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Foreign money

The Montana Wildlife Federation is in an uproar. Not because of anything happening to wildlife, mind you, but because the Federation’s ties to foreign money are the subject of scrutiny.

Recently, I made a presentation to the Ravalli County commissioners asking for them to investigate the out-of-state dark money flowing into political activist groups in Montana. The commissioners agreed.

For this, I was attacked by MWF supporter Don Thomas in a recent guest column (Aug. 8). However, nowhere in his attack does he deny the evidence. That’s because the evidence is ironclad: Tax records.

Tax records show that the Montana Wildlife Federation has taken over $1 million from the Wyss Foundation, which is funded by a Swiss billionaire who has been accused of sexual abuse by a former employee and whose company was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for illegal human experimentation. The Wyss Foundation has donated $25 million to groups in Montana including the MWF, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Conservation Voters, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Additionally, tax records show that the foundations of George Soros, a wealthy billionaire from Hungary who funds liberal groups in the U.S., has links to Montana groups. Soros has donated tens of millions to the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco dark-money hub that has given to local groups such as Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund and Forward Montana.

Lastly, records show money trickling down from the San Francisco-based Sea Change Foundation to Montana groups such as the MWF and the Montana Wilderness Association. Who funds Sea Change Foundation? It has gotten $23 million from a sketchy entity called “Klein Ltd.” that is based out of a law firm in Bermuda.

This offshore law firm has close ties to Russian money. Since the Russian government relies on selling energy for much of its revenue, could Russians be funding U.S. environmental groups as a way to attack their competition — that is, U.S. energy producers?

The questions about dark money flowing into Montana advocacy groups are serious and worth investigating. It’s a complex spider web of money. Just in the last year alone we’ve seen Montana be the target of massive ad campaigns from interest groups — including $2 million in ads attacking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s review of national monuments.

Yet the response from Don Thomas is telling. He does not deny the facts, but instead blames the bearer of the bad news he doesn’t like.

That’s certainly an indication that the Montana Wildlife Federation and its allies in Montana have something to hide, and are fearful of questions being asked about the millions they’ve received from out-of-state activists.

Last month, Gov. Steve Bullock sued the IRS and warned of “foreign money” going into nonprofit groups. Now is the time for Governor Bullock to take some action in Montana. These groups are friendly to him, but they appear to be taking foreign money. Will the governor walk the walk, or merely talk the talk?

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Keith Kubista of Stevensville is director of Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

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