When top campaign staff and senior congressional staffers swing in and out of the TEA Party front groups working to influence elections and congressional votes, so does inside information, strategic decisions, money and special access for the TEA Party.
Some call it a form of corruption. Whatever you call it, the revolving door often leads to TEA Partiers and members of congress working in their own self-interest, rather than that of the people of Montana.
Here are three recent developments you need to be aware of related to the TEA Party’s revolving door in Montana.
First, the Billings Gazette has reported that Zacharay Lahn has switched from his position as Steve Daines’ State director to being the state director for Americans for Prosperity, which is bankrolled by the Koch brothers, as has been often reported.
Lahn, who was also Steve Daines’ campaign manager in 2012, replaces TEA Party state senator Joe Balyeat in the position. Balyeat was demoted to State Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity.
Meanwhile over at the Montana Policy Institute, which had gone dark after losing some major funding sources, a man named Brent Mead was hired as director to fire the right-wing “think” tank back up again. Mead swings in from his former position as policy director for the Montana Growth network, as is noted on the also-Koch brother’s funded Americans for Tax Reform’s website.
The Montana Growth Network, as you will recall, is embattled state Sen. Jason Priest’s group which funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to buy a supreme court seat for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. The group was also revealed to be behind a barrage attack mailers poured into moderate GOP legislative districts to stop the moderates from supporting the Medicaid expansion. Most recently, some of the group’s board members tried to distance themselves from that organization after it was revealed that 70% of the Montana Growth Networks funds came from only five people. The Montana Policy Network also has ties to ALEC and is also funded by the Kochs.
The third interesting development is that the former head of American Majority in Montana is now working for the Ryan Zinke campaign. American Majority in Montana is the state chapter of national TEA party group out of Virginia called American Majority. As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, American Majority gets 70% of its funding from a Koch brother’s funded group.
Jeremy Carpenter was the group’s leader. He said publicly that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base by teaching people how to be candidates and put tea partiers in offices up and down the ballot from school board to statewide and federal races–doing field work for the TEA Party. Now he’s working for the Zinke campaign as a field director.
All of these groups will be working to influence elections in Montana, and perhaps most frighteningly legislative campaigns. Whether through get out the vote efforts, thinly disguised “issue ads”–attack mailers that read “tell said democrat that kids and puppies don’t deserve to be murdered” mailed out right before ballots, and by organizing right-wing campus groups to train volunteers for campaigns.