Category Archives: 2012 Elections

Former Board Members Try to Distance Themselves from Montana Growth Network

Two former Montana Growth Network board members say they left group because it “redirected its course.”

The course that group is currently on–making statewide headlines as a dark money group that raised 70 percent of its funds from only five donors.

These five donors basically bought themselves a Supreme Court seat. Continue reading

The Shoe Falls

A complaint was filed by a government watchdog organization against James Bopp, the architect of Citizens United  yesterday.  Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington filed a whistleblowers complaint against Bopp and his organization, the “James Madison Center for Free Speech.” The complaint alleges he diverted nearly all of the funds from the non-profit to his own law firm in violation of prohibitions against using charitable organizations for private inurement and private benefit.  

As the Wall Street Journal reports,

 As a result, JMCFS and the Bopp Law Firm now owe the IRS more than $6.2 million in back taxes. Further, by repeatedly signing and submitting to the IRS inaccurate tax forms, Mr. Bopp may have made false statements in violation of federal criminal law.

James Bopp was one of the original lawyers for Citizens United, the legal challenge led to the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said corporations are people and can spend money to influence elections.

Besides deregulating the nation’s campaign finances, Bopp has been up to no good in Montana too.

In 2010, the Helena IR reported that the Bopp’s firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Olsen and the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party faction is suing the state to invalidate Montana transparency laws and political reporting requirements. Olson was the Chair the Billings GOP Republican Party who was caught posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon in February. She did not seek re-election after the post became public.

And in 2012, the Billings Gazette reported, Bopp and his firm were listed as lead counsel for the failed recount effort of Republican Office of Public Instruction candidate Sandy Welch.

 

Group Behind MT Ballot Measure Also Pushed Laws to Justify Homicide of Abortion Doctors

The group behind Montana’s anti-choice ballot measure is also behind several bills to expand justifiable homicide laws, so that they cover murder committed in the defense of a fetus.

Law enforcement officials say the bills “could be used to incite violence against abortion providers.”

ALEC’s anti-choice step-sister, a group, called “Americans United for Life”  is the out-of-state group pushing this bill in multiple states.  Missouri and Oklahoma passed the bill, and South Dakota and Nebraska have considered it multiple times.  Like ALEC, Americans United for Life is behind a whole slew of boilerplate bills to roll back science, public health, medical standards, and privacy rights by a hundred years or so.

We know Montana lawmakers are using the group’s bill templates.   The language of HB 391, the parental consent for abortion bill that passed the MT legislature this session,  is practically a verbatim replica of the AUL’s model legislation.   And what do you know, the bill which put the parental notification referendum on the Montana ballot in 2012 is also identical to the AUL boilerplate.

You can see a whole list of AUL’s current boilerplate legislation here.  While American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the best known boilerplate bill factory, AUL has operated more under the radar, proliferating hundreds of right-wing bills for non-thinking legislators who get their ideas about policy from out-of-state think tanks instead of listening to their own constituents.  It’s disturbing to thing that there are other such groups, and that there are so many Montana lawmakers who would rather pander to TEA party carpet-baggers than come up with some thing that actually is important to the Montanans they are supposed to represent.

AUL is led by a woman named Charmaine Yoest, a former adviser to Mike Huckabee’s failed presidential campaign.

National Watchdog Group Profiles Jason Priest’s Dark Money Group

Michael Beckel has just published a new profile on the dark money group a GOP state senator used to influence the Montana state Supreme Court race and block the Medicaid expansion.

The profile shows how Priest used dark money to demonize Supreme Court candidates Ed Sheehy and Elizabeth Best in support of a TEA Party candidate.  Priest also used the dark money group to send out attack mailers to kill the Medicaid expansion.  Because of Priest’s actions, 70,000 of Montanan’s most disadvantaged working poor won’t be able to get health care. 

Beckel, who writes for the Center for Public Integrity, published the report on the heels of a new analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics that found Montana is one of 35 states where rules regarding the disclosure of political spending by independent groups are less stringent than federal election law.

There’s much more on this, so check out the links in Beckel’s story above.

Laszloffy’s Losses Part 2

by Cowgirl

The Montana Family Foundation’s Jeff Laszloffy suffered a slew of losses this session, but perhaps none was felt so bitterly as his failure to get a parental consent legislative referendum on the ballot for 2014. The Family Foundation’s legislative referenda work was the organization’s major cash cow last election cycle.  Since Laszloffy failed to get the measure on the ballot for 2014, the Family Foundation’s ability to impact elections has now evaporated.

Cowgirl readers will recall that Governor Steve Bullock allowed Laszloffy’s unconstitutional bill to become law solely so that the bill can be struck down in Montana’s courts. As John Adams at The Lowdown reports, the move allows women to immediately challenge the measure in court long before an identical referenda passed by the legislature gets to the ballot in 2014.

Sure, Laszloffy knew that the measure was unconstitutional–everyone knew it. But Lazloffy’s purpose in pushing it was electoral, not policy-driven.

You see, last election cycle Laszloffy raised some $300,000–purportedly for the parental notification legislative referenda which was sent to the ballot by the 2011 legislature.    Montana Family Foundation’s Incidental Ballot Committee Reports in 2012 show they were able to raise and spend $320,000 in 2012.

In a typical year, the Family Foundation raises about $20,000 for electoral work.  But because of the LR, LR-120, they were able to raise more than 15 times that amount. You can see the reports below.

$18,000 May 8-May 24

$3,000 May 25-June 18

$2,000 June 19-July 3

$6,000 July 4 -Aug 3 

$29,000 Aug 4-Sept 3

$191,000 spent Sept 15-Oct 15

$3,000 spent Oct 16-Oct 25

$68,000 spent Oct 26-Nov 19

For one thing, this is money that could be used to supplant Family Foundation funds that had been going toward Laszloffy’s salary.  What’s also interesting is that the campaign finance reports for Laszloffy’s ballot committee  shows that some of the money he raised was leveraged to actually help the GOP’s top targeted legislative races–not just the ballot initiative.

Here’s a screenshot from his “incidental ballot committee’s” campaign report.  It reports the expenditure Lazsoffy made for a mailer that was about the ballot measure on one side, and a top tier targeted GOP race on the other.   This means that all of the polling and research Laszloffy did for these mailings was supporting the GOP’s legislative candidates too.

MT Fam Foundation hide campaign work as ballot

Thanks to Cowgirl tipsters for pointing out these fundraising anomalies. Reader tips are the essence of this blog. Send tips to mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com