How students joined campaign the issue
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Projects Editor
Sunday, October 14, 2007
3/19/08 at 6:38 AM
The note that appeared on
the classroom door Jan. 12,
2006, directed students in
ORU's Christian Faith and
Government Theory class to
meet at the hotel across the
There, University President
Richard Roberts was having a
press conference to endorse
Randi Miller's bid for Tulsa
Asked later by the Tulsa
World why his students were
assigned to attend the press
conference, Tim Brooker said:
"I'm training future political
operatives here. They need to
see every aspect of a campaign."
Brooker is one of three former ORU professors who are
suing the school and four administrators, including Roberts.
One of the suit's claims is
that Roberts required Brooker
to use students in Miller's
Because ORU is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, such a requirement
would violate federal tax rules.
The IRS later received a complaint about ORU.
One week after the press
conference, about 300 ORU
students -- all members of the
school's College Republicans
chapter -- received an e-mail
signed by Brooker. It implored them to get involved in
"We need you and we need you now," it stated. "Come
sign up in the government office as soon as possible."
Brooker later sent out an e-mail of apology to students.
He wrote that a student had
sent the first e-mail using
Brooker's contact list.
The student was later identified as Tobias Huyssen, Miller's campaign manager and
the president of ORU's College Republicans.
Brooker said he always refused to have his students
take part in local campaigns.
He said that when Roberts
told him to recruit students for
Miller's campaign, he warned
Brooker said he told Roberts that "no good thing could
happen from being involved in
local politics" and that the
school could jeopardize its
However, he said that when
Roberts and Roberts' sister-in-law, Stephanie Cantees, insisted that the students get involved, he decided to go
"They told me it was going
to happen regardless, so
here's the issue: Do I let Richard Roberts and Stephanie
Cantees take direct control, or
do I act as a buffer and stay involved to protect the kids?"
Cantees said she could not
comment on the matter.
Miller has said that she had
no knowledge of students being forced to work in her campaign.
Roberts has denied the lawsuit's claims, including that he
or other university officials directed students to take part in
Miller's campaign. He said individual students were free to
volunteer in campaigns.
"I thought it was good for
students to be involved in
campaigns wherever they
are," he said.
Roberts said he endorsed
Miller in his role as a private
citizen and that he was not
speaking on behalf of the university. Records show that he
contributed $1,000 to her campaign.
Before ORU hired Brooker
in 2001, he was a conservative
radio talk show host in Fayetteville, Ark., and had worked
in several Arkansas campaigns. He and his wife, Paulita Brooker, live in Siloam
The Miller campaign was
not the first time ORU students have been involved in a
ORU's alumni magazine
says Brooker recruited a team
of students to campaign for
the city's April 2005 general
obligation bond issue.
More than 180 student volunteers staffed phone banks
and canvassed neighborhoods
to urge passage of the measure, which included $15.2
million to fix Fred Creek,
which runs through ORU's
campus. The creek's flooding
and erosion were persistent
and expensive problems for
Brooker's students and other ORU students have worked
in political campaigns for Republicans all over the country
Students in the Christian Faith and Government program are required to document 75 hours of service in a
campaign of their choice, according to a 2006 e-mail from
Brooker said that involving
ORU students as volunteers in
political campaigns was the
idea of David Barton, an ORU
alumnus who worked for the
Republican National Committee.
"The RNC was looking for a
reliable source of volunteers
that could counter the Democrats' asset in the unions to be
their ground troops," Brooker
said. "So David Barton had
said, 'How about Christian college kids?' "
In October 2002, one month
after that initial discussion,
Brooker recruited 30 ORU
students to volunteer during
fall break in three Colorado
campaigns. He said most were
international students who
couldn't go home for the
The students worked as
paid volunteers for the Republican National Committee,
which paid all their expenses,
Brooker said. They worked in
the congressional campaign of
Bob Beauprez and the re-election bids of Colorado Gov. Bill
Owens and U.S. Sen. Wayne
Allard. All three won, although Allard and Beauprez
had not been favored to win.
Brooker said Allard still
credits the work of ORU students, including bilingual students who campaigned in Hispanic areas, for his re-election.
After that success, Brooker
took teams of students to campaign for U.S. Rep. Bobby Jin
dal in Louisiana; in Haley Barbour's race for governor in
Mississippi, and for a candidate in the Virginia governor's
He said the difference between those campaigns and
the Miller campaign was the
use of university resources
and the fact that students volunteered.
"When we would go out
with the RNC, every student
signed an individual contract
and was individually compensated; that's the major difference," he said.
"Here (for the Miller campaign) we were told, 'Get them
over here and . . . use every resource at your disposal.' "
Roberts denies that. He said
ORU students also worked in
the campaigns of other Tulsa
mayoral candidates including
Chris Medlock and Bill LaFortune. "I am not aware of any
(university) resources being
used" in the Miller campaign,
The campaign work paid off
for the candidates and for the
students, according to the
2005-2006 annual report of
ORU's History, Humanities
and Government Department.
The report lists seven objectives for the program, including objective No. 6: "Assisting
students to be placed in strategic positions in government."
It lists the achievements of
several current and former
students, including alumni
working for U.S. senators and
representatives, the State Department and conservative
Ziva Branstetter 581-8378
Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts and his
wife, Lindsay Roberts, are interviewed Tuesday by CNN’s
Larry King in New York. This image was taken from