Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s re-election campaign has raised more than $300,000 — and spent almost $160,000 — since he learned in mid-April that he would not have an opponent this election cycle.
Oklahoma Ethics Commission records show Pruitt not only continued to receive campaign contributions but actively raised funds through the Nov. 4 general election, even though he had no opponent and cannot seek re-election in 2018.
While it is not unusual for term-limited officials with no opponents to continue fundraising, the extent of Pruitt’s activity is. By comparison, state Treasurer Ken Miller, who was also re-elected without opposition and is term-limited in 2018, has raised less than $2,000 since the filing period for this year’s elections ended on April 11.
Pruitt did not respond to questions about his campaign’s activities.
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In the most recent Ethics Commission reports, which include expenditures through Oct. 20 and contributions up to the general election, Pruitt’s campaign lists payments of more than $86,000 to six campaign consultants. Among them are former Secretary of State and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee and a former member of the George W. Bush administration whose other clients include an organization headed by Pruitt, and who has received nearly $90,000 from Pruitt’s campaign fund during the current campaign cycle.
The biggest recipients in the past six months, however, have been Tamara Cornell, a Tulsa campaign consultant, and Vox Strategies, a company associated with Pruitt campaign manager Jordan Spencer. Cornell has received $36,588.54 in fees and expenses since April 11, Vox $31,105.89.
Pruitt himself has received more than $17,000 in reimbursements for meals, travel, telephone and office expenses. Almost $13,000 of that was from claims filed on a single day in August for expenses going back as much as two years.
The Ethics Commission reports indicate Pruitt held at least three formal fundraising events over the summer and fall, including one in Dallas whose date corresponds with contributions from 47 AT&T executives, most of them based in the Metroplex, totaling $31,250. The donors included AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson and General Counsel Wayne Watts.
Records also show a $3,625.25 tab for a fundraising event at Vast, the upscale restaurant on the top floor of the Devon Tower in downtown Oklahoma City. Recently, it was revealed that Pruitt signed and sent a letter drafted by Devon Energy executives to the Environmental Protection Agency on his letterhead. At about the same time, Devon sent $125,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association, an organization led by Pruitt.
RAGA, records show, then sent $5,000 to Pruitt’s campaign, which had already received the maximum $5,000 contribution allowed by state law from Devon.
One of RAGA’s political consultants is Sarah Lenti, a former member of the George W. Bush administration who has been paid $89,832.24 by Pruitt’s 2014 campaign fund.
Pruitt’s campaign has also paid $2,000 in the past few months for fundraising software marketed to Republican candidates, even though Pruitt had no election for which to campaign or raise money.
Pruitt’s interest in national issues has long led to speculation that his ultimate ambition is federal office. He was an unsuccessful congressional candidate in 2002 and thought long and hard about entering this year’s U.S. Senate race to succeed Tom Coburn.
Money raised for state office cannot be used in federal elections, but it can be used to build name recognition and reputation. Pruitt raised close to $700,000 this election cycle and has less than $330,000 left. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who did have a Democratic opponent — albeit a poorly funded one — actually spent less than Pruitt, and is sitting on more than $1.1 million for an expected gubernatorial campaign in four years.
Final Ethics Commission reports for the 2014 campaign cycle are due Jan. 31.
World Enterprise Editor Ziva
Branstetter contributed to this story.
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365