The PBS news show “Frontline” will feature Montana tonight as an example of the campaign turmoil resulting from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
The American Tradition Partnership, its alleged lack of disclosure and its dismantling of state campaign laws will be a focus of the documentary.
The broadcast follows a number of investigative articles published by the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica that seek to connect the dots between ATP, its undisclosed contributors, and the Republican candidates that ATP has supported with attack mailings and advertisements in the wake of the Citizens United decision.
The revelations of the investigative pieces haven’t gone without notice by either ATP or those seeking to override the Citizens United ruling. On Sunday, a New York Times editorial said the articles showed that a lack of disclosure was corrupting the political process.
The ProPublica article describes documents found in 2011 in a meth house in Colorado that list 23 Montana candidates and point to possible coordination between their campaigns and ATP.
The documents were turned over to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.
ATP attorney Jim Brown of Helena denied knowledge of them, but ATP executive director Donald Ferguson said in an email Monday that he was contacting the FBI to report the interstate trafficking of stolen documents.
On Monday, Ferguson released a statement denying the “Frontline” claims.
“As has been the case with every legal issue we have brought forward, this will be decided in ATP’s favor for one simple reason - the law is always on our side,” Ferguson said in an email.
A case brought by ATP against Montana’s campaign contribution limits was stayed this month by an appeals court that indicated in its ruling that it wasn’t likely to agree with the district judge’s ruling to lift the state’s limit on contributions.
ATP attorney James Bopp asked the Supreme Court to step in, but Justice Anthony Kennedy declined.
Brown has filed lawsuits for ATP against the group Stand With Montanans in an attempt to block an initiative that comes before Montana voters next week.
I-166 is a citizens’ initiative to create a state policy that corporations are not people.
Emboldened by the recent investigations, Stand with Montanans and its partners are coordinating a protest on noon Wednesday in Helena. An associated march will head to Brown’s office.
“James Brown and ATP are trying to knock us off the ballot and wipe out all our laws,” said Stand with Montanans treasurer C.B. Pearson. “These reports will show ATP is responsible for a form of corruption that we haven’t seen in Montana in many years.”
Laura Lundquist can be reached at 582-2638 or firstname.lastname@example.org.