Montana’s 2012 elections will go down in history–but not in a good way. Rather, this cycle will be remembered for corruption, lies, deceptive ads, illegal donations, apparent illegal coordination with third-party groups, and secret corporate money.
The season was kicked off with TEA Party Republican legislator Jason Priest secretive “Montana Growth Network” buying the Supreme Court race for TEA Party judge Laurie McKinnon. Priest’s shadow group spent more on one saturation mailing then the conservative candidate he was backing had raised for her entire campaign.
McKinnon, who dog whistled at Lincoln Reagan dinners across Montana about “judicial activism,” “strict constructionist” and other conservative buzzwords, was able to defeat the leading candidate Elizabeth Best in the primary–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations reported in Montana papers across the state. Priest’s ”Montana Growth Network” is thought to be one of the American Traditions Partnership’s many spinoffs.
Indeed no group has been more insidious than American Traditions Partnership in corrupting Montana’s elections. ATP’s launched it’s biggest attack on Steve Bullock. It mailed a fake newspaper to hundreds of thousands of Montanans depicting Bullock in a line-up of sex offenders.
In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in Montana’s elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and this secretive right-wing group. Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates. But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in apparent violation of the law, the Associated Press reports today.
ATP even sent mailers impersonating unions– using the unions’ logos–to attack local candidates that the unions have actually endorsed.
ATP wasn’t alone, unknown corporate groups dumped half a million dollars in illegal into Rick Hill’s campaign coffers, forcing a judge to issue a restraining order against Hill to stop him from spending the illegal cash. The Montana GOP claims the donation came from the Republican Governor’s Association, but 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. 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.
Tim Fox, the Montana Republican lunatic who is running for attorney general despite having never done anything other than defend drunk drivers and call for rape victims to have the rapists’ babies, got some national Republican donors to buy $700,000 of TV advertising on his behalf. Fox Fox refused to reveal his true extremists beliefs. Instead, he hid behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising that his corporate bosses– including the Koch brothers, the insurance industry and the cigarette companies put up to hide the truth.
Montana’s U.S. Senate race has also drawn a deluge of dark money aimed at defeating Jon Tester and replacing him with scandal-plagued extremist Dennis Rehberg.
Tonight, Montana citizens will find out whether ATP and groups like it will completely own our state and federal governments–using lies, deception, illegal activity and corporate money to install their candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, without ever revealing who their donors really are.