National liberal magazine Mother Jones reports today that leaders of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the larger umbrella organizations in the movement, are flying around the country from rally-to-rally in a plane dubbed “Patriot One,” lent out by Kalispell’s Ray Thompson, the founder of Semitool. As part of an effort to explore who some of the donors behind Tea Party groups are, reporter Stephanie Mencimer explains how she figured it out:
Using publicly available flight-tracking information on the Internet and the schedule posted on the Tea Party Patriots website, we were able to determine the owner of “Patriot One.” As Temple suggested, he is not exactly what you’d call a “grassroots” donor. His name is Raymon F. Thompson, and he’s the founder and former CEO of Semitool, a semiconductor company he recently sold for $364 million.
On Wednesday, the tea party tour went from Flagstaff, Arizona, to Mesquite, Nevada, and then to Harrison, Arkansas. There’s only one private jet that’s followed that unique itinerary. It’s a 1982 Dassault Falcon 10, a French-made plane that seats four or eight people and looks just like the one featured in the videos on TPP’s website. Not only that, it just happens to match the tail number of the plane Meckler and Martin have featured in some of their video. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, that jet is registered to Eagle III, a private company in Kalispell, Montana, a hotbed of tea party and other right-wing activity, including, in the past, armed militia groups. According to Montana corporation records, Eagle III belongs to Thompson.
The piece goes on to report on Thompson’s recent political activity, like his support of House District 4 Republican candidate Derek Skees and his hosting an event that brought Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to Kalispell. Mencimer goes on to speculate that Thompson may be the anonymous donor who recently gave $1 million to the Tea Party Patriots. The story is definitely making the rounds today among national journalists covering the Tea Party movement, with Slate‘s Dave Wiegel noting it today also.
Here’s the video that somehow managed to draw so much attention to the jet:
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