Special interest groups top Oklahoma City election spending

Special interest groups have spent more than $630,000 on Oklahoma City Council election races, according to recently filed campaign finance reports. The main spenders have been the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum and the Better Local Government PAC.
By Michael Baker mbaker@opubco.com Published: March 29, 2011
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Sipe, who is also president of International Association of Firefighters Local 157, wrote in an email A Voice for Responsible Government was formed and funded entirely by firefighters.

A common divide

On March 1, Oklahoma City Momentum supported a slate of pro-MAPS candidates. Better Local Government supported those more critical of MAPS 3, the penny sales tax initiative approved by voters in 2009.

Oklahoma City Momentum spent money running campaigns supporting three candidates that won election on March 1 — Ward 5 Councilman-elect David Greenwell, Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan. The three candidates supported MAPS 3.

Better Local Government spent money on campaigns for three March 1 losers — Ward 5 incumbent Brian Walters, Ward 6 candidate Adrian Van Manen and Ward 8 candidate Cliff Hearron. Van Manen and Hearron, members of the politically active Windsor Hills Baptist Church, also were endorsed by the Sooner Tea Party.

Walters was the only council member to vote against MAPS 3. Van Manen and Hearron questioned whether spending on those programs should be a priority above other things.

The last campaign

Oklahoma City Momentum also is campaigning for Charlie Swinton, a senior banking officer, who is in an April 5 runoff with physician Ed Shadid for the Ward 2 seat being vacated by Bowman.

While he has been endorsed by police and firefighter unions, Shadid has not accepted donations or support from any political action committee or group. The bulk of his donations are checks he has written his own campaign. At Shadid's request, Better Local Government is not campaigning for the candidate.

Shadid said he is not anti-MAPS as other candidates supported by firefighters have been labeled.

“I support the implementation of all aspects of MAPS 3 as promised to the voters with maximum openness, transparency and public deliberation,” he said.

Shadid has criticized Oklahoma City Momentum's backing of Swinton.

“He (Swinton) will owe his seat to them,” Shadid said. “There is no way that Charlie Swinton wins without the outside interference of the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum.”

Swinton defended his fundraising, saying it shows he has a broad base of support. Further, Swinton said, he cannot control independent groups or how the law allows them to fundraise.

“Our message has been consistently pro-jobs, pro-MAPS, keeping Oklahoma City moving forward,” Swinton said. “It resonates with people across the community.”

Other interest groups

Sixteen other political action committees have given money to city council candidates. Because money was donated directly to city council candidates, those donations were limited to $5,000 per candidate.

The groups can be labeled labor, business, public safety, legal or social issue groups.

Among them were the Oklahoma City Firefighters Association, which gave $5,000 apiece to Walters, Van Manen and Hearron, and Chesapeake Oklahoma PAC, which gave $5,000 apiece to Swinton, Salyer, Ryan and Greenwell.