Allison LeFer runs a printing company that did work for Montana candidates in 2008 and 2010, many of whom WTP also supported. The printing company, Direct Mail and Communications, shared a post office box with WTP, bank records show. In August 2008, WTP also transferred money to a business checking account for “DMC Consulting,” possibly another name for LeFer’s company.
The bank deposits for WTP include a $557.50 check in June 2010 to Direct Mail from Friends of Dan Kennedy, the campaign committee for Kennedy, who won election to the Montana state legislature in 2010. Kennedy, who reported paying this amount to Direct Mail in campaign filings to the state, didn’t return phone calls or an email Sunday.
So far, Christian and Allison LeFer have not responded to questions about the bank documents from ProPublica and Frontline. Neither has Donny Ferguson, who now runs American Tradition Partnership.
A Frontline documentary broadcast last month showed how WTP helped to shape the campaigns of candidates in state races in Montana.
After that documentary and a story showing how documents found in a meth house in Colorado pointed to possible illegal coordination between WTP and campaigns, Christian LeFer said the documents had been stolen from his wife’s car and mingled in a way to suggest coordination.
LeFer insisted that he and his wife had “scrupulously endeavored” to avoid any possibility of coordination.
Montana authorities subpoenaed the bank records as part of an ongoing investigation. After the state said WTP should have registered as a political committee and reported its donors in October 2010, the group sued. That lawsuit is due to be heard in March.
Once the records were released Friday and account information was redacted, they were sent to Frontline. The bank records will be available to the public on Monday.
It’s not clear whether the bank records in the two WTP accounts reflect all of the money flowing in and out of the group. For instance, a list of prospective donors leaked by a whistleblower who worked for WTP in early 2010 says that a man in Colorado helped “steer us $50k last cycle” from another social welfare nonprofit. Yet there is no record in the bank documents of that donation.
In its one tax return filed with the IRS, WTP claimed it raised almost $666,000 in 2008. Its bank account records show it raised $687,000, most of which was passed on to the National Right to Work Committee.
It’s not yet clear how most WTP donors will react to losing their anonymity.
Donald Hood of Longmont, Colo., gave $6,000 in 2009. On Sunday, he said he gave the money not for a specific candidate, but for a specific issue on the ballot he didn’t remember. He was upset his donation had been revealed.
“That’s nobody’s business,” Hood said. “Most of my donations are to groups where my donations are anonymous….The fact that you have my name and know I gave money to an organization one time is not really too pleasant, to my mind.”
The biggest individual donor to WTP was Norman Asbjornson, a Montana native who gave $50,000 to WTP in August 2008. AAON Inc., Asbjornson’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning manufacturing company in Tulsa, Okla., gave $20,000 to ATP in October 2010. (The donation from Asbjornson was made public in a story by the Center for Public Integrity last week.)
Asbjornson couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday. He has said he believes taxes inhibit growth and has given more than $160,000 in federal races since 2008, including more than $65,000 to the Republican National Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The second biggest individual donor was Larry Mizel, who gave $50,000 in October 2010. Mizel founded M.D.C. Holdings, a homebuilding and home financing company in Denver. He’s a major contributor to Republican causes, giving $100,000 to the super PAC American Crossroads in August. Mizel, who couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday, is also on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a social welfare nonprofit that is supporting Mitt Romney for president.
New Leadership Colorado, a political committee, gave WTP $45,000 in October 2008. The IRS website on political committees has no records for any activity of the group in 2008 and sparse records for 2010. New Leadership is registered out of the same law firm address as Spur Education Fund and Coloradans for Economic Growth.
Another donor was K12 Management, which gave $20,000 in October 2010. K12 Management, which bills itself as the “largest provider of online education for grades K-12,” was co-founded in 2000 by former Education Secretary William Bennett and has been at the center of controversy over the rapid rise of for-profit virtual schools.
In some ways, WTP’s bank records show it ran like many small local businesses. The group overdrew its accounts on several occasions. It bought merchandise at Big Bear Sports Center and purchased meals at restaurants like Montana’s Rib & Chop and Wahoo’s Fish Taco.
Most of the group’s checks even misspelled its name, bearing the moniker “Western Traditon Partnership.”