Contact: Sheridan Betts
SQ 802 supporters break state law; refuse to reveal campaign spending
OKLAHOMA CITY (June 25, 2020)—The Oklahomans Decide Healthcare PAC, which is funding the campaign to expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program through passage of State Question 802, has failed to file numerous legally required reports on its campaign spending.
The failure to report campaign spending comes as news reports indicate the pro-802 campaign could be receiving substantial funding from an out-of-state, left-wing special-interest group.
“Every day, Oklahomans see TV ads funded by Oklahomans Decide that call for passage of State Question 802, yet Oklahomans Decide pretends those ads do not exist and has refused to reveal how much it has spent on this campaign. That’s in stark contrast to opponents of SQ 802, who have filed their reports,” said Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. “The stonewalling raises an important question: What is it that Obamacare supporters like Oklahomans Decide are trying to hide?”
Rule 2.109 of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission states that any organization that spends more than $5,000 on communications related to a state question, and does so “at least” 15 days prior to the state question election, is required to file a report with the Ethics Commission.
The same rule requires that those spending more than $5,000 on state question campaigning must, during the last 14 days prior to a state-question election, report expenditures by the following day.
Oklahomans Decide Healthcare PAC filed a statement of registration with the state on April 20 but has filed no reports on expenditures made between then and June 24, despite airing numerous TV and radio ads in support of State Question 802 in that window of time.
Publicly available data on media buys shows the group has spent at least $1.4 million on elections communications, primarily TV ads, from May 26 to June 23. Yet the Oklahomans Decide Healthcare PAC has refused to provide the required reports to state ethics officials regarding these expenditures or any others since the group first registered in April.
Reports were due this week on campaign expenditures made prior to June 16, and daily reports for subsequent expenditures that have exceeded $5,000 have been required each day since.
Earlier today, following inquiries to the state Ethics Commission, Oklahomans Decide did file a report, but only listed expenditures made in the previous 24 hours.
At the same time, it appears a substantial share of funding for the Oklahomans Decide Healthcare PAC may be coming from an out-of-state special-interest group.
The Fairness Project, an organization that supports ballot measures to expand Medicaid in conservative states, notes on its website that Oklahoma and Missouri both have ballot measures going before voters this year.
“The Fairness Project is proud to have supported and worked on both campaigns since the very beginning,” the organization’s web site declares.
A 2018 article in The Hill reported that the The Fairness Project “has become the primary funder of these ballot-initiative campaigns, spending close to $5 million in five states over the past year.”
The Hill reported that The Fairness Project was launched in 2015 with a $5 million grant from United Healthcare Workers West in California, part of the Service Employees Union, “which continues to be the group’s primary funder.” The union typically endorses Democratic candidates in political elections, including endorsing Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 after having previously endorsed Barack Obama.
The Fairness Project reports that it has been active in prior Medicaid-ballot questions in several states, including Idaho, Utah and Nebraska.
“Oklahomans Decide’s refusal to file legally required disclosures on spending, combined with the apparent behind-the-scenes involvement of shadowy far-left special-interest groups in Oklahomans Decide, raises many questions,” Small said. “Oklahoma voters deserve answers, not continued stonewalling.”
SQ 802 would add up to 628,000 able-bodied adults to Oklahoma’s medical-welfare Medicaid program. While federal taxpayers will cover some of the expense of expansion, state government taxpayers could have to find up to $374 million more to support the program if SQ 802 is approved. That added expense comes at a time when state officials predict Oklahoma state government will face a $1 billion shortfall in the coming budget year.
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, along with groups like Americans for Prosperity and the 1889 Institute, is among those who oppose SQ 802.