands of mailings, telephone calls and other political advertisements being paid for with the money.

Better Local Government and Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum were both formed to make only independent expenditures. The PACs do not give money directly to candidates, which would limit donations to $5,000. There is no limit on the PACs independent expenditures, which can advocate for or against a candidate.

A question of MAPS 3

A third PAC registered with the Oklahoma City clerk, Chesapeake Oklahoma PAC, has given $5,000 directly to four candidates, according to campaign finance records. The Chesapeake PAC donated to Swinton, Salyer, Ryan and David Greenwell in Ward 5.

Salyer and Ryan supported MAPS 3, the penny sales tax initiative approved by voters in 2009.

The firefighter union opposed MAPS 3 and spent at least $60,000 campaigning against it, records show.

The union has been at odds with the city council in recent years, mostly because of fire department staffing concerns and disputes with council members over firefighter pay and benefits.

The city police union also opposed MAPS 3 and has endorsed Van Manen, but not Hearron.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 123 President Sky Kays said the police union PAC has not made donations to A Voice for Responsible Government or Better Local Government PAC.


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