HELENA — A secretive conservative group that targeted moderate Republicans in the last two Montana elections and caused an upheaval in the state’s election laws has revealed its board of directors for the first time.
Doug Lair, Geoff Goble and Peter MacKenzie submitted a legal document to state district court last month identifying themselves as American Tradition Partnership directors.
The filing was in response to state attorneys’ demand for proof that ATP’s new attorney had the authorization to represent the group in a lawsuit the Colorado nonprofit organization filed against Montana.
ATP’s only staff member, executive director Donny Ferguson, resigned in January to take a job as a staff member for newly elected U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas.
There are no records of any directors ever being appointed or elected to American Tradition Partnership, assistant attorney general Michael Black said in a March 14 filing.
“Frankly, the individuals hiding behind the sham ATP corporate form should not be allowed to perpetuate their charade by allowing new counsel to appear in this case on behalf of ATP. These individuals should stand up and be counted, the ATP puppet masters should be revealed,” Black wrote.
American Tradition Partnership sued the state over a commissioner of political practices’ order that the group report its spending and donors. District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock upheld the ruling last year that ATP acted as a political committee in the elections and not as the purely educational organization it claims to be.
The state is now seeking to collect $9,187 in attorney fees and sanctions ordered by Sherlock. Attorney Todd Stubbs of Manhattan filed a response asking for a hearing on the matter and saying the amount was “excessive.”
Until then, Helena attorney James Brown had represented American Tradition Partnership. Black objected to the sudden change to Stubbs, saying there was no proof that ATP authorized Stubbs’ hire because there is no proof that ATP exists as anything other than a corporate shell.
In response, Stubbs submitted a document signed by Lair, Goble and MacKenzie on March 22 that said they are ATP’s directors and they authorized Stubbs’ hiring.
In the document, the three directors said Brown can no longer effectively represent the group because Sherlock and the state have shown animosity and bias against him.
They chose Stubbs to replace him after interviews and conversations with several attorneys, they said.
Lair, who was previously listed as ATP’s Montana director, did not return a call or email for comment, nor did Stubbs.
Addresses and hometowns for Goble and MacKenzie were not provided.
Sherlock said Stubbs has proven that he has the authority to represent ATP. The judge set a hearing for June 13.
American Tradition Partnership, which changed its name three years ago from Western Tradition Partnership, has filed multiple lawsuits attacking Montana campaign-finance laws.
In one, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that its 2010 Citizens United decision allowing corporate spending in federal elections also applies to state elections.
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