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Wake Up Call

startingthefightIt wasn’t the Russians. It wasn’t racism. It wasn’t Wikileaks, Fox News, Corporate Media or the FBI. We did it to ourselves.

My Dad’s Democratic Party was a party of inclusion. It was the party of steelworkers, farmers, waitresses, cab drivers and carpenters. The Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is a white collar party of exurban commuters and stock traders. Many of the folks that elected Donald Trump were abandoned by the Democratic Party. Their party abandoned worker’s rights, fair wages, unions, pensions and the social safety net in favor of financial controls, closing tax loopholes and free trade. Not that those things are not important, but if you are living paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to send your kids to college, the travails of corporate malfeasance are not an overarching priority. Working folks had nowhere to turn except to the planet of empty promises and pie-in-the-sky. It is my ardent wish that Democrats have learned from this experience, but that may well be pie-in-the-sky too. We can’t blame outside forces for Donald Trump. We need to look inward and find where we have failed.

Robert Reich got it right;

Recent economic indicators may be up, but those indicators don’t reflect the insecurity most Americans continue to feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience. Nor do the major indicators show the linkages many Americans see between wealth and power, stagnant or declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and the undermining of democracy by big money.

Glen Greenwald has been following the backlash vote;

For many years, the U.S. — like the U.K. and other Western nations — has embarked on a course that virtually guaranteed a collapse of elite authority and internal implosion. From the invasion of Iraq to the 2008 financial crisis to the all-consuming framework of prisons and endless wars, societal benefits have been directed almost exclusively to the very elite institutions most responsible for failure at the expense of everyone else.

Everyone recognizes the need for change. There are calls for a new party, a new politics, a new coalition. “We need a people’s party — a party capable of organizing and mobilizing Americans in opposition to Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which is about to take over all three branches of the US government. We need a New Democratic Party that will fight against intolerance and widening inequality.” says Reich. We had that party, it used to be the Democratic Party, but we have lost our way.

Here is what we need to understand:  a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present.

Today Bernie Sanders is the most important person in the Democratic Party and even he is not a Democrat. It’s time to focus people. We need to bring back the party we once had, the party that recognizes that we have forgotten the people part of the equation.

Fair, transparent, and accessible elections?

Just an update on Gianforte and his stream access lawsuit. On Monday, the Gianforte campaign sent out a Cease and Desist letter to every Montana broadcasting station calling on all stations to stop airing a commercial by the Democratic Governors PAC regarding the 2009 lawsuit, claiming that the ads are “false and misleading”  According to the letter, stations “should refuse to air it or immediately refuse to continue airing it.”

Claims that the ad is defamatory to Mr. Gianforte are dubious at best but, why not take a shot? What I found most telling about the letter was not the content, but the sender. The letter was sent out by the counsel to the Gianforte for Montana campaign James Bopp of Terre Haute, Indiana. Yes, this is the same James Bopp that was the brains behind the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision that removed all limits on campaign donations for rich folks and corporations. Bopp was also instrumental in nearly destroying campaign finance oversight in Montana.

The Citizens United ruling has resulted in near-complete control of our elections by corporations and wealthy patrons who are able to hide behind the anonymity of a myriad of Dark Money organizations;

In 1980, the top 0.01 percent of the population contributed 15 percent of total political contributions. But between 2010 and 2014, just 195 donors—the top .0013 percent of the population—funded 60 percent of super PACs, which, as (supposedly) independent corporations are exempt from both donation limits and spending limits, thanks to the progeny of Citizens United.

Bopp was also instrumental, as a member of the 2016 Republican Platform Committee in striking all language relating to LGBT rights from the GOP platform. Bopp, and by extension his client Gianforte, feel that control of our elections by wealthy corporate interests is just like a bunch of regular folks, like you and me, banding together and spending millions of dollars to influence our elections.

Yes, this is the same Greg Gianforte who thinks the “Jersey Gianforte” label is defamatory because he’s a real Montanan and has vowed to not accept special-interest money. And yet he is more than willing to hire and accept out-of-state help from a radical right-wing millionaire lawyer from Indiana who wants to tear down our electoral process and wants to influence elections in Montana.

According to the nonpartisan grassroots organization Common Cause;

“James Bopp is the point man for conservative wealthy interests whose goal is to dismantle the laws and regulations we have in place to stop the buying of Congress and other elected officials,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “America has Bopp and company to thank for the flood of secret corporate dollars flowing into the mid-term elections drowning out the voices of ordinary voters. Wall Street, Big Oil and the insurance industry will all seek a return on their investments as soon as the campaigns are over, and the public will pay the price.”

Gianforte has said;  “I will continue to fight for fair, transparent, and accessible elections because I, along with all Montanans, believe that our elections should be decided by ‘we the people’ — not by a small number of wealthy people who seek to hide their money and motivations,” And yet once again, the Gianforte campaign seeks to demonstrate that those with whom you associate speak reams about your true objectives.

Defining “Public”

“I would oppose any plan that jeopardizes keeping public lands public.”, Greg Gianforte – March 28, 2016

Mr. Gianforte has recently become an advocate for public lands although his definition of “public” and “access” is still somewhat hazy.  In defending his lawsuit against the State of Montana in 2009 over public access along the East Gallatin River his lawyers asked for a decree to “extinguish” the “improperly conveyed Easement and any other claimed easement rights claimed by FWP and/or the public”. So, just how strong is Gianforte’s support of public access? Let’s examine statements by a few of the organizations that Mr. Gianforte supports, through his tax-deductible family foundation.

Heritage Foundation

States have a proven record of managing resources, and already have the regulatory structures in place to do so on federal lands within their boundaries as well. Not only would new management multiply benefits for all Americans, it would also encourage better care of the environment and natural resources by putting them in the hands of people who have an immediate stake in wise management.

Americans For Prosperity

Most Americans acknowledge that the federal government has a role to play in managing our nation’s vast landmass. National parks, military bases, and interstate highways are all federal lands that are understandably under Washington’s control. However, every acre of land that does not fulfill these basic functions of government is an acre that could have been better used by a private citizen or company. Unfortunately, this opportunity cost applies to the vast majority of federal lands that sit idle as an untapped frontier for prosperity.

Property and Environment Research Center

There is nothing inherently national in scope about many federal land management responsibilities. Timber harvesting, livestock grazing, and energy development are carried out responsibly and profitably on state trust lands. Our results provide further evidence to question whether these activities should remain federal responsibilities. States could likely earn much greater revenues managing these activities, but transfer proponents must consider how management practices would have to change in order to generate those revenues under state control.

Importantly, each of these groups is primarily funded by the extreme Libertarian, oil baron Koch Brothers and their wealthy donor network who make no bones about coveting private control of public lands. Gianforte gave the keynote speech at the Koch-backed, AFP “Passion to Profit” workshop in 2015.

2016 Republican Platform

Experience has shown that, in caring for the land and water, private ownership has been our best guarantee of conscientious stewardship, while the worst instances of environmental degradation have occurred under government control.

Clearly, for such a champion of public lands, Mr. Gianforte supports, and seeks the support, of many organizations and individuals who do not share his enthusiasm for keeping public lands and access in public hands. Experience decrees that what you say matters, but who you fund, who you listen to and who you associate with may be more telling.

Furthering the common good and general welfare

Problem: How to anonymously infuse millions of dollars into a political campaign to bias the outcome.

Answer: Social Welfare.

Prior to the Citizens United and the lesser-known SpeechNow rulings in 2010, individuals, corporations and unions were limited to donations of $5,000 or less to groups that ran “independent” political campaigns. Following those rulings, all caps on donations were removed supposedly to preserve the right of free speech. The rulings also upheld the notion that groups running Independent Expenditure political campaigns need not register as a political committee or follow PAC reporting requirements and are not required to reveal the identity of their donors if they register as a tax deductible organization.

Social Welfare organizations are registered under the Internal Revenue Code as tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations. These organizations must “operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community”. That does not mean however, that they cannot operate in the partisan political arena. A “501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”

spendingTherefore, a “social welfare” organization may fund and distribute attack ads, fund opposition research, mail issue propaganda, or organize other political activities as long as it is not their “primary activity”. How that works in the real world is that a social welfare organization (think Americans for Prosperity) creates a vast and nearly untraceable, web of social welfare organizations that can raise millions of tax deductible dollars anonymously from wealthy individuals and corporations interested influencing a particular issue, or candidate. They are then allowed to spend up to 49% of that money on a publicity campaign to influence the outcome of legislation or an election all the while protecting the First Amendment rights of their donors by not revealing where the money came from and simultaneously claiming that they are doing “social welfare” work for the good of the electorate.

But, what happens to the other 51% that cannot be legally spent on political activity? Simple, you donate that money to other social welfare organizations who hold the same views. Those organizations, sometimes sharing the same address and/or phone number with the donor, are then free to use up to 49% of the remaining money for political advocacy on the same issue or candidate. After those organizations have spent their 49% they pass along the remaining money to other organizations ad infinitum until all of the tax deductible millions in anonymous money is spent to further the aims of the donor network and this is all done allegedly “to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community” whether they like it or not.

Americans for Prosperity, founded and directed by the oil-rich Koch brothers, has spent more than $2 million so far in this elections cycle much of it on “social welfare”, and intends to spend more than $100 million to further the aims of its semi-anonymous wealthy donors. Both Steve Daines (89%) and Ryan Zinke (82%) have received high lifetime ratings from Americans for Prosperity while Jon Tester got a paltry rating of only 11%. While AFP was not allowed to actively campaign against Jon Tester, in 2012 “AFP deployed a traveling call center for what it dubbed the “Tester truth tour.” At parking lot rallies across the state, AFP would inform audiences about Tester’s voting record.”  AFP’s Montana state director was formerly a staffer for Steve Daines.  Greg Gianforte was the keynote speaker at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s “Passion to Profit” workshop in Bozeman last year and his family trust donates to AFP. That’s not active campaigning, it’s Social Welfare work.

Darkness Descends on Montana

So, we last reported on the dark money group, Protect America’s Consumers and their attack on the nonpartisan Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The “PAC” PAC is, of course, not the only shady political action committee operating in Montana under the cover of darkness. They like to call themselves “social welfare” organizations although no one in Montana can afford to travel in their social circles. Their money comes mainly from outside the state and they hope to influence your vote or your laws in ways that benefit their wealthy and anonymous donors.

Another shadowy group, “Montanans for Community Development” has taken to the courts to try, for the third time, to strike down Montana’s rules governing campaign finance that were passed by both parties in the Legislature on a vote of 51-48. The Montana Disclose Act effectively blocks the flood of “dark money” spending by nonprofit groups that do not disclose their donors and that of course pissed off the anonymous funders even though;

The Supreme Court has confirmed that disclosure requirements do not block free speech, and that the state has an interest in providing its citizens with information about the groups and individuals who spend money in elections, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Cochenour wrote.

There is no evidence supporting the allegations MCD makes against Motl.

Other dark money organizations, like the  Montana Family Foundation and the Montana Policy Institute, funded in part by current Republican gubernatorial candidate, Greg Gianforte fought hard to kill the Disclose Act. “Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, published a letter that said if the bill “were to become law, Montana houses of worship would be at risk of having to publicize every single tithe they receive.” He said that he would challenge the law in federal court if it is passed.”

The Montana Growth Network, funded by out-of-state billionaires and corporations, thinks Montanan’s aren’t smart enough to pick the members of our Supreme Court so, they spent $900,000 to assure that their friendly candidate would be elected in 2012. Three years later, an investigation by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices found that the Montana Growth Network had violated Montana campaign laws. Turns out that the secret major funders of the group just coincidentally had business before the high court. Billionaires James Cox Kennedy and Charles Schwab are both involved in trying to privatize public waters in Montana and strike down the Montana stream access law. John Gibson, president of the Public Land/Water Access Association said;

“If they can’t win in court, they’ll change the court, they’ll change the justices that make the decisions, and that’s ongoing.”

The situation looks fairly clear to Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited, a conservation group that has worked to defend the stream access law against these challenges.

“Those guys wrote big checks to this outfit [Montana Growth Network] to write big checks to [support] McKinnon, and I can’t think of any other reason they would be interested in that race other than the fact that their stream access cases have shown up before the Montana Supreme Court,”.

Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, was found guilty of colluding with the National Right to Work Committee (along with 14 other Republican candidates). He took $19,599 worth of in-kind contributions that he failed to disclose to win his seat in the legislature.

Wittich’s case is the first in the Right to Work investigation to go to trial, and it will likely set a precedent for other open cases against candidates and the nonprofit corporations, which are registered as social welfare organizations.

A 2012 documentary Big Sky, Big Money on PBS’ Frontline won kudos and awards for documenting the influence of dark money operations in Montana following the Supreme Court, Citizen’s United decision. Has anything changed? These corrupt groups continue to have undue influence on our elections, local and statewide, as well as who we seat on our high court. When we out one group, the money just shifts to another with a patriotic-sounding name that, always includes terms like “Freedom”, “American”, “Patriot”, “Liberty”, “Montana”, or “Family” in it’s title. As one group dies, or is banned, the next just steps up to assume the same mantle. Lawsuits, or even new laws can’t completely stop billionaires who seek advantage in controlling our Montana government.

Consumers vs. The Weasels

cfpbIf you watch the teevee in Montana you’ve seen the ads. Another shady right-wing AstroTurf group has been running ’em for a couple of months now attacking the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with outright lies, shady prevarications and fraudulent rhetoric, while implying that Senator Jon Tester plays a role in supporting this dastardly evil empire.

The CFPB was created in 2010 as part of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in response to the “Great Recession” of 2008 with an admittedly malevolent mission “to provide a single point of accountability for enforcing federal consumer financial laws and protecting consumers in the financial marketplace.”

We aim to make consumer financial markets work for consumers, responsible providers, and the economy as a whole. We protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and take action against companies that break the law. We arm people with the information and stepstools that they need to make smart financial decisions.

Of course the K-Street elite can’t bear the fact that there could actually be a semi-federal agency that stands up for the humble consumer against the righteous power of omnipotent corporations. Knowing that they would be justifiably reviled if they acted blatantly against protection of lowly consumers using their own names, a bunch of financial geniuses created another dark money organization allowing them to never have to reveal their secret identities or take responsibility for their actions.

The CFPB has done such despicable things as requiring mortgage lenders to reveal the full consequences of driving borrowers to high-interest loans, forced mortgage lenders to verify a borrowers’ ability to repay, providing borrowers with a low-cost loan counselor, allowing folks scammed by credit card companies get refunds, and much more. Of course, this devious pro-profit group was also driven to distraction by the fact that the CFPB was the shifty step child of Senator Elizabeth Warren who has been a thorn in the side of the financial industry for decades.

Following the devious and dark deceptions of the Protect America’s Consumers sham group (a group that seems to have no members) is of course a tricky row to hoe, but none of the claims made against the CFPB appear to hold yellow water. The smartly produced video advertisements also serve to raise doubts about the veracity of Democratic Senators (including Tester) that the political nonprofit group targets, and come, coincidentally during a national election cycle.

This and other dark money groups are shielded from disclosure of their members, their activities, or funding. If you prefer that your facts arise from a dark hole in the ground with no attribution, facts or accuracy, please send large amounts of money.


More Coggin Poppycock

Here’s the latest attack ad from the oil and gas industry attacking EPA and the Clean Water Act. The letter was published in The Hill blog yesterday and was, of course, signed by our old friend, and Rick Berman employee, Will Coggin.

Richard “Rick” Berman is a longtime Washington, D.C. public relations specialist whose lobbying and consulting firm, Berman and Company, Inc., advocates for special interests and powerful industries. Berman and Co. wages deceptive campaigns against industry foes including labor unions; public-health advocates; and consumer, safety, animal welfare, and environmental groups.

nyc1Coggin is variously identified as “director of research at the Environmental Policy Alliance“, or “director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom”, depending on which targets his corporate overlords want attacked this week. Both groups spend their millions attacking environmental groups and consumer advocate groups such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Trout Unlimited, the EPA, Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food & Water Watch, PETA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving and even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center for Science in the Public Interest through an extensive network of tacky websites, billboards, print ads and recently, letters to many local newspapers across the western U.S attacking the EPA and opponents of the transfer of public lands to private control.

“Berman makes his money as a corporate hired gun, setting up front groups to denigrate public interest organizations that threaten his clients’ bottom lines,” Melanie Sloan, executive director for the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told HuffPost. “I’m not surprised he’s attacking groups and agencies focused on the environment, given the deep pockets of those interested in paying to stop climate change legislation and regulation.”

If the campaign runs true to form, the Hill letter will soon show up in various newspapers across Montana. Their aim is not to elucidate, but to confuse and confound through a blizzard of deception.

“Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger,” admits [Rick] Berman. “Given the activists’ plans to alarm beyond all reason, we’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.” The Center has so aggressively defended junk food, a USA Today editorial said it should rename its site called ConsumerFreedom.com to FatforProfit.com

UPDATE 05/19/2015: Reply from TRCP“These attacks are disingenuous and blatantly hypocritical. The folks behind the Environmental Policy Alliance are lobbyists and PR spinmeisters who are paid by industry to roll back conservation, yet they presume to tell Beltway readers who the real sportsmen are and what we should support.”

Black Decoys

blackdecoyThe latest epistle floating around from the corporate brain trust aimed at stealing your public lands comes from the Property and Environment Research Center out of Bozeman.

We talked about PERC and its mission earlier. This is a deceptive front group doing phony research for Exxon, the Koch brothers and other resource extractors aimed at convincing the public that we are too stupid to manage our own lands and market forces can do a better job. PERC is closely aligned with the American Lands Council and other corporate-funded 501(c) groups. Along with PR guru and corporate lobbyist Richard Berman and his plethora of front groups like the Green Decoys website and the Environmental Policy Alliance, they have initiated a hard push in the media using seemingly rational reasoning to advance the idea of transfer of public lands to private hands. Many dispatches from the Berman-created Green Decoys front group attacking various conservation groups and signed by “senior research analyst” Will Coggin have raised hackles across western states.

In this latest poison-pen letter, PERC tries to make the somewhat oxymoronic point that restricting access and concentrating use on fewer and fewer public parcels will result in a greater appreciation of our common resources and better stewardship of the few places that we have left. Only through the use of proper “access management”, by which they mean access only for the privileged few and “private land managers”, can we begin to appreciate and properly manage our public resources.

PERC continues earlier Will Coggin/ALC attacks on conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for promoting increased public access and appreciation of our wild places and thereby limiting the role of timber, mining and drilling companies.  By citing examples of egregious resource damage due to poor management or improper use, they aspire to prove that private management and/or private ownership is the only way to save our wildland resources from decimation and over-use by greedy public sportsmen. Don’t be fooled, their ultimate goal is to shut off all public access to our communal treasures to allow acquisition and rape by their affluent backers.

Access or Profit?

Think the State of Montana is better at managing public lands than the Federal Government? Think again.

The National Wildlife Federation just released a report titled How Could Your Recreational Access Change if Federal Lands were Controlled by the States? The report details differences between state and federal management of public lands.


Spring Prairie then

During the 1890s, Spring Prairie north of Kalispell was a favored stop for wagon and mule trains traveling the Fort Steele Trail. This important trail connected the Mullan Road near Missoula with the Tobacco Plains and the prosperous mining districts in British Columbia. Spring Prairie offered a large spring of clear water as well as plentiful grazing and timber and was an important resting point before the caravans entered the arduous, heavily timbered part of the northward journey.

At least there is plenty of public access

Spring Prairie today: At least there is plenty of public access

By the Enabling Act of 1889, Montana was to be given sections 16 and 36 of every township within it’s borders when it became a state. The lands were to be held in trust by the state for public education. Spring Prairie was part of that bequest. Montana law requires state trust lands to be administrated to “secure the largest measure of legitimate and reasonable advantage to the state.” Today, due to this mandate to maximize revenues from state lands, Spring Prairie is mostly paved over with plans afoot in the near future to fill and pave the spring itself. Phase 4 of the development will put just over $100,000 a year into state coffers.

At statehood, Montana was given 5.9 million acres of school trust land. After selling off around 800,000 acres, today the State Land Board administers about 5.1 million acres. Those lands include 4.7 million acres under 9,000 agreements for crop and range leases throughout the state, 5,301 oil and gas, metalliferous and non-metalliferous mineral, coal, and sand and gravel leases, and 39 coal leases. The state sold 61.4 million board feet of timber from 780,000 acres of state lands in 2014. Since the state owns our riverbeds, Montana also leases 19,000 acres of riverbed and island tracts for oil and gas development. In 2014, Montana sold 4,093 acres of state trust land.

Until 1991, most of the leased lands were accessible only at the whim of the lessor. Today you can buy a State Lands Permit to access most state lands. About 1.3 million acres of Montana’s public lands are “landlocked” that is, they are surrounded by private parcels and not accessible by the public. One example is the section surrounded by Ted Turner’s 22,000-acre Bar None Ranch. Turner Enterprises leases 16,600 acres of public land in Montana. The area is technically open to public access, but the reality is there is no access across the private land unless you pay Mr. Turner’s Montana Hunting Company $14,000 to hunt on the “public” land.

If Montana were to take possession of all the BLM and U.S. Forest Service land in the state, they would gain about 25 million acres on which to maximize profits for the state. In 1999, the Montana State Legislature passed a law exempting many DNRC activities from MEPA compliance for “lease renewals” and certain other activities associated with trust lands management. If these lands were managed like state trust lands, much of your current access would be lost, or restricted. Much of the new land would necessarily have to be sold to the highest bidder to maximize profit for the state. You would have to buy a permit for lands you can now access for free. Some lands you can now access would be leased for commercial activities which would impair public access and impact wildland values. Virtually every decision on management of public lands would be based on what is best for the state revenue stream and not on what is best for the physical streams, forests and recreational values.

Spring Prairie has become an asphalt wasteland under state management to provide a modest boost to state coffers. Little oversight from overworked and understaffed state agencies would result in much the same fate for many currently open public lands in Montana if the current iteration of the Sagebrush Rebellion is allowed to move forward with its profit-fueled ,corporate vision for public lands in our state.


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.