Iryan Lochesh               Capitol Whispers               Feb 5, 2019

 

We don’t wish to be thought of as conspiracy theorists, but it sure seems like the COPP gives most everyone a pass except Conservatives

 

Jeff Mangan – Commissioner, Office of Political Practices

 

It’s no secret that the Office of Political Practices has made some controversial decisions in the past, with many of them doing damage to Conservatives.  However, it’s often times the decisions that the OPP decides not to make that may do the most harm.

We have had one of our Capitol Whisper investigators scanning the complaints that have been denied by the COPP, and it appears that if you are a real Conservative your complaints largely fall on deaf ears.  Certain “Conservative” groups and Liberals, on the other hand, seem to have a knack for getting on the COPP’s good side.

The complaints highlighted below are but the first of many that seem to have solid evidence, yet were denied because of party affiliation.  We know that Mr. Mangan was not Commissioner during the bulk of the misdeeds that will be outlined here at Capitol Whispers, but he’s there now and has the power to do something if he chooses.

 

Issue:

  • In 2015, CKST had two (separate) Lobbying Complaints filed (with the COPP):
    • April 3, Jayson Peters complaint
      • CSKT, Mercury, DeMars, and FARM have chosen to use Dark Money and skirt Montana lobbying laws to hide the full amount of funds to lobby the Montana legislature and other public officials,” states the complaint. “This is a breach of the public trust and open government.”
    • July 1, Terry Threlkeld & Walter Morris complaint
  • Both purported that the group (CSKT) had “..failed to report and disclose money spent in direct and grassroots lobbying of the 2015 legislature”.
  • Both complaints were decided in one dismissal, dated July, 2018; found HERE

 

Time-line: (month/year)

 

6/14 – CSKT engaged “Mercury Public Affairs, LLC” for $200,000 to create a plan to develop support for the CSKT Compact.

  • Mark Baker serves “Mercury” in “counsel capacity”

‘Late’/14 – ”A coalition of individuals…” form FARM (Farmers & Ranchers for Montana”.

  • CSKT is a contributing member of FARM.

12/14 – SB 262, 64th legislature bill (draft) “Implement CSKT water rights settlement” was requested

1/15 – CKST registers with COPP as a Principal, stating that it would be engaging in lobbying activities.

  • CKST authorized/registered Shane Morigeau & Mark Baker as their (paid) lobbyists.

‘Early’/15 – COPP received a request from a legislator about FARM, wanting to know

  • if FARM had registered as a Principal
  • if FARM had authorized any paid lobbyists on its behalf to support the CSKT compact.
  • FARM is not registered as a PAC or a lobbying organization.
  • FARM then acknowledged its duty to report & disclose direct lobbying expenditures if it crossed the $2,500 threshold.

1/15-2/15 – 1/15-2/15 –  Multiple emails were sent to to legislative members & other undisclosed recipients.

  •  Emails originated from Shelby DeMars, a self-described family-rancher, “…on behalf of FARM”
  •  Emails’ topic was the support of the CSKT water settlement

Emails each (seemingly) had a different psychological manipulation approach in play; exercising the gamut of common psychological vulnerabilities to gain support for the bill. Based on the topic/scope of the emails sent, I have identified these select ‘manipulation tactics’ at play

‘selective attention’ tactic, ‘playing the servant role’ tactic, ‘bandwagon effect’ tactic, ‘minimization’ tactic, ‘rationalization’ tactic

2/15 – SB 262 was introduced into the legislature on Feb. 3.

  • In the two weeks following, more emails were sent to legislative members, each in support of the compact, and each on the behalf of FARM.

2/15 – SB 262 was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16.

  • During (the hearing), a senator gave oral testimony, identifying himself as a member of FARM; (former) State Senator Lorents Grosfield stated that his supportive testimony was on an unpaid/voluntary basis.[2]
  • DeMars also provided a CSKT-supportive oral testimony during the hearing.[3]

[2] Senate Judiciary Committee, Feb. 16, 2015 minutes and archive, 1:25:45-1:29:32.

[3] “”, at 2:07:49.

2/15-4/15 – More (multiple) emails were sent out to legislative members and other undisclosed recipients, originating from Ms. DeMars, all on behalf of FARM.

  • These emails, like prior messages, employed the usage of various persuasion /manipulation techniques & tactics; ‘group/ herd mentality’, message headline using ‘logos’ persuausion, etc.
  • Multiple media/outreach campaigns were done (& assumingly paid for) by FARM.
  • Included flyers, newspaper ads, mailers, etc.

4/15

  • House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB262.
  • During (the hearing) Walt Sales provided oral & written testimony in support of the CSKT compact.
  • Sales did not identify himself as a member of FARM when he was speaking to the Committee; only in his written testimony did he identify himself as “a co-chair of FARM”.[4]

[4] H. Judiciary Comm. Apr.15,2015 Minutes, Ex. 15 at 2, and video 3:32:04

 

Issue: (after facts given)

 

  • CSKT spent money hiring “Mercury” to develop support strategy
  • CSKT spent money, contributing regularly to FARM
    • Neither was reported & disclosed as lobbying.

 “Lobbying” is defined as “the practice of promoting or opposing the introduction of enactment of legislation before the legislature or the members of the legislature.”[5],and a “lobbyist” is “a person who engages in the practice of lobbying”.[6]

 So, according to that lawful definition given in our state’s constitution, wouldn’t the nondisclosure of those two aforementioned payments (by CSKT) be illegal?

Apparently not. The deciding judge referenced an ‘administrative regulation’ adopted by the former Commissioner Vaughey in 2004, stating that lobbying reporting and disclosure regulations “only would be applied to legislative lobbying promoting or opposing the introduction of enactment of legislation before the legislature or legislators.”

So,what they’re saying is :

Since “legislative lobbying…before the legislature or legislators” occurred via representatives of FARM (not CSKT), then it does not require CSKT’s disclosure.

And, the “Mercury” developed strategy (the mailers, radio spots, etc.) are considered “Grassroots lobbying”,and therefor, are not required to be reported and disclosed. [3]

 

“Grassroots lobbying” generally describes efforts (used by an organization) to “encourage others, including the general public, to engage in direct communication with a public official to influence official action”.

If Grassroots lobbying involves directly communicating with legislators regarding pending or proposed legislation, this activity has shifted…and is therefore, direct lobbying”.[4]

 

OK, so…that’s what happened here, right? OK, OK…so, that the mailers & newspaper things were “Grassroots”…they were meant to persuade The People, not ‘the Parliament’ …fine,OK.

But, what about the people (Ms. DeMars & Mr. Sales) that spoke out at the Committee hearings, all representatives or members of FARM in support of the compact? And the Senate member (Mr. Lorents Grosfield) who voiced his supportive testimony? That was “directly communicating with legislators…regarding proposed legislation.” (see footnote 8, again)

Nope, doesn’t count (according to the deciding Commissioner of these complaints)! No, no…those FARM members who voiced their support for the CSKT on the Committee floor….they were volunteers…they weren’t being paid…so, nope![5]

 

Points to Cover :

 

  • The CKST Water compact is one of the most controversial (& critical) issues, concerning the laws and legislature of Montana. Those in the Helena rotunda must decide if they will ratify the agreement between the United States, the CKST, and the State of Montana over the extent of tribal water rights in Western Montana.
  • The complaint alleges that the CSKT and the lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs failed to disclose the full amount of money spent lobbying for the compact.
  • Mercury formed a pro-compact 501(c)4 group called Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) to raise grassroots support for the compact legislation (SB 262).
    • At no point was FARM ever registered with COPP as a lobbying principal.
      • Shelby DeMars is FARM’s primary spokeswoman, and at no pint did she register as a lobbyist for the group.
    • FARM states that it does not engage in direct lobbying and is therefore not required to register with COPP.
      • Describes the group as “a grassroots coalition of farmers and ranchers, united with local leaders, Indian tribes, businesses and other Montanans.”

[1] Mont. code Ann.5-7-102 (1 1)(a)(i)

[2] Accord to Mont. Admin.R.44.12.102(3)

[3] under the Montana Lobbyist Disclosure Act (“Act”)

[4] Mont. Admin. R.44.12.102(3)

[5] Mont. Code Ann. 5-7-102(12)(b)(i)

 

 

FARM Perpetrates Campaign Fraud While the OPP Yawns and Turns Its Head
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