Out-of-state money supports State Question 805, little spent on State Question 814
Out-of-state backers spent millions to support State Question 805, a criminal justice reform that is one of the top issues in Oklahoma for the Nov. 3 election.
The Yes on 805 campaign reported spending and receiving millions over the last several months, the majority of funding coming from the American Civil Liberties Union and a group called FWD.US, according to numbers turned into the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
State Question 805 would prohibit judges and prosecutors from employing sentence enhancements to lengthen the time that repeat, nonviolent offenders spend in prison beyond the maximum times listed in state law.
From July to October, the Yes on 805 campaign reported spending at least $8 million on mailers, TV commercials and social media posts, according to reports.
From late 2019 to the end of September, the ACLU, based out of New York, and FWD.US, based out of Washington, D.C., combined gave the campaign at least $6 million in funding and organizational support.
A handful of individuals from states like New York and California gave tens of thousands of dollars, as well.
Those who oppose the state question have repeatedly pointed to the influence of out-of-state actors, but that could not be confirmed until financial reports were turned in to the ethics commission.
Dozens of locals did contribute, though the majority of those contributions were under $50.
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“We are thankful and appreciative of the support both in volunteer, grassroots efforts and also thankful for the support of those who have given financially,” Kris Steele, a spokesperson for the Yes on 805 campaign, previously told The Oklahoman.
The opposition group, Oklahomans United Against 805, reported receiving just over $130,000 in September.
Former Gov. Frank Keating, former University of Oklahoma Regent Kirk Humphreys and several others gave donations. The National Police Support Fund, based in Virginia, also donated thousands of dollars.
TV commercials and announcements from public figures — notably both candidates for Oklahoma County sheriff — opposing the state question have increased in recent weeks as the election comes closer.
Donations to each campaign during the month of October were not included in this round of reports.
State Question 814
A group opposed to State Question 814 launched a last-minute digital and advertising campaign to sway voters against the measure that would redirect some funds from the state's Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
No on 814 — Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma reported spending just under $50,000 in the past week for digital and television ads against the measure Oklahoma legislators referred to the ballot.
But the campaign spending pales in comparison to higher profile and more contentious state questions such as SQ 805 and State Question 802, which asked June primary voters to expand Medicaid.
“We’re doing what we can with the resources that we have,” said former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who helped create TSET. “We would have loved to have $1 million and started at the end of September, but we didn’t have those resources.”
There is no formal group supporting SQ 814. Instead, Gov. Kevin Stitt and many Republican legislators are asking their supporters to vote for the measure.
SQ 814 asks voters to amend Oklahoma’s constitution to reduce from 75% to 25% the amount of tobacco settlement funds going to TSET. If approved, the Oklahoma Legislature would receive 75% of the settlement funds (instead of the current 25%) to help cover some of the costs of expanding Medicaid.
The No on 814 campaign is made up of the American Heart Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The Oklahoma State Medical Association also opposes SQ 814.
Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›
Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›