Oct. 05, 2018
Best of the States
Oklahoma Republicans targeted by GOP colleague, dark money
Oklahomans widely assumed that 12 Republican state lawmakers who lost their bids for re-election came up short at the polls because of their opposition to raising pay for the state’s public school teachers.
While opposition to education funding may have been one factor in incumbent losses in the GOP primaries, Oklahoma City-based reporter Sean Murphy began hearing scuttlebutt about an organized effort from within the Republican Party to kick out incumbents from their own party.
Using campaign finance reports and solid sourcing at the Capitol, Murphy was alone in showing that the rumors were true.
Public records showed a top state House GOP leader had given money to opponents of two of his own colleagues, and the opponents unseated the incumbents. Murphy also leveraged a relationship developed over years of reporting to get the lawmaker to talk. He acknowledged a plan to punish fellow Republicans for taking hardline stances that forced a compromise with Democrats on a plan to raise taxes to pay for teacher raises.
For combining shoe-leather reporting with smart document work, Murphy wins this week’s Best of the States award.