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Lankford campaign: $40,500 for "faith-based consulting"

WASHINGTON _ Of the $4 million spent last year by James Lankford's campaign to win a U.S. Senate seat, it was a relatively small amount. But it stands out for its unique _ and perhaps uniquely appropriate _ nature.

There among the year-end bonuses and commissions to his staff members and advisers was a payment of $21,000 for "faith-based consulting."
The campaign of Lankford, the Oklahoma City Republican who ran a Baptist youth camp until a few years ago, cut the check to the Student Development Institute of Oklahoma City, an organization headed by Paul Abner.
It received a total of $40,500 for faith-based consulting, and Abner received another $1,200 for expenses.

In an email response to questions, Lankford’s campaign manager did not respond to the question of what faith-based consulting actually entails.

Holly Isch said Abner “has previously volunteered with several campaigns in Oklahoma, but his company is not a political consulting company; like most of us on the campaign team, he does not have a political background. ”
Isch, who worked for Lankford at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma before signing on to his first campaign, was among the new senator’s other faith-based connections who was rewarded at the end of the year.

She received a $60,000 bonus from campaign funds, taking her 2014 campaign earnings past $131,000.
Isch also kept a job on the congressional payroll for Lankford's office, earning $9,903 as office manager through the first nine months of 2014. House records for the final quarter are not available.

Isch said she worked part-time for the official office while running the campaign.
Other members of Lankford's official staff also earned campaign salaries, most notably Todd Pauley, whose $60,000 bonus in November helped him make nearly $150,000 from the Senate campaign.
Pauley's LinkedIn page says he worked for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for two years, beginning in early 2005, a period when Lankford was running the Falls Creek camp for the convention.

U.S. House employees are allowed to work on campaigns, though there are guidelines.

The House ethics manual says, “In addition to engaging in campaign activity while on annual leave or during other free time, employees may do so by .. Reducing their employment in the congressional office to part-time status, with a corresponding reduction in salary.”


Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›