Part 2:  Senator Jake Merrick’s Loss Engineered At The Hands of Oklahoma’s School Choice (Voucher) Cabal Who Helped Spend Nearly 350 Thousand Dollars To Elect His Opponent

Part 2: Senator Jake Merrick’s Loss Engineered At The Hands of Oklahoma’s School Choice (Voucher) Cabal Who Helped Spend Nearly 350 Thousand Dollars To Elect His Opponent

While every political campaign has numerous points for failure from fundraising to voter contact, a post mortem of Jake Merrick’s re-election campaign shows that a combination of dark money and redistricting probably did more than anything to sink the re-election campaign of a fine man and public servant.

When I wrote Part 1 of the series, I reported that OCPA, through their Dark Money group Catalyst Oklahoma, had spent $50,620 FOR Merrick’s challenger, Kristen Thompson after spending over $100,000 FOR Merrick’s special election through their dark money group People for Opportunity last year.

I also reported that Senator Merrick – while voting yes in the Senate Education Committee – voted no on the Senate floor on the extremely contentious bill – SB1647 – which would provide publicly funded vouchers to private schools.


Searching the Oklahoma Ethics Commission website is painstaking, but not hard. 

According to Kristen Thompson’s campaign Pre-Primary Ethics Commission report, she had a bit over sixty thousand dollars in her campaign account.

According to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, Jake Merrick had a little over $12 thousand dollars.

According to records posted to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission website, Kristen Thompson’s campaign contributions have been a ‘who’s who’ of Oklahoma School Choice (voucher) proponents and Big Government Republicans.  For information;  individuals can donate up to $2,900 per candidate, unlimited committees $5000 and limited committees $2500

Lucia Frohling and Jill Shero both work for ECKO – Every Kid Counts – an organization run by Education Secretary Ryan Walters which supports school choice, including vouchers.

Ryan Martinez wrote a $1,000 check from his campaign account (Friends of Ryan Martinez) to Thompson’s campaign in December of 2021.  Martinez is a Representative from the Edmond area who was the House Chair – along with Senator Lonnie Paxton, the Senate Chair – of the state’s legislative redistricting efforts.  In March, Friends of Ryan Martinez donated another $1,700 to Thompson.

Mike Cantrell – an originator of Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) and an 11-year member of the Board of EPIC Charter Schools, who left the Board as depositions began for the criminal investigation which culminated in the arrest of EPIC’s founders, David Cheney and Ben Harris for alleged embezzlement of state tax dollars, donated $1,000. 

Josh Cockroft – Governor Stitt’s Political Director.

Glenn Coffee – former Oklahoma Senator and Pro Temp and General Counsel for the Oklahoma State Chamber who was implicated in the Joy Hofmeister/Fount Holland conspiracy to coordinate with an independent campaign working for her election against former State Superintendent Janet Barresi. 

Jim Dunlap – A long-time lobbyist in Oklahoma

Donelle Harder – who has worked for Governor Stitt – by way of Washington, D.C. – in several capacities and currently manages his 2022 re-election campaign. 

Linda Huggard – a long-time Oklahoma Republican party member gave the maximum allowed for an individual donor – $2900.00.

Chris Kannady, an attorney and State Representative for Cleveland County wrote a check from his campaign account (Friends of Chris Kannady) for $1500 to Thompson’s campaign.  Kannady told the New York Times that he had led an effort to purge then-elected Republicans from the State House in 2018 because they were a “cancer” to the Party. In July, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission made public that it will sue the Conservative Alliance PAC, from which dark money donated via the Prosperity Alliance was used to oust as many as 11 Conservative House members that year.  His campaign pays a consultant called the James Martin Company LLC, owned by Jenna Worthen, wife of Trebor Worthen, former partner with Fount Holland of AH Strategies, an organization who, with client Joy Hofmeister, was charged in a 2016 dark money scheme to oust former State Superintendent Janet Barresi.  Today, Trebor runs Sooner State Leadership, a 501C4 dark money group running adds against Governor Kevin Stitt.  Kannady also apparently works with CAMP (Campaign Advocacy Management Professionals), run by Worthen’s former partner, Fount Holland.  Just a quick glance Kannady’s campaign account is eye-opening.  For the first filing period in 2022, Kannady had $341,154.42 and his contributions are a “who’s who” of Oklahoma and national PACs including $10,000 of donations from the OKC Fraternal Order of Police $5,000 and Marathon PAC $5,000. 

Trent Smith, the CEO of Accentra, is also co-owner of Sooner Medical Staffing with House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and was appointed to the Oklahoma State School Board by Governor Kevin Stitt. 

Republican House member Preston Stinson donated $1,000 to Thompson via his campaign fund – Stinson for House.  Stinson was prominently featured in the state audit against EPIC Charter Schools management organization, Community Strategies.  Ben Harris appointed Stinson to the Community Strategies Board – the governing body for Epic One-on-One Charter School and Epic Blended Charter School in 2016 – and later Community Strategies-CA, alleged to be the ‘shell’ company used by Epic Youth Services through which to receive management fees from Epic California creating profits for Harris and Chaney (#49 of Affidavit of Probable Cause).  Preston Stinson received 55% of all campaign donations from EPIC founders and family for his 2020 campaign for the House of Representatives.

Former one-term State Superintendent Janet Barresi not only donated the $2,900 maximum to Kristen Thompson, she introduced her at an Oklahoma Conservative PAC meeting where Kristen shared her message with the audience AFTER OCPAC had committed to endorsing Jake Merrick again for his second campaign for Senate.  Fully committed to Common Core during her tenure as State Superintendent, ROPE was nevertheless able to help repeal the bill mandating Common Core in 2014

Jennifer Carterformer Cheif of Staff for Superintendent Janet Barresi is now the Oklahoma liaison for the American Federation for Children – an organization fronted by the DeVos Foundation to push school choice (vouchers) across the country.  Jennifer’s husband Ray Carter writes for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – an organization working for vouchers – recently in the news for its alleged mis-treatment of the wife of House of Representatives member and attorney, Anthony Moore.  Moore’s wife dismissed the filed Victim Protective Orders after the primary election.  

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber PAC provided $1,500.

The State Chamber PAC kicked in $1,000.

Friends of Anthony Moore – who now has had an Oklahoma Bar Association complaint filed against him by OCPA President Jonathan Small for the VPO’s filed by his wife prior to the primary – donated $1,000 from his campaign fund (Friends of Anthony Moore 2022).

OKC Firefighters Association PAC Fund – $5,000.

Turnaround Team Pac donated $1,500 to Thompson.  Governor Stitt has frequently called his first four years the “Oklahoma Turnaround”.  In fact, his latest TV ads for his re-election campaign prominently feature this concept.  The Oklahoma Ethics Commission filing for Thompson list a PO box in Jenks, Oklahoma as the PAC’s address.  It is listed as an ‘unregistered’ PAC and there is no filing for the PAC with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, but Turnaround Team PAC is registered with the FEC in Newport, Kentucky.  The treasurer for the PAC is listed as Kevin Broghamer from Newport, Kentucky, who is also the registered treasurer for Governor Stitt’s Oklahoma campaign account.  As of 7/14/22, the PAC has $110,000.  Donors include;


For the past year, the House and Senate worked on re-drawing House and Senate districts across the state.  This is done every 10 years in conjunction with the collection and distribution of the decade’s CENSUS data.  Here is a picture of Merrick’s original district with the new district transposed over the top with red.

Note the approximate location of Merrick’s house (the small red dot nearly on the new southern district line) – especially compared with before.  Prior to re-districting, Merrick’s neighbors could vote for Merrick.  Now, only the neighbors to the north had that opportunity.  Truly very odd.  

It almost seems as though the powers that be wanted to re-district Merrick right out of his district.  Losing a large chunk of voters with whom Merrick lived and already had voter recognition was tough.  

With 9,485 votes in the election, Merrick lost to Thompson by 833.  Merrick won Canadian county by 210 votes (total voters 3,036), but was beaten soundly in Oklahoma County by 1,043 (3,746 to 2,603 – total voters 6,449).  Merrick had an uphill battle when most of the voters in this election were in Thompson’s backyard.


These PACS spent money FOR Thompson (except Job Creators Action Fund).

These PACS spent money AGAINST Merrick.  There was no PAC spending FOR Merrick.

The School Freedom Fund, is a dark money super PAC that is registered by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  It was given $15 million dollars by the founder of the PAC, Jeff Yas, a resident of Pennsylvania who earned his billions via gambling and playing the stock market.  Yas did not donate money to Trump, but to libertarian, Gary Johnson, but he is a rabid supporter of “school choice” and donates frequently to “school choice” PACS.

{Interestingly, OCPAC’s Bob Linn, quotes Jeff Yas in the OCPAC email of July 11th 2022 where he touts the “money following the kid” (vouchers).}

A large chunk of School Freedom funds have been donated to the Protect Freedom PAC and the Club For Growth

In Oklahoma, according to the Ethics Commission, the Chairperson for the School Freedom Fund is David McIntosh whose email url reads “”.

Also according to Ethics Commission reports, the School Freedom Fund PAC spent $75,206 FOR Thompson and $119,546.23 AGAINST Merrick.

Then, there’s Common Sense Conservatives, LLC.  Here is the address for the PAC.

Yup.  A Reesor’s parking lot. 

There is no email listed for the Director whose name is simply listed as “Walt Lowe”.  

There are a couple Walter Lowe’s in Tulsa, but not anyone who stood out as being someone associated with a PAC – like an attorney.  I have tried the number listed on the PAC and it does not work (1-918-236-6078) it’s a constant busy signal as though it’s not a working number.  I have checked the Oklahoma Secretary of State website for the LLC.  Guess what?  Big shocker there – nothing listed.  I even tried the FEC and there’s no listing there either.  It’s an LLC – according to the Ethics Commission website, so I wouldn’t be able to locate it on the IRS website for non-profit filings.  I can’t locate it under “Committees”, I can only find it under “Independent Expenditures”.  I’m so mad about it, I filed an Ethics Complaint on the PAC 7/20/22.

Common Sense Conservative (FAKE) PAC spent $66,310 on Digital Ads through an organization in Tennessee called Counterpoint Messaging LLC AGAINST Merrick.

In fact, this PAC spent $207,592.17 against a whole slew of candidates – J.J. Stitt and Brady Butler running against Darcy Jech in SD26, Chris Toney running against Brenda Stanley in SD42, Deb Campbell and Jennifer Sengstock in HD50 against Marcus McEntire, Ron Lynch in HD60 running against Rhonda Baker and Karmin Grider running in an open seat for HD31.  ALL candidates but Grider lost.  Grider is in a run-off.

In total, PACS spent $158,615.17 FOR Thompson and $185,856.23 AGAINST Merrick, meaning that Thompson benefitted from a WHOPPING $344,471.40.  

What in the world?  Sadly, how is Kristen Thompson not a bought and paid for candidate by special interest dark money PACS whether she means to be or not?  The fact that Oklahoma elections can be BOUGHT like this should concern every voter in the state, not just those in SD22.


Most voters don’t work to be educated about issues or candidates.  They don’t study candidates or even subscribe to organizations from which they could get an idea of what issues candidates stand for.  Consequently, when they see an ad on Facebook calling Jake Merrick a “fake Republican who supported government overreach”, they’re likely not going to look up his voting record, emotions will kick in and Jake will get kicked to the curb.  Same with the crazy mailers Fount Holland and his buddies make up.  

Former state Senator Ron Sharp knows how this system works all too well.  He was attacked by the “school choice” crowd using EPIC money and lost his seat to Shane Jett in 2020. 


Note the number of campaign accounts listed in Thompson’s contribution reports: 

  1. Friends of Anthony Moore
  2. Friends of Chris Kannady
  3. Friends of Ryan Martinez
  4. Stinson for House 2022

Four separate campaigns donated to Thompson.  Let’s say I donated to Friends of Anthony Moore.  I expected that money to go to support his election/re-election campaign, I didn’t expect he would donate my funds to another candidate I might not like instead.

Truly, this is a form of money laundering.  Money comes into the campaign for campaign expenses, but it’s then donated to another campaign who then donates it to another.  Where is accountability in this round robin?  If an elected official wants to donate to a campaign.  It should be out of their own pocket, not out of funds citizens provide in good faith that it will be used for their campaigns.


Though this month (7/22) the Ethics Commission recently shut down arguably the most influential PAC in Oklahoma – the Senate Republican PAC – due to ethics violations, over the years, the legislature has taken away more and more of the Commission’s ability to preside over dark money and other campaign issues.  

If we are to take back our elections and elect candidates we want representing our community instead of people from out of state willing to throw around truckloads of cash to get candidates elected to forward their agendas in our legislature, or the school choice voucher cabal here in Oklahoma who use in-state and out-of-state donors to push their political will, we must give the Ethics Commission the tools they need to fight for campaign accountability.

Nothing beats an educated voter, but until we have a million of those, we need an Ethics Commission armed and ready to beat back unethical campaign behavior to keep good candidates like Jake Merrick from being steamrolled out of office.

Explain to your legislator that Oklahoma absolutely must give the Ethics Commission the ability to prosecute any electioneering that occurs against Ethics rules and ask them to sponsor legislation next year toward that end. 

It’s our only hope.


FYI:  CONTRIBUTIONS FOR THOMPSON: Catalyst Oklahoma $50,620, School Freedom Fund $75,206, American Energy Action Fund $9,862, Job Creators Action Network $22,927.17 

CONTRIBUTIONS AGAINST MERRICK: School Freedom Fund $119,546.23, Common Sense Conservatives $66,310