Momentum is what is known as a 527 group, named for the section it falls under in the IRS tax code, and was established just prior to the March 1 primary to make independent expenditures in the election. That means it does not donate to individual candidates.
Some 527s of note in national elections include Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Citizens United and the Media Fund.
The group was established after the Feb. 13 City Council campaign finance reporting deadline, so it did not report how much money it had spent or received prior to the March 1 primary election, in which three of the four races were decided. However, Momentum wasted little time in using advertisements and mailers to back Ward 2 candidate Charlie Swinton, Ward 5 challenger David Greenwell, Ward 6 incumbent Meg Salyer and Ward 8 incumbent Patrick Ryan.
A grassroots effort was able to overcome all that money.
The group also sent out mailers against Ward 5 incumbent Brian Walters and Ward 2 candidate Ed Shadid.
In the mailers attacking Walters — who is known as one of the most conservative members of the City Council and received the backing of the Sooner Tea Party — the group indicated he was not conservative enough and pictured him with President Barack Obama. In a separate mailer, a caricature of Walters stood behind piles of cash.
In the group’s attack mailers on Shadid, the candidate was linked to left-wing groups and portrayed as too liberal to serve as a councilman in Oklahoma City.
Walters ultimately lost to Greenwell during the March 1 election, but Shadid overwhelmingly won the April 5 runoff against Swinton, making him the only successful candidate not backed by the group.
In filings with the city prior to the April 5 runoff, Momentum stated its contributions and expenditures came from A Better Oklahoma City Inc., a nonprofit group incorporated with the Secretary of State’s office just a few weeks prior to the election.
Those associated with Momentum and a separate firefighter nonprofit that also participated in the primary election said the reason the nonprofits were able to contribute to the extent they did — and the reason the 527 was able to explicitly support and attack candidates — was because of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that eliminated previous restrictions on such groups.
527 groups are required to disclose donors to the IRS, so funneling money through nonprofits — rather than directly donating to the 527s — keeps individual donors anonymous, since certain nonprofit organizations are not required to disclose their donors to the IRS.
According to campaign reports, two days after being established Momentum received an $80,000 check from A Better Oklahoma City, followed four days later by a $218,000 check from the nonprofit. On Feb. 28, Momentum received $117,000 in in-kind, or nonmonetary, contributions from A Better Oklahoma City, totaling $415,000. By March 20, the group had spent $409,000.
A third campaign-reporting deadline that should give the final tally for the amount spent by all parties in the election is May 16.
Incorporation papers show A Better Oklahoma City’s sole director is Amy Albro, an employee and registered agent of Oklahoma City-based Public Strategies Group LLC.
Albro is also listed as the treasurer for at least three state-registered political action committees: Oklahoma City Business Council, Central Oklahoma Business Alliance and Greater Oklahoma City Legislative Committee, all of which are chaired by high-profile Oklahoma City businessmen.
Albro said the PACs were not linked with the Better Oklahoma City group, and that the nonprofit was not affiliated with any other organization. The group received its funds from the Oklahoma City business and civic community, Albro stated.
Behind the scenes
Following the March 25 financial disclosures, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber issued a statement saying members of a Chamber program known as Forward OKC IV had donated money from the program to A Better Oklahoma City. Previous incarnations of Forward OKC have backed other political causes, such as the MAPS 3 campaign and an anti-State Question 744 group.
Momentum later posted a list of 19 “supporters” described as “bipartisan” on its website. Most of those supporters contacted by the Oklahoma Gazette said they supported either individual candidates backed by the group or the group’s goal of moving Oklahoma City forward, but did not make financial contributes to Momentum.
Records show Momentum’s website was registered through GoDaddy.com by Comtech DPM, an Oklahoma City direct-mail firm.
However, Kyle Golding, director of marketing for Comtech, said the company only serves as a printer and distributor for many different mailers.
“Most every election a great chunk of the mail for both sides comes through here,” Golding said. “That’s one of the services we offer is website hosting.”
Golding said the group is not responsible for the design or content of mailers and only does the printing and shipping.
“We are zero-content involved; we simply provide production and distribution,” Golding said.
Momentum’s contact, Oklahoma City attorney William Whitehill Jr., said the group used A.H. Strategies for its mailer content and design.
A.H. Strategies and an affiliated company, Majority Designs, are both well-known and successful direct-mail and Republican political consulting companies. In addition to state campaigns in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Ohio and Missouri, the companies are active in municipal elections as well, including Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr.’s 2009 election effort and a recent Tulsa Public Schools bond issue. A.H. Strategies announced that Majority Designs’ creative messaging helped win five national advertising awards in 2010 for the Bartlett campaign.
A.H. Strategies partner Karl Ahlgren said he did not participate in the campaign, and was unaware whether A.H. partner Fount Holland, who is also a partner in Majority Designs, had participated in the Momentum campaign.
Holland did not respond to messages left at Majority Designs, A.H. Strategies and with Ahlgren. Majority Designs partner Trebor Worthen also did not return phone messages.
State Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, appeared on one of the Momentum mailers supporting Meg Salyer, praising the candidate’s progressive credentials. McAffrey said he supported Salyer’s campaign, as well as his friend Swinton’s campaign, but was unaware that his image would appear on a mailer from Momentum.
“They did it without my permission. I did not give anyone permission other than Meg Salyer. They did not mention Momentum or any other group. They said Meg Salyer wants to use me in one of her ads, and I said yes,” McAffrey said. “No one told me about a Momentum group. I can’t remember, but I think it was the Chamber who called me and said they were going to do a mailer for her and I said it was OK. They may be part of this Momentum group; I don’t know.”
In a statement, the Chamber said it did not call McAffrey and it had no involvement in running the Momentum campaign.
“No one at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber contacted Rep. McAffrey in regard to his endorsement on the City Council races, or on behalf of the Momentum committee. We have absolutely sought out his endorsement in past issues we have taken on and have appreciated his support. However, the Chamber did not run the ‘Momentum’ campaign and did not contact Rep. McAffrey. We are not sure where this is coming from.”
Shadid, the only winning candidate not backed by Momentum, said this year’s municipal elections could be the first opportunity to see the effects of the Citizens United decision at the municipal level.
“I think there was so much on the line with this election; there is even some national attention because it is really the first test case for the Citizens United decision on a municipal election,” said Shadid, whose campaign was largely self-financed. “There is some very real concern about what will happen when you have very wide (funding) discrepancies at the local level. It’s one thing at the national level for one side to put in $100 million and the other side put in $80 million, but in a municipal election, if one side puts in $600,000 and other side can only raise a small amount of money, that’s going to be prohibitively hard to overcome.”
Shadid praised campaign volunteers and his supporters.
“People, I think, are very excited about this campaign,” Shadid said, “in that a grassroots effort with dozens and dozens of volunteers with real person-to-person contact going from neighborhood to neighborhood was able to overcome all that money.”
Read a list of Forward OKC IV investors and donors and view
direct-mail pieces in the Tulsa mayoral race from Majority Designs (Courtesy BatesLine).
Logos of the following companies were prominently displayed in the Greater OKC Chamber’s listing of Forward OKC IV investors. The list notes that these “donors have pledged their help to continue Oklahoma City’s momentum”:
- American Fidelity Corp.
- Arvest Bank
- Bank of Oklahoma
- Chesapeake Energy
- Chickasaw Nation
- Devon Energy
- IBC Bank
- Inasmuch Foundation
- Integris Health
- JP Morgan Chase
- Love’s Travel Stops
- Oklahoma Natural Gas
- Oklahoma Publishing Company
- Presbyterian Health Foundation
- SSM Healthcare of Oklahoma
This alphabetized group of donors is listed beneath the prominently displayed donors:
- Accel Financial Staffing
- Ackerman McQueen, Inc.
- Acorn Growth Companies
- Advanced Academics
- Advancia Corporation
- The Advisory Group
- Andrews Davis
- Anglin Public Relations
- Architectural Design Group, Inc.
- Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc.
- Atchley Resources, Inc.
- BKD, LLP
- Bank of America Merrill Lynch
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma
- The Boldt Company
- Butterly Co., LTD
- IS Technologies dba CSD
- Cardinal Engineering, Inc.
- Carlisle FoodService Products
- Central Liquor Company
- B.C. Clark Jewelers
- Clear Channel Radio-Networks-Digital
- Colcord Hotel
- Cole & Reed, PC
- Comtech Design Print and Mail
- Connelly Paving Company
- Mr. Edward H. Cook
- Coppermark Bank
- Crowe & Dunlevy
- Cummings Oil Company
- Diagnostic Laboratory of Oklahoma
- Dorchester Capital
- Duncan Oil Properties, Inc.
- Dutcher & Company, Inc.
- B.D. Eddie Enterprises
- Elliott + Associates Architects
- Equity Commercial Realty, LLC
- Ernst & Young, LLP
- Jean I. Everest Foundation
- J. S. Ferguson, Inc.
- First American Bank
- First Bethany Bank & Trust
- First Liberty Bank
- First United Bank & Trust
- Frankfurt-Short-Bruza Associates, PC
- Gerald L. Gamble Co., Inc.
- Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings
- Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
- Grubb & Ellis | Levy Beffort
- Carl E. Gungoll Exploration, LLC
- Harrison-Orr Air Conditioning, LLC
- Roger Hicks & Associates Group Insurance, Inc.
- HoganTaylor LLP
- Home Creations
- Hudiburg Auto Group
- The Humphreys Company
- Ideal Homes
- INTRUST Bank, N.A.
- Isola Bella
- JMA Energy Company
- Jan Oil Co.
- Jasco Products Company, LLC
- Fred Jones Family Foundation
- Jones Public Relations, Inc.
- Jordan Associates
- The Journal Record Publishing Company
- KFOR-TV & KAUT-TV
- KPMG LLP
- Ben E. Keith Foods
- Kirkpatrick Family Fund
- Ladd Equipment, Inc.
- Langston University at Oklahoma City
- Legacy Bank
- Linn Energy, LLC
- Lippert Bros., Inc.
- Marco Capital Group ALP
- McAfee & Taft
- Dean A. McGee Eye Institute
- Mercy Health Center, Inc.
- Meyers-Reynolds & Associates, Inc.
- Midtown Renaissance A REHCO Company
- Midwest Wrecking Company
- Mike Krywucki and Associates
- Mustang Fuel Corporation
- Griffin Communications/NEWS9
- Nonna's Euro-American Ristorante and Bar
- Norick Investment Company, LLC
- OKC FRIDAY Newspaper - Nichols Hills Publishing Co.
- OU Medical Center
- OU Physicians
- Objectstream, Inc.
- Oil Capital Electric, LLC
- Oklahoma Blood Institute
- Oklahoma Christian University
- Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
- Oklahoma City Metropolitan Assoc. of Realtors, Inc.
- Oklahoma City University
- Oklahoma County
- Oklahoma Electrical Supply Company
- Oklahoma Fidelity Bank
- Oklahoma Heart Hospital
- Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
- Oklahoma State Fair, Inc.
- Panhandle Oil and Gas, Inc.
- Paradigm AdvantEdge
- Pension Solutions, Inc.
- People Source
- Perimeter Technology Center, LLC
- Phillips Murrah, PC
- Pointe Vista Development
- Price Edwards & Company / Edwards & Company
- Quad/Graphics, Inc.
- Quality Renovations, LLC
- RFIP, Inc.
- Mr. Steve Raybourn
- Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel & Spa
- SAIC/The Benham Companies, LLC
- SNB Bank of Oklahoma City
- Schnake Turnbo Frank PR
- Scott's Printing & Copying
- 7-Eleven Stores
- The Skirvin Hilton
- Smith & Pickel Construction, Inc.
- Snipes Management Co., LLC
- Southern Nazarene University
- Southwestern Roofing & Metal Company, Inc.
- Southwestern Stationery & Bank Supply, Inc.
- Sperry Van Ness / Gregory Interests, LLC
- Sperry Van Ness / William T. Strange & Assoc.
- TBS Factoring Service, LLC
- Tinker Federal Credit Union
- Tyler Media
- UMB Bank
- VI Marketing and Branding
- Valliance Bank
- Veolia Energy Oklahoma City, Inc.
- Verizon Wireless
- Vox Printing, Inc.
- Wallace Engineering
- Bill Warren Office Products
- Wiggin Properties, LLC
- Williams, Box, Forshee & Bullard, PC
- Wyndham Garden Hotel - Oklahoma City Airport
- Zerby Interests