Why Did the Missoulian Print an Op-Ed Its Own Reporting Disproved?

I’ll admit that  I don’t know The Missoulian’s policy for op-ed pieces, but I would have assumed that they fact check the claims made in them or at least would fact check claims that are in direct opposition to their own news reporting. With the publication today of an op-ed by Utah’s own Carl Graham, the Missoulian seems to be saying that facts don’t matter at all.

Graham, who has abandoned the Montana Policy Institute now that there are no elections to taint in Montana, claimed that conservatives only spent a total of $336,000 on “independent expenditures” in Montana politics during the 2012 election season:

But that’s probably not in the cards, so let’s take a snapshot of who’s spending the “dark money” in Montana. During the 2012 election cycle, independent expenditures supporting liberal candidates and causes outpaced those of conservatives by an order of magnitude: $4.3 million to $336,000. So much for the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Graham is engaging in an utterly absurd obfuscation. He’s redefining dark money as the announced public spending of PACs and ignoring the tools of the right wing dark money machine, 501(c)(4) groups that pretend to engage in “social welfare” or education. His claim that less than $400,000 was spent in dark money expenditures supporting Republicans in the 2012 election is transparently false.

For example, on Sunday, the Missoulian itself reported that one group, Jason Priest’s Montana Growth Network raised $500,000 during the year, with almost half coming from five donors.

The $336,000 figure cited by Graham laughably ignores the expenditures of American Tradition Partnership and Americans for Prosperity, both of which funneled Koch money into Montana elections. Even more laughably, it ignores their own expenditures as right wing mouth pieces. Graham’s organization is the Sutherland Institute, which  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.

Remember the wave of terrible online “journalism” that mysteriously appeared in Montana during the 2012 election and vanished right after it ended? Funded by dark money.

It’s Graham’s job to promote his group’s absurd position that “billionaire Koch brothers funding libertarian causes” is good for democracy, but it’s not a newspaper’s job to give credence to claims that simply are not true. That the Missoulian have editorial space to a partisan not bound by measurable, objective reality, reality their own reporting illustrated, is a damn shame.

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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  • The day the Mizzolian died.  The day they fired Richard Manning.  They have been sucking corporate Koch brothers ever since. And they KNOW it.  They are cowardly little pieces of feces. And yes, they can quote me on that.  Oh GOD how I miss Nathaniel Blumberg and K. Ross Toole!  We used to have the best and the brightest among us.  GIANTS!   But now, we have the worst and the dimmest, the venal and craven, the  abject and pathetic!  THIS is what our “newspapers’ have become!  Once we were Montana.  Now we have the numbnuts news!

  • Whatever makes ordinary fiat money “dark money” is unclear to me.  Whatever it is, however, hardly matters because both parties are wallowing in it.  I suppose it may be emotionally satisfying to believe one dark-money party is better than the other so the faithful can carry on as good little consumer/slaves.  Don’t want to disturb their neoliberal/neocon fantasy.  So, what’s going to happen when the curtain is finally pulled back for all to see?

  • UH oh!  Looks like our very own p-ass-tor chucky cheesey buldim of the Montana First Inbred Irregulars and a member of the TeaOcracy just MIGHT get the prison ministry he’s always wanted!  And the first one he can bring to JAYSUS just might be his new best friend and cellmate Big Bubba!  Bring plenty of soap on a ROAP, p-ass-tor, for you’re gonna NEED it when the FBI starts asking who WAS that inbred preacher inciting others to violence!  I will pray for you p-ass-tor…….bwhahahhaaaa!  Sorry, that slipped out.

  • First, on the dark money debate: it is abhorrent that both parties accept these funds.  The main difference I see is at least most Democrats are critical of Citizens United and other, recent campaign finance rulings that allow big money to play such a big role in campaigns.  Many Democrats are advancing a Constitutional Amendment to limit corporations’ influence in elections.  (Some of these Dems could be just giving it lip service but most of them are sincere, I believe).

    Republicans, on the other hand, applaud Citizens United, McCutcheon v. FEC and other campaign finance disasters, calling it “free speech.”  So, as much as it disturbs me to see Democrats using dark and PAC money as tools in campaigns, I don’t expect them to roll over and let Republicans outspend them by a factor of ten.

    As for the Missoulian guest column policy, no, Don, it doesn’t fact check submitted pieces.  Just today, there’s a guest column from the co-chair of the Advocates for Our Republic, a far-right organization in Western Montana.  The piece makes zero sense but contains such gems as, “The essence of private property rights is at stake if the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is left standing.” Then it goes on to praise the Lord, blast lesbian weddings and support sheriff candidate Josh Clark.  Huh?

    I’ve railed against the Missoulian’s use of columnists like Carl Graham for years.  These “think tank” columnists are supported by secret corporate donors and use 501 (c)(4) “educational” status to attack policies (environmental regulations, tax laws, etc.) that might affect their masters.   

    The Missoulian calls this “balance” — counterpoints to the “liberal” columns submitted by Nobel Prize-winning college professors, opinion writers from other newspapers, spokesmen and women from government agencies and not-for-profit scientific, economic and social justice organizations.

    I guess that’s why it’s called the Opinion Page.  Background research and fact checking don’t play much of a role.

  • “most Democrats are critical of Citizens United”
    Pretty much the problem. Obama was highly critical of CU in his first SOTU after the decision, and of course, since then has done nothing. Not even bully pulpit. Words. You give us words.
    If there are sincere Democrats who want change, it appears they are boxed in by the regular ones.

  • In2it  Looking for links to prove your case….. or is it all hot air Mark with no substance. Equivalency is your biggest fail here

  • The word “prove” is a tell, as they say in poker. I am dealing here with a black/white thinker, and so there exist for you no gradations. Consequently, there is no reasoning with you. Your mind is already made up.
    Links? You might try something more thoughtful, like burden of proof. Since nothing has been done about Citizens United, I claim that your party is OK with it. There are good Democrats. They never seem to rise to power. “Prove” to me that your leadership, your Obama’s, Bullock’s, Tester’s, Walsh’s are using their brains and power to undermine CU, and remove money from politics.
    Link, if you like. I’ll wait. I want to see deeds, strategy sessions, ground level organization. If you come back with some clip from some speech that one of these quislings gave, I’ll put you on permanent ignore. Your type comes and goes, never leaves a mark.
    But dammit, you vote!

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