Secretive group spends thousands on Oklahoma political ads

by Nolan Clay Published: April 15, 2013
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There are some records about the group.

Oklahoma Works filed incorporation papers at the Oklahoma Secretary of State in December 2011. The records identify it as a nonprofit corporation. Its registered agent is listed as Chris Lucas, who is owner of Koko FitClub at 7316 N Western in Oklahoma City.

It has a website, www.oklahomaworks.org, that features videos from two injured workers. It also is on both Facebook and Twitter.

It does not have a registered lobbyist. Its executive director is Laura Brookins. She is a lobbyist for the Oklahoma Association of Health Plans.

Her name and phone number was on Oklahoma Works' website in March but they are no longer on the group's contact page.

The group refused to reveal to The Oklahoman who is on its board of directors and how much money it has raised.

In an email, it wrote “confidentiality is an important aspect of maintaining relationships we've built over the years” as a nonprofit organization.

“To respect those relationships, we can't offer details that fall outside of the IRS disclosure guidelines we've agreed to follow,” it stated.

In a separate email, Brookins, an attorney, wrote the group's supporters “come from all walks of life, including business owners, emergency first responders, educators and health care providers.

“We provide a year-round voice at the state Capitol for workers from all industries, and rely on public support and donations to accomplish our mission,” she wrote.

“The individuals and organizations that allow us to advocate on behalf of working Oklahomans share a common interest in protecting the delicate balance between the rights of individuals and the economic interests of their employers,” she wrote.

Brookins did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Lucas also did not respond to repeated messages left on a phone and at his fitness club for comment.

The group spent at least $26,000 on political commercials in Oklahoma City in March and so far in April, according to records of their buys on file for public inspection at television and radio stations and at Cox Communications.

Paying $1,340 for the group's commercials last week on KOKH-25 was Burton, according to records at the TV station.

The Oklahoman questioned Burton on Wednesday, before a reporter discovered he had paid for some TV commercials. Burton said then that he believed a number of entities were behind Oklahoma Works. He did not disclose then that he was a supporter. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday or Friday.

Active in promoting the group on Facebook is Oklahoma City attorney Joey Chiaf. He represented one of the injured workers featured in the group's commercials and on its website. Chiaf also did not respond to phone messages seeking comment.

Oklahoma Works also spent thousands of dollars in 2012 on advertising opposing a workers' comp bill then before the Legislature, records show. Ads ran in both The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World.

by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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