- Associated Press - Thursday, January 29, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - While national groups like governors’ associations were among the top donors for state-level elections across the country in 2014, in Oklahoma it was candidates themselves who were the top individual donors to campaigns, according to a new report.

An analysis released this week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity shows the top single donor to a state-level election in Oklahoma was former Republican State Superintendent Janet Barresi, who gave $1.3 million to her own unsuccessful re-election campaign.

A distant second on Oklahoma’s list was former Republican state Sen. Cliff Branan, who spent about $350,000 on his failed bid for a seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

The other top Oklahoma donors were the Chickasaw Nation with $310,000, Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Costello with $275,000 and Republican state Senate candidate Joe Howell with $203,000.

The Chickasaw Nation, which operates some of the state’s largest casinos, donated money to candidates from both parties.

The totals come from disclosures made by candidates and state political parties, as well as state and federal records of 140 independent groups that spent money on television ads during the election cycle.

The analysis didn’t capture all spending and did not include federal races for the House or Senate. For example, it does not count direct spending on a race - for example, money used to buy a TV ad that tells voters it was sponsored by a certain group. Rather, it looks at donations to candidates and groups, who then use that money for such spending.

It also doesn’t offer a complete bottom-line on donations and may not include some late-campaign or postelection contributions.

Costello, the only one of the four individuals who won his re-election campaign, said he believes it is “highly appropriate” for candidates to spend their own money on their campaign.

“By choosing to put my money where my mouth is in my political career, I’m not beholden to interest groups which want to seek favor,” said Costello, who in 2000 sold a telephone software company he founded. “I think that’s an advantage.”

Nationally, the Republican Governors Association, which helped the GOP grow its roster of governors to 31, donated almost $69 million to candidates and others spending money on campaigns. The Democratic Governors Association gave nearly $32 million, according to the analysis.

Those totals account for more than a fifth of the $440 million the top 50 donors spread around during the two-year cycle leading up to the November elections, according to the report.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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