Emails detail political activity of embattled state superintendent
OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) —
There are new questions about the political activities of the state superintendent.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, along with her political consultants and others associated with her campaign are facing a preliminary hearing next month in a case that alleges she illegally accepted campaign donations and coordinated with a super PAC during her campaign for the office.
After Hofmeister's criminal charges were announced in November of 2016, FOX 25 requested all emails sent from Hofmeister's state email account between her political consultants and others mentioned in her indictment.
In April of 2016, Hofmeister exchanged emails with the designated filing agent of her campaign. The emails relate to her campaign ethics reports that were coming due.
Hofmeister remained active in politics and in October of 2016 Democratic Representative Cory Williams replied to an email criticizing her for being too partisan in her endorsements.
In November of 2016, a week before Oklahomans went to the polls, Hofmeister used her state email account to coordinate the content of a mailer in support of a Republican house candidate. She copied her political consultants on the emails asking which picture she should use for the mailer.
A later email from Hofmeister to her political consultants approved a quote to be used on that mailer. The quote ended with a specific request to vote for the candidate on November 8th.
“The rule is quite simple,” said political analyst Bobby Stem, “You cannot use public property for campaign purposes.”
Stem has run campaigns and “Super PACs” and says elected officials need to keep anything campaign related completely separate from anything connected to their elected position.
“Those things that are paid for with tax dollars do the business of the state not to do the business of the political figure,” Stem said.
The state ethics commission does not comment on specific cases, but when FOX 25 asked for rules that would apply to a state-wide elected official using state property to aid political campaigns the agency sent a list of 14 rules that apply. Those rules include a notice that no one should use public property "to engage in activities designed to influence the results of an election."
However, Hofmeister's attorney says approving campaign mailers and coordinating a quote that ends with "I urge you to vote for [the candidate] on November 8th" is not intended to influence the results of an election.
Gary Wood told FOX 25 "I know she did not violate any ethics rules."
Hofmeister’s criminal case is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in August.
“I think that Superintendent Hofmeister unfortunately made some mistakes, that were absent of malice,” Stem said of the issues surrounding her election and time in office.
Stem believes Hofmeister's actions were those of a political newcomer who lacked an education in the rules of campaigning and holding office.
“I think she could have had a team that warned her and I don't think they did.”
Shortly after approving the campaign mailer one of Hofmeister’s political consultants, who is not facing charges, did step in with advice.
A November 2, 2016 email warns Hofmeister to only use personal email to reply to political requests. After this warning the campaign related emails end.