Senator Jason Priest Behind the McKinnon Mailer

An Anti-Endorsement

While an earlier post described a recent mailer as coming from the Laurie McKinnon campaign, the flier was specifically sent out by a group calling itself the Montana Growth Network, based in Red Lodge.

What is the Montana Growth Network? It’s yet another of Jason Priest’s fantasy organizations, sharing the same phone number, web host, and physical address as his very prestigious and entirely illusory “Montana Senate Policy Committee.”  Just another title for an organization of one, designed to collect donations from out of state corporate interests and justify newspaper publication.

Unfamiliar with Senator Priest? This video, in which he calls all liberals liars and compares the “progressive agenda” to a virus, is an instructive clip. You might remember he’s the “entrepreneur” who practiced vulture capitalism on those who accrue enormous debt in our broken health care system.

Just how many fake organizations does Senator Priest need to promote his misguided agenda? Given his credibility problems, I certainly understand his desire to hide his extremist agenda behind organizations designed to give him the appearance of credibility, but it seems that there might be some conflict of interest and some ethically shady grounds when an active legislator relies on secret donations to promote his political viewpoint.

Priest also claims that donations to the Montana Growth Network are tax-deductible, but the site never indicates what kind of non-profit status it has.

Who pays for the nakedly political Senate Policy and who pays for the allegedly non-partisan Growth Network?

As for Judge McKinnon, despite her efforts to paint herself as a non-partisan candidate, the evidence makes it clear she is anything but. It’s not just that Jason Priest supports her. Her own campaign sent out a letter from Judge Nels Swandal, who practically ran as an elephant he was so Republican in 2010.

I really don’t know Judge McKinnon well enough to make a judgment about her suitability for the Court, but it’s hard to imagine supporting someone Jason Priest is so enthusiastic about.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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  • I got one of those mailers too. Pulled out my absentee ballot and marked the oval for Elizabeth Best.

  • “Priest also claims that donations to the Montana Growth Network are tax-deductible, but the site never indicates what kind of non-profit status it has.”
    This should def. be looked into.

  • Priest is merely following the example of people like Ken Toole, who have been milking various non profit organizations for years. Will you be as ready to scrutinize the Trial Lawyers PAC when they pour half a million into supporting Best in the fall? Those checks will be written by fewer than ten people, and they will have a decided effect on the election. They do this every cycle, and yet you are not outraged?

    • Joe, I think you should get a blog if you have those concerns. I’m sure Jason Priest will even set you up with a web site and official sounding name for your astroturf group.

        • First of all, your response to this post is nothing more than a logical fallacy. Even if your entirely unfounded allegations against Ken Toole were true, it wouldn’t invalidate my argument. It’s called Tu Quoque. Look it up.

          Secondly, I at least have the courage to admit my bias–and use my own name. The former is right at the top of the site and the latter is all over it. Mr. Priest pretends like he’s engaging in something non-partisan, which is a sham.

          Finally, I’m under no obligation to research or promote your claims. I mean it. Get your own blog. Build some traffic. Make your own case. You certainly haven’t made it here.

          • And that’s not to say that you’re not welcome to comment here and disagree with me or any of us. You’re certainly welcome to do that. I honestly don’t know a lot about these candidates yet, but I do certainly know that someone Jason Priest would spend this kind of money supporting can’t be good for Montana.

    • The Trial Lawyer PAC has to disclose it’s donors. At the very least Priest and other shady political groups should do the same.

  • Don, I encourage you to take another look at McKinnon. The Swandal Scandal was not of her doing (though she did take responcibility for her campaign sending out the mailer with his statement in it). Further, her record (at least as much of it as I can get my hands on) indicate an unblemished record of a non-partisan judge. Her bible is the law, not partisan politics (as it should be for a Supreme Court Judge) and from what I have seen and been able to research, that is exactly the kind of judge I want elected. I certainly do NOT want a partisan judge that will make his/her position about advocating a political agenda. I want a judge that lives, eats, breaths and believes that the law comes first.

    As far as Jason Priest is concerned, I have no idea why he would support her campaign, and frankly, I don’t care. I can find no connection between him and Judge McKinnon.

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