Tag Archives: Commissioner of Political Practices

Today’s Must-Read Political Blog Post

Is up at Intelligent Discontent, where Don Pogreba writes another of his excellent point by point take downs of shoddy journalism.

I’ve read some terrible headlines from Montana newspapers in my day, but today’s story headlined “Political practices commissioner accused of using questionable tactics to get results” has to be one of the worst. More accurate headlines would include “Those accused of campaign finance violations cry bitterly about it” or “Commissioner Motl works to restore trust in Montana elections.”

Go read it.

Some Folks Might be Heading to the Pokey in Montana

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP.

Numerous Republican candidates might have worked too closely with ATP, and could be in trouble legally if not electorally.  They might be going to the pokey (meaning the clink, the one in Deer Lodge.)

The short story is that the 2010 election, in which the Tea Party swept into control of the Montana legislature, may have featured massive illegalities.   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 violation of the law.  The Frontline documentary reveals 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.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News, for example, reported today that GOP legislator Wendy Warburton appears to have been in direct communication with the group, even going so far as to send them a “signature stamp,” presumably so they could send out mailings on her behalf, using her signature.  That’s likely to be found illegal under Montana law.

Files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Joel Boniek, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees were also featured on Frontline.  Again, groups and candidates cannot coordinate on campaign communications.

Candidates might be subjecting themselves to a range of penalties, including removal from office, fines, or worse.  The question is whether there is a prosecutor out there who is willing to begin looking into this stuff.  Generally, county attorneys stay away from political stuff, leaving it to the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Worse, the ATP’s headquarters is revealed by the documentary to be nothing more than a P.O. Box at a UPS store in Washington DC, even though the group is spending tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and is the most influential source of money in Montana politics.  They were estimated to have spent well over a million bucks on just a handful of state legislative races in 2010.  They’d send mail to voters, which looked very much like electioneering material, something that is illegal if you are hiding who your donors are.

Not all ATP’s donors have been able to hide.  Investigative journalist Paul Abowd this week uncovered a document that revealed one of ATP’s largest bankrollers-a Colorado anti-union group called Coloradans for Economic Growth.

And I would say that this documentary, above all, is an outright humiliation for the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who this summer rejected a request by Montana to reconsider the Citizens United ruling in light of the ATP’s shady, unreported, anonymously funded activities in Montana.  In rejecting Montana’s plea, Kennedy offered a single paragraph describing why he (the swing vote on the court) was refusing to consider the matter. He wrote that there was nothing that led him to believe that the ATP’s activities could lead to “corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Kennedy, if he watched Frontline this week, probably wishes he could have that one back.  Because he is now revealed to be not a brilliant jurist but a stupid old man, who got duped by a bunch of bad actors.  Soon, groups like ATP will completely own our state and federal governments, using corporate money, installing candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, never revealing who the donors are.  And the Supreme Court  believes that this is all perfectly okay.

 

ATP “Meth House” Docs Contain Names of Shadow Group’s Legislative Candidates

Last night, FRONTLINE revealed that ATP documents found in a meth house appear to contain evidence of “possible illegal ‘coordination’ between” the group and the candidates it supported, the Atlantic reported.

The boxes contained files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Wendy Warburton, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees, who is now a candidate for statewide office.  Butcher and Miller were discussed extensively on the FRONTLINE piece.  The other names you can see in these screenshots.


But that’s not the only juicy information thought to be lurking in those boxes.  They also contain ATP’s Wells Fargo bank statements, and the names of some of the groups secret donors.

The group filed a “motion for protective order” in court last month to try and require the Commissioner of Political Practices to keep these public documents secret because it contained the names of ATP donors.   The state of Montana and ATP have filed briefs on the question of whether they can be made public.  Thanks to tipsters you can download them here and here.

 

DOH! Meet the Montana TEA Party’s Keystone Kops

Rep. Tom Burnett (R-Bozeman)

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices rejected a complaint by TEA Party Republicans this week. They claimed that their voting records on public spending and personal largesse were misrepresented by local Democrats.

The TEA Party legislature tried to shut down the state by blocking education and jobs–claiming a fake budget crisis, but the facts shows Tea Party lawmakers grabbing from the government trough.

Rep. Tom Burnett, of Bozeman, and Rep. Cleve Loney, of Great Falls, had filed a complaint against a flyer that exposed the big bump in taxpayer-funded personal compensation they gave themselves–while cutting education, jobs, and food for Montana families.   In an attempt to hide their hypocrisy from their base of low information voters, Burnett and Loney tried to claim that the campaign materials were untrue.

Cyndi Baker (left) and Rep. Cleve Loney R-Great Falls (right)

Rep. Cleve Loney (R-Great Falls) with megaphone.

Here’s where the story goes Keystone Kops.  It’s a classic case of TEA Party dysfunction and imbecility.  The law on which Burnett and Loney had tried to base their complaint–a law against misrepresenting voting records–has already been struck down in a case brought by the Tea Party-aligned Western Tradition Partnership, the OPP ruling shows.

Yeah, that’s the same Western Tradition Partnership that bought the election for idiots like Burnett and Loney. So even if the flyer was wrong (it isn’t), the very group that elected the TEA Partiers got a judge to block the law the OPP would have needed to correct the record.

Dumb and Dumber

If you want to know why the Montana Republican Empire has been on a sure and steady decline in the last several years, all you need to do is see a few of the GOP’s leading legislators in action, trying to hatch a plot against Schweitzer.  For that, read Intelligent Discontent on the Associated Press piece about a peach of an e-mail that made the rounds this week, courtesy of GOP Senators Ed Buttrey and Jim Peterson.