Tag Archive for Montana Political Practics Commission

WTP: “…as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics.”

Everything has a price - but should it?In a ruling on Friday, December 30th, the Montana Supreme Court issued a rebuke against Citizens United that leaves most “human persons” loudly cheering.  Citizens United refers to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 2010  wherein the activist Roberts’ Court decreed corporations had constitutional rights to directly spend money on ‘independent expenditures’ in campaigns.  That ruling effectively codified a doctrine of “corporate personhood.”

The 80-page Montana ruling against a suit brought by Western Tradition Partnership attacked the thinking behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the impact of big money in political culture, and the premise that corporations deserve the same political speech rights as citizens.

The Montana Court’s ruling asserted that the Citizens United decision did not remove all bans on corporate speech. “The Supreme Court held that laws that burden political speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the government to prove that the law furthers a compelling state interest and is narrowly tailored to that interest,” the court said.  The ruling details the history of 1912 state law banning direct corporate spending on electoral campaigns and provides explanations of sufficiently compelling state interests to merit sustaining the century-old law.

“Organizations like WTP that act as a conduit for anonymously spending by others represent a threat to the political marketplace,” wrote Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, for the majority. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.”

Steven Rosenfeld, in reporting on the ruling, stated “the lead group that sued to overturn the Montana ban on direct corporate spending in campaigns followed a very deliberate course of clashing with virtually every aspect of Montana campaign finance law. The lawyers behind the litigation believe that they should face no limits or accountability for any political fund-raising or spending.”

The court noted that Western Tradition Partnership’s lawyers claimed that it should be allowed to spend freely because the group would have to disclose that activity under Montana law when the same group, using another name, actually had sued the state to overturn those very disclosure laws.  WTP is also involved in a third suit challenging the state’s campaign spending disclosure law.

Rosenfeld’s description of Western Tradition Partnership (now known as American Tradition Partnership) as a political organization that  is “as slippery an organization as one finds in modern politics” leaves no doubt about its ethics and modus operandi and is solidly supported by its history, practices and assertions.

Western Tradition Partnership sued to overturn the 1912 Montana Corrupt Practices Act, an irony not lost on those who have experienced the corrupt political practices of the organization up close and personal.  WTP first surfaced in Longmont, Colorado, when it frivolously sued the city over its Fair Campaign Practices Act, represented by Scott Gessler, now Colorado’s Secretary of State.  In Longmont’s 2009 election, WTP was responsible for abhorrent political practices that it had debuted in Montana and for which it was held responsible by the Montana Political Practices Commission.  WTP returned again in the 2011 election to once again elect council members who would advance their agenda.

The Montana Supreme Court’s ruling quoted a fund-raising brochure that said, “If you decide to support this program, no politician, no bureaucrat, and no radical environmentalist will ever know you made this program possible.”  A visit to its website will reveal the hatred for all things environmental (“Gang Green”) and the absolutism in the advancement of extraction industry property rights.  The organization’s Executive Director and website writer Donald aka Donny Ferguson has never met a lie he didn’t love.  If the only information you had available was that which is presented on www.americantradition.org, you would have perceptions that have no bearing whatsoever on reality.

“We take note that Western Tradition appears to be engaged in a multi-front attack on both contribution restrictions and the transparency that accompanies campaign disclosure requirements,” the Court said.  Its previous attorney of record, Gessler, is now engaged in a multi-front attack on contribution restrictions and transparency from his position as Colorado’s Secretary of State.

The court added in a footnote that the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices called the group a “sham” because it failed to register with the state, and refused to disclose the sources of its funds or its spending—as required by law.

Even the dissenting opinion lambasted the Citizens United ruling notwithstanding its contention that the Montana Court was bound by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Justice James C. Nelson wrote, “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it [Citizens United]. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.”

“In the real world of politics,” he wrote, “the “quid pro quo” of both direct contributions to candidates and independent expenditures on their behalf is loyalty. And, in practical effect, experience teaches us that money corrupts, and enough of it corrupts absolutely.”

In assaulting the very notion of corporate personhood, Nelson stated, “I find the concept entirely offensive. Corporations are artificial creatures of law. As such, they should enjoy only those powers—not constitutional rights, but legislatively-conferred powers—that are concomitant with their legitimate function, that being limited liability investment vehicles for business. Corporations are not persons. Human beings are persons, and it is an affront to the inviolable dignity of our species that courts have created a legal fiction which forces people—human beings—to share fundamental natural rights with soulless creations of government. Worse still, while corporations and human beings share many of the same rights under the law, they clearly are not bound equally to the same codes of good conduct, decency, and morality, and they are not held equally accountable for their sins. Indeed, it is truly ironic that the death penalty and hell are reserved only to natural persons.”

American Tradition Partnership says that it is a “no-compromise” organization.  And for once it has told the truth.  It is likely to appeal this ruling all the way back to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We can only hope that if that happens, the Supreme Court will have second thoughts about their disastrous ruling in Citizens United.

Expect outside influence with negative mailers in 2011 election

They did it before, they'll do it again

The slate of candidates for Longmont’s 2011 election is now determined. Technically, the races for mayor and city council are non-partisan races. That simply means that political parties and their registered voters do not determine candidates in a primary for a general election against candidates from competing political parties. It does not eliminate alignment with political parties or political philosophies. Nor does it mean that campaign tactics that we see in state and national elections will not occur.

The divisions that are so obvious at the national level exist in Longmont as well. They exist on our city council because they reflect the divisions in the Longmont community.

In the Longmont 2009 election, very large sums of money were funneled in support of the rightwing four-person majority of the current city council (Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury) by an organization known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP). Such campaigns are not supposed to be “coordinated” but analysis of campaign reports from 2009 cast doubts.

WTP is rabidly anti-environment and is absolutist on the issue of property rights. They go well beyond belief in a free market into an orthodoxy that believes that if you must have government, its purpose should be of, by and for business interests to the exclusion of all else.

Western Tradition Partnership has surfaced around the nation, but mostly in the West, to target candidates with a “D” after their name or who are known or perceived be to a Democrat in any way, shape or form. The Montana Political Practices Commission stopped just short of accusing the organization of corruption and there was testimony to indicate that some of their money likely came from out of the country and found its way into American elections.

Western Tradition Partnership funded the Longmont Leadership Committee who waged a viciously negative campaign against Karen Benker and Kaye Fissinger. It went so far as to include Sean McCoy in their Longmont Leader “newspaper,” even though he wasn’t running in 2009. McCoy does not back down from deeply held convictions against Crony Capitalism. He is committed to clean, open and honest government. That is enough to put him on the radar of people and organizations that believe they have a birthright to power and government control.

WTP now goes by the name American Tradition Partnership. It is an IRS 501c4 tax-exempt, non-profit organization restricted by law from engaging in predominantly political purposes. But that hasn’t stopped it in the past and it won’t stop it going forward. IRS enforcement is virtually nil and when investigations are launched, they are well after the damage has been done.

Expect much more backdoor negative politics in Longmont’s 2011 election. The names may not be the same because past publicity has exposed them locally, statewide and nationally.

You will receive slick mailers that will slant truth and reality, if not invent outright lies. They did it before and they will do it again. They will target the three incumbents that have been on their radar since 2007 – Sean McCoy, Sarah Levison, and Brian Hansen. They will probably target Dennis Coombs as well – for no reason other than that he is challenging Bryan Baum, whom they adore because he embraces their orthodoxy and is a climate-change denier. Denying the realities and evidence of climate change is the first and foremost mission of WTP/ATP or whatever name it will be this time.

And don’t be surprised if independent mailers even seek to divide Longmont’s Democrats. These political committees know what political party you belong to if you’ve declared. There will be almost no limit to their strategies and tactics.

Money bought the 2009 elections and it will be used again to attempt to buy the 2011 elections. And they are counting on Longmont voters to be paying attention to anything or everything else and to rely on negative mailers to make their decisions about who should establish policies for their city. You will know which candidates they support by who is negatively targeted. By cui bono. Who benefits?

It’s not Longmont and its citizenry that they care about. It’s power for extreme and irrational causes and support for some very, very special interests, local and beyond.