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Joy Hofmeister is in trouble…


Somewhere, someplace – probably at a child labor camp – Janet Barresi is smiling.

Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, along with several of her political consultants and supporters, was indicted yesterday by Oklahoma County DA David Prater on charges of conspiracy, campaign fundraising violations, and looking way too much like an adorable schoolteacher stereotype.

Here are the details via a Nolan Clay article in The Oklahoman that curiously wasn't assigned to education expert Ben Felder:

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was charged Thursday with campaign fundraising violations and conspiracy, but she said she is confident she complied with the law.

The Tulsa Republican is accused of illegally colluding with a dark money group to win election in 2014. Such groups do not have to disclose their donors. Prosecutors alleged Hofmeister used the group, Oklahomans for Public School Excellence, to secretly accept illegal excessive donations and illegal corporate donations...

You can view the probable cause affidavit here. I'm not a campaign finance attorney who specializes in campaign finance laws, but it looks like a cut and dry case. There are lots of witnesses and lots of incriminating text message conversations between Hofmeister and her cronies, which should serve as a reminder to all Oklahoma politicians to move their illegal campaign communications to Snapchat.

If found guilty, it looks like Hofmeister may be facing some time in in-school suspension...

Hofmeister, 52, faces two felony counts involving donations to the dark money group and two felony counts of conspiracy.

Charged with her in the conspiracy counts are Fount Holland, 53, her chief campaign consultant, and Stephanie Dawn Milligan, 37, the dark money group's political consultant.

Holland is one of the original partners of A.H. Strategies, an Oklahoma City-based consulting company that has helped Republican candidates for years. Milligan has been active this year in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Also charged in the conspiracy counts are two former leaders of state education organizations — Lela Odom, 68, who in 2014 was the executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, and Steven Crawford, 67, who was the executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. Prosecutors allege they helped create and fund the dark money group.

A conviction for conspiracy is punishable by 10 years in prison. A conviction for a campaign violation is punishable by a year in jail but can bring significant fines.

I think they should add one other charge, like "Being Stupid Enough To Cheat In A Political Race Against Janet Barresi." Seriously, WTF?! I know Oklahoma politics can be a lot like college football recruiting – everyone cheats but not everyone gets caught – but was this really worth the risk? Janet Barresi was about as popular as Oklahoma's roads, bridges and man-made earthquakes. The only people who voted for her were dentists, Oklahoman editorial writers, Mary Fallin, and people who like to flunk 4th graders.

You may notice that Nolan Clay mentioned all the other people involved in the case. One of note is Stephanie Dawn Milligan. She's currently a high-ranking member of Trump's presidential campaign. One name, though, is curiously left out of the article...

The evidence found to be significant in the case is described in a 28-page affidavit filed with the charge. Hofmeister was interviewed for the investigation in June and stated then she had no specific knowledge of the dark money group other than that there would be one, according to the affidavit.

Providing the primary funding to the dark money group was the Oklahoma Education Association and the Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration. They donated a total of $300,000 to the group, using $100,000 they accepted from an insurance company, according to the affidavit.

The insurance company is not accused of wrongdoing.

Good job, Nolan! You're a great company man!

The insurance company Nolan won't name yet went out of his way to clear is American Fidelity Insurance. The Chairman and CEO of the company is Bill Cameron. He's a conservative high-level member of the Oklahoma City ruling elite and buddy-buddies with the people who run The Oklahoman. He was also on hand at the Playboy Mansion the day Mary Fallin got engaged. I'm just bringing this up in case anyone needs another reminder that the paper goes out of its way to protect its friends and go after its enemies.

Anyway, the two big questions I've been asked about this are...

1) Why is all this happening only a few days before an election that has an important state question on the ballot regarding education funding? Couldn't Prater have waited until after the election to release the charges?

I think that's a fair question. Remember, the Oklahoma City ruling elite isn't for SQ 779. They're Chamber of Commerce folks. They want sales tax increases to benefit them, not teachers. Although the investigation has been going for a few years, I think the timing is a little bit fishy and curious, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's politically motivated.

2) Is Joy Hofmeister going to jail?

I have no clue. There does seem to be a lot of incriminating evidence. If I was her, I'd be negotiating a plea deal and trying to avoid any jail time. As for now, she's maintaining her innocence...

"I will vigorously defend my integrity and reputation against any suggestion of wrongdoing," a solemn Hofmeister said at the state Education Department building Thursday evening. "And I will fight the allegations that have been made against me."

She also said, "But I will not be distracted. The state of Oklahoma, our parents, our children, deserve my continued focus, and they will have it. ... I look forward to continuing to work on improving the educational opportunities for Oklahoma's schoolchildren now and for many years to come.”

Yeah, she won't be distracted by felony charges. Uh huh. Suuuuure. I don't know about you, but I think we should put her name on the board with one checkmark for lying.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll be hearing a whole lot more on this topic over the next couple of months. As we wait, I'd just like to say that one of my big complaints about Janet Barresi is that she seemed to care more about self-preservation and staying in charge than doing what was right for Oklahoma schools and kids. As her administration began to crumble around her, she chose to dig in, fight and do more damage instead of taking the high road and resigning. Let's hope Joy Hofmeister doesn't make the same mistake.

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