Mysterious Docs Found in Meth House Reveal Inner Workings of Political Group

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Mysterious Docs Found in Meth House Reveal Inner Workings of Dark Money Group

October 29, 2012, 12:01 am ET
by Kim Barker and Rick Young

The boxes landed in the office of Montana investigators in March 2011.

Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 Democratic candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana $ Bomb.”

The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.

Altogether, the records added up to possible illegal “coordination” between the nonprofit and Democratic candidates for office in 2008 and 2010, said a Montana investigator and a former Federal Election Commission chairman who reviewed the material. Outside groups are allowed to spend money on political campaigns, but not to coordinate with candidates.

“My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that WTP was running a lot of these campaigns,” said investigator Julie Steab of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, who initially received the boxes from Colorado.

Though WTP’s spending has been at the state level, it’s best-known nationally for bringing a lawsuit that successfully challenged Montana’s laws on corporate spending in elections, extending the provisions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision to all states.

The tax code allows nonprofits like WTP to engage in some political activity, but they are supposed to have social welfare as their primary purpose. As reported previously by the Billings Gazette, when WTP applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status, it told the IRS under penalty of perjury that it would not directly or indirectly attempt to influence elections — even though it already had.

The group is now locked in an ongoing dispute with Montana authorities, who ruled in October 2010 that the nonprofit should have registered as a political committee and should have to disclose its donors. WTP sued. A hearing is set for March.

In the meantime, the group has changed its name to American Tradition Partnership, reflecting its larger ambitions. This month, it sent Montana voters a mailer in the form of a newspaper called the Montana Statesman that claimed to be the state’s “largest & most trusted news source.”

The front page accused the Republican gubernatorial candidate of being soft on sex offenders.

Donny Ferguson, American Tradition Partnership’s spokesman and executive director, did not specifically address the documents found in Colorado or allegations of coordination made against WTP.

“American Tradition Partnership always obeys every letter of every applicable law,” he wrote in an emailed response to questions. “ATP does not, and never will, endorse candidates or urge voters to vote for or against candidates. … These false allegations are old hat.”

When asked about the documents found in Colorado, Jim Brown, a lawyer for the group, said he was unfamiliar with them.

After being shown some of the documents by the newspaper, Brown, in a follow up email, said his review indicated that they appeared to belong to a company called Direct Mail. Direct Mail and Communications is a print shop in Livingston, Mont., run by a one-time key player in WTP and his wife.

Brown urged the Gazette to turn over the documents. “If the documents are purported to be what you say they are, then you may knowingly be in possession of stolen property,” Brown wrote.

The records are in the hands of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, which considers them public and reviewable upon request.


PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
The story kind of brushed over the documents being found in a meth house... I'd like to hear more about that connection.

Edit: I also love how the group's lawyer tried to claim the documents didn't belong to the group specifically, then requested they be turned over because they might be stolen property.
Strange but true or no fuckin' way? Weird deal. Prolly one of those stories you never find out how it ends.

Norm Stansfield

Wow, all that police activity and media concern, and no crime involving an actual victim's actual rights being violated, anywhere.


Wackbag's Best Conservative
The story kind of brushed over the documents being found in a meth house... I'd like to hear more about that connection.

Edit: I also love how the group's lawyer tried to claim the documents didn't belong to the group specifically, then requested they be turned over because they might be stolen property.
The way I heard it one of the meth guys found it in a car they stole.


Wackbag's Best Conservative
Optimum drops PBS signal during 'Frontline' documentary

When Montanans tuned into a PBS documentary on dark money Tuesday night, some found their screens were dark, too.
That’s what happened to Optimum cable subscribers, such as Nancy Schultz of Bozeman, when they tried to tune into the “Frontline” documentary, “Big Sky, Big Money.”

Many Montanans planned to tune into the documentary accusing out-of-state, dark-money groups of illegally coordinating with candidates on campaigns.
American Tradition Partnership was one of the groups the documentary profiled. ATP also has continually challenged the state’s campaign laws.
Schultz wasn’t alone in her disappointment - the Optimum blackout was statewide. A number of subscribers posted on Twitter that they had no signal.
Viewers with different cable service, dish service or antenna signals were able to view the program.
William Marcus, general manager of KUFM/MontanaPBS in Missoula, said he was aware of the problem starting at 4:10 p.m. PBS stations monitor their feed on all signal providers.
“The screen froze and we informed them immediately but it took them until 8:40 to fix it,” Marcus said.
Marcus said Optimum officials told him they were having multiple problems but only the basic cable service was affected.
That doesn’t correspond with the experience of some viewers.
Some who had high definition service had a signal, but others like Bob Brigham of Helena didn’t. He was able to receive other channels. Brigham said he called customer service and waited a long time on hold.
“I finally ended up talking to someone and she blamed PBS,” Brigham said. “The timing makes you wonder since Optimum will be pushing for centrally assessed taxation in the Legislature and they’re likely to be supported by representatives ATP supports.”
Brigham is referring to a recent Legislative interim committee hearing where representatives from cable television, telecommunications companies and oil refineries criticized the way the state taxes centrally assessed companies like theirs.
If the corporations convince the Legislature in restructuring their taxes, property owners could see another tax increase.
Aaron Pruitt, director of Montana PBS/KUSM in Bozeman, said many things can go wrong with broadcasts and it was probably unfortunate timing. He also called Optimum several times Tuesday afternoon.
“Everyone likes to think conspiracy theory,” Pruitt said. “I can’t think of the last time something like this happened with a basic-tier feed, but we would never suggest anything other than a technical problem.”
Optimum spokeswoman Allison Waters refused to comment.
Viewers can still see the documentary on the PBS channel at noon Thursday or 8 p.m. Friday. They also can stream the “Frontline” episode at

Kirk, comment?

Norm Stansfield

Because when bozemandailychronicle10internet234montanalunatic3293903941 speaks, Falldog listens, and shares the important points he makes with the world.


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What Mysterious Docs might look like: