Negative ads in Oklahoma governor’s race begin almost immediately after runoff election

OKLAHOMA CITY - Within hours after results from the Oklahoma primary runoffs, political attack ads hit the airwaves.

One ad, paid for by the Foundation For Economic Prosperity, targets democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson.

"Drew Edmondson will take a wrecking ball to Oklahoma's economy. He will reside taxes on families and even increase the state income tax," the ad said. "He’ll expand Obamacare, blowing a bigger hole in our state’s budget."

In response, Edmondson released a statement, reading, in part: "Less than 24 hours after the runoff, a dark money group that already spent millions supporting candidates who oppose restoring the gross production tax to fund education is already lining up behind Kevin Stitt. Oklahomans are tired of the negative campaigning. They are tired of the chaos."

Ashley Kemp, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, said, generally, all entities engaged in TV ads are required to include a disclosure of who authorized and paid for the ad.

"For entities running ads that are not candidates or candidate committees, there must be a disclosure that the ad was 'not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.' And, it must also include the name, address and phone number of the person who did authorize and pay for the ad. The Ethics Rules require the disclosure to use specific language so all disclosures are consistent. The disclosure must be clearly readable if it is in print or clearly understandable if spoken," Kemp said via email. "Once the cost of such ads reach $5,000, the entity must file reports with the Commission detailing the expense of the ad, whether the candidate was supported or opposed, and may be required to disclose contributors."

The Foundation For Economic Prosperity was founded in 2012. The policy organization touts their dedication to "pro-business, economic conservatism." We requested an interview with the group regarding the ad but were referred to their website.

"The work of our leaders and staff advance ideas rooted in our belief in democracy and free enterprise," their website said. "We believe that, together, we can make progress toward reform in many policy areas and create a better, more prosperous America."

James Davenport, a professor of political science at Rose State College, said the turnaround for negative campaigning has been unusually quick.

"In Oklahoma, it’s not really that common to see one following quite so closely to a primary election or a run off election," Davenport said. "Normally, you have a period of time where people recover from the previous campaign where they start planning how they’re going to approach the fall campaign, even non candidate committees so committees like this one."

Davenport went on to say it's not clear exactly what the overarching goal of the group is with this new ad but they also ran ads supporting former Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett before he was defeated by Stitt for the republican nomination.

"It could be they want to try to push Mr. Stitt in a particular direction and, so, by creating a certain message that is attacking Edmondson, maybe they feel like they’ll push Mr. Edmondson towards some positions they are more favorable to so that could be one option," he said. "Or, it could just be they feel Stitt’s going to be more favorable anyway and they don’t want to wait."

By law, Davenport said the group would not have been able to coordinate with Stitt's campaign before running the ad against Edmondson.

"Where they do to that, the Ethics Commission or the Federal Elections Commission at the federal level would consider that a campaign donation and it would obviously, because of the cost of running that advertising, would far exceed that allowable amount to donate to a candidate," he said.

Donelle Harder with Stitt's campaign told News 4 on Friday: "Kevin Stitt has been outspoken against dark money groups throughout his campaign, and his position has not changed. "