Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cover story update: Conservative Colorado group scores points with Supreme Court

Posted By on Sat, Feb 18, 2012 at 2:02 PM

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Last month, we ran a cover story on the secretive Colorado-based group American Tradition Partnership and its increasingly central role in the national Citizens United debate. The conservative advocacy group had just lost its case against Montana's century-old statute banning corporate political spending, and was declaring its intention to take its case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday night, ATP scored a significant victory as the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Montana Supreme Court decision, thereby suspending the state's restrictions against super PAC's directly influencing the political process.

By all indications, this is a prelude to the Supreme Court reviewing a case that's likely to brings the whole controversy around Citizens United v Federal Election Commission back into the political and media spotlight. National polls have shown little public support for the ruling that enables corporate super-PACs to funnel unlimited amounts of money into influencing political campaigns.

Currently, groups like ATP, whose stated goal is to fight "radical environmentalism" and to "crush Gang Green and their anti-business allies," do not have to reveal where their money comes from — or, for that matter, where it goes.

During our interview last month, American Tradition Partnership Executive Director Donald Ferguson admitted his group served as a conduit for some serious money during 2010's Montana political campaigns, but assured me "it was not over $500,000."

In an interview for the same story, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock defended his state supreme court's decision, while insisting that the blunt wording of its attack on ATP for "questionable tactics and blatant hypocrisy" was justified.

"I think if you read the dissent in the Citizens United case, those four justices were uncharacteristically blunt about their concerns," said Bullock, who's also running for Montana governor this year. "So our Montana Supreme Court, in looking at Western Tradition Partnership and the number of lawsuits that they have filed, I think they've expressed some concerns about what this organization is and what's behind it."

Look for those and other questions to be revisited as this story continues to play out.

Read the full Indy cover story here.

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