After a TEA Party astroturf group funded by the Koch brothers started running candidate trainings in Bozeman and elsewhere, Gallatin County has seen a sharp uptick in contested local school board races.
Locals report that races in which candidates have historically been parents with kids in schools are now seeing an influx of candidates that have previously shown no interest in school activities, and who are unknown to local parents and teachers. And predictably, these newcomers are ultra-conservatives looking to bring right-wing values into the classroom.
It is an organized and funded effort. The Bozeman Chronicle reported in December on a series of “school board candidate trainings” sponsored by a new TEA Party group called “American Majority in Montana. It’s the state chapter of a national TEA Party group out of Virginia called “American Majority.”
Jeremy Carpenter is listed as the group’s local contact. He has publicly stated that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base “by teaching people how to be candidates, run campaigns, get out the vote or be activists.” The group will be working to put TEA partiers not just in the legislature and statewide offices, but in local offices like school boards, County Commissions, and City Councils.
Somewhere in the mix, it seems, are the Koch brothers. As the Chronicle reported:
According to an Oct. 5, 2009, Dallas News article, American Majority co-founder Drew Ryun said 75 percent of the group’s funding comes from the Sam Adams Alliance, a tea party organization with connections to the Koch brothers, much like Americans for Prosperity.
But as with most of politics these days, getting a clear answer as to who is funding what activity is usually impossible, thanks to the foul mess of inadequate campaign finance regulations. The best you can do is try to connect some dots and make an educated guess.
Bozeman is already home to two TEA Party groups – Americans for Prosperity, run by former GOP legislator Joe Balyeat, and something called the “Political Economy Research Center” which is some kind of right-wing “think tank.”
According to the group’s website, Fergus County may be next. Perhaps local Cowgirl tipsters in the Lewiston area will attend the upcoming Lewistown training camp, and report back on what exactly the group is planning.