Gov. Kevin Stitt has continued to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions following his election just over a year ago.
Campaign finance reports show the mortgage company founder has raised almost $820,000, or an average of nearly $2,500 per day, since winning the governor’s race last November.
The post-election fundraising comes after Stitt raised $5.8 million – and loaned his campaign an additional $5 million in personal funds – to win the close-fought GOP gubernatorial nomination and then to top Democrat Drew Edmondson in the general election.
As during the campaign, a large majority of the donations came from individuals. But he also received more than $100,000 from political action committees funded by industries or special interests.
It’s not unusual for elected officials to continue accepting campaign donations after winning office. But Stitt, who doesn’t face re-election for another three years, is raising at a much faster pace than his predecessor.
The $820,000 Stitt raised between the election and Sept. 30 – the end of the latest reporting period – is almost four times as much as the $211,000 that former Gov. Mary Fallin raised in the same period after her first gubernatorial win in 2010.
Stitt’s post-election fundraising also exceeds that of other statewide officials who won in November.
Raising a combined $275,152 were Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, Attorney General Mike Hunter, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, Treasurer Randy McDaniel, State Auditor Cindy Byrd, Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn and Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony. They also won’t be up for re-election until 2022.
After expenses, Stitt reported his campaign had a cash balance of almost $600,000. He has yet to pay off his nearly $5 million campaign debt.
The governor’s office did not respond to questions about whether Stitt plans to continue fundraising at this level and if he will use the post-election contributions to pay on the loans.
During the campaign, Edmondson criticized the Gateway Mortgage founder for taking out the loans. Before the election, Edmondson issued
a statement calling the $5 million “excessive” and predicting “there is no doubt that the special interest groups will pay him back every penny.”
If Stitt doesn’t use the money to pay off the loans, state law offers only a few alternatives.
Oklahoma Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said all successful candidates receive a letter informing them of how they can use leftover funds or money raised after the election.
Options include paying for ongoing campaign operating expenses and officeholder expenses, which is intended for expenses such as office supplies or travel reimbursements. An Oklahoma Watch investigation found officeholder spending also goes toward lavish meals and other perks.
Any surplus funds not used for debt or operating or officeholder expenses can be donated to a nonprofit, returned to contributors, given to a political party committee (up to $25,000) or transferred to a campaign for a future election for a state-level office.
Funds given to Stitt’s campaign since the election remain subject to the 2018 election-cycle campaign contribution restrictions that limit individuals from giving $2,800 to a candidate for each election and limit political action committees from giving $5,000 per election. That will stand until Stitt spends or receives more than $1,000 for a future campaign and opens up a 2022 campaign committee.
Top donors to Stitt’s campaign since the election were PACs belonging to the Oklahoma Association of Realtors, Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives, Oklahoma Association of General Contractors, Oklahoma Association of Insurance Agents, Oklahoma Bankers Public Affairs Committee, Oklahoma Restaurant Association, Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, NextEra Energy, Cox Communications and OG&E. Each gave the per-election maximum of $5,000.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that candidates can donate up to $25,000 in surplus funds to a political action committee. It should have stated they are allowed to give up to $25,000 to one or more committees belonging to a political party.