Posted: November 30, 2012 at 7:54 am

UPDATE on Pharmaceutical Industry Cash and Montana Growth

The Center for Public Integrity has issued an update to a story they published yesterday about drug industry campaign donations.  Previously, the Center for Public Integrity had reported that the drug company lobby “PhRMA” provided the primary financial support for TEA Party Sen. Jason Priest’s “Montana Growth Network.”

Late Friday afternoon, the Center for Public Integrity issued a new story saying that their previous report was incorrect.  I had blogged about the old report here.  This post has been updated to reflect that correction. The Center for Public Integrity had previously reported that $500,000 in PhRMA cash went to Jason Priest’s “Montana Growth Network.”

In fact, the money actually went to an organization called “Montana Growth” which CPI reports is linked to a PR firm called Hilltop Public Solutions. That group has an office in Billings, MT.

When contacted about the money, Hilltop refused to answer questions:

When the Center for Public Integrity called the D.C. office of Hilltop Public Solutions to inquire about Montana Growth, an intern who answered the phone said, “We don’t take calls for that group here.”

Schuyler, via email, directed the Center to “contact@bigskygrowth.org” — bigskygrowth.org is a Web domain name that was created Friday, shortly after the public relations firm was contacted by the Center, according to a website registry report.

An unattributed reply came back that stated: “Thank you for your questions.  It is the organization’s policy to not publicly comment on its advocacy or budget.”

In 2010 the group, formerly known as “Economy Forward”  spent $175,000 on television ads for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

72 comments

  1. Craig Moore

    During the run up to the passage of Obamacare, which Tester supported, there was a deal cut with PhRMA to oppose drug importation and support Obamacare. During this time over 62% of its political donations went to Dems. Funny how there was no outrage over buying elections for Dems or changing the course of history by PhRMA back then. IMHO, I wish people had listened to Schweitzer and looked past the trainwreck of Obamacare that will happen as implementation gets rolling.

    • Rob Kailey

      See, Craig, this is precisely why no one should ever buy into your bullshit. You build a Straw Man using the Subjectivist fallacy and so bravely knock it down with a bold pronouncement of hypocrisy. If you didn’t see any outrage over Big Pharma’s involvement in the ACA, then you either weren’t looking and /or you ignored what you saw. What is truly instructive are the facts you ignore.
      The ACA was passed and signed into law in March of 2010. So the money you claim was given to Dems for “buying elections” would have been for the 2010 election cycle. In case you’ve forgotten, the Democrats got their clocks cleaned in 2010, including most of the Blue Dogs that PhRMA’s money went to. That defeat for the Democrats was in large part because Democratic voters stayed home. Two things are pretty apparent. 1) Your sad lament over a lack of Democratic outrage is quite evidently false. 2) Big Pharma didn’t get much for it’s money, did it? Oh yes, they got some noxious protections in the ACA but that hardly ‘changed the course of history’ anymore than lobbying does all the time.

      But that isn’t what this post is about, is it? It is about corporate interest buying the judiciary in possible effort to defeat an idea that you, in your not so very humble opinion, favor. So where is your outrage? Oh yeah, like the good little Republicant foot-soldier you are, your outrage is reserved for the false hypocrisy of Democrats.

      • Craig Moore

        See: http://news.firedoglake.com/2009/12/16/dorgan-amendment-slashed-after-last-minute-phrma-deal-phrma-hasnt-agreed-to/ and http://swampland.time.com/2009/12/08/is-the-public-option-dead-plus-amendments-that-might-actually-matter/

        From FDL: “So 31 Senators in the Democratic caucus traded away $106 billion dollars in savings for consumers – and $19 for the federal budget according to CBO – for an empty promise that hasn’t even been agreed to?

        This is quite incredible. For the White House and the Senate leadership to keep touting the savings to consumers and the government in the health care bill, while rejecting an amendment which would also save consumers and the government, borders on the ridiculous. And they are justifying it by making a promise that has not been confirmed.”

        As to PhRMA’s money, it was over 2008 to 2010. Lobbying $63,798,020 Contributions $1,907,759 To D’s 62.1% To R’s 37.9%

        As to your idiotic question, ” Big Pharma didn’t get much for it’s money, did it?” The answer is yes it did. Just ask the 31 Dem senators that voted against the Dorgan amendment which would have done what Schweitzer wanted as Cowgirl quotes.

        • Rob Kailey

          Again with the outrage against Democrats on a point I’ve already conceded. All the while you are just masking the real point, which is that you hypocritically ignore the purchase of a Montana Supreme Court justice because ‘DEMONCRATS!’

          For the record, Craig, there were at least 3 posts in the Montana leftward blogs supporting the Dorgan amendment, as well as numerous comments in support of the amendment and outrage that Tester and Baucus didn’t support it. I know, because I wrote many of them. I also wrote both Senators, and called Tester’s office, and said as much in comments at LitW. So much for your subjectivist lie about democratic hypocrisy. Do you think you could up the honesty a bit, or is that a violation of your Republicant values?

          • Craig Moore

            Rob, I was talking about the CG blog, not yours or any others. I find it somewhat ironic that the “post” here which lionizes Schweitzer didn’t go beneath the surface as to why he was ignored and why the Dorgan amendment was defeated by the Dems themselves.

            But as to outrage? I was laughing to read how CG missed the circular firing squad that killed the Dorgan amendment. The Dems were bought. The facts prove it. As to Justice McKinnon, the jury is out until such time as there is a PhRMA issue before the court. She had no control over the 3rd party campaigning by PhRMA. Everything I have learned about her is that she is an outstanding, hard working judge. I expect she will be an outstanding Mt SC jurist. Trashing her here on this blog is a bit premature and seems to be a rather transparent attempt to pressure her to be anti PhRMA. Who knows maybe she already is and doesn’t need any encouragement.

            • Rob Kailey

              Craig, the last I checked (which was seconds ago) the first post at Montana Cowgirl Blog was Independence day, 2010, 5 months after the passage of the ACA and 7 months after the defeat of the Dorgan amendment. I didn’t read this post as one “trashing” Justice McKinnon. It certainly trashed the organizations that seek to purchase her way onto the Montana Supreme Court, and calls into question her allegiance to them. Your own comments heighten what should be that obvious concern.

              I am asking, begging, cajoling, would you please, for the love of Dog, quit requiring Democrats, leftists or progressives to live up to the silly notion of them that exists in your head? If you require that Democratic bloggers trash Democratic politicians to make you happy, then you’d best leave here and spend more time at 4 & 20. There are a few over there who are as butthurt over Tester’s reelection as you seem to be. Hang out here, and it’s likely to be very long and miserable 6 years for you.

              • squeeky

                You don’t know jack about what bloggers at 4&20 think about Tester’s reelection. Whose butt’s hurting is yours because no one over there gives a crap about what you think.

                • Rob Kailey

                  If one can’t understand what is written there then what is the point of anyone there writing, or anyone else reading? Sorry, squicky, but I’ve been reading 4 and butthurt since it was started. Jay was fantastic and I’ve posted linking him many times. jhwygirl was pretty good, but even she mostly avoids anything to do with the site. The current crop is pretty pathetic, and exactly what I describe. Have you been blogging longer than me? Didn’t think so, cupcake.

                  Think, for even a second. I am a human with ideas. And you think my opinion of what gets posted at 4 and Butthurt should be based on what they think of me? You have a bit of a problem there, squicky …

  2. Lemuel Pitkin

    I don’t recall any time when that kind of money was “dumped” into a Supreme Court race. Traditionally, not much money is spent and those elections have never been that political. Jason Priest chairs the Public Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate. He is a dangerous idealogue.

  3. lisa o'conner

    Absolutely incredible- and I looked up the other committee members on Senate Health- not exactly the dems best and brightest–probably the GOP did that on purpose

  4. Dave Lewis, Helena

    I served on committee on committees in Senate. Democrat members were assigned as Democrat leaders requested. We are not smart enough to move Democrats around to accomplish any particular goal. At least, I am not.

  5. Dave Skinner

    Actually, you need to look at the AG race as well, in the GOP primary. PhRma was there, too. But I’m okay with the result, and Pam Bucy is still gainfully employed, I guess. What a nice present from the new governor elect.
    As for the SC races, Best was a nasty warmunist zealot who ran because she lost that idiot lawsuit to force the Legislature to bomb Montana’s economy back to the Tofu Age. And Ed Sheehy is running because he wants to kill the death penalty. It’s not like he HAD to take that state job defending Montana’s worst killers — he WANTED to do that. That’s another zealot.
    So, I was willing to take a chance on McKinnon, hoping she’ll not be a nut. Fingers crossed.

    • Rob Kailey

      Skinhead, that was actually funny. But knowing a thing or two about history, I have to ask – when exactly was the “Tofu Age”, and when did Montana’s economy exist in it? And seriously, how is leaving “Montana’s worst killers” in prison for life a ‘defense’ of them? Are you really that blood-thirsty, Skinhead?

    • The Polish Wolf

      Dave – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: someone who is willing to set aside their instinctive revulsion to the sorts of people Sheehy defended in order to give them a fair trial is the epitome of a person who is biased only towards due process.

  6. Al Smith

     

    So additional reporting has shown that the “Montana Growth” that received money from PhRMA is actually a Democratic-aligned nonprofit that was previously known as “Economy Forward.” We published this new story today and wanted to make sure I wasn’t responsible for all of Montana thinking that PhRMA helped elected Laurie McKinnon when they did not.

     

    Best regar

      • Craig Moore

        Cowgirl, the comments that follow make no sense without your original post. Perhaps you should have left it in place and merely posted an update and correction.

  7. Al Smith

    That was from author, here’s followup mea culpa articlehttp://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/30/11878/drug-lobby-donation-went-pro-democratic-nonprofit

  8. Doug

    Looks like this money when to the PR firm of Max Baucus former staffer Barrett Kaiser. He’s the Hilltop Strategies staffer in billings.

    The Center was able to track down the recipient of the funds by tracing a federal identification number that showed that “Montana Growth” was formerly known as “Economy Forward.” Records indicate its directors are Jessica Bradley and Carrie Schuyler of the Democratic-aligned public relations firm Hilltop Public Solutions, which has offices in D.C., New York and Billings, Mont.

    http://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/11/30/11878/drug-lobby-donation-went-pro-democratic-nonprofit

  9. Publius II

    Lovely, some more dirty drug money going into the Priest machines’ toxic tea’ that smeared Beth Best, an excellent civic-minded citizen who served her community on school boards and other endeavors and also as a JAG officer in the US Army. What’s really laughable is Ms. McKinnon’s denial of Montana Growth Networks’ hit squad activities against BOTH of her opponents, very shrewed Senator Priest, very shrewd.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

      Ooops! Should read up “by Augusta!” Geez, been a beery, beery long day again!

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

        Um, looks like the ENTIRE FREAKIN’ WORLD pretty much agrees w/ me on that one, dufus. (see UN vote) Now, if you care to dispute that, go ahead! But before you apotheosizw your “chosen” pals, I would suggest you look at two things: the role of AIPAC and the role of bush’s joo neocon advisers who got us INTO our two latest evil wars. You see, apartheid is apartheid, pal. I didn’t do it, the joose did! Sorry, they’re NOT my allies.

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

          Eighteen Iraq war vets commit suicide a day. We have destroyed our military, bankrupted our country, created even MORE enemies around the world, threatened MY social security, ALL so that your “chosen” pals can build a few more apartment buildings in the shitt*n worthless desert! And THEN, bibi netanf*ckyou has the audacity to come to this country and insult O’Bama and our country, and attempt to tell us whom to vote for! Sorry, I’m done with’em.

          The creation of israil was a HUGE mistake. It’s time to re-visit why the world allowed that to happen. We don’t need any more countries based upon religion!

          GET US OUT OF ISRAIL!

          http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/what_is_the_us_military_building_in_israel_20121129/

            • HungryMoose

              Time to crank up the concentration camps. We can put you in charge.
              Heil Kralj!!
              Seriously, I won’t even try to argue with a anti-Semitic retard.

              • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

                You lose! You were the first to use Godwinstein’s law! Anti-semitism!

                bwhahahahahahahahahaha!

                Sorry, dude, but it AIN’T about religion. For the record, they’re ALL bullshit! It’s about some zionist nazis actin’ like REAL nazis! And that ain’t anti-semitism!

                You must have the cleansest brain in town, moose, for it’s been THOROUGHLY washed!

                You see, there happens to be MORE to America than the creation of a rogue state! A rogue state that needs to grow up or be dissolved! I ain’t the first to point this out. America did NOT begin in 1949! Sorry. The Founders would have known what to do with izrail. Keep the hell out! And my country was founded by the Founders, NOT by bibi netanf*ckyou!

                Hope this helps.

                • Rabbi Finkelstein

                  Larry-
                  If you are envious of what Jews have accomplished here and in Israel (and most anti-semitism springs from envy), a word of advice: they didn’t do it by spending 18 hours a day writing comments on a blog.

  10. James Conner

    Fascinating stuff, but the Center for Public Integrity just earned a downgrade of its credibility rating. CPI should have gotten the story right in the first place. And while CPI did the right thing in publishing the follow-up/correction, it did such a good job of hiding its “we’re sorry we screwed-up” that I couldn’t find it.

    Money spent this way is a poison pill for democracy.

  11. Dave Skinner

    This is absolutely comical. CPI has its head up its butt, and when it pops out, we find the scandalous half-million actually went to Hilltop? Which is pretty much a Baucus alumni association?
    Also kind of cute how PhRMA is so nonpartisan yet active in its spending.
    As I said before — full disclosure in real time.

  12. Doug

    You’re blaming CPI? Montana Growth Network was the only entity registered with the Commissioner of Political Practices – when these groups refuse to report the sources of their donations, how is anyone supposed to know whose doing what. We need new disclosure laws for this kind of thing. My two cents.

    • Craig Moore

      Doug, CPI readily admits that by merely tracing the federal identification number they tracked down that the money went to a Dem front group, not McKinnon. In other words they followed the facts the second time rather than “assuming” like they did the first time. Yes, CPI is to blame for the erroneous report that was seized by Cowgirl to claim that PhRMA bought a Montana Supreme Ct seat and erroneously smearing McKinnon. Then the Magic Erasure comes out. “Poof!” That post disappears and replaced by the current one while retaining the comments to the first post which now don’t match the post. I guess I’m old school to expect that an apology to Justice McKinnon was in order admitting the terrible mistake and the political smear job that attempted to capitalize on it.

    • Dave Skinner

      Doug,
      It’s possible for CPI to make a mistake. FEC records show a Montana Growth FOUNDATION listed for Jason Priest. Not Network. So someone really furked up.
      From the story:
      “The Center was able to track down the recipient of the funds by tracing a federal identification number that showed that “Montana Growth” was formerly known as “Economy Forward.” Records indicate its directors are Jessica Bradley and Carrie Schuyler of the Democratic-aligned public relations firm Hilltop Public Solutions, which has offices in D.C., New York and Billings, Mont.

      Little is known about the group, but Internal Revenue Service documents indicate that the drug lobby’s contribution supplied the bulk of its funding.

      Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that Montana Growth raised just over $816,000 in 2011.” –

      Now I just checked and there’s no Economy Forward to be found at FEC.

      What the heck is that called — “changelings” or something? But the Dems are clearly masters at identity fraud.

  13. Dave Skinner

    Oh, and the books for Montana Growth are in care of S and B Public Solutions LLC which

    is

    S&B Public Solutions, LLC Dba Hilltop Public

    Karma Kamelions.

  14. Publius II

    Apologies to Judge McKinnon appropriate, but I’d like her to take the Moral highground and denounce the shadow groups that savaged her opponents with lies and no mercy. The REAL problem here is Citizens United and attacks on Montana’s election integrity, and why should we citizens change the ‘Copper Collar’ for a ‘Corpoate Collar’? NO WAY.

  15. Doug

    Apologies to Judge McKinnon? Because Jason Priest refuses to disclose which corporation bought the race? Please.

  16. Gregg Smith

    Actually, Pubic, I think she DID run an ad denouncing the anti-Sheehy ads. GodDAMN y’all are quick to smear people over complete bullshit. Guilt by association and all that. Nobody knows Jack about Laurie McKinnon other than someone said this group or that one supported her and, wham, that’s all that’s needed for the smears to start…MAYBE she has some different political ideas than some of you, and suddenly she’s a corrupt shill.

    Is it any wonder why we have to giggle when being lectured about “tolerance” by phony baloney lefty bastards?

    • Elizabeth

      Come on Gregg – the detractors here don’t need facts – facts just get in the way. All they need is insinuations and they can spin one hell of a story.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

        OUCH! That hurt!…….NOT! Preetty broad BRUSH, people! You see, there’s a REASON that this site is so popular. It’s good! And potshots from the peanut gallery simply confirm that. Now, if you want REAL facts, go to FAUX news and the righty sites. They’re just chock FULL of it! Full of it! No I mean it. I’m serious. Really I am! What we have here is kinda like Benghazi-gate. It’s Montana GROWTH-gate! And it stinks to high heaven! Why? Well, like Molly Ivins always said, ya gotsta dance with them that brung ya? WHO brung ms. mckinnon IS a legitimate topic for discourse! So sorry that some seem to disagree.

        Bottom line? The corporate fascist have declared WAR on Montana! They are still smarting over the temerity of Montanans to impede fascism. And you know what? That’s just TOO FREAKIN’ BAD! I-137 was a wakeup call for the Kockh brothers. They’re gonna show us WHO’S the boss now!

        And really, how can one fight a Big Kockh?

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

          p.s. It’s a cryin’ SHAME that we know MORE about little billy’s willy than just WHO funded ms. mckinnon! Yes, that’s right! During the BJ heard round the world scandal, there was MORE info on the supposed shape of little billy’s WILLY than we know about ms. mckinnon’s shadowy backers! Is that REALLY the way we want our elections run??

          I’m calling for a Billy’s Willy Bill to be introduced into the next Lege so that we can at LEAST have as much info about shadow groups as we have about billy’s willy! And really, when you think about it, THIS bill makes MORE sense than MOST of the Pubbie bills from the LAST Lege!

          Anyone out there willing to carry my billy’s willy bill? Do you lean left or right, like billy’s willy?

          (my apologies in advance to Mom for using the term willy. I too find it offensive, but it was still FAR better than the other terms for willy I could come up with!)

          • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

            The First Willy! Yes, the Presidential Pene has been THOROUGLY docemented now! It’s all out in the open, hangin’ out there for all to see! And that’s as it should be!

            http://www.topnews.in/usa/bill-clinton-s-ex-gals-talk-about-his-private-parts-pay-view-video-internet-2538

            Now, will someone PLEASE carry by Billy’s Willy bill so that we can find out just WHO is backing ms. mckinnon? Like billy’s willy, I want to find out just HOW big they are! Is that so wrong??

            • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

              “For another $1.99, the former state office worker offers a graphic description of Clinton’s “penis,” using her pinky to illustrate the point. About the size of Clinton’s manhood, Jones says his “little soldier” was only as big as her little finger – something with which Flowers, a nightclub singer who had an affair with Clinton, agrees wholeheartedly with Jones about the size of the former president”.

              Maybe if we pay an exta $1.99, we can find out the size of ms. mckinnon’s backers, JUST like with the Prezidential Pizzle! It’s worth a shot, right? Capitalism at it’s finest!

              And remember, capitalism is MORE important than democracy! (according to the fascists!)

    • Craig Moore

      Gregg, it’s sad that the smear machine never took the time to understand Justice McKinnon. The Billings Gazette explains it’s support: http://billingsgazette.com/news/opinion/editorial/gazette-opinion/gazette-opinion-send-mckinnon-to-montana-supreme-court/article_46a3b03b-38a3-5f0b-9e64-a8255e4ed8cd.html

      District Court Judge Laurie McKinnon learned the Montana justice system as a deputy county attorney in Glacier and Teton counties. She had honed her legal skills as a sex crimes prosecutor and then a defense attorney in a busy, metropolitan court in Baltimore before her family moved to Montana.

      So when McKinnon was elected District Court judge six years ago, she already had 20 years of legal experience and some good ideas for making the court system better for Montanans:

      – She worked to hold DUI offenders accountable by requiring regular alcohol or drug testing when they were out of jail – even before the advent of the statewide 24/7 program.

      – She stopped the court’s previous practice of routinely returning driver’s licenses to DUI suspects who refused a breath test.

      – She reactivated the local Court Appointed Special Advocate program to help children in the 50 or so abuse and neglect cases filed in her district annually.

      – She started her district’s first drug treatment court, a team approach to preventing further criminal activity by addicted offenders.

      “Judges are problem solvers,” McKinnon said in a recent interview. “My obligation is to resolve what has come before the court.”

      As the only district judge for four counties, she splits her time and staff between courthouses in Chouteau and Shelby, and drives 25,000 miles a year to preside over 1,000 court cases.

      McKinnon is a smart, hard-working judge who understands the court’s duty and its constraints. She has demonstrated resourcefulness in bringing justice to rural areas of Montana and dedication in working with law enforcement and community resources to make the justice system more effective at protecting public safety.

      We are also impressed with her judicial philosophy of remaining impartial and nonpartisan.

      “To be an effective judge (and one that the public perceives is fair and impartial), I have chosen not to contribute to any political party or in any way become involved in politics during my tenure as a judge,” McKinnon has written. “I have never expressed a political position during my six-year terms in office, nor aligned myself with a political party, candidate or organization. I believe strongly that a political agenda has no place on our highest court.”

      Unlike most Montana Supreme Court candidates we’ve interviewed over the years, McKinnon offered no criticism of that court. She told us that she would not judge the court’s performance without first working in the high court.

      Ed Sheehy, the other nonpartisan candidate running for the open Supreme Court seat, has several complaints about the high court and he has many years of Montana legal experience in criminal and civil law.

      We like McKinnon’s energy, can-do attitude and judicial perspective. She would also be the only one of seven justices with experience on the bench. Neither Sheehy nor the incumbent justices have ever been District Court judges.

      We recommend that voters send McKinnon to the Montana Supreme Court.

  17. Publius II

    Haven’t seen the ad denouncing ‘em eager to read them and also more on her professional insights on money and speech. She is no doubt competent and capable as I’ve said, and the issue is not her qualities, but groups that lie in the shadows, with only a PO box and not even a phone number to reach while lying in ambush, no matter what party or faction. I think Professor Natelson – whom I admired when he helped lead Citizens for Better Government – has the right idea on candidates for judgeships declaring party affiliations. By the way, it’s ‘Publius’, from the Federalist Papers. Welcome to the blog here.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

      HEY, you’re not very “tolerant”, Pubbly! You see, shadowy groups withOUT ph. numbers and just a P.O. box are people too! And should be accorded the same rights as corporations! It’s a tolerance thingy! Guaranteed by the First Amendment. Speech is speech, EVEN if it’s comin’ from the shadows! HEY, shadows are people too! And P.O. boxes too! Wow, we’re gettin’ a big tent now!

      Hope this helps.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

        p.s. Pubbly, I tease Gregg Smith but I have the highest respect for the man. He made his bones long ago in the coal plant fight. He is a man of great integrity and an excellent writer. And I know you think so too. He’s just a little confused on certain issues, but he will evolve. I’m sure of it. On many, many things we already agree.

    • Craig Moore

      Larry, maybe if you will bark on command, you’ll get another attaboy especially if you can fetch a rhetorical stick.

      Your silly attempts to attack Israel and Jewish people, and now Sarah Palin and Sandy Welch, on a smear post that wrongly savaged Justice McKinnon, without any apology for doing so, is just par for the course. Gregg shot a 3 point while you can’t even dribble over the center line. You should take the bench with Sanchez for your ineptitude.

    • Craig Moore

      Larry, one thing more. Perhaps if you would just drive down 10 avenue south with your butt hanging out the window you might just achieve the distraction you seem so desperate to produce.

  18. Dave Skinner

    Ya know, I find it amazing and irritating that after the first hissy post, when the truth comes out that the PhRMA money went to a Baucus-friendly Democrat spin house that is up to its fanny in the so-called “dark money,” you all just whistle past the graveyard. Move along, no pattern here, let’s talk about the relatively small-potatoes Koch brothers. GMAFB.