Monthly Archives: October 2012

Illegal Money Appearing in Legislative Races

A TEA Party candidate from Whitefish has gotten in on the illegal money game.  Tim Baldwin, son of Chuck Baldwin, is seeking to replace Derek Skees for the Whitefish House Seat.  As you can see from this screenshot of Baldwin’s campaign finance report, the TEA Partier has taken two donations well above the $160 limit.

Ironically, Baldwin has bragged about his “demonstrated skill is writing and understanding Montana Annotated Code” and his “understanding of our laws.”   If these claims were true he’d have given back the illegal money like GOP Attorney General candidate Tim Fox has done. 

There is no known tally of how much illegal money has made its way  into Montana legislative races across Montana.  Check the Office of Political Practices reports to see if your local candidates have taken illegal donations.

ATP “Meth House” Docs Contain Names of Shadow Group’s Legislative Candidates

Last night, FRONTLINE revealed that ATP documents found in a meth house appear to contain evidence of “possible illegal ‘coordination’ between” the group and the candidates it supported, the Atlantic reported.

The boxes contained files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Wendy Warburton, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees, who is now a candidate for statewide office.  Butcher and Miller were discussed extensively on the FRONTLINE piece.  The other names you can see in these screenshots.

But that’s not the only juicy information thought to be lurking in those boxes.  They also contain ATP’s Wells Fargo bank statements, and the names of some of the groups secret donors.

The group filed a “motion for protective order” in court last month to try and require the Commissioner of Political Practices to keep these public documents secret because it contained the names of ATP donors.   The state of Montana and ATP have filed briefs on the question of whether they can be made public.  Thanks to tipsters you can download them here and here.


Watch FRONTLINE Expose: Big Sky Big Money Online Here

Tonight, the PBS investigative series FRONTLINE takes a look at the out-of-state groups working to buy our local elections.

The show looks into the files on 23 right-wing Montana candidates were found in a meth house in Colorado in a box labeled “Montana $ bomb.” The files contained information about how the American Tradition Partnership is manipulating Montana campaigns and elections.

Here’s the video:

Watch Big Sky, Big Money on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

In Flathead County, the Price of Transparency is $82.50 Per Email

A Flathead County official is claiming that citizens who want to see the public documents related to Dennis Rehberg’s boat crash must pay a photocopying fee of $82.50–even if no copies are made.

Flathead area blogger James Conner contacted the county requesting that a PDF of the Rehberg boat crash documents be made available electronically.   He was told that the hefty photocopying fee must be paid even if no photocopies were produced.  You can see the exchange for yourself at the Flathead Memo.

People of the Flathead, this is your county government in action.  If it costs them $82.50 to push the send button on an email, I’d hate to see what they charge for answering their own phones.


Hill Takes Hit in the Polls After Illegal $500,000 Donation, Tester’s Lead Over Rehberg Widens

The first public poll since former Congressman Rick Hill took an illegal $500,000 is out today.

The Pharos Research Group survey has Steve Bullock leading Rick Hill 47% – 44%.  The poll also shows that Tester’s lead against Rehberg is growing, although the race is still very close.  Bullock and Tester prevail in the survey despite a strong Republican sample.

Pharos Research Group conducted the live call poll of 799 likely voters in Montana from October 26 through October 28.  Of those polled, 31%  identified as Democrats, 43% identified as Republicans and 26% said they were Independents.

Forty-eight percent of those polled were men and 52% were women. You can read the entire poll here.


Koopman Crackdown

IMontana GOP Hypocrite of the Week, Will Deschampsn a Montana GOP “e-brief” email to party faithful, Republican State Party Chair Will Deschamps  came out swinging against Republican legislators who endorsed a democrat over Bozeman crackpot PSC candidate Roger Koopman.  Earlier this month, Koopman had threatened party leaders that if leadership did not crack down on the Republicans who endorsed his opponent “Republican blood will flow in the streets.

Koopman was referring to an ad in the Bozeman Chronicle quoting a GOP legislator.   Rep. Jesse O’Hara said Koopman was “one of the most ineffective and divisive people I have ever been around…In one of our committee meetings we had to restrain him from beating up one of the people testifying.”  Several other prominent Republican legislators have also endorsed democrat John Vincent for PSC.

Chairman Deschamps says he wants to “discourage that behavior in strong terms.”  He “endorses Koopman wholeheartedly” and writes that “[w]ithout exception, every single Republican nominee in Montana is a better choice for the good of our state than any Democrat nominee.”

Presumably he is including the Nazi candidate on the GOP ticket from Butte and the Republican congressional candidate with KKK ties.   Deschamps ends the email with a statement he claims is the “11th commandment” of Ronald Reagan, a man the Montana GOP supposedly reveres: “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

As the Bozeman Chronicle pointed out when GOP Director Bowen Greenwood made the same gaffe, it was actually California Republican Party chairman Gaylord Parkinson who said that.

Deschamps’ entire email can be read below:


As Chair of the Montana State Republican Party and a previous legislative candidate, I have been involved in a lot of elections. They have ups and downs, they have times when I have either rejoiced or regretted. Fortunately, it’s been more rejoicing than regretting.

When you’ve been through as much as I have, though, you develop a long-term perspective about the inter-personal conflicts that happen in politics. They seem small, compared to the ideals that we’re working for. The ideas last longer than the personality conflicts ever could.

Lately, there has been some controversy about a few Republicans supporting a Democrat candidate in the election for Public Service Commission. I want to discourage that kind of behavior in strong terms.

There is a distinction between primary elections and general elections. Having a robust and vigorous debate in our primaries only strengthens our party and that is the proper forum for such discourse.  But once the primary is over and our voters have nominated our candidates, we need to all rally behind them to achieve success in November.

Let me be perfectly clear: Any Republican who is publicly endorsing a Democrat is doing something that I consider to be wrong. Without exception, every single Republican nominee in Montana is a better choice for the good of our state than any Democrat nominee.
Roger Koopman is our Republican candidate. Speaking as the Chairman of the party, I endorse him wholeheartedly. If the members of the party want a chair who would ever consider any vote for a Democrat, well, they will have the chance to elect one next June. For now, you have me. And I say, vote Republican. Period.

I understand that, in the rough and tumble of elections, some of us get angry at others. Heck, I’ve struggled with that too. But the good of our state is more important than any one interpersonal squabble.

Let’s not forget that, in working to end Democrat policies of the past four years, we are working for the good of our country. When one of us has trouble getting along with another, that isn’t the main issue. If nothing else, the squabble will end when we die. But the country will go on long past that. And electing the Republican candidate is what we do to try and do right by our country and state.

So I say to all Republicans, if we disagree with each other, let’s ratchet back the rhetoric. If the infighting works to keep taxes high and regulations higher, is it really worth it?

Ronald Reagan made a famous joke: The 11th commandment is, “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” Republicans ought to live by that.

We are in the right, let’s have faith in our candidates. We can move forward as one single party with many ideas, many diverse concerns, but always with the thought that we will do what is best for the Montana citizens, now and into the future.


Will Deschamps


Montana Republican Party

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Paid for By the Montana Republican Party, Debra Brown, Treasurer. PO Box 935, Helena, MT  59624. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee

FRONTLINE: Docs Found in Meth House Reveal Inner Workings of Right-Wing Political Group

Tomorrow night, Tues. Oct 30, at 8:30 p.m.  Big Sky, Big Money, a special investigation of FRONTLINE travels to Montana, “the remote epicenter of the campaign finance debate for a tale of money, politics and intrigue that shows how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has changed campaigns in America.”

Files on 23 right-wing Montana candidates were found in a meth house in Colorado in a box labeled “Montana $ bomb,” and contained information about how the American Tradition Partnership is manipulating Montana elections.  Should be good.

A constitutional crisis in the making? Governor Essmann?

On Friday, the Gov jumped into the Rick Hill fundraising hootenanny.   Schweitzer held a press conference in Great Falls, at which he expressed grave fear that Hill’s refusal to handover his ill-gotten $500,000 donation could trigger a succession of power crisis in Montana if Hill gets elected.

Why?  The penalty for a major violation of Montana election law is mandatory removal from office.

The scofflaw Hill is now under a restraining order from a state judge not to spend the tainted loot, and she will make a final ruling on the issue on Monday.  If she rules against him, then Schweitzer’s nightmare scenario is very much alive.  The Montana code says that a candidate “must be removed from office” for breaking election law.

The GOP’s response was to point out that Bullock, too, has incurred an infraction of campaign law.  But it appears that dog don’t hunt, because the GOP is pointing to a small violation, a few checks that were signed incorrectly.  Trivial or minor violations–the type that every campaign commits incidentally in the course of doing business–do not subject an officeholder to the Ultimate Penalty.

True, I expect Bullock to beat Hill by more than a few thousand votes, so Schweitzer’s doomsday scenario will probably be mooted on election day.

Schweitzer’s theory is an interesting one, especially if you play it out.   In the unlikely event of a Hill victory, Hill and his lieutenant Jon Sonju would both be removed from office (and maybe go the pokey, too) for having taken too big a donation ($500,000, when the law allows only $22,000).  According to Montana law, in the event of a double vacancy the Senate President ascends to Governor and appoints a number 2.

The 2013 Senate President, alas, does not yet exist.

But here’s where it gets juicy.  The betting now is that the Senate President might be none other than Jeff Essmann, the anti-pot crusader.  If Essmann became governor via this scheme, then he’d have done so by getting only about two dozen votes, those of his fellow senators.  It’d be the easiest, cheapest governor’s campaign in American history.  He might even roll himself a fatty, just to celebrate the coup.

So Hill is playing with fire.  He needs to give back the money, and that right soon.

GUEST POST: Bucy Wins Integrity Vote

In the can-too, can-not keep-the-cash debate, Democrat candidate for Attorney General Pam Bucy wins for integrity. She did the right thing by returning $35,000 donated by her party during the 6-day, campaign contribution free-for-all before the 9th Circuit Court called it off.

At first, her opponent, Republican Tim Fox, kept the $32,000 he received during this window. And, his campaign was quick to call Bucy’s ethical behavior a “desperate political stunt.” Since when is acting ethically a “desperate political stunt?”  And what does it say about the character of someone who’d call ethical behavior a “desperate political stunt?”

Fox eventually gave back his money too, after seeing the political hot water Republican candidate for Governor Rick Hill was in for keeping the $500,000 he received. What is the Fox flip-flop but a “desperate political stunt?”

Key qualities of an Attorney General are ethics, integrity and fairness. Steve Bullock has excelled at these. Pam Bucy has shown she will do the same. Please vote for Pam Bucy for Attorney General and Steve Bullock for Governor.

Missoula Money Mystery

Rick Hill’s controversial $500,000, it turns out, originated from the Republican Governors Association in DC.  They wrote a check to the Montana GOP and the same day, the GOP sent it out the door to the Hill campaign.

But did you know that shortly before the RGA sent the dough to the Montana GOP, that an entity calling itself the  “Montana Law Foundation” sent $200,000 the the RGA?    This shows up from the most recent report.  Here is a link to that report and here is the screenshot:

The address listed for this group is the same address used by two Missoula law firms, the Boone Karlberg Law Firm and Datsopoulos Mac Donald & Lind.  Boone Karlberg is the big insurance industry law firm in Montana and the former law firm of federal judge Sam Haddon, a Bush appointee and a major donor to former MT Senator Conrad Burns.  As you know, Rick Hill, is a former insurance exec who made millions an insurance executive. There are also several Republican attorneys at the Datsopoulos firm.

I called both law firms and asked to speak with the Montana Law Foundation.  Both said their firms had no such organization.  That’s a problem.

There’s only one reason that a fake Montana group would donate to the RGA instead of the Montana Republican Party and that’s to hide the donation’s source.  As the Center for Public Integrity  reported this week, the RGA  skirts state reporting laws by claiming it doesn’t need to report contributions in any one state because it is working in multiple states.  It can simply claim any one donation was spent in state A and so it needn’t be reported in state B.