The Montana Policy Institute, a conservative front group located here in Montana, has put together a database of Montana progressives and progressive organizations that is as misleading as it is creepy. Ominously called Montana Legacy Takers, the site purports to expose the connections between liberal individual organizations and individuals in Montana:
Legacy Takers maps out established connections between left-wing activists, donors, politicians, and interest groups in an attempt to give the viewer a broad look at Montana’s progressive movement.
The misleading element of the page is the contention that liberal groups spent far more money influencing Montana elections than conservatives in 2012.
Notably missing from their list are organizations like the Montana Policy Institute, the Franklin Center’s Montana Watchdog, and American Tradition Partnership. There’s no mention of the whole coterie of right-wing smear groups that darkened Montana’s elections in 2012.
What their “analysis” fails to acknowledge is that public data about election spending is only useful for organizations that follow the law, not shell front-groups who receive money from right-wing funders and pretend not to be engaged in electioneering.
The primary purpose of the site, though, is this impressive looking, but meaningless web of connections between liberal groups and individuals working for and with them.
It’s certainly creepy, but utterly meaningless. It reveals the remarkable secret that people involved in progressive politics often work for and donate to liberal causes and candidates.
The site, devoted as it is to showing the shadowy connections of liberal groups, has an interesting pedigree. It’s the work of the Montana Policy Institute, but is maintained by the Sutherland Institute’s Center for Self-Government in the West, which is a subsidiary group of the Sutherland Institute. According to Sourcewatch, the Sutherland Institute is also a member of the State Policy Network and ALEC, and supports the right-wing fake journalists at the The Franklin Center. Funding for the Sutherland Institute comes from the right-wing Sam Adams Alliance, the Charles Lamb Foundation, the CATO Institute, and of course, the Koch Brothers.
The Sutherland Institute’s Chairman of the Board is one Stanford Swim, who is, of course, associated with the SPN-affiliated GFC Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Utah. Its President, Paul Mero, worked for Republican members of Congress for ten years, worked for the Howard Center for Families, Religion, and Society, and has written for the Family Research Council, and who is possessed of deeply troubling views about equality under the law.
Even a cursory look at the Board of Directors for the Montana Policy Institute reveals a web of connections to conservative groups across the country, from the National Rifle Association to the American Conservative Union. They’ve even added self-professed water boarder Neil Livingstone to their board.
In the end, this deeply creepy database is nothing more than an effort to divert attention from the fact that secretive conservative organizations, with deep-pocketed corporate funders, are using every means possible to subvert elections in Montana. That a group of individuals and organizations on the left are following the law and reporting contributions would only be news to an organization entirely unwilling to do the same.