The last time we checked in with American Tradition Partnership, its attorneys were simulatenously disclaiming and demanding return of a box of documents found in a Colorado meth house that tracked the 501(c)4 organization’s coordination with Republican campaigns. Before that, they were publishing fake newspapers linking then-gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock to sex offenders, and before that they convinced the Supreme Court to overturn Montana’s campaign finance laws per Citizens United. Last week, a district judge in Montana fined ATP over a quarter million dollars, saying it had shown “complete disregard” for those laws in 2008. But an attorney for ATP says the group is operatively defunct and “suggested it could be hard to collect any potential penalties.” The 2008 election was like five years ago anyway.
Everybody loves a scoundrel. Who can resist the raffish charm of Han Solo, the ironized confidence of Chael Sonnen, the armed troops of Francisco Franco? Not Americans—Americans love an anti-hero, a fellow who does bad but deep down is good, somehow. Our penchant for anti-heroes is so strong that, as many critics observe, we have damn few regular heroes left. I am not worried about the hero population, though. I’m worried about our supply of villains, which dwindles to near zero as they are all declared likable scoundrels. Today is Friday, and the week that was does not look so bad in retrospect. It was actually total dicks, though, and a scoundrel is a scoundrel no matter how much the princess loves him in Jedi. Won’t you shoot first with me?
Last night, Frontline aired its half of the Pro Publica story about documents found in a meth house suggesting that American Traditions Partnership coordinated with the Republican Party. ATP has been particularly active in Montana, suing to force the state to comply with Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 and, now, pursing a suit to overturn campaign contribution limits. ATP does not have to disclose its donors to the FEC, because ATP is not a political organization. As they helpfully explain in their press release, they’re a grassroots education nonprofit. One of their educational publications, for example, is the Montana Statesman, a website that just happens to run only articles about how awful various Democratic candidates are. The Statesman bills itself as “Montana’s oldest and most trusted news source.”