The Billings Gazette is reporting today on the upcoming Sept 21 Montana Supreme Court hearing on the shadow group Western Tradition Partnership (who ditched its tainted name and became American Traditions Partnership under a barrage of bad press). Western TP is claiming that they didn’t break the law because they are involved principally in “educational” activity, not “political” activity.
Tell that to the candidates who had negative mailers from WTP dropped on them last election cycle.
The Commissioner of Political Practices says WTP was electioneering, the Billings Gazette reported last election cycle that John Sinrud’s so-called “Western Tradition Partnership” broke state law and should have to pay a civil fine because it failed to report its donors and register as a political action committee (PAC)
Unsworth’s office uncovered evidence that Western Tradition Partnership had been involved in 19 Montana legislative races in 2008 and that it had a budget of $660,000.
As the Havre Daily News reported, Unsworth ruled that:
The evidence shows that WTP’s ultimate purpose in Montana in 2008 was not to discuss issues, but to directly influence candidate elections through surreptitious means.
According to Unsworth, the group planned to spend $537,000 on targeted Montana elections in the 2010 cycle.
Here are a couple of examples of what they spent it on. Would you call this education or electoral work?
This flyer from Sinrud’s so-called “Western Tradition Partnership” suggests that Democratic legislative candidate Sheila Hogan will stop that darling little princess from becoming a doc, because her Mommy and Daddy will be forced spend all their dough on the utility bill, instead of saving it for her college. I guess this is because Hogan might like to see some effort on renewable energy.
Here is a PDF of another flyer , this time attacking Democratic legislative candidate Will Hammerquist, who ran against Derek Skees and only lost by 80 votes. (It appears that a moron, possibly John Sinrud who founded WTP and is now active in Flathead politics, designed this mailer. It is silly, over-the-top and largely illiterate, so it probably had little to no effect at all.) Guessing this is the same moron who so wounded and disgraced the name Western Traditions Partnership that it had to change the name to rid themselves that that association, and then thought that this would work.
Western Traditions Partnership American Traditions Partnership and its other GOP counterparts spent $3,000,000 this cycle conservatively and maybe as much as $5,000,000, the overwhelming majority of it being spent on activity designed to influence legislative races. It is virtually all corporate money, the majority of which comes from out of state. At least a million of it, maybe more, is mystery money, about which we will never be able to learn the amounts, the sources, or even the races on which the money was expended.
Unfortunately, as Democratic spokesperson Chris Saeger points out, the most extreme legislature in Montana history was elected because of these election expenditures, laying the blame for this session at the feet of the GOP’s own shadow groups, rather than just the TEA party.