The shadow group Western Traditions Partnership’s defense of Exxon after the Yellowstone River oil spill and its adulation for candidates defending the oil giant are raising eyebrows in Montana.
News reports indicate that WTP, which now calls itself American Traditions Partnership after it came to light that it was based in Washington D.C., rather than the west, appears to be coming very close to stumping for Dan Kennedy–something they shouldn’t be doing.
The national newspaper the Washington Independent is reporting that the executive director of WTP earlier this month:
flew to the site of ExxonMobil’s Yellowstone River pipeline spill to praise the cleanup response by the oil and gas giant and to laud the efforts of state Rep. Dan Kennedy.
“State Rep. Dan Kennedy, whose home is at the center of the incident, should be commended for his efforts to coordinate response with the local community and involve local workers in the ongoing cleanup efforts,” ATP Executive Director Donald Ferguson said in a press release. “I am very impressed with ExxonMobil’s response to this [oil pipeline] release.”
Hmmm. Rep. Dan Kennedy (R-Laurel) comes out for Exxon, and WTP comes in to “laud his efforts.” Maybe Ferguson was aware at some of how bad this looks, because he put this disclaimer at the end of his laudatory remarks:
“Donald Ferguson has paid for this trip out of his own pocket, and did not come at the request of any official or company.”
I wonder if Fergeson intended this disclaimer to distance his actions from Exxon, or from WTP?
Since WTP won’t disclose their donors, we don’t know if Exxon paid WTP with a secret donation rather than an outright contract. WTP claims to work on “education” not getting candidates elected, and as to the question of whether WTP is stumping for Fergeson, how much does it matter if he “paid for it out of his own pocket” when he is the director, spokesperson, and figurehead of WTP, from whence he presumably draws his salary?
WTP is the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge to Montana’s ban on corporate spending for candidates. They tout their organization’s secrecy as a benefit of giving them money and have been under fire for corruption in Montana and other states. Montana TEA Party legislator Art Wittich (R-TEA Bozeman) is said to be the new local figurehead for the entity.