Montana Politics

Astonishing Look at American Tradition Partnership’s Campaign Coordination in Montana from ProPublica

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by Kim Barker, ProPublica, and Rick Young and Emma Schwartz, Frontline Oct. 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The boxes landed in the office of Montana investigators in March 2011.

Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 conservative candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana $ Bomb.”

The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.

Altogether, the records added up to possible illegal “coordination” between the nonprofit and candidates for office in 2008 and 2010, said a Montana investigator and a former Federal Election Commission chairman who reviewed the material. Outside groups are allowed to spend money on political campaigns, but not to coordinate with candidates.

“My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns,” said investigator Julie Steab of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, who initially received the boxes from Colorado.

The boxes were examined by Frontline and ProPublica as part of an investigation into the growing influence on elections of dark money groups, tax-exempt organizations that can accept unlimited contributions and do not have to identify their donors. The documents offer a rare glimpse into the world of dark money, showing how Western Tradition Partnership appealed to donors, interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts.

Though WTP’s spending has been at the state level, it’s best-known nationally for bringing a lawsuit that successfully challenged Montana’s ban on corporate spending in elections, extending the provisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision to all states.

The tax code allows nonprofits like WTP to engage in some political activity, but they are supposed to have social welfare as their primary purpose. As reported previously by ProPublica and Frontline, when WTP applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status, it told the IRS under penalty of perjury that it would not directly or indirectly attempt to influence elections u2014 even though it already had.

The group is now locked in an ongoing dispute with Montana authorities, who ruled in October 2010 that the nonprofit should have registered as a political committee and should have to disclose its donors. WTP sued. A hearing is set for March.

In the meantime, the group has changed its name to American Tradition Partnership, reflecting its larger ambitions. This month, it sent Montana voters a mailer in the form of a newspaper called the Montana Statesman that claimed to be the state’s “largest & most trusted news source.”

The front page accused the Democratic gubernatorial candidate of being soft on sex offenders.

Donny Ferguson, American Tradition Partnership’s spokesman and executive director, did not specifically address the documents found in Colorado or allegations of coordination made against WTP.

“American Tradition Partnership always obeys every letter of every applicable law,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions. “ATP does not, and never will, endorse candidates or urge voters to vote for or against candidates. … These false allegations are old hat.”

On its website, the group says its primary purpose is issue advocacy and combating radical environmentalists, whom it sometimes calls “gang green.” It describes itself as a grassroots group backed by a broad membership of small donors.

When asked about the documents found in Colorado, Jim Brown, a lawyer for the group, said he was unfamiliar with them.

After being shown some of the documents by Frontline, Brown, in a follow-up email, said his review indicated that they appeared to belong to a company called Direct Mail. Direct Mail and Communications is a print shop in Livingston, Mont., run by a one-time key player in WTP and his wife.

Brown urged Frontline to turn over the documents. “If the documents are purported to be what you say they are, then you may knowingly be in possession of stolen property,” Brown wrote.

The records are in the hands of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, which considers them public and reviewable upon request.

In the anything-goes world of modern campaign finance, outside groups face one major restriction: They are not allowed to coordinate with candidates. That’s because contributions to candidates and parties are still capped to limit donors’ direct influence, while contributions to outside groups are unlimited.

The Federal Election Commission has a three-pronged test for proving coordination: Did an outside group pay for ads, phone calls or mailers? Did these materials tell people to vote for or against a candidate, or praise or criticize a candidate in the weeks before an election? Finally, did the candidate, or a representative, agree to the expenditure?

Many concerns have been raised about coordination in this election because of close ties between outside groups and campaigns. Super PACs supporting President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are run by their former staffers. Super PACs and campaigns have used the same consultants, who insist in interviews that they have firewalls.

Proving coordination is extremely difficult, however. Since 2007, the FEC has investigated 64 complaints of coordination, but found against candidates and groups only three times, fining them a total of $107,000, a review of FEC enforcement actions shows.

Montana, which has similar rules, also receives few complaints about such activity, Steab said.

The boxes from Colorado contained a mixture of documents from candidates and outside groups.

Folders labeled with the names of Montana candidates held drafts and final letters of support signed by candidates’ wives and drafts and final copies of mailers marked as being paid for by the campaigns. The folders often appeared to have had an accounting of what had been sent and paid for scrawled on the front.

Several folders included copies of the signatures of candidates and their wives. “Use this one,” someone wrote in red pen next to a cut-out rectangle on a page with five signatures from one candidate.

Steab, the Montana investigator, said she believed these cut-out signatures were then affixed to fliers from the candidates.

Besides material from the campaigns, the boxes also contained mailers on 2008 and 2010 races in Colorado and Montana from Western Tradition Partnership and six other groups. There were bank statements for several groups, including the Coalition for Energy and the Environment, the Alliance of Montana Taxpayers and the Conservative Victory Fund.

In all the documents, one name repeatedly popped up: Christian LeFer. Even though two Montana Republican politicians founded WTP, investigators determined that LeFer was the man behind the scenes.

LeFer, who is described as WTP’s director of strategic programming in memos in 2009, said in an email that the documents “appear to be stolen property” and that, as he’d had no access to them, he couldn’t respond to most of ProPublica’s questions, “which seem to be based on an erroneous and fanciful interpretation of what they mean.”

LeFer did not address whether WTP had coordinated with candidates. Although former employees and candidates said LeFer helped his wife run Direct Mail and Communications u2014 the printing company that Brown, the lawyer, suggested was the owner of the boxes of documents found in Colorado u2014 LeFer said he did not “run or direct the activities” there.

Direct Mail listed its principal office address in Montana filings as being the same Colorado address WTP initially used.

Two outside groups with documents in the boxes u2014 the Montana Committee to Protect the Unborn and Montana Citizens for Right to Work u2014 listed their addresses on bank statements as the same post-office box in Livingston used by LeFer and Direct Mail. LeFer was also the executive director of Montana Citizens for Right to Work, an anti-union group.

Former state Rep. Ed Butcher said LeFer and Western Tradition Partnership aided candidates with no experience.

“They’ll come in, if candidates want some help, they’ll come in and help them,” said Butcher, who described LeFer as “a Karl Rove type political strategist” who “stays in the background.”

Butcher’s file in the Colorado boxes was labeled “Butcher Primary ’08 mail samples.” It included an email from LeFer to Butcher with a survey about unions. There was a campaign donation form, and drafts of fliers and a letter from Butcher’s campaign.

A “wife questionnaire” for Butcher’s wife Pam said she met her husband “on a blind date arranged by his buddy that neither of us wanted.” The questionnaire listed her children’s names and that she had been taking care of her disabled mother for five years.

A letter on pink paper from Pam Butcher was in a file marked “wife letters.” The letter, which contained much of the information in the questionnaire, was marked as being paid for by Butcher’s campaign.

Butcher said his wife might have run her letter past LeFer. “He may have asked, ‘Do you need any help?’ and she said, ‘Yeah, I need to get this family letter out,'” said Butcher, who won the Republican primary in 2008 by 20 votes.

A folder for another successful candidate, Mike Miller, included a fax cover sheet from Miller to LeFer, forwarding Miller’s filled-out Montana candidate surveys for two outside groups, the National Gun Owners Alliance and the National League of Taxpayers. It also held a candidate survey asking Miller if he had any research about his opponent, including “any recent scandals.”

Miller confirmed to Frontline that LeFer was an unpaid adviser on his campaign, but would not elaborate further.

Trevor Potter, a former federal election commissioner who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group that advocates for more restrictions on money in politics, reviewed the documents found in the boxes.

“This is the sort of information that is, in fact, campaign strategy, campaign plans that candidates cannot share with an outside group without making it coordinated,” Potter said.

“You need to know more, but certainly if I were back in my FEC days as a commissioner, I would say we had grounds to proceed with an investigation and put people under oath and show them these documents, and ask where they came from and where they were.”

After the 2008 election, Montana started investigating whether WTP should have disclosed its donors.

The inquiry progressed slowly until 2010, when a former WTP contractor handed over internal fundraising records, saying she was worried about what the group was doing.

The documents showed that the group raised money specifically by telling people and corporations that they could give unlimited amounts in secret.

“The only thing we plan on reporting is our success to contributors like you who can see the benefits of a program like this,” said one document, a 2010 election briefing to read to potential donors. “You can just sit back on election night and see what a difference you’ve made.”

A target list of potential donors included an executive at a talc mine, the Montana representative of an international mining group and a Colorado executive for a global gold-mining company.

One note about a potential donor advised: “Married rich, hard to get a hold of. Have a beer with him.” Another said: “Owns big ranch, signed a hit piece I wrote on cty cmms’r last year (don’t mention), should give $$ $10,000 ask.”

Other notes suggested that solicitors “See Christian” or “Talk to Christian,” apparently references to LeFer.

The documents cited the group’s success in 2008, saying in a confidential grassroots membership development proposal that 28 Montana state legislators “rode into office in 100% support of WTP’s responsible development agenda.”

By 2010, the partnership was active in state races in Montana and Colorado.

That October, Montana authorities said Western Tradition Partnership had violated campaign-finance law and should be fined. They said the group’s purpose in 2008 was “not to discuss issues, but to directly influence candidate elections through surreptitious means.”

The Montana investigation also said the evidence was overwhelming that WTP had established the Coalition for Energy and the Environment, known as CEE, as a “sham organization” to act as a front for expenditures actually made by WTP.

But the investigation also found that “sufficient evidence has not been disclosed to establish coordination between WTP/CEE and any candidate. Concern and healthy skepticism is warranted, however.”

That was before the boxes from Colorado turned up.

A convicted felon named Mark Siebel said he stumbled on them inside a known meth house near Denver at some point in late 2010.

It’s not clear how they got there. Siebel said a friend found them in a stolen car. After reading through some of the documents, he reached out to people he thought might be interested in them u2014 primarily Colorado candidates attacked by Western Tradition Partnership. A lawyer married to one of the candidates shipped the boxes off to Montana investigators.

By that time, however, the Montana probe into the group’s activities in the 2008 election was over. Steab also said that there was no way to determine for certain where the documents were from and who owned them. There was no whistleblower, and no information about how the records ended up in Colorado.

Despite this, Steab said, she found the documents very telling.

“It looks to me that there was a lot of coordination u2014 but I don’t know that it’s coordination that everyone is aware of in all cases,” she said. She said she spoke to one candidate who told her he was upset about all the negative mailers against his opponent.

This year, American Tradition Partnership is as active as ever. It’s suing to try to overturn contribution limits in Montana, so far unsuccessfully. The group sent out mailers attacking candidates before the June primary in Montana, reporting none of them to the state as political expenditures. It later put out a press release saying that 12 of the 14 candidates it backed had won.

For the general election, the group appears to be targeting Montana’s attorney general, Steve Bullock, the Democratic candidate for governor. As attorney general, Bullock fought the partnership’s lawsuits against the state, including the one that ended up in the Supreme Court.

The first issue of the partnership’s Montana Statesman newspaper, dated Oct. 7, which a group press release said was sent to 180,000 voters, featured four photographs on the front page: Three of registered sex offenders, and one of Bullock, accusing him of allowing one in four sex offenders to go unregistered. “Bullock admits failure,” the headline announced. A full-page ad accused Bullock of taking illegal corporate contributions and of “criminal hypocrisy.”

The Statesman’s editor and publisher is none other than Ferguson, the partnership’s executive director, described as an “award-winning newspaper veteran” who has been “commended by other newspapers for his ‘honest, intelligent and issue-oriented’ approach.”

Ferguson didn’t respond to a question about his journalism credentials.

“Conservative group American Tradition Partnership now one of nation’s biggest media outlets,” said a press release on the group’s website, adding that the newspaper would publish “several” editions through Election Day and into 2013.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

46 Comments

  • This is indeed interesting. You are, after all, capable of seeing through the thin veneer of public posturing and seeing deceit and conspiracy behind politicians. But it is interesting that nothing will come of this except a few measly fines, easily paid. The timing and contents of the box favor Bullock. Cui bono? Frankly, given his perfectly deplorable performance in the Citizens United lawsuit, I would suspect that Bullock is a faux bonhomme, or false friend. If you can so easily see through ATP, then you need only look a little bit further to see through the whole of American politics. You’ve stumbled on the key! Use it!

      • I know how your mind works, Rod, and I am fully aware of the troubling content of that statement. Your idea is WYSIWYG, and you cannot conceive of anything going on that is not as it appears in the news. You’re completely without the ability to imagine. It’s an interesting facet of your mental makeup, and again, I am aware of the troubling content of that statement.

        • I can “imagine” just fine, Mark. What I tend to be leery of are those who “imagine” that what isn’t factual really somehow is, simply because they’ve ‘imagined’ beyond the normal.

          Yes, Mark. Santa Claus isn’t real. I think we get that. That doesn’t mean that he’s really a demon, because we can imagine that a demon’s deceptive nature would serve some more awesome power, and still be so appealing. If that were the case, the more awesome power would be the Coca-Cola company.

          Your little screed ‘imagines’ that Bullock is a puppet, working the strings of the lesser puppet, Pogreba. Bullock’s strings, in turn, are worked by some higher authority, and those by even higher. ~Frightening!~ A good tale for Halloween.

          Ooorrrrrrrrrr … It could be that humans are exactly what evolution has taught them to be, opportunists in a random and chaotic existence. There is no ‘higher morality’ by which you, an established and very proud liar, can claim that another is supporting ‘deceit’ and ‘corruption’ and ‘conspiracy’. Angels and demons do not move us around a board to win points we will never understand. You constantly attempt to prove to all that you have an enlightened life that you enjoy very much, when to most people you really seem like a miserable a$$#)^&. And to you, that’s our fault, because you seem to believe in ‘higher powers’ that control. You are constantly afraid of manipulation, or being swayed by emotion or fear (both of which happen to you.) So you accuse and demean others to protect your fantasy of what must involve powers we can’t control. Welcome to the Universe, Pal.

          Now, we can look at this little incident of the post as some kind of grand manipulation on the part of EEVILE! Demoncrats, or we can see it as what it is, political chicanery born from opportunism. We can imagine that these dark documents were created by powers and beings nefarious, or we can research and try to figure out what role they play in the political rugby of the cycle. You would have it that because the “truth” won’t come out until after the election that the whole thing is just a big deception that we must deny vehemently with our vote! I think you’re kinda full-of-it.

          • Your self-described ability to “imagine” is a logical impossibility, much like a dog barking out the words to a Shakespeare sonnet. He cannot do what he cannot comprehend.

            Your description of my description of Bullock is a demonstration of this point, reducing the man to a puppet when he is merely a politician. This maneuver is as transparent a manipulation as I have ever seen, and evidence is that for all of the word barf in the presentation above, there is no underlying substance. MCPP had the information for 19 months and brought no charges. Why, Rod? Why?

            Bullock has done an October surprise, and it obviously took coordination among a handful of people, perhaps ATP as well, as the box of stuff found in the “meth house” is nothing made to look like something.

            And keep in mind that the are more right wingers who want to hold office than slots allow, so many of them run as Democrats. We have a right-wing Democrat governor and senator here in CO. I know of what I speak.

            it’s a marvelous world of slime and intrigue in politics. How boring that you only see what you are told to see! How gray is your world, oh imaginative one?

      • By the way, just so I am not misunderstood, there is very little meat in this article, and obviously nothing actionable, as MCPP has sat on it for 19 months without doing anything. Julie Steab, who operates in an official capacity, could do not more than offer an off-the-cuff opinion, highly unprofessional. But this is just politics. My only point is that while you point one finger at them, three point back at you. (The thumb kind of goes off to the side.)

        Both parties are extremely corrupt. If one is playing dirty, so is the other. If one is up to its neck in bribes, the other is up to its ears. If one goes after the other with a knife, the other will come back with a gun. They are all dirty. American politics is a playground where only wealthy financiers are allowed in the game. Consequently, we are corrupt up to our receding hairlines.

        That’s all this is – we good, they bad, election near, soon you’ll vote and all will be forgotten.

    • Mark –

      Do you understand that you’re relying on perhaps the easiest and most primitive propaganda technique of all? You just keep repeating two clearly false facts – that Bullock could have magically gone with the states rights argument and won the case, and that that would somehow have been a good thing. The case law is already set on this – an AG defending an unconstitutional law is no longer legally an agent of the State for which they work. They are therefore not protected by the 11th amendment. You are just choosing to ignore that act, rather than respond to it.

      Secondly, if you were right, that would make it impossible to sue a state to demand abortion rights, voting rights, equal protection under the law, etc. Again, you never addressed that fact except to say ‘nuh uh’, and then keep repeating the same old falsehoods.

      • You supplied the word “magically.” Why? It has no place here. Bullock was advised that to go to the Mullahs with mere restatement of settled business was foolish. It would be, and it it was, dismissed with the wave of the mighty hand. But his action satisfied a political objective. He appeared to do something while doing nothing, a standard Democrat practice.

        The 11th amendment prevents private parties from suing sovereign states in Federal courts. I did not write it. It was obviously put in place to strengthen states’ rights. It was not a “magical” potion, but Bullock was up against it, and needed to be imaginative, as his chances of success were near zero. The Final Nine, after all, routinely ignore the constitution. Those who talked to him found him to be opaque and confused.

        That’s one possibility. The other is that he sought to fail. Neither is good. He’s is either a dumb or a crooked man. Thanks Dems for another winning choice.

        • ““The attempt of a State officer to enforce an unconstitutional statute is a proceeding without authority of, and does not affect, the State in its sovereign or governmental capacity, and is an illegal act, and the officer is stripped of his official character and is subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct. The State has no power to impart to its officer immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States.””

          In the case cited, Ex Parte Young, the State officer is in fact an attorney general, attempting to defend an unconstitutional law. The 11th Amendment, therefore, does not do what you think it does, and it hasn’t for over a hundred years.

        • Calling BS here, in total. Arguing a case in court is not “enforcing” anything. It’s arguing. Good grief.

          So your forte is in answering questions not asked? Obfuscating? Sidestepping?

          Do you ever just have a desire to let out a whoop and declare yourself free? How boring to be a Democrat, never having anything to be enthusiastic about, just going through the motions for your rote, unimaginative … Candidates, like this dude who went through the motions before the Mullahs.. Jesus what a way to live.

          • Mark –

            I have a hard time believing you don’t actually understand this, but here goes –

            For the 11th amendment to be applicable, Steve Bullock would have to be an officer of the State, because it is the State to whom the 11th amendment grants immunity. As soon as Steve Bullock attempted to bring ATP into compliance with Montana’s (apparently unconstitutional) campaign finance laws, he was enforcing an unconstitutional statute, and therefore, he lost the immunity granted by the 11th amendment.

            Making the argument, in other words, did not strip him of his immunity. But as AG, he was attempting to enforce an ‘unconstitutional’ law, and the SCOTUS has already decided that an AG defending an unconstitutional law cannot be considered an agent of a State.

            • Certainly not, and I didn’t argue that there are. Merely that the court has decided already that that argument isn’t a good one. Sure, anyone can us any argument they want in their case. But for the 11th amendment to be applicable, that ‘anyone’ must be an agent of the State, and according to the Young decision, Bullock is only an agent of the State if the law he is enforcing is constitutional. So the key question remains the constitutionality of the law in question; an 11th amendment argument is thus gratuitous.

              • That’s not circular, Mark. It’s a lost cause, the Supreme Court already ruled again and again that state officials enforcing unconstitutional laws are not protected by the 11th amendment. It’s not wimpy stop pursuing a discredited line of thinking.

              • He was given an opportunity to challenge CU, and was advised that if he went back and rehashed the original arguments, that he would not make it thru the door. That is what happened. Montana courts put up a meaningful legal challenge and needed someone bright and energetic and got Bullock instead.

                And again, don’t you ever just cry out for a Tom Towe or Burton Wheeler – someone who fights hard, even dirty, and wins? That is what politics is about – tough, energetic and clever people. I can’t name one Montana dem who remotely qualifies.

                • You’re distracting from the issue again, Mark. If Bullock did what you wanted, he would be merely re-hashing the same 100 year old argument that was already decided. There is nothing to be gained by that,and potentially a great deal to be lost.

  • It’s time to kick these PACs to the curb. We need a new initiative to charge a $50,000 fee for each ad slot these PACs buy in newspapers, TV, and radio. If they want to play ball in this state, then they’ll have to expend a lot of their funds to do so. It may not get rid of the problem, but it can severely diminish it.

  • This just in from ATP.

    BOZEMAN — American Tradition Partnership Executive Director Donald
    Ferguson released the following statement Monday morning regarding
    bizarre and false claims made by PBS:

    With days to go until Montanans vote, the activist group ProPublica
    has decided to release a misleading, sensationalist story built around
    personal property stolen from a car and delivered by a meth user to
    ATP’s political opponents. The story falsely links ATP to individual
    activities the organization has no connection to.

    ATP always has, and always will, obey every applicable law. As has
    been the case with every legal issue we have brought forward, this
    will be decided in ATP’s favor for one simple reason – the law is
    always on our side. In fact, ATP just won another court case this
    morning against the Commission on Political Practices for that exact
    reason.

    ATP does not, and never will, tell voters which candidate to vote for.
    ATP speaks on the issues, informing voters where candidates stand and
    of their public records.

    Additionally, no candidate has any say or control over what ATP
    publishes. I have never met or spoken to virtually all the candidates
    on the ballot. Other than sending them a candidate questionnaire I
    have never communicated most of them. The story itself admits there
    is no proof of coordination, and there is no coordination.

    Additionally, I seriously doubt stolen property acquired by a meth
    user and spread around by political activists are true, accurate,
    unaltered and complete documents. Earlier this year another liberal
    group stole documents from another free market environmental
    organization, the Heartland Institute, and proceeded to engage i
    forgery and fraud for the purposes of smearing conservatives for
    political gain (http://spectator.org/blog/2012/02/17/theft-and-apparent-forgery-of).

    In the past Frontline has broken into computer databases for a story
    on tuna fishing and relied on the word of a convicted felon fired from
    an Atlanta dentistry clinic to smear private dentistry, without
    informing viewers. ATP, on the other hand, has always obeyed every
    letter of every applicable law and eventually won every court case it
    has ever brought.

    I would suggest the media tread carefully before publishing
    politically-timed stories built on stolen and possibly forged
    documents that are unrelated to ATP and distributed by a meth user,
    politicians and a program with a history of unethical and illegal
    practices.

  • Thought of the Day:

    Is this how you know you have made it as a Liberal?

    Backstory: When a Bogonfest of crazed Meth Smoking buddies of WTP Pac called, “Media Trackers Mt,” says something false on their blog like, “Norma Duffy got PAC Money from George Soros”?

    LOL Bwahahahaha

    And Dustin Hurst asks me in twitterland if its true, since the WTP, and Media trackers apparently tell Republicans nothing but the truth. Snicker

    Inquiring candidates like me want to know?

    Damn, GOP bubble dwellers and Bad writing conspiracy knaves are funny sometimes!

  • Looking forward to catching the Frontline exposé this evening.

    Below is the actual mission of the American Tradition Partnership (http://americantradition.org). I hate to say it, but ATP’s mission doesn’t seem that far removed from some of what we’ve seen posted on various left-leaning Montana blogs over the past year or so when discussing public lands management, the environment or wildlife issues.

    American Tradition Partnership is a 501(c)(4) grassroots lobbying organization dedicated to fighting environmental extremism and promoting responsible development and management of land, water, and natural resources in the Rocky Mountain West and across the United States. Dozens of radical eco-organizations whose stated purpose is to dismantle the free enterprise system – and our Constitutionally protected rights – through so-called environmental protection have set their sights on robbing Americans of the right to exist, achieve and produce.

    • Since you seem incapable of doing anything other than copy-pasting your comments for wide distribution, I’m certain you’ll understand why I do the same with my reply:

      Kohler, your personal butthurt is pretty tiresome. There is a world of difference between the “actual mission” of the ATP and their mission statement. Their ‘actual mission’, so far, has been to get the absolute worst of wingnuts elected, people who really do believe that you and yours are attempting to ” dismantle the free enterprise system – and our Constitutionally protected rights – through so-called environmental protection have set their sights on robbing Americans of the right to exist, achieve and produce.”

      Furthermore, your pathetic defense of your own feelings leaves you becoming a liar. You cannot and will not show any ‘left-leaning’ blog anywhere that agrees with the above posted quote from ATP. Some of us may agree that you’re an arrogant and self-absorbed butthead, but that doesn’t leave us anywhere close to the mission statement of the ATP, or even remotely close to their actual slash-and-burn mission.

    • Wow. I’m not comfortable going as far as Rob. I do think there is a big difference between what ATP says and what you’ll see on this blog or other left-leaning ones. There is a basic agreement though – that many progressives are not as comfortable with using the court system to accomplish environmental goals that we can’t convince the public to back. Many of us fear that the longer that happens, the more groups like ATP can tap into that resentment to direct public opinion and public policy.

      • C’mon, PW – whether or not the “public” backs something is not an issue, as the “public” is a mass of people, most uninformed, all underinformed. They mostly do not think their own thoughts,but merely reflect the views put out for them on TV and by those they consider leaders. If Democrats were leaders, they could make things happen. Environmentalists use the courts to enforce the law because it is the law and should be enforced. They don’t wait dor Democrats to convince the public, as themend of the century is nigh. say what is true: Your party doesn’t have the gonads to lead.

        And then listen to you … Many “progressives” (you speak for us?) are not “comfortable” using the courts to accomplish the goals that you can’t “convince” the public to back. What mush! You’re saying you got no balls! Say it plainer please! Act like a man!

        • Good grief – you guys are such pathetic losers! Such weenies!

          There are a few truisms of politics that you should be aware of, Don: One, they lie. You should always be aware of that, and even check your own party members sometimes. Two, they lie. And three as well.

          They often say things they do not believe, just to get elected. Even members of your own party do that, Don.

          They often try to fool you with staged events. People who want power are often deceitful. Even those calling themselves Democrats.

          Leftish people never pretend to be right wingers just to get elected. It’s hard for honorable people to live deceitful lives.

          Right wingers often pretend to be liberals just to get elected. It is a path to power, and since they are often unprincipled, they do so with ease.

          This means, Don, that you really need to be vigilant, and not support people just based on their words. Politics is full of shysters.

          This is my biggest problem with Democrats, Don. You’re so easy to fool! Bullock just did it with this meth house box of docs. It worked on you so easily that he’s probably laughing about it. For me, it just tells me he’s another huckster, an unprincipled right winger pretending to be a man of principle. There’s a lot of them. Obama is one, for instance.

          I’m not a sexist. Men often tell other men to act like men.

          • Im interested in how you specifically tie Bullock into your theory of conspiracy here. Are the documents actually faked or are they legitimate documents produced by WTP? I didnt see any mention of Rick Hill in the frontline program so Im curious as to how in your conspiracy theory this amounts to an october surprise for Bullock or that he is somehow the master manipulator here. It appears to me you are just grasping at straws to shoehorn any set of facts into your standard argument that Democrats are unprincipled evil master manipulators.

            • There’s nothing evil or “master” about Democrats. They are just easy to fool. They are, I’m afraid to say, us.

              “October Surprise?” Check the timing. If it happened tomorrow, I’d surely be embarrassed!

              Box of docs – honestly, PW – there’s nothing in that box that hurts anyone. No Republican candidates are hurt, no legal action follows. It’s a show. It will soon be forgotten, which leads me to suspect that it is a limited hangout. The box of docs is a plant, full of clues leading nowhere, which is why Julie Steab, in possession for 19 months, did nothing. Cui bono? Bullock. Who is hurt? No one.

              Democrats are not evil. Just dumb.

                • I am suggesting that you, like me, do not know these things. But I start with the assumption that the Bullock people, who are not a stand-alone entity, and who are connected to Tester and Baucus among others, have some juice. Is that outlandish?

                  Goodness me – the way you all here view politics as such an opaque endeavor, everything being as it seems. You don’t seem to understand the rules of the game, the first being: There are no rules. Did you learn nothing at the National Institute?

            • Mark, the COPP had already brought an action against WTP at the time they received the documents. That WAS the case that challenged CU up to the Supreme Court. Which basically ruled in WTPs favor that the COPP could do nothing to regulate them. So the fact that “no legal action” followed as you state makes no sense and fundamentally misapprehends what is going on here or the role of the COPP.

              So in your opinion Bullock benefits by the discovery of the documents by frontline so he must have planted them? I think you are incorrect that noone is ‘hurt’ by the discovery. Potentially ATP and their bootlickers in the Montana legislature that they saw elected stand to suffer some harm. Hopefully they will.

              • That box has nothing to do with the lawsuit, which was brought by WTP. There appears to be nothing in it incriminating. It’s been around for 19 months and is now prominently featured one week before an election. If WTP (now ATP) wanted Bullock in office, as often happens in politics with false friends and enemies inside the gate, this would be a nice ploy. Bullock feeds off them, they don’t get hurt in the least. Win win.

              • If ATP wanted bullock in office they presumably would not be stuffing my mailbox with 10 page long fake newspapers accusing him of being everything from a child molestor coddler to a tax dodger. Mark this conspiracy of yours is truly bizarre. You could just do the manly thing here and admit you were completely wrong by jumping to the conclusion that bullock was somehow behind the box of documents.

                • I’m only suggesting that you look at old things in new ways. You’re by-the-book. PR people know how we think, what motivates us. You think that advertising serves only one purpose – to convey ideas. Rather, it is a manipulative force. That’s why it works – PR people know about your resistance, and know how to work around it.

                  Again, looking beyond surface features, an October surprise appears in the form of a box of ‘evidence” that does not hurt ATP and yet helps Bullock. You might be right, of course, that the box is real and was merely picked up by the Bullcock campaign without ATP’s participation. But I know politics a little better than you, I suggest, and enough to know that campaigning is not a surface phenomenon. You might be right, but the idea that I am right is not as outlandish as your reflex reaction suggests. Enemies are often friends behind the veil of politics.

                • My reaction was not reflexive it was after careful consideration of your views. Seriously, the idea that ATP is secretly looking to get Bullock into office and that this was part of that ploy is off the charts goofy. ATP-WTP does in fact stand to get hurt by this. If that list of donors gets disclosed the individual who pretty much runs the outfit…Lefer…he can kiss his ass goodbye. Did you see the letter from his attorney dated the 29th to the COPP where he was driving up from CO and demanded the documents be turned over immediately? The guy is creaming his jeans. The principles of of PR etc etc you are talking about above have something to them but not as you are applying them here.

                • Again, I don’t know, but I do not rule it out. Never take anything at face in politics. After all, the whole of the profession is devoted to serving donors while collecting votes. Deceit is the mother’s milk.

    • You remind me, Don, of what was said of North Dakota one time … “There is no there there.” There appears to be very little substance beneath your reflexive partisan impulses.

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