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.
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.
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.�
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.