Super PACs spend big on GOP candidates in open races for U.S. House and Oklahoma Senate
Super PACs, some backed by black money, are pumping millions into competitive U.S. House and Senate races in Oklahoma this year. Some even spend more than the candidates themselves.
The two main super PACs pumping money into Oklahoma’s 2nd congressional district race, the School Freedom Fund and the Fund for a Working Congress, have spent $3.2 million since the June 28 primary before the second round on August 23. By comparison, the two Republican candidates, Rep. Avery Frix and former state senator Josh Brecheen, spent just a total of $823,657.
For every dollar spent by Brecheen’s campaign, the School Freedom Fund spent about $7.97 supporting or opposing Frix, according to a Border analysis of Federal Election Commission data through August 11. For every dollar spent by the Frix campaign, the Fund for a Labor Congress spent about $2.32 to support or oppose Breechen.
Neither Super PAC responded to phone calls from The border.
Super PACs and black money groups have had greater influence over elections since the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen United ruling, which allows corporations and other wealthy outside groups to spend unlimited amounts on countrisides.
Unlimited outside spending can turn elections into proxy wars between special interest groups instead of races between candidates, said Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for transparency in political spending.
“It’s extremely bad for our elections,” Ghosh said. “Their motivations are almost always to support the candidate who is going to advance their interests and the policies that will help them in some way.”
Since the primary, Fund for a Working Congress has spent $1.3 million on direct mail, TV ads, door hangers and more to support Frix and oppose Brecheen.
Both groups have funded attack ads with claims that both candidates describe as “half-truths.”
In letters, the Fund for a Working Congress accused Brecheen of wanting to end the Electoral College saying that if he “could do whatever he wanted, Hillary Clinton would be president.”
“A half-truth is a complete lie,” Brecheen said. “They’re taking a vote out of context.”
The School Freedom Fund has spent $1.8 million since elementary to support Brecheen and oppose Frix. The group is involved in congressional races across the country and is an extension of the Anti-Tax Growth Club. The School Freedom Fund is funded entirely by Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass, according to federal spending records.
The group’s attacks on Frix have attempted to portray him as a pro-tax lawmaker, claiming in letters that he voted for $2.7 billion in tax hikes during his time in the US House of Representatives. Oklahoma.
“They miss the fact that we were able to balance the budget,” Frix said.
School Freedom Fund affiliate Club For Growth was a key supporter of the late U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, for whom Brecheen worked as a field staff member. He also adheres to Coburn’s staunchly conservative ideology and is a former member of the Club For Growth.
Both Frix and Breechen have condemned outside groups that attack them, but not those that support them.
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“(Candidates) want to talk about the horror of this outside influence, but they don’t want to upset the people who help them,” said Pat McFerron, Republican strategist and pollster in Oklahoma. “There is a balance. Otherwise, you tie one arm behind your back.
Fund for a Working Congress, the pro-Frix Super PAC, is registered in Virginia and has also backed congressional candidates in Ohio, Georgia and other states. The super PAC is primarily funded by black money groups Sooner State Leadership Fund and Prosperity Alliance. Other donors include American Jobs and Growth PAC and Defend US PAC, two groups also primarily funded by Prosperity Alliance.
As a 501c4 nonprofit organization, Prosperity Alliance is not required to disclose its donors. Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning watchdog group, filed an IRS complaint against the group in 2019, claiming the nonprofit “violated its tax-exempt status by making politics its core business and also failed to properly disclose its politics”. expenses on their tax forms.
The watchdog group filed the lawsuit after Prosperity Alliance reported to the IRS that it was not involved in political dealings even though federal election spending records showed otherwise, said Citizens investigator Matthew Corley. for Responsible Ethics.
According to IRS laws, a nonprofit organization can make political contributions and participate in politics as long as that is not the sole purpose of the group.
“They denied to the IRS that they were engaged in political activities when they clearly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in Super PAC contributions that were then used to influence elections in state elections,” Corley said.
Since the complaint, the group has reported its political activity to the IRS, which has not accounted for the majority of the group’s spending, Corley said.
Super PACs are also flooding the race to become the Republican nominee for the open U.S. Senate seat from Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Conservative Alliance dropped $1.4 million to back TW Shannon ahead of the June primary. The group is fully funded by Safe Streets Safe Communities, a 501c4 non-profit organization that is not required to disclose its donors.
Since the primary, a new group has supported Shannon, Fighters For A Strong America PAC. The Tulsa-based group dropped more than $600,000 supporting Shannon. The group is fully funded by the black money group 501c4 Fund Leadership Action.
Paul Kilgore, the only agent listed for Fighters For A Strong America PAC, declined to comment.
Mullin also enjoys support from outside spending. Defend US PAC, created by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to back conservative candidates, lost $716,000 backing Mullin. The Super PAC is largely funded by Prosperity Alliance and several companies, including Lawton-based Hilliary Communications and Oklahoma City-based Rustic Decor, LLC.
Crypto Innovation, a Super PAC funded in part by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci that backs Republican candidates across the country, spent $167,000 backing Mullin ahead of the primary.