Nearly all citizens regard transparency in government as a cornerstone for accountability. Why? Because history shows that if lawmakers have a blank check and police powers, they tend toward tyranny, not self-restraint.
Government restraints are enshrined in the Constitution, a response to the historical abuses of the British crown (click here). Conversely, protections for private individuals and organizations are expressly and extensively protected under the Bill of Rights (click here) and in Montana’s own state Constitution (click here). Those documents represent the supreme legal authority.
It is for those very reasons that government officials and their agents are held under higher scrutiny than private interests, even those private interests which adhere to unpopular positions. Yet corrupt Helena politicians, complicit publicly funded media and many corporate news outlets have turned the concept of public transparency versus individual privacy on its head by violating the rights of American Tradition Partnership (ATP).
You probably have heard about the ATP case. Now, here’s the rest of the story.
Imagine your home or business has been robbed, and you turn to the authorities to solve the crime and re-secure your possessions. But instead, those charged with protecting your rights abscond with your property, your tax records and your private documents and then secretly send them to your enemies and competitors. Worse, they conspire to destroy your business – even though you have never been charged with a crime.
That is what actually happened when the State of Montana turned over private documents to PBS Frontline, documents owned by and stolen from freedom activists Christian and Allison LeFer. This invasion and thievery was quite possibly in retaliation for the state’s many campaign finance defeats at the hand of free speech advocate Christian LeFer and plaintiffs including ATP. If officials of the State of Montana can engage in illegal acts of trafficking in stolen property, a dangerous precedent is set for all Montanans. Which official ordered the turn over has yet to be answered.
What did their stunt reveal in the public interest? Not much on ATP’s part, but ironically, plenty when it comes to government corruption in Helena. Conspiracy by state officials to violate the law and the constitutional rights of their political opponents is a big deal.
American Tradition Partnership’s best piece of evidence may be the $1 million-dollar Frontline docu-smear, “Big Sky, Big Money”. Early in the film, two things become obvious: first, PBS and the State of Montana implicitly admit to consorting with felons and trafficking in stolen property. Second, it is obvious that PBS left lots of inconvenient information on the cutting room floor. Nothing new in that (click here for examples).
It is no secret that since 2008 the grassroots group ATP has fought gallantly in the Treasure State to promote rational policy by educating voters on the issues, positions and voting records of candidates for public office. They often run a survey program modeled after the Conservation Voters, NRA, and dozens of other groups, most of whom never come under attack for informing the public. The conservative 2013 state legislature and leadership make obvious the effectiveness of ATP’s tactics and issue-based agenda. It’s 6-1 winning record in court battles for free speech on behalf of all Montanans speaks for itself and has further stoked the outrage of establishment progressives and RINO’s (Republican in Name Only).
This is reminiscent of the 2007 Canyon Ferry Baptist Church case (click here), in which Deputy Attorney General Steve Bullock’s witch-hunt targeted a pastor for speaking against gay marriage. Bullock’s politically correct (p.c.) fishing expedition resulted in nearly a quarter million dollar settlement assessed against the state and paid by the taxpayers. Nothing new in that, either. (Bullock is 0 for 3 at the US Supreme Court during his tenure as AG). His effort was excoriated by the 9th Circuit Court for “petty bureaucratic harassment” (click here). Now the state is upping the stakes and moving beyond petty harassment.
Using taxpayer resources to silence political opponents who are not in violation of the law is an unacceptable, dictatorial and illegal way for elected officials and bureaucrats to gain political advantage. It’s a crime against the Constitution and every citizen of Montana.
Regardless of one’s political leanings, supporting this kind of thuggery gives a welcome signal to dictatorship in Montana. We won’t stand for it, whether we are Republicans or Democrats! It’s been done before and citizens need to fight against the establishment of secret p.c. policy (click here for a history of the first modern secret political police).
ATP is not strictly a free speech group, but when the state attempted to muzzle them, they fought back and will continue to. They won and the taxpayers won. With the Constitution on their side, they will bring the perpetrators of the PBS fraud to justice.
So next time you see a media attack on ATP, or anyone else for that matter, remember what Ben Franklin said: “Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.” ATP has just begun to fight and will be vindicated in the end.
About the author: Doug Lair, a Big Timber sheep rancher and business owner is the volunteer State Coordinator of American Tradition Partnership. ATP is a pro-jobs, 90,000-member grassroots organization advocating a free-market land and natural resource policy.