Scrutiny of the finances of two of the three campaigns in the Cherokee Nation principal chief race is ratcheting up as the June 1 election draws near.
Amended financial reports for the Chuck Hoskin Jr.-Bryan Warner campaign show that what originally were labeled as nearly $600,000 in miscellaneous consulting fees actually were payments for advertising, printing, office, travel, food and other campaign-related expenses, not just consultation.
The amended financial reports were filed Tuesday after Attorney General Todd Hembree asked the Hoskin-Warner campaign to file more specific documents. The request was prompted by complaints lodged by Adam Shepard and Douglas Shepard.
The campaign said it initially reported the expenses as “miscellaneous” because that term covered everything being done on behalf of the campaign.
“We think that at every point in this process we have been fully compliant with the law,” the campaign said in a statement.
The amended reports were turned in the same day a Cherokee citizen in California filed a complaint against the Hoskin-Warner ticket contending that the pair laundered their campaign funds through a family company to cloak the “true nature” of 93% of their expenditures.
Hembree wrote to the Election Commission on Thursday that his office didn’t see any violations of election laws based on the allegations that were presented and said he considers the matter closed.
The amended reports “appear to have the detail and specificity required,” he wrote, but the Election Commission holds the final determination.
“Hoskin/Warner’s use of Cherokee Future as a vendor, which according to our investigation, operates as described in its … response, is consistent with the Election Code,” Hembree wrote.
The Cherokee citizen who filed the complaint is Michael Moore, a lawyer. He argued that there was no way to determine whether nearly $600,000 in campaign donations was used for personal purposes, since the expenditures were labeled as “miscellaneous,” unless invoices, check registers and canceled checks are examined.
“It is inconceivable the Hoskin and Warner campaign would pay $574,016 as a miscellaneous expense,” Moore wrote. “Any expenditure made by Cherokee Future LLC on behalf of Hoskin and Warner campaign must be reported to the Election Commission.”
Cherokee Future in its written response filed Tuesday with the Attorney General’s Office called the assertions of hidden expenditures “simply ludicrous” and said there will be no “‘profit’ or any excess monies” at the campaign’s conclusion.
“To be crystal clear, neither the candidate nor his father or any member of the Hoskin or Warner families have received or will receive compensation from CF or the campaigns,” the statement says.
Cherokee Future is registered to Chuck Hoskin Sr., father of Hoskin Jr. and a longtime state representative. Hoskin Sr. was term-limited in 2018 and now is the mayor of Vinita.
In the letter Hoskin Sr. described Cherokee Future as a vendor that supplies campaign services to clients who run for public office. It cites a 2013 tribal attorney general’s opinion that a candidate for elective office “may retain the services of professional campaign firms to assist the candidate in the management of his or her campaign.”
Hembree and his office also are preparing for an Election Commission hearing Friday morning on whether to disqualify David Walkingstick from the principal chief race.
After investigating a complaint filed by a Hoskin-Warner campaign staffer, Hembree has alleged that Walkingstick illegally coordinated with and accepted in-kind donations from a corporation — Cherokees for Change — established by one of his former campaign staffers.
The attorney general’s investigation found that the Walkingstick campaign and Cherokees for Change for almost a month shared a P.O. box address, which Walkingstick’s mother set up in her son’s name. An unknown person at an unknown time crossed out Walkingstick’s name on the paperwork, according to the report.
An attorney for Cherokees for Change LLC contends that the corporation is in line with federal laws, which are more strict than Cherokee laws that don’t even address the matter.
The Moore complaint against Hoskin-Warner references that matter. It contends that any expenditures made by Cherokee Future on behalf of Hoskin or Warner are illegal in-kind donations to the campaign from a corporation.
Moore pointed specifically to Hembree’s allegations against Walkingstick and Cherokees for Change.
“(Hembree’s) legal analysis, as applied to Hoskin, Warner and Cherokee Future LLC, shows they blatantly violated Cherokee election law,” according to the complaint. “Basically, Cherokee Future LLC has committed the violations that the Attorney General cites against Cherokees for Change.”
Learn more about snakes in Oklahoma from Aaron Goodwin, a 20-year zookeeper at the Tulsa Zoo.