There are two common themes emanating from the bowels of the Montana Republican Party these days when it comes to elections and voters: that the state should reduce voter turnout and that anonymous “dark money” groups should be able to spend as much as they like to influence elections and suppress voter turnout.
Senator Jason Priest from Red Lodge articulated this reactionary Republican view as well as anyone has:
State Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge warned fellow Republicans that the measure won’t affect anonymous blogs, a venue he argued where Democrats hold an advantage. He said Democrats have an election model that relies on using groups to help register voters and motivate them to vote, which the bill won’t hamper.
“Their business model is exempt under this bill,” Priest said to Republicans. “Vote for this, and keep losing elections. Because that is what this is.”
I don’t think many Montanans would agree that helping transport elderly voters to the polls is as damaging to the political process as secret corporate donations.
One critical element of context missing in this story from the AP’s Matt Gouras is that Priest has more than an academic interest in dark money; he’s a practitioner, as his Montana Growth Network was one of the most obvious players in the 2012 elections:
What is the Montana Growth Network? It’s yet another of Jason Priest’s fantasy organizations, sharing the same phone number, web host, and physical address as his very prestigious and entirely illusory “Montana Senate Policy Committee.” Just another title for an organization of one, designed to collect donations from out of state corporate interests and justify newspaper publication.
It should tell you all you need to know about the reactionary core running the Republican agenda at the Senate that they demonize voter turnout efforts while defending secret corporate influence in politics.