HELENA — The Western Tradition Partnership, the lead plaintiff in the legal challenge to Montana’s ban on corporate spending for candidates, has touted the confidentiality of its donations as a key advantage to support its political efforts.
An affidavit by state investigator Robert Hoffman included a slideshow to an election-year briefing by Western Tradition Partnership. Hoffman is the investigator for the office of the state political practices commissioner.
Western Tradition Partnership has mounted both primary and general election attacks on candidates, including some incumbents, since June 2008. The political practices commissioner is investigating complaints against the group.
Hoffman said the material came from a former employee of the Western Tradition Partnership, and its logo, content and other characteristics are consistent with other documents produced by the group.
In the briefing, the partnership cited these five advantages of the group as it solicited $460,000 for its 2010 general election program:
• Donations are confidential. As a group organized under 501(c) (4) for the federal tax code, the partnership is not required to report the name or amount of any contribution. “If you decide to support the program, no politician, no bureaucrat and no radical environmentalist will ever know you helped make this program possible,” the presentation said.
• Corporate contributions are allowed. “This is one of the rare programs you will find where that’s the case,” the presentation said.
• There is no contribution limit. “You can give whatever you’re comfortable with and make as big an impact as you wish,” the partnership said.
• It’s about the issues. “Our success won’t depend on which party is in power,” the presentation said. “Politicians get the message loud and clear when their colleagues get beaten in the ballot box.”
• It works. The group said the primary example used “proves we can run a successful program against the radical environmentalists and beat them out of their own game.”
Hoffman said his investigation has found evidence that Western Tradition Partnership intends to or has tried to solicit donations from officers of several foreign corporations or their affiliations, including some based in Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Western Tradition Partnership calls itself “a grass-roots organization dedicated to ‘Rediscovering America’s National Treasure’ by promoting responsible natural resource development, private property rights and multiple use of and access to public lands.” Its website calls itself “the leading organization fighting the anti-jobs, anti-taxpayer policy agenda of extreme environmentalist front groups.”
It is organized in Denver and registered in Montana.
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Marlenee, R-Mont., and former state Rep. John Sinrud, R-Bozeman, were involved in the organization of the Montana affiliate of the partnership in 2008.