©2016 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
Is it possible that politics in Montana are little more than a corrupt microcosm of federal politics? Were the shenanigans that were pulled in the 2015 Montana legislature by “responsible republicans” to pass Medicaid Expansion and the CSKT Compact just the tip of the corruption iceberg? The answer to these questions is a resounding YES.
In 2014, we reported Senator Bruce Tutvedt’s relationship with the CSKT and tribal funds going into his PAC, but that seems to be small potatoes compared to “Farmers and Ranchers for Montana”, aka FARM.
It is interesting that more advertising money is currently making its way through Montana, especially with two complaints against CSKT compact lobbying currently unanswered by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices. Mr. Motl it seems, has been far too busy going after small amounts of so called “dark money” while ignoring the real DARK MONEY ELEPHANT in the state. Copies of these lobbying complaints filed a year ago that have essentially been ignored by Mr. Motl can be found here:
TIES TO ALL THREE COMPACT “NEGOTIATION” PARTIES?
While to the best of our knowledge he is not, what if John Tubbs, current director of the DNRC, involved himself with an organization that spent vast amounts of money to support the CSKT compact? Would that be considered a grassroots effort or a conflict of interest?
What if a former director of the Montana DNRC did the same thing? What if this former DNRC director also had a resume that includes being the former president and majority owner of DOWL / HKM engineering, an organization that has financially benefited from contracts with the CSKT and dozens of other Tribes and the United States on engineering work related to the water compact and water rights?
Meet Karen Fagg, one of the “co-chairs” of FARM, the so called “grassroots” organization that has spent massive amounts of money touting the wonders of not just any compact, but the Montana (CSKT water) compact written with the “best interests” of every Montanan in mind.
On its website, FARM is conveyed to the public as being a grassroots organization founded by and for farmers concerned about Montana’s future and the passage of the CSKT Water Compact. The following information is flashed on the front page of the FARM website:
United for Montana’s Future – Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) is a grassroots coalition of farmers and ranchers, united with local leaders, Indian tribes, businesses and other Montanans committed to fair water policies and the approval of a Water Compact that quantifies and secures water access to the benefit of all Montanans.
A simple click on the ABOUT page of their website takes you to a list of Campaign Co-Chairs. Ms. Fagg comes up with the following brief bio:
Karen Fagg is a longtime business owner who oversaw the growth of one of the state’s largest and most respected engineering firms, HKM Engineering Inc. She also served four years as director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which serves a critical role in the water adjudication process in conjunction with the MT Water Court….
Why do we point this out? Because DOWL / HKM has done and continues to do extensive work for the Federal Government and currently is a client of the CSKT. Much of the work done by HKM on the CSKT compact very likely took place during her tenure and as a majority owner of that business. Many state of Montana documents related to the compact reference the technical work done by DOWL / HKM. In short, DOWL / HKM is responsible for the “science behind the numbers”. It was their extensive work on the tribe’s modelling that was put into the irrigator WATER USE AGREEMENT, a document that for all intents and purposes remains pretty much intact in the current proposed version of the water compact.
Take a close look at the map (click on the map for a pdf version) submitted by the CSKT with their filing of their claims with the Montana Water Court in 2015.
An internet search of Karen Fagg brings up many sites listing her background. Here is just one.
Ms. Fagg served as vice president of DOWL LLC, d/b/a DOWL HKM, an engineering and design firm, from April 2008 until her retirement on December 31, 2011. Ms. Fagg was president from April 1, 1995 to June 2000, and chairman, chief executive officer, and majority owner from June 2000 through March 2008 of HKM Engineering, Inc., Billings, Montana, an engineering and physical science services firm. HKM Engineering, Inc. merged with DOWL LLC on April 1, 2008. Ms. Fagg was employed with MSE, Inc., Butte, Montana, an energy research and development company, from 1976 through 1988, and from 1993 to April 1995 she served as vice president of operations and corporate development director. From 1989 through 1992, Ms.Fagg served a four-year term as director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Helena, Montana, the state agency charged with promoting stewardship of Montana’s water, soil, energy, and rangeland resources; regulating oil and gas exploration and production; and administering several grant and loan programs.
Ms. Fagg has historic ownership and management ties with DOWL HKM, a company that has financially benefited from both the United States and CSKT on projects related to the CSKT water compact. Additionally she worked as a Director for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for four years.
Ties with all three parties to the CSKT water compact. I guess you can’t get any more “grassroots” than that.
While everyone has a right to freedom of speech, and to support whatever issues they please, Ms. Fagg’s participation in FARM is eye opening to say the least. Interestingly, in her pro-compact testimony at the Senate hearing for SB262, Ms. Fagg mentioned her DNRC and DOWL / HKM credentials, but forgot to mention her ties to FARM.
To advertise the CSKT Water Compact as Montana’s compact, or to call FARM a grassroots organization is disingenuous at best. Especially since the company she was involved with played a key role in defining the allocations of water that will be “meted” out to irrigators as set forth in the CSKT water compact.
BUT WAIT, IT GETS EVEN BETTER
FARM’s Annual Report filed with the Montana Secretary of State just a few days ago lists the principals:
Walt Sales Director 45 N Hill Dr. Suite 100, Warrenton, VA
Lorents Grosfield Director 45 N Hill Dr. Suite 100, Warrenton, VA
Shelby Demars Director 45 N Hill Dr. Suite 100, Warrenton, VA
Vicky Vadlamani Secretary 45 N Hill Dr. Suite 100, Warrenton, VA
So who are these people?
Walt Sales is currently running for HD 69. Mr. Sales has indicated in newspaper articles that he comes from a ranching family in the Manhattan area. He also is a former president of the Association of Agricultural Irrigators. Mr. Sales was listed as an Upper Missouri River Basin Advisory Council Member on pages 16-17 of the state’s 2014 Upper Missouri River Water Basin Report, and was a governor’s appointee on the Bureau of Mines, Groundwater Investigation Taskforce.
Lorents Grosfield is a former legislator. Mr Grosfield’s bio on the FARM website says: Lorents is a third-generation cattle rancher from Big Timber, who served as a Republican in the Montana Legislature for three terms. He was chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee where his primary focus was natural resources issues, with an emphasis on water legislation. He served on the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission from 1991-1995 and again from 2003-2007. Are his ties to the Reserved water rights commission merely coincidence? Wasn’t the commission working with the CSKT on their water compact during Mr. Grosfield’s service on the compact commission?
Shelby Demars is a lobbyist, and is associated with the Montana Group whose “services” include: GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION – Take advantage of our the grassroots army we work with on a regular basis. Generate earned media, grassroots lobbying contacts, and reach local influentials. In what universe is a lobbyist considered “grassroots”? Is FARM’s grassroots army the same army as Ms. Demar’s?
Vicky Vadlamani is a senior vice president of Mercury LLC, Denny Rehberg’s advertising firm, hired by the CSKT to put out an advertising marketing campaign for the CSKT Compact. Mark Baker, paid lobbyist for the CSKT also works for Mercury.
The addresses of these principals is listed as Warrenton VA. A google search of that address brings up a Virginia law firm whose practice areas include:
ELECTION LAW,PACS, Super PACS and candidate committees
LOBBYING AND GOVERNMENT ETHICS
TAX EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS
HOW IS FARM ADVERTISING FUNDED?
While this organization might receive some funds from the many “useful” people misled into believing FARM to be a “grassroots” entity that cares about their future, it would take millions of dollars to fund the IN YOUR FACE postcard, internet radio and now printed advertising that this organization has done in the past and is now restarting.
So how is FARM being funded? Here are some excerpts from the tribal council minutes that might be helpful in making that determination:
CSKT Funds to Mercury 2014-2015 – this is an excerpt of tribal council minutes related to funds the tribe paid for their Water Compact Advertising Campaign $1.2 million. Other minutes indicate that other payments for this purpose were also approved by the tribe.
CSKT 2016 Water Rights Budget – in 2016 we can only see the tribe’s Water Rights budget in total, $4.2 million dollars, there is no visibility as to how those funds will be spent. Advertising as well as lobbying in Washington DC are likely some of the larger expenses that will come out of these funds.
Let’s walk through this.
- In 2014, the CSKT approve significant amounts of money to be paid to Mercury for a water compact advertising campaign.
- Farmers and Ranchers for Montana registers with the Montana Secretary of State in January 2015. It’s secretary is a senior VP of Mercury LLC. They launch the only CSKT compact advertising campaign that we are aware of.
- During the 2015 legislative session, large numbers of postcards touting the wonders of the water compact are sent throughout Montana and the radio waves and internet are inundated with FARM Water Compact advertising.
- The cycle is starting all over again in 2016. Through its advertising, FARM is requesting their “supporters” to contact their congressman to express their support of the water compact.
DARK MONEY? YOU DECIDE
Couldn’t the likely use of tribal money to fund advertising to support the CSKT water compact, hidden behind a “grassroots” organization of farmers and ranchers, co-chaired by a former DNRC Director, a former Compact Commission member, and a senior VP of the firm hired by the CSKT to do an advertising campaign supporting the compact be considered DARK MONEY? Isn’t this something the legislature, especially all democrats rankle about?
Dark money is a term that describes funds given to nonprofit organizations—primarily social welfare and trade association groups—that can receive unlimited donations from corporations (including tribes), individuals, and unions, and spend funds to influence elections (and legislation), but are not required to disclose their donors.
A recent newspaper article about dark money in Montana included this quote from Jonathan Motl, the Commissioner of Political Practices: “Dark money ….. is a serious threat to the integrity of the election process,” Motl said. (Our Note: It also perverts the legislative process itself through distortion of important issues)
Also check out Governor Steve Bullock’s view on dark money when his office issued a press release telling DARK MONEY GROUPS that they are not welcome in Montana. Perhaps Bullock meant to “qualify his statement” to mean dark money groups that support his agenda are welcome, all others need not set up shop.
When will Mr. Motl get around to looking at the lobbying complaints filed concerning the CSKT and its ties to FARM? Will it be after the 2017 session, after the US Congress ratifies the CSKT compact, or perhaps never?
Is Montana willfully violating the rule of law by choosing to investigate some issues, while intentionally ignoring others?
Is it possible that the CSKT’s “sovereign” money expenditures are “above the laws of the state of Montana, and as such, untouchable to investigation by the state of Montana?