While embattled Montana state senator Jason Priest has tried to separate himself from American Traditions Partnership, his donor sheet tells a different story. Continue reading
While embattled Montana state senator Jason Priest has tried to separate himself from American Traditions Partnership, his donor sheet tells a different story. Continue reading
A court has demanded that the dark money group American Tradition Partnership must reveal its board members, the Associated Press reported today. Let’s meet them.
Doug Lair (pictured right), resides in Sweet Grass County.
For some reason, ATP is operating in the county under a different name: Sweetgrass Citizens for Constitutional Integrity. The group hosts an innocuously named website sweetgrassroots.org–and it’s really something to see. On it, Mr. Lair warns his ATP followers that “Progressive programs and indoctrination have found their way into our local government and schools at an alarming rate.”
There is one insidious new influence in Big Timber that Mr. Lair is especially worried about. He fears that a local economic development project of the Northwest Area Foundation may really be a secret “progressive indoctrination boot camp.” Actually, the program gives grants to local communities for projects like sprucing up their business and industrial parks to help get the local economy moving.
When the FRONTLINE documentary exposing ATP’s activities was aired on PBS, Lair posted a tirade against PBS on the Sweetgrass Council/ATP website. He accused the station of everything from “belittling Jesus” to spreading anti-American views, to being part of a government conspiracy to vaccinate kids against diseases.
The site indicates that Sweetgrass County Commissioner Bob Faw is heavily invoved in the group. It also helpfully lists the emails of all the legislators they say have done right by ATP in the legislature, so that you may thank them.
Mr. Goble is a commercial property developer who also lives in the Big Timber area. He’s also your garden variety secessionist. He’s been linked with the website SovereignStateProject.com According to this campaign finance complaint filed by former state legislator John Esp, some ATP documents uncovered in a meth house appear to show that Goble helped finance the pro-secession website.
The website proclaims such views as:
“The Project was inspired by Rep. Joel Boniek’s recent legislation in Montana and the clamor for states’ rights that is sweeping the U.S. We are part of a grassroots movement of ordinary citizens who are FED UP with the Federal Government.”
“States should seize back the power over their own borders and BOOT the Feds. Let them control ONLY the international borders, and stay out of our Sovereign States.”
The complaint also describes how Oathkeeper-affiliated Joel Boniek, Geoff Goble, and ATP worked together to defeat Esp and support Boniek’s campaign for state legislature. Boniek was the former state legislator who made headlines after a bizarre incident which led to his arrest. Goble has also signed his name to statements declaring that Earth Day is “straightforward paganism,” and a “tool used by those who seek to control individuals and engineer society.”
Peter Mackenzie is a large land owner and Livingston real estate developer and a major bank-roller of ATP. Here’s how he’s described in ATP’s donor prospecting notes, which were uncovered among the infamous meth house documents:
A Peter G. Mackenzie of Mackenzie Associates LTD from the Livingston zip code has given money to Burns, Daines, Fox, and Brown. His profile appears to match this Peter MacKenzie (pictured) who is described thusly:
“Over the past 25 years, Peter MacKenzie has developed and operated 200 plus nationally-known franchises. In addition to spending a number of years on Wall Street, he continued to raise and manage monies for clients. Peter has developed properties in Big Sky as well as currently owns and operates several retail businesses there.”
Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s election and fight for clean campaigns are garnering national attention this week, earning Montana a spot among the Huffington Post’s 25 best progressive victories of 2012.
Peter Drier writes:
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 — equating money with free speech — unleashed a flood of money from billionaires and corporations, much of it through hard-to-trace “super-PACs” and so-called “social welfare” organizations.
In the wake of that ruling, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock defended his state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which banned corporate campaign funds, all the way to the Supreme Court. The court overturned the Montana law 5 to 4, undermining the ability of states and cities to restrict corporations from trying to buy elections.
Although Bullock lost that fight, Montanans admired his populist ideals and elected him governor in November. That same day, Montana voters also supported Initiative I-166, which endorsed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, by a 74.8 percent margin.
The final shoe dropped this week on one group that tried to keep Bullock out of the governor’s office. The
criminal enterprise ”social welfare organization” known as American Tradition Partnership (ATP), a group that has spent millions of dollars in Montana electing (or trying to elect) GOP candidates like Bullock’s opponent Rick Hill while defiantly ignoring state campaign finance rules.
The group, laughably, tried to argue that their mailers and other advertisements spreading lies about Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012 were not “political activity” as defined under Montana law. Rather, ATP argued, these ads and mailers were “issue advocacy.”
Among the many shameful examples of this group’s “advocacy” for “issues” was a fake newspaper circulated widely during the Bullock-Hill contest for governor, which depicted Steve Bullock in a lineup of sex offenders. This was ATP’s way of “advocating” for tougher sentences for sex offenders, which they claimed (falsely, of course) Bullock was opposed to. So that gives you a flavor of the type of business this group is in. By the way, the ATP’s headquarters is a P.O. Box at a mall in Washington, DC, a fact uncovered by the great PBS documentary that shed light on this miserable group back in October.
There are also some fifteen GOP legislators who owe their seats to the ATP (which spent enormous sums of money putting them in office) and are now in hot water because they appear to have been engaged in possible illegal coordination with the group. One of ATP’s favorite tricks was to send out mass-produced, hand-written letters that appeared to come from a candidate’s wife, a scheme that would appear to break the firewall that is supposed to exist between third-party groups and candidates.
Ironically, these letters are now the subject of a lawsuit by Republican legislators against their former primary opponents, as reported in the Bozeman Chronicle reported. Meanwhile, the Missoula Independent reported that more “wife letters” from other GOP races surfaced this week.
ATP’s only staff person, Donny Ferguson, recently resigned.
What does any of this mean going forward? Most likely there will be fines, but I doubt any lawmakers will be forced to resign their seats.
Big Timber citizens have a reason to be particularly concerned about dark money groups like American Tradition Partnership.
The state leader for ATP, Doug Lair, resides in Sweet Grass County. County Commissioner Bob Faw is even a major donor to the group.
For some reason, ATP is operating in Big Timber under a different name: Sweetgrass Citizens for Constitutional Integrity. At the innocuosly named website sweetgrassroots.org, folks are told that they can:
“Help maintain the integrity of Big Timber by making a generous contribution to SGCCI here. Note- contribution receipts will appear from American Tradition Partnership.”
The ATP/Sweetgrass Citizens website is really something to see. On it, Mr. Lair warns his followers that “Progressive programs and indoctrination have found their way into our local government and schools at an alarming rate.”
There is one insidious new influence in Big Timber that Mr. Lair is especially worried about. He fears that the Horizons project of the Northwest Area Foundation may really be a secret “progressive indoctrination boot camp.” (A simple google search shows that the program gives grants to local communities for projects like sprucing up their business and industrial parks to help get the local economy moving.)
Thankfully, group of citizens in Big Timber smartly decided to bring Big Sky, Big Money to the local theatre this Thursday, December 6th at 7:00pm and Sunday, December 9th at 2:00pm. The documentary, which uncovered potentially illegal collusion between secretive right-wing group ATP and Republican candidates, is being shown FREE to all residents.
The showing seems to have upset Mr. Lair. When he learned locals would be seeing the expose, he posted a tirade against PBS on the Sweetgrass Council/ATP website. He accuses PBS of everything from “belittling Jesus” to spreading anti-American views, to being part of a government conspiracy to vaccinate kids against diseases.
In case you missed it, this weekend’s New York Times included an editorial about the role of out-of-state corporate money in the Montana elections . Here’s an excerpt:
The big money affecting many state races that most vexes Montanans came from a group of outsiders called American Tradition Partnership, a tax-exempt organization that describes itself as “fighting the radical environmentalist agenda” and refuses to disclose its donors. It brought the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to strike down the state’s anti-corruption law.
The group has brought another lawsuit in Montana to strike down the state’s campaign contribution disclosure law, scheduled to go to trial next year. Its deeply flawed theory is that the more money there is in politics, the freer the exchange of ideas, and that disclosure inhibits that exchange.
Initiative 166 gave voters the chance to say they want to control how political campaigns are run in their state. As Gov. Brian Schweitzer summed it up, Montanans are saying loudly enough for the Supreme Court to hear, “Now it’s up to Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to get the dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money out of our elections for good.”
The Billings Gazette is reporting today that Montana GOP will put up $115,000 dollars to recount a race it has no chance of winning.
Word on the street is that the recount is a ruse to allow the GOP to continue to “investigate” the supposed problem of too many people voting in Yellowstone County. Voter suppression will be a first order of business for the new legislature. So, the GOP will use the recount as an occasion to rant in the press about how too many people voting caused long lines and delays in vote counts in certain major cities–to argue that liberalized voting rules have caused the problem.
GOP-er Sandy Welch is down over 2,000 votes, so Sandy Welch’s chances of overturning Denise Juneau’s victory are zero to none. To my knowledge, a recount has never overturned the results of a statewide race–even when the results were much closer than the Juneau/Welch contest.
The last time a statewide races was recounted was the 2000 democratic secretary of state primary. Linda McCulloch. As the Missoulian reported:
McCulloch nipped fellow challenger Gail Gray, 31,634 to 31,573 in the statewide recount. Although Gray picked up 65 misplaced votes in the recount, McCulloch gained 62. McCulloch’s final tally was 61 votes ahead of Gray, down from 64 votes in the original count. The third Democratic contestant, Mike Schwinden, saw his total rise 26 votes to 28,765.
The most recent recount before this was in 1980.
It involved Initiative 84, a measure to control disposal of uranium ore tailings. The original count showed 172,796 in favor to 172,173 against. The recount put the total at 172,909 to 172,493, preserving the initiative’s passage.
Too stupid to know how to organize a get-out-the-vote effort like Democrats with technology, sophistication and smarts, Republicans in Montana (and nationally) are now complaining about the fact that “too many people were voting.” They’re calling for an end to election day registration and a shrinking of early vote options.
For a preview of how this charade will play out in Montana, look how the Republicans are using the Allen West recount in Florida to peddle the voter fraud myth. The GOP thinks that if it’s harder to vote, they will gain an advantage. They will use this recount charade to try to get support for rolling back early voting, same day registration, etc.
And of course American Traditions Partnership will be all for this. ATP attorney Jim Brown is in on the ruse. He told Sandy Welch’s campaign manager that he liked their chances of winning the recount.
People in Montana are voting in some of the highest numbers in the state’s history. They are engaged, and the GOP doesn’t like that. Republicans did better when more voters were apathetic, and so they want to return to those glory days.
Early voting must remain; vote by mail must increase; and same day registration must remain, because it is an important way of allowing people to vote when they have moved addresses but there’s a glitch in the system, for whatever reason, that hasn’t recorded it properly. In the past, these folks have been turned away. Now with same day registration, they can vote.
Truth is, Republicans lost the big statewide races for three basic reasons, which are 1) they had inferior statewide candidates, 2) the Republican brand is in the toilet, thanks in large part to the Tea Party, and 3) in two races they gave away an average of 5 points to the libertarian candidate.
Had there been a third party candidate in the Juneau race, Welch would have already faded from view. The contest is the only statewide race in which the democratic candidate, Denise Juneau, received more than 50% of the vote against a real opponent.
After the FRONTLINE documentary that uncovered potentially illegal collusion between a secretive right-wing group and Republican candidates, the attorney for that organization announced that he is leaving his position at the Doney, Crowley, Payne and Bloomquist firm.
Jim Brown, the Attorney for American Traditions Partnership (formerly Western Traditions Partnership or WTP) sent out an email Friday, Nov 9, saying he is leaving the firm effectively immediately. Brown wrote that he will be starting his own law firm and “going into the business of political consulting” but will “continue doing association management work” (otherwise known as lobbying.)
Brown writes that he can now be reached at his new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Under state law, third party groups 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 FRONTLINE documentary revealed that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found, showing extensive communications between Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.
When asked what ATP was doing with these documents on FRONTLINE (transcript), Brown said:
The answer is, is that I’ve never seen this material before. I don’t know if this was found in WTP materials. I’m not going to comment because I haven’t reviewed any of that material. I mean, I’m not going to, you know, have materials sent— you know, given to me on surprise and then asked to comment on them. I don’t know what they show or what they don’t show. I’m literally not going to comment on that. You can rely on your other sources for those.
Brown’s entire email can be read here:
I am pleased to announce that I started my own law practice, the James Brown Law Firm, PLLC. In addition, I will continue doing association management work, but will be going into the business of political consulting.
If you are associated with me because of my work for the Montana Wool Growers and the Montana Independent Bankers, please take particular note of this contact information change.
Consequently, please take note that my contact information will change. After November 9th, please direct your calls, emails, and correspondence to the following:
My new office will be located at 32 South Ewing Street, Suite 324, Helena, Montana, 59601.
I am excited about this new venture, and I look forward to continuing our working relationship after my big move. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I wish you the best.
James E. Brown
Remember: break a deal, spin the wheel
James E. Brown, LL.M.
DONEY | CROWLEY | PAYNE | BLOOMQUIST P.C.
P.O. Box 1185
Helena, MT 59624-1185
Today, PBS and ProPublica have posted the contents of the American Tradition Partnership’s bank records, which include some donor records from the 2010 election cycle. A Montana judge ordered that the information be made public last week. Among the groups funders is Pennsylvania Power & Light, or PP&L as it likes to be known in Montana (to eliminate the need to remind people where it is headquartered.)
Other ATP financial backers include:
–and many others.
I haven’t had time to go through all the documents, but Cowgirl readers can do so here. It should be most interesting to see what people find. This information is from the 2010 cycle only, not 2012.
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