Pro-Cornett group backs ad attacking Stitt's mortgage company
A group backing Republican Mick Cornett for governor financed a television ad that began airing on Friday attacking the business record of Cornett’s GOP rival, Kevin Stitt.
The ad cites a magazine article from 2010 about the default rate at Stitt’s company, Gateway Mortgage Group, and regulatory actions in 2009 against the company in Arkansas, Illinois and Georgia
The ad states, “If Kevin Stitt couldn’t be trusted to run a business in three other states, how can Oklahomans trust him to run ours now?”
Stitt said the ad referenced "minor infractions" from a decade ago and called on Cornett to run a clean campaign.
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The ad is sponsored by Oklahoma Values, a political action committee that financed pro-Cornett television ads earlier this year in the Tulsa market.
Among the top donors to the group is Sue Ann Arnall, an Oklahoma City investor and philanthropist, who raised money in 2016 for the Democratic presidential ticket.
Arnall has given $200,000 to the pro-Cornett PAC, while also donating to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Drew Edmondson.
The group’s most recent report with the state ethics commission showed three donors in the second quarter of this year:
Mo Anderson, of Waukomis, co-owner and vice-chairman of Keller Williams International, gave $25,000 in April; Burt Holmes, of Tulsa, CEO of the Holmes Organization, gave $10,000 in May; and Margaret Swimmer, a Tulsa attorney, gave $200 in June.
By law, the group must act independently from Cornett’s gubernatorial campaign; the two cannot coordinate.
Oklahoma Values is separate from the Foundation for Economic Prosperity, a group of anonymous donors that has been running pro-Cornett ads in Tulsa.
The anti-Stitt ad began airing a week after a poll showed Cornett trailing Stitt by 10 points in the race.
At a hastily arranged news conference in Oklahoma City on Friday morning, Stitt said Gateway was "a hugely successful company" that does 3,000 loans a month. He called the regulatory actions referenced in the ad "minor infractions" and said the company can do business in all 50 states. It is currently licensed in 41 states, he said. He said the company has a low default rate.
"I’m proud of our company," Stitt said. "We have nothing to apologize about.
"It’s just when somebody gets down, I guess this is what the politicians do. They know they can’t win on their regular record ... I just ask for Mick Cornett to run a clean campaign."
He said, "Two polls show me winning this race by up to 10 points. And now all of a sudden the negative ads start coming out and they're trying to twist the truth. Oklahomans are too smart for this."
Will Gattenby, spokesman for the Cornett campaign, said, "This is not our campaign’s ad, but these allegations about Mr. Stitt are true. Is it true his business committed fraud? Yes. Is it true he’s been kicked out of multiple states? Yes. Is it true he bundled subprime loans? Yes. Did he take Obama’s TARP bailout money? Yes. Oklahomans need to know the truth."
According to Stitt's campaign, Gateway was not kicked out of multiple states and never took money from the federal program, often referred to as TARP, set up after the financial crisis in 2008.
"Neither Kevin Stitt nor Gateway have pursued any federal bailouts nor accepted any federal money as part of TARP to sustain the business," Donelle Harder, spokeswoman for the Stitt campaign, said.