Following the Political Money Trails in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

The four candidates for governor and lieutenant governor raised more than $6.7 million collectively by the end of August for their race to public office, Oklahoma public documents show.

If that amount of money had been spent on a sports event - for example, a grand prix race through Oklahoma City, which the City Council turned down in August - the public would expect some sort of economic impact, a return on investment in the form of jobs or new business.

Grand prix promoters at the time said the event would have had a direct economic impact of about $25 million as spectators brought money into the area to spend on food, merchandise and hotel rooms, all of which require workers to support products and services, in addition to other business opportunities.

The political campaign money in a gubernatorial race has a similar effect, although it's rarely considered as such, party leaders and political science experts said.

"Probably the lion's share of campaign money that is spent goes to direct mail, so that affects printers and directly creates jobs" said Kristopher Masterman, manager of operations for the state Democratic Party. "Unlike a lot of more technical industries, when the presses are running full time you need people to work with those machines. And just from trying to get several different things printed, I know they're all busy right now.

"And a significant amount of money also goes into polling. ... There are people who have to call and conduct those polls," Masterman said. "These are more temporary jobs, but nonetheless in a tough economy and if you've got no job at all, a temporary job that pays the bills is better than none."

State Republican Party Executive Director and Chairman Matt Pinnell agreed: "Printing companies do well - a lot of yard signs, a lot of brochures and a lot of mail. So you have the people who print your material and stuff it," he said.

"Obviously a lot of it goes to TV and buying television advertising. Some TV company is producing the ad. It's big money and a lot of business," he said.

Oklahoma City University political science professor Richard Johnson said the economic impact is probably narrowly focused, with money flowing through just a few key businesses such as television stations or polling firms. The trickle-down effect of funds going into those interests would depend on internal factors that are difficult to track from the outside. …