'Dark Money Groups' Spending More Money On Ads Than Oklahoma Candidates

Thursday, June 19th 2014, 10:48 pm
By: News On 6

As Oklahomans prepare to cast their votes for a new U.S. Senator, replacing Tom Coburn, so-called dark money groups hope they are influencing your decision. As part of 6 Investigates, I've been looking into campaign finances and who's paying for what.

James Lankford has raised and spent more money than T.W. Shannon. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Lankford's brought in $2.1 million, compared to $1.4 million for Shannon.

Well over a million dollars in outside money has been funneled into this election from groups not directly associated with their campaigns, hoping to influence your vote.

While the candidates and their campaigns work on the front lines to get votes; other groups with their own agendas are working behind the scenes to get their favorites elected.

It's the so-called "dark money." Dark money comes from organizations that don't have to disclose who their donors are, unlike other contributions where the public gets to see who's backing their candidates.

This year's elections are said to be the "darkest" in U.S. history, with dark money pouring into races across the country at a rate three times that of the 2012 elections.

In Oklahoma's senate race, dark money groups are flooding television stations with ads, many of them attack ads, spending more than the candidates themselves; and the candidates are quick to distance themselves from those ads, as they did in our debate.

6/18/2014 Related Story: Lankford, Shannon Square Off In News On 6 Debate

Terry Hood: "Are you comfortable with the ads that they've been running? Do you stand by those?"
T.W. Shannon: "I'm not comfortable it because the challenge is, I can't control it." Shannon said.

Lankford said, "We've had three weeks in a row we've put out statements that said we don't agree with any of this."

Even Senator Tom Coburn weighed in, attacking the outside groups' attacks ads. Now that attack is being used in another attack ad, by another attack group.

So who are these secret donors?

Take the Foundation for Economic Prosperity, for example. It's spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting James Lankford.

While we can connect a few dots, we can't say for certain who is behind it.

On the other hand, Oklahomans for a Conservative Future, we know is linked a high-level executive at Manhattan Construction, but we don't know who else gives to the group; and its address is a UPS Store in Oklahoma City.

That group has spent $1.2 million supporting Shannon. No one from the group has returned our calls and emails, requesting more information.

If you'd like to take a look at where the candidates stand on the issues and decide for yourself who you like, you can learn about all the candidates online.