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Audit dings Oklahoma Republican Party PAC for misreporting finances, election spending

The Dewey F. Bartlett Center houses the state Republican Party headquarters.
Janelle Stecklein
Oklahoma Voice
The Dewey F. Bartlett Center houses the state Republican Party headquarters.

A federal audit uncovered millions in misreported income and expenses for a political action committee associated with the Oklahoma Republican Party.

A Federal Election Commission draft audit found the Oklahoma Leadership Council’s bank records did not match its federal campaign finance reports by nearly $2 million.

The council is a federal PAC that the state Republican Party uses to back GOP candidates and fund independent expenditures against their opponents.

According to the audit, the PAC underreported its receipts by $829,858 and its expenditures by over $1 million over a two-year period that ended Dec. 31, 2020. The committee also failed to report $230,595 in debts.

Federal PACs are required to file quarterly public reports detailing their spending and fundraising.

Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Nathan Dahm, who did not lead the organization during the two-year period audited, said in an email new policies have been implemented to ensure similar violations don’t happen again. The PAC has not been fined or penalized by the FEC, he said.

The report also dinged the group for some smaller expenditures noted in the wrong sections of disclosure forms and a lack of documentation for others.

The PAC did not correctly report at least $62,915 in independent expenditures expressly advocating for the defeat of then-U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn or supporting her challenger, Stephanie Bice, the audit found.

The audit also said the PAC filed insufficient records accounting for $16,981 in contributions from unregistered political organizations that may have been made with impermissible funds. The donations, which could have exceeded set contribution limits, were made from local party chapters in Oklahoma or local candidate committees.

If a PAC receives a disallowed or excess contribution, the funds are supposed to be refunded to the donor.

PAC officials did not dispute the findings to the FEC, according to the audit.

In a statement to the commission, the PAC blamed the errors on “the health and death of the treasurer responsible” during the audit timeframe. The statement also said the committee had taken all corrective actions possible.

Dahm said the death of its treasurer hampered the committee’s ability to resolve some issues in its finance reports.

“We have made attempts to correct what could be done without access to the files of the deceased treasurer, but there was limited availability to correct it all, so we hope to finalize this and move forward,” he said.

The FEC adopted the draft report on Nov. 13. The final report has not yet been adopted, and there’s no timeline yet for when that’s expected to occur, according to an FEC spokesperson.

The FEC could refer the case to its enforcement division when the final audit is approved. At that point, the case proceedings would become confidential until the matter is resolved.

The spokesperson said generally the enforcement division would review and prepare a report that includes recommendations for civil fines or other remedial actions. It could also recommend dismissing the case.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.

Mindy covers the legislature for Oklahoma Voice. Her areas of focus include infrastructure, municipal government policies, and human services with an emphasis on the needs of intellectually vulnerable and physically challenged adults.
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