Texas Fracking Billionaires have given to 70% of Montana GOP

Two Texas billionaire brothers were the largest donors to Montana legislative races in 2012, giving $51,040 to more than 70 Republican legislators candidates.  That’s a lot of money in a state where the average legislative candidate only raises $6,537.

My colleague, Amanda Harrow, broke the full story yesterday at FollowTheMoney.org:

Dan and Farris Wilks, along with their wives, Staci and JoAnn, entered the world of Montana campaigns with a bang in 2012, giving a collective total of $51,040. Each of them gave to more than 70 candidates, all Republicans, and in most instances, they each gave the maximum allowed by law…

Sixty-four of the candidates they supported won; 63 are now legislators, and Tim Fox is the attorney general. Across both chambers, 70 percent of Republican legislators and 42 percent of the legislative body as a whole received contributions from the Wilkses during the 2012 election.

This Montana session should be full of bills to deal with the oil & gas boom in Eastern Montana, which has grown immensely since the last sessions. (The Legislative Fiscal Division has a nice chart showing  the growth from 2009). Legislators will have to deal with how to help towns like Sidney, where local infrastructure has been pushed to the limits by new construction  They might want to consider whether to continue allowing five percent of collected gas to be released straight into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

As the report points out, fracking regulation is almost entirely left to state legislatures. In this case, 63 of them got substantial portions of their campaigns funded by the fracking industry.

The full list of the politicians who accepted donations from the Wilks Brothers is available here.

Tribune reporter John Adams also has a piece on the Wilks’.

CORRECTION: The first sentence of this piece misquoted the original FollowTheMoney post. The Wilks’ gave to more than 70 candidates, but only 63 of them became legislators. 70% of Republican legislators have received money from the Wilks Brothers.

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

Tyler Evilsizer

Raised in Helena, Tyler's particularly passionate about the environment, transparency, and wonky budget policy. The views expressed are his own.


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  • It Use to be that, Consturction and Indusrty Paid for all the infrastructure to make a housing track and gave that Infrastructure it made to local government. It kind of was entered in, as their share of the Burden. And it still happens in other states ,but not here in Montana. what a shame.
    Even Federal government , I am sure has Money for that resource, but in Montana these GOP mangle it into something else for their Benefit. How did this state get that part of Industry coming into Montana so wrong!!!

  • Y’all remember the Sierra Club? Fracking is making natural gas development possible. It has received and kept over $26 million from Chesapeake Energy who is heavily involved in gas development. The Sierra Club has donated to many Montana Dems including Jon Tester.

    • Think it through. The Sierra Club is heavily involved with many for profit “green” business partners who contribute heavily to SC. Hand in glove relationships.

      • You didn’t answer her question Craig! Your getting good at misdirection!

        And yes I am N above somehow my information save on chrome just didn’t go through!

        • No question was asked. The Sierra Club has lobbyists in many states and the federal level. SC makes all sorts of political contributions, mainly to Dems. SC has all sorts of lash-ups with for profit corporations that, in turn, make contributions or provide a cut from sales or revenue streams, or a specific fee. That spans credit cards to specific product lines. So, non-profits like the Sierra Club benefit greatly from the financial success of for-profit corporations.

  • These necessary evils are the very problem we need full disclosure of.
    I am not a Sierra Club member because of this very fact.

    It is also another reason I voted for Tester and Not Rehberg. I didn’t like a lot of Testers donations, but he Publically disclosed them, Unlike Rehberg who got caught twice trying to fudge the numbers.

    I am really hating this citizens United but, At least Max is taking the heat for donations he discloses, from US sources as well as Tester…. its out there… unlike Republicans who want dark Money, without a trail of breadcrumbs, Money– who for all we know is accepted from another country or foreign interest by the GOP!

    im staying with these two, because good or bad they are 1005 MORE forthright THEN THE GOP whose ties to Crossroads, ALEC, ATP, and the US Chamber of Congress. Our boys moneys is pure US cash, so far they have proven not to be Bought by Outside of the country interests

    • Norma, really??? No dark money behind electing Tester???? Were the sources ever revealed that funded the 3rd party conservative candidate other than what came out that it was lead by a Dem operation? Sheesh!!!! Why didn’t Tester call for those black funding sources to be outed?

      • Uhhm, actually, he has, Craig. He has called for transparency and an overturn of Citizen’s United. He even did that before the election. You don’t seem to care about that half as much as you seem to care that Jon Tester didn’t refuse money that helped him win. Gosh. Sorry.

  • Robert, trying to remake history again? http://www.propublica.org/article/in-montana-dark-money-helped-democrats-hold-a-key-senate-seat Lip service is poor cover.

    The Montana Senate race also shows how liberal groups have learned to play the outside money game — despite griping by Democratic officials about the influence of such organizations.

    Liberal outside groups spent $10.2 million on the race, almost as much as conservatives. Conservatives spent almost twice as much from anonymous donors, but the $4.2 million in dark money that liberal groups pumped into Montana significantly outstripped the left’s spending in many other races nationwide.

    As in other key states, conservative groups devoted the bulk of their money in Montana to TV and radio ads. But sometimes the ads came across as generic and missed their mark.

    Liberal groups set up field offices, knocked on doors, featured “Montana” in their names or put horses in their TV ads. Many of them, including Montana Hunters and Anglers, were tied to a consultancy firm where a good friend of Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, is a partner.

    The end result? Tester beat Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg by a narrow margin. And the libertarian Cox, who had so little money he didn’t even have to report to federal election authorities, picked up more votes than any other libertarian in a competitive race on the Montana ballot….

    Tester, who’s argued that all groups spending on elections should disclose their donors and also pushed against super PACs, said he wasn’t familiar with any of the outside groups running ads. By law, candidates are not allowed to coordinate with outside spending groups, which are supposed to be independent.

    Despite his ambivalence, he said he was glad the outside groups jumped in.

    “If we wouldn’t have had folks come in on our side, it would have been much tougher to keep a message out there,” Tester said. “We had no control over what they were saying. But by the same token, I think probably in the end if you look at it, they were helpful.”

  • I see we are still a little Touchy about losing Craig? We Liberals fought against the very laws of Citizen United, and Lost… and when the supreme court pushed liberals aside… we had to use your now legal nasty tools to fight back… Republicans fought so hard for CU, so we had no choice but to beat you at your own game, with one inevitable truth–and that was if we didn’t use these same tools, we would lose to a flood of Corporate Money in GOP Coffers.

    Somehow this confuses me, Your Party had the Most black money and still lost, Why??

    My Guess, is your party was really lousy in Messaging and Spending, I thought you guys said you were good at least in finances?? Your Party pissed off women, Hispanics, Asians, any faith who believes in tolerance and the true Constitution, and your Presidential nominee Called 47% of the Country takers.

    Rehberg couldn’t prove he did anything in the last 12 years of congress, and tried to keep some donations under the table and got caught… and I am not even mentioning the Gov Race yet were Rick Hill took 500,000 from the republican govs breaking Montana Law.

    And then Obama had a database of over 40 million volunteers he shared with other liberal Pacs, and his team built a Phone app that could register voters, and spell out talking points drafted to every states Character. We used every legal tool we could, but we also carried the banner of sense and Humility, why your rich donors told woman to keep an aspirin between their Knees

    When are you guys gonna look in that Mirror and point to the Party most responsible for your defeat??? Geez guy, has the parable of people living in glass houses, sunk through yet?

    • Lastly lets not forget our Money was disclosed, we told Americans were we got our Money no matter how queasy some of our Volunteers got, you party didn’t they hid as many dollars under the rugs as possible. thats why the GOP had to pay more for Ads, because FEC laws say superpacs pay more. we Liberals asked the faithful for direct donations to party and Politico…not superpacs

      • From probublica:

        Liberal groups bought TV ads, too, but that was only part of their game plan. They spent their dark money on retail politics, hitting the streets and knocking on doors.

        In January, the League of Conservation Voters set up two offices in Montana — one in Missoula and one in Billings. It canvassed voters and hired a full-time organizer, reaching out to 28,000 sporadic voters to urge them to vote early by mail.

        Lindsay Love, the spokeswoman at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, another nonprofit that doesn’t report its donors for election spending, said the group targeted 41,000 female voters. More than 1,500 people ended up knocking on 28,500 doors and making 162,000 phone calls, she said. The group sent out about 470,000 pieces of mail.

        “It’s hard to unpack this,” Parker said. “But it’s fascinating to look at groups like the League, unions and Planned Parenthood. By and large, they did phones, canvassing, mail, very little TV. One of the best ways to get out the vote is personalized contact.”

        Many liberal groups active in Montana, including Montana Hunters and Anglers, were connected through Hilltop Public Solutions, a Beltway consulting firm.

        As you should know Hilltop fronted the dark money that funded Dan Cox. Now do you understand Tester when he said he was glad that the Dem outside groups jumped in????

    • Nothing conclusive about MT Street Fighter, but I haven’t spent a lot of time looking into it, nor using some of the excellent domain lookup tools to see who registered the site (it’s anonymous now, but it may not have always been anonymous. Rumors point to a staff member of one of the Democratic consulting firms, but I don’t have anything conclusive. It’s obvious that they at least have a friend within the MT Dem Party, since they often get (sometimes incorrect) leaked information there.

  • I ran unsuccessfully against Debby Barrett for Senate District 36. The most I could accept from a donor was $260. How come two guys were able to give her $640?

    • Mr. Turner,

      I think you may have been operating under an old set of rules. In the mid-2000s, the limit from an individual was $130, so you could collect $260 from a couple. In 2007, the limits were indexed for inflation, so the 2010 and 2012 limit was $160 from an individual/$320 from a couple.

      In this case, four people (the two brothers and the two wives) each gave the maximum donation of.$160, or $640 total. to each of 63 legislators. If they had donated earlier in the year (before the primaries), they would have been able to give twice as much–$160 for the primary and $160 for the general.

      Hope that clarifies things.

  • Doug , If you enjoy Montana Public lands, you would be wise not to vote for any politician that accepts money from the Wilks brothers, the Farris, or Koch brothers. It is well known that Steve Daines, Greg Gianforta, is a puppet for the Koch brothers. People need to check out Randy Newberg on youtube.com. State land transfers. Its disgusting all the legislators that already have.

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