Family & Community , Good Government

Ray Carter | February 28, 2022

Democratic boosters seek to influence GOP attorney general race

Ray Carter

Individuals financially supporting the Democratic Party’s efforts to win an Oklahoma gubernatorial election for the first time since 2006 are also seeking to influence the outcome of a Republican primary in a major statewide race, based on campaign reports.

According to campaign contribution reports, roughly three dozen individuals who are bankrolling the gubernatorial campaign of Democratic candidate Joy Hofmeister are simultaneously providing a financial foundation for the campaign of Gentner Drummond, who is challenging incumbent Attorney General John O’Connor in the Republican primary.

Paycom CEO Chad Richison, who has opposed a state law allowing parents to choose if their children will wear masks at school, is among those who have contributed money to both candidates.

Hofmeister, who currently serves as state superintendent of public instruction, switched parties last year to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. She has made criticism of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s handling of COVID a major part of her platform.

Drummond previously sought the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2018, narrowly losing the primary to then-incumbent Attorney General Mike Hunter, who later resigned from office mid-term. Stitt named O’Connor as Hunter’s replacement.

Many of the overlapping donors have made identical contributions to both Hofmeister and Drummond’s campaigns, including maximum contributions.

The overlapping donors have provided $72,000 combined in donations to Hofmeister’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign and $74,250 to Drummond’s campaign for the Republican nomination for attorney general.

The individuals who have contributed to both the Hofmeister and Drummond campaigns include Howard Barnett; Dan Boren; Curtis Bruehl; Bob Burke; Ken Busby; Brian Campbell; Brita Cantrell; Frederic Dorwart; Ford Drummond; Chris Flowers; A.J. Griffin, director of government affairs for Paycom; David Hatton; Todd Hembree, an attorney for Cherokee Nation Businesses; Danny Hilliard, president of corporate development for the Chickasaw Nation; Burt Holmes; Frank Johnson Jr., deputy secretary at the Chickasaw Nation Department of Commerce; Sharon King Davis; Stacy Kymes; Bill Lance, secretary of commerce for the Chickasaw Nation; Sherri Jo Lance, president of Gaming Capitol Group; Ruth K. Nelson; Paycom CEO Chad Richison and Charis Richison; Trent Roberts; Robert Rowe; Shannon Rowe; Ken Stonecipher; Jill Thomas; Robert Thomas; Susan Thomas; William Thomas; Blake Virgin; Alex Yaffe; Blake Yaffe; Eliot Yaffe; and Nancy Yaffe.

H.E. Rainbolt is also listed as a contributor to both candidates, although a different address is listed for Rainbolt on the two candidate’s reports. However, both reports indicate the H.E. Rainbolt who contributed to their campaigns is a banker. Hofmeister’s report lists Rainbolt as a “retired banker” while Drummond’s report lists Rainbolt’s occupation as “Banking BancFirst.”

Richison, a financial supporter of both Hofmeister and Drummond, has publicly advocated for government policies that would impose greater government restrictions on citizens as part of COVID response. In doing so, he has often been on the opposite side of issues from Stitt and O’Connor.

In a public letter released in March 2020, Richison called for temporary closure of a range of businesses, “which includes, but is not limited to, hair salons, nail salons, spas and massage parlors.” He also endorsed requiring grocery stores to provide “drive-thru pick up or delivery for all customers,” and mandating that undefined “critical” businesses be required to coordinate “with state government.” Richison also called on state government to mandate how “food preparation and other critical portions of the supply chain” are handled under undefined “newly established uniform standards to prevent transmission of the virus.” Richison also called for postponement of so-called “elective surgeries” and endorsed having the government collect “all essential medical supplies” normally used for those surgeries or by “med spas and other medical organizations.” And Richison called for a ban “all non-essential” travel from Oklahoma airports.

Stitt ignored Richison’s demands and instead pushed to reopen Oklahoma’s economy as quickly as possible after the spring 2020 shutdown. Today, Oklahoma’s COVID numbers are plummeting and the state economy is in far better shape than what has occurred in other states that embraced the lockdown mentality.

In August 2021, Richison released a statement calling for repeal of Senate Bill 658, which allowed parents to choose whether or not their children wear a mask at school. The law states that schools may not implement “a mask mandate for students who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19” unless the district is in an area “under a current state of emergency declared by the Governor.”

Under Richison’s leadership, Paycom has also launched a service, “Clue,” to facilitate efforts to implement the Biden administration’s COVID-vaccine mandate by allowing employers to “collect, track and manage” employees’ data regarding vaccination status or compliance with mandatory testing.

Last November, O’Connor filed a lawsuit to challenge the Biden administration’s COVID-vaccine mandate in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, calling the mandate “patently unfair, clearly devoid of common sense, and manifestly unlawful.”

Last October, O’Connor sided with parents in the Edmond district who filed a lawsuit to challenge the school’s COVID-quarantine policies, which required healthy, unvaccinated students to be quarantined when similarly situated vaccinated students are not. In an amicus curiae brief, O’Connor said that upholding the Edmond district policy would allow the school to “treat unvaccinated students as second-class citizens that can be relegated to permanent distance learning so long as the school deems that attendance for statistical purposes.”

The judge in that case ultimately sided with the parents and O’Connor, ruling that the Edmond school district’s policy “provided no benefit in slowing the spread of COVID-19” but did “inflict tremendous harm on some of those students, pushing some to the brink of suicide, while causing others to fall significantly behind in their studies,” and was “irrational.”

Richison has also injected himself or his company into several political issues outside the realm of COVID policy in recent years.

In a March 3, 2020 letter to the University of Oklahoma’s board of regents, Richison wrote that the university’s “previous diversity training efforts failed because they assured free speech protection.” He announced Paycom was yanking advertising from the school and called for OU to “put inclusion and diversity at the core for all Oklahomans, including the state’s flagship institution.”

In a Nov. 27, 2017 letter, Richison criticized former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn and former Gov. Frank Keating, characterizing them as working “against our future with constant negative rhetoric and no workable solutions” because the two state leaders publicly urged lawmakers not to raise taxes at a time when Oklahoma’s working families had already experienced a massive loss of income and jobs.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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