Principles Last

I promised myself I would follow up on a mysterious PAC that popped up and then went away

By Dave Skinner

After the June 5 election, I promised myself I would follow up on a mysterious PAC that popped up and then went away. Shamelessly named “Principles First,” PFPAC had an office-park address in Phoenix. Treasurer Randy Pullen was a former big shot with the Arizona Republican Party.

I found it weird (and hypocritical) that a Republican PAC wound up shilling the same provincial “Maryland Matt” Rosendale narrative that Democrats (including those awesome Montanans running the League of Conservation Voters) are now spending millions upon.

So, five long weeks after the election, PFPAC finally filed its contributors’ report with the FEC, covering the period May 14 to June 30.

PFPAC got $90,000 total, from just two checks. One came the day after the reporting period started, May 15, for $50,000, from Alliance for a Better Tomorrow, Inc., of 4649 E. Acoma in Phoenix. The next day, May 16, came $40,000 from Almon Blain, listed as “co-owner” of Billings Flying Service.

On May 17, a check for $60,000 went to Nebo Media, Inc. for “TV Ad Montana.” Nebo’s address of record is, yep, P.O. Box 9825 in Arlington, Virginia. Older FEC records show Nebo previously operated out of ANOTHER P.O. Box, this one in D.C. Then, a Twitter feed by a Politico reporter shows another Nebo TV buy — with a REAL  address, 1911 N. Fort Meyer Drive #400 — which in turn is the same as big-time GOP spin house Strategic Media Services.

Another $5,150 was paid May 28 for a digital ad by Intrepid Global Strategies out of Phoenix, owned by Brett Mecum, formerly a high Arizona Republican Party official (with Pullen). Cozy.

Also on May 28, Brushfire Research (Wilton, New York) was paid $17,000 for “legal fees and consulting services.” Brushfire was registered as an LLC in May 2013, and the New York Secretary of State (not the actual principal) is the agent “upon whom process [may be] served.” Brushfire’s address of record is a post office box. Convenient, mmm?

Finally, PFPAC treasurer Randy Pullen was paid $4,000 to set up and file the FEC reports, leaving $3,845 in PFPAC’s bank.

Mr. Blain shows $18,500 in contributions (his PAC check has not shown yet in his personal FEC tally) since 1999, all to Republicans and the Montana GOP. Blain was already “all-in” for Russ Fagg’s campaign, giving the maximum $5,400 allowable on November 6, 2017. So, who told Mr. Blain he had other options for helping Mr. Fagg?

As for the other $50,000, Alliance for a Better Tomorrow (ABT) is a black hole, with only two of 11 hits in all of Google an actual match. ABT’s address of record is a single-family house in Phoenix’s Paradise Valley, with four members of the same family listed in various directories. The money person, literally, seems to be one Eric Von Wnuck.

Mr. Wnuck is into medical imaging and a biggish Republican spender, $180,200 since 2004, including $150,000 he blew on his own failed U.S. House race in 2010. But in 2012, Wnuck ran another entity, “Americans for Responsible Leadership” (ARL), a 501(c)4 that dumped $1.2 million against Obama in 2012 plus another $11 million to a California PAC that tried to wreck Jerry Brown’s sales tax and state income tax increase initiative. As a 501(c)4 nonprofit, ARL didn’t have to report its donors. What is ABT? Nobody knows. Yet.

So, kids, see how this all works? Everything is professionally pre-arranged so the dough comes in hours after the reporting period begins, gets flipped back at the ads, the lies are spread, the election happens. Only AFTER the election, when everyone is chasing the next squirrel, is it even possible to follow some, but not all, of the money.

My reading of the tea leaves? Russ Fagg, compared to Matt Rosendale, was the “insider” or “establishment GOP” pick for the Montana primary.

One other thing. I found a neat ProPublica webpage that lists all the dirty dough blown so far in Montana’s 2018 U.S Senate race. While ProPublica leans way left, here they are doing honest work that will help YOU cast a good vote in November.

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