Intelligent Discontent

Texas Fracking Billionaires have given to 70% of Montana GOP


Two Texas billionaire brothers were the largest donors to Montana legislative races in 2012, giving $51,040 to more than 70 Republican legislators candidates.  That’s a lot of money in a state where the average legislative candidate only raises $6,537.

My colleague, Amanda Harrow, broke the full story yesterday at

Dan and Farris Wilks, along with their wives, Staci and JoAnn, entered the world of Montana campaigns with a bang in 2012, giving a collective total of $51,040. Each of them gave to more than 70 candidates, all Republicans, and in most instances, they each gave the maximum allowed by law…

Sixty-four of the candidates they supported won; 63 are now legislators, and Tim Fox is the attorney general. Across both chambers, 70 percent of Republican legislators and 42 percent of the legislative body as a whole received contributions from the Wilkses during the 2012 election.

This Montana session should be full of bills to deal with the oil & gas boom in Eastern Montana, which has grown immensely since the last sessions. (The Legislative Fiscal Division has a nice chart showing  the growth from 2009). Legislators will have to deal with how to help towns like Sidney, where local infrastructure has been pushed to the limits by new construction  They might want to consider whether to continue allowing five percent of collected gas to be released straight into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

As the report points out, fracking regulation is almost entirely left to state legislatures. In this case, 63 of them got substantial portions of their campaigns funded by the fracking industry.

The full list of the politicians who accepted donations from the Wilks Brothers is available here.

Tribune reporter John Adams also has a piece on the Wilks’.

CORRECTION: The first sentence of this piece misquoted the original FollowTheMoney post. The Wilks’ gave to more than 70 candidates, but only 63 of them became legislators. 70% of Republican legislators have received money from the Wilks Brothers.

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Tyler Evilsizer

Raised in Helena, Tyler's particularly passionate about the environment, transparency, and wonky budget policy. The views expressed are his own.

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