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The Chameleon Caucus: Who are they now?

chameleonMost of us likely remember a bit of a dustup that the State of Montana had a few years ago with a shady group called American Tradition Partnership (ATP) and their research arm the American Tradition Institute over campaign finance laws. ATP thought that using out-of-state dark money to send anonymous fliers attacking Montana candidates should not be questioned. They refused to register as a political group, or reveal their funding sources. The group was later implicated in break-ins at the office of the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices and the office of then-Attorney General Steve Bullock. ATP was instrumental in getting our century-old political disclosure law nullified in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United Case.

Following revelations in ATP documents found in a Colorado meth house, ATP became pretty much ineffective in Montana and elsewhere. American Tradition Partnership pretty much faded away. End of story, right? Well not exactly.

Go to the website of the American Tradition Institute today and you will find this forwarding page:

We’ve Changed Our Name, Refined Our Focus, and Moved Our Site

Check Us Out: Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal)

According to their website, the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute pursues “FREE-MARKET ENVIRONMENTALISM THROUGH STRATEGIC LITIGATION”. We reported last month about a Bozeman-based think tank, the Property and Environment Research Center that claims to have practically invented “Free Market Environmentalism” (FME) although the term has been around for many years. The premise of Free Market Environmentalism is that nature can be preserved, and pollution reduced, by expanding private property rights. Or, in other words, the right to pollute is an absolute right of business. If you want someone to stop polluting, you pay them to not pollute, you don’t take away the God-given rights of business. So, of course, business interests, conservative foundations and think tanks have whole-heartedly endorsed the concept.

E&E Legal advocates responsible resource development, sound science, respect for property rights, and a commitment to markets as it holds accountable those who seek excessive and destructive government regulation that’s based on agenda-driven policy making, junk science, and hysteria.

Basically, E&E Legal is just an updated version of ATP, still dedicated to warping the legal system in favor of corporations by using massive amounts of dark money to influence state and national elections through “agenda-driven policy making, junk science, and hysteria”.

Funny thing is; all of these dark money organizations and foundations are funded through the same sources. ATP had deep ties to two wealthy brothers from Kansas, who shall remain nameless, although their initials are Charles and David Koch. As for E&E Legal, “The group has “connections with the Koch brothers, Art Pope and other conservative donors seeking to expand their political influence” reported the Institute for Southern Studies in October 2011.” PERC also has strong ties to various conservative foundations, including the Koch Foundation and the related Claude R. Lambe Foundation. The money goes round and round. If one group is discredited or exposed, it simply fades away and the same employees, with the same goals and the same money turn up in an entirely new entity with the same direction and objectives. Money talks, but dark money shouts.

FME is founded in part on “Public Choice Theory” as outlined by James Buchanan, and Gordon Tullock in 1962. In 1983, Terry Anderson, one of the founders of the Bozeman think tank wrote, Water Rights: Scarce Resource Allocation, Bureaucracy and the Environment, in which he outlined five aspects of Public Choice Theory, including;

It is rational for voters to remain ignorant of the electoral process because they benefit little from being informed; the members of small interest groups have more incentive to participate in the political process because the benefits are concentrated on them, compared to large groups, and thus they tend to dominate the political process; politicians have a strong incentive to win their next election and this produces a short-sighted bias when they evaluate policies; and elections are a poor measure of voter preferences on any single issue, such as the environment, because it can note be determined which issues motivated voters and to what degree.

I think that pretty much sums up the ambitions of all of the corporate dark money groups. Keep the voters uninformed, fearful, and divided while pouring millions of dollars into electing pliable, but ignorant candidates, who can be persuaded to pass corporate-friendly environmental laws. The colors change, the message stays the same.

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