Norm Asbjornson, the guy who just gave $50 Million to MSU, was also the largest donor to Western Tradition Partnership
Yesterday, a man named Norm Asbjornson gave $50 million to Montana State University to build a new engineering and innovation center. That was a very generous contribution. However, I feel the need to point out that Mr. Asbjornson was also the largest contributor to Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) aka American Tradition Partnership (ATP), the organization that successfully overturned Montana's century old ban on corporate spending in elections. A ban that Montanan's overwhelmingly support. Asbjornson gave $50,000 to WTP in August 2008. His heating and cooling company in Tulsa, Okla., gave $20,000 to them in October 2010. Asbjornson said he gave money to WTP in part because the group was working to elect state representatives who embodied Montanan values. I'm not sure how a organization like WTP, which was run by a D.C. insider out of his office in Virginia, reflects Montana values. I also don't understand how Mr. Asbjornson could plead ignorance on WTP's tactics or methods considering one of WTP's main selling points was that you could influence elections and remain completely anonymous. I also think you'd want to know that the organization you were contributing to, especially to the tune of $70,000, was a legitimate, law abiding organization. Here's just a smattering of some of the illegal and unscrupulous activities of WTP in Montana during the last couple election cycles.
- WTP collected almost $1.1 million between March 2008 and December 2010 to influence state and local elections through nasty personal attacks on moderate Republican candidates and statewide Democratic candidates.
- WTP illegally coordinated with right wing extremist candidates through the business Direct Mail and Communications, run by Christian LeFer.
- WTP funded attacks on Democrat Steve Bullock sending out two fake newspapers to Montana residents in the final weeks of the race portraying him as soft on child predators.
- WTP exploited gaps in regulation between election authorities and the Internal Revenue Service to pour tens of millions of dollars from secret donors into political campaigns
- WTP misled the IRS about their political activities.
- WTP sued the state of Montana and successfully overturned Montana's century old ban on corporate spending in elections.
"The donor, Norm Asbjornson, represents the spirit of generosity that makes Montana great."Maybe he didn't know that Mr. Asbjornson was the largest donor to WTP or most likely, it's just politics. No permanent friends, no permanent enemies. I'm not naive. I'm not saying that MSU shouldn't have accepted the money or that it shouldn't be celebrated. But what I am saying is that the media should have pointed out Mr. Asbjornson's connection to WTP. The money Asbjornson gave to MSU was generous and important and will impact Montanan's for generations. But he also actively supported an organization that badly damaged Montana's democratic processes and institutions. Those actions will have negative repercussions on Montanans, and arguably will have more impact than his donation to MSU, for generations to come. Just thought someone should point that out. (For more information about WTP and their illegal activities, just go to Frontline and read their great coverage of the group and dark money in politics.)