Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

What is the Montana Firearms Institute? Just Another Zinke Front Group

When confronted about a record on the Second Amendment that does not align with the values of the Montana Republican Party, former state Senator and current US House candidate Ryan Zinke usually two strategies: he calls people who point out his record, including a 42% lifetime rating from the NRA1, liars and/or he refers to his leadership of the Montana Firearms Institute.

The former strategy has become too common to even disappoint and the latter sounds impressive, until one does just a moment of research and discovers that the Montana Firearms Institute (MFI) is as moribund as Elsie Arntzen’s run for the US House. Like so many things about Zinke, it’s a self-aggrandizing spectacle that was designed to draw attention to Senator Zinke and deflect attention away from his record.

So what was the Montana Firearms Institute?

Back in 2011, when Zinke and two friends started the Montana Firearms Institute, they talked some big plans. According to the Flathead Beacon, Zinke promised to create jobs, and advocate for legislative changes in Helena. MFI’s mission, according to its founders? To “advocate for Montana’s firearms and shooting sport industries, promote Montana’s friendly climate for firearms manufacturing and champion the Second Amendment.”

So how’s it coming along?

It doesn’t have  a web site. it doesn’t have a Facebook page. It didn’t register to lobby the Montana Legislature in 2011 or 2013. It has no presence on social media or media of any kind, other than references to Ryan Zinke’s biography for over a year.

It’s also not very active. Guidestar is the web’s leading repository of financial information about non-profit organizations like the allegedly 501 c 3 MFI. A search of its site reveals no hits, no IRS reporting of income and expenditures, nor even the existence of the organization. By contrast, even an organization as small as the Stillwater Hunters Education Instructors Association, based in Reedpoint, is listed.

Essentially, the MFI hosted a couple of banquets and got some press for Ryan Zinke, as well as cover for his weak Second Amendment record among Montana conservatives.

And the MFI was certainly not in keeping with conservative principles on spending. When the organization was rolled out in 2011, its mission was to seek out public spending as NonProfit Quarterly reports:

While MFI’s mission might be associated with conservative politics, the effectiveness of its work is explicitly linked with public spending.  For example, organizers discussed opportunities for small businesses to compete for lucrative government contracts if they were better organized and had an appropriately skilled workforce.

The Montana Firearms Institute also shares connections with Zinke’s other brain child, Special Operations for America. One of the co-founders of the MFI was none other than former Whitefish City Council member Chris Hyatt, who was the first official treasurer of Zinke’s Special Operations for America SuperPAC.

And guess who highlighted Zinke’s role as a founder of the Montana Firearms Institute today? You guessed it? Special Operations for America.10325363_468466516619913_7703140226318578341_n

For all the MFI has done, Zinke and his utterly uncoordinated SuperPAC may as well start asserting that he was the founder of the Montana Flathead Lake Monster Institute. That would be just as a real and a bit more honest.

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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  • funny he’ll put the MFI on his campaign bio then fails to mention he rakes in $120k a year from his gig with STWA, a company who signed a contract with PetroChina in 2011. abortion and the second amendment take a back seat to the fact i don’t want my congressman working for a company in a close relationship with china.

  • Some nice forensic journalism here, looking behind the false fronts, following the money, trying to decide what is real, what is for show only.
    Up next, League of Conservation Voters. Pogie will unmask them as a green front for right wing Democrats. Can’t wait!

  • This guy just keeps it coming.  Best part is that he is illegally using a Super PAC he started to push a front group HE STARTED.  This guy is an empty suit who will do and say just about anything to get elected.  Where are we now with Zinke?
    1. Under investigation for SOFA PAC
    2. flip flops of choice
    3. crap gun rating (bad for any person running for office in Montana)
    4. Lives in California
    5. is raising all of his money through a banked in Florida.
    6. is illegally using the SEALs logo.
    7. campaigned with that nut job Livingstone
    8. called Hillary the anti-christ

    The man just can’t be trusted.  So, I say “bring him on.” The Montana GOP would give us a great gift by nominating him.

  • If this idiot gets it, the conservative aren’t going to back him.  Between the illegal superPAC, and the constant lying Zinke is a piece of work….If he gets it the Dems have a chance as the conservatives will remain alienated by this big puppet.  Lewis must love this guys shenanigans…..

  • Too, too funny!  You simply must watch these inbreds.  THESE are the folks that the GF Spitoon thought so highly of that they would give them front page coverage every time cleve looney farted and his girlfriend cindy baker was there to sniff it up!  These are some inbreds that have their Bundy’s in a knot and they ain’t gonna take it any more for the blah dude in the WHITE house.  But seriously, ya gotta luv the dudes with the very distinct Spanish accents claiming to be such patriots!  Too funny.  Thank you press, for giving legitimacy to such inbred morons!  Come on, craigy, skinner, these are you people!  Defend them!

  • I present to you, as George Carlin would say, the REAL rulers of this country!  The Teabilly Teatards are their willing vessels just WAITING to be filled with all their Freedumb!  Sad, so sad, that we no longer have a functioning media in this country, but to be quite honest, at this point don’t think it would do much good!  For the country really IS that stupid now.  It’s become generational…by design.  And all it takes is one generation to unlearn our history.  We there!  Enjoy the ride!  We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control!  Do we now?
    BTW, these are some very strange little nazzi dudes from a very dysfunctional un-American family!

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

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