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Long Story Short: Outside groups spent $2.3 million on Oklahoma elections in 2023

Oklahoma Watch, Jan. 10, 2024

Politically involved nonprofits and committees without contribution limits spent $2.3 million to influence Oklahoma voters in 2023, rivaling the $2.95 million candidates put toward campaign expenses.

State ethics rules cap candidate committee contributions at $3,300 per election. In contrast, outside groups are allowed to accept and spend unlimited amounts to advocate for or against a candidate or issue so long as they don’t coordinate with candidates. State and federal law does not require politically involved nonprofits to disclose their donors.

Approximately 90% of the outside money was spent to support or oppose State Question 820, a ballot initiative proposing legalized recreational marijuana and streamlined expungement of some marijuana-related convictions that appeared before voters on March 7. More than 60% of voters statewide rejected the question.

The Yes on 820 campaign spent $2.07 million in the first quarter of 2023, Ethics Commission records show. Several local and out-of-state groups that support criminal justice reform, including Action Now, Inc., the Just Trust for Action and Schusterman Family Philanthropies, contributed upwards of $100,000. The Protect Our Kids No 820 campaign spent just $273,000 and relied on donations from individuals and local business advocacy groups.

The vast remainder of outside money was poured into the Oct. 10 Republican primary for State Senate District 32. Several groups spent upwards of $225,000 to air advertisements and send mailers opposing Dusty Deevers, an Elgin pastor and businessman who won the primary and, two months later, the general election.

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