By Jay Chilton, CIJ
Bill Cameron is the CEO of the American Fidelity Corporation and its subsidiary, American Fidelity Assurance. The company was identified, but not charged, in the criminal case against state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
Hofmeister and four other individuals face felony charges related to her 2014 campaign. The other defendants include Lela Odom, who was then the executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, which is Oklahoma’s largest teacher’s union, and Steven Crawford, who was executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, an association for public school superintendents and other public school administrators.
Prosecutors allege that “The idea for an Independent Expenditure was conceived by OEA Executive Director Lela Odom, CCOSA Executive Director Steven Crawford and CCOSA General Counsel Ryan Owens. … Executives of American Fidelity were asked to donate to the group and offered a position as board members of the IE. The executives of American Fidelity declined to be involved, however they agreed to provide funding for the group to do with as they saw fit.”
The prosecutor's affidavit also recounts that “Lela Odom advised in her interview that OEA and American Fidelity have had a 50 year relationship,” and that “OEA has helped AF build their business by endorsing their ‘salary income protection policy’.”
It was this relationship, prosecutors say, that led insurance company executives to invest in the campaign. “Odom met with American Fidelity Chairman and CEO, Bill Cameron by herself and asked for $100,000.00 for the 501c4,” according to prosecutors. “Odom received a call from another AF executive, Gary Treadway, who advised … they were willing to give CCOSA and OEA $50,000.00 each to do with as they saw fit.”
Both Treadway and Cameron are listed in the prosecutor's affidavit as witnesses.
In May 2016, American Fidelity hired political activist Angela Clark Little as part of the company’s “Strategic Quality Management” department. Within weeks, Little had established a Political Action Committee called Oklahomans for Public Education.
Cameron subsequently donated $2,000 to Little’s PAC, the second-largest contribution it received. The PAC’s latest contribution and expenditure report is listed as “past due” on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission website.
The PAC’s Facebook page identifies itself as a political organization with the mission “to support candidates in key races with pro-public education agendas.” It lists board members as Jamie Minter, Angela Little, Shelly Hickman, Tyler Bridges, Kenny Ward, Rick Cobb, Dallas Koehn, and Roland Smith.
The PAC was active in promoting what some called the “teacher caucus” of legislative candidates for the November 2016 elections, and published a list of candidates it supported, including:
- Sen. Ron Sharp in Senate District 17 who was unopposed in the general election
- Robert Founds for Senate District 25 against Joe Newhouse
- Lloyd W. Snow for Senate District 37 against Sen. Dan Newberry
- John Waldron for Senate District 39 against Dave Rader
- Leah Pollan for Senate District 43 against Paul Scott
- Judy Mullen Hopper for Senate District 47 against Sen. Greg Treat
- Tom Stites for House District 2 against Rep. John Bennett
- Matt Nowlin in House District 5 against Josh West
- Eric Epperson for House District 10 against Rep. Travis Dunlap
- Darla Milligan for House District 12 against Kevin McDugle
- Matt Failing for House District 20 against Rep. Bobby Cleveland
- Rep. Dustin Roberts for House District 21 against David Northcutt
- John Karlin for House District 27 against Rep. Josh Cockroft
- Kevin Wallace for House District 32 against Billy Hinton
- Jim Beckham in House District 42 against Tim Downing
- Mike Bounds for House District 43 against Rep. John Paul Jordan
- Charles L. Murdock for House District 51 against Rep. Scott Biggs
- Randy Batt for House District 63 against Rep. Jeff Coody
- Rep. Katie Henke for House District 71 against Millie York
- Glenda Puett for House District 76 against Rep. David Brumbaugh
- Dan Myers for House District 81 against Mike Osburn
- Rep. Cyndi Munson for House District 85 against Matt Jackson
- Donald Wentroth for House District 100 against Rep. Elise Hall
- Cheryl Mooneyham-Hessman for House District 101 against Tess Teague
The PAC contributed to successful open-seat candidate Collin Walke in House District 87 and supported several incumbents in successful reelection campaigns, including Rep. Will Fourkiller in House District 86, Rep. David Perryman in House District 56, and Rep. Scott Inman in House District 94.
Several candidates, including Lloyd Snow and Collin Walke, received in-kind contributions from the PAC in the form of canvassers to walk door to door in support of the candidate. Others, including Lloyd Snow, received direct monetary contributions from the PAC in the amount of $1,000 each.
Cameron also contributed $25,000 to the campaign in favor of State Question 779 on Oct. 4, 2016, according to reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. State Question 779 would have increased Oklahoma’s total sales tax burden to the highest in the country, but failed on the statewide ballot last November.
Cameron’s office was contacted several times and messages were left with his reception staff seeking comment. No response has been received.