Federal Politics

Published — November 30, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Drug lobby donation went to pro-Democratic nonprofit

PR firm linked to group that received $500,000 PhRMA donation

Introduction

A nonprofit group in Montana that supported a conservative state Supreme Court candidate was not the recipient of a $500,000 donation from the nation’s top drug lobby as suggested earlier this week and probably wouldn’t accept the money even if it were offered.

“I’ve never raised a dime from a pharmaceutical company,” said Republican state Sen. Jason Priest, a board member and former executive director of the Montana Growth Network, which produced radio advertisements and mailings during the election.

“Guys like PhRMA, they want more government,” he said. “They want all this ‘Obamacare’ stuff, all these health care exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid and things that I don’t like.”

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) gave $500,000 to a nonprofit group called “Montana Growth,” as the Center for Public Integrity reported this week.

Records appeared to indicate the funding went to the only “Montana Growth” that reported any spending to Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices this year — Priest’s “Montana Growth Network.”

The Montana Growth Network actually resides in the state while “Montana Growth,” the true recipient of the drug lobby’s donation, lists its address as a mailbox in a UPS store in Washington, D.C.

The Center was able to track down the recipient of the funds by tracing a federal identification number that showed that “Montana Growth” was formerly known as “Economy Forward.” Records indicate its directors are Jessica Bradley and Carrie Schuyler of the Democratic-aligned public relations firm Hilltop Public Solutions, which has offices in D.C., New York and Billings, Mont.

Little is known about the group, but Internal Revenue Service documents indicate that the drug lobby’s contribution supplied the bulk of its funding.

Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that Montana Growth raised just over $816,000 in 2011.

Its expenses included $275,000 on “grassroots and grasstops consulting” and $70,000 for research on “important issues facing the state of Montana to [help] better inform advocacy efforts.”

It also transferred $40,000 to a liberal-leaning group called “America Votes,” which like Montana Growth, is a “social welfare” nonprofit under Section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code. This year, America Votes reported spending about $47,000 to the Federal Election Commission for telephone calls supporting President Barack Obama and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., in October.

When the Center for Public Integrity called the D.C. office of Hilltop Public Solutions to inquire about Montana Growth, an intern who answered the phone said, “We don’t take calls for that group here.”

Schuyler, via email, directed the Center to “contact@bigskygrowth.org” — bigskygrowth.org is a Web domain name that was created Friday, shortly after the public relations firm was contacted by the Center, according to a website registry report.

An unattributed reply came back that stated: “Thank you for your questions. It is the organization’s policy to not publicly comment on its advocacy or budget.”

In a 2010 IRS filing, Economy Forward reported spending nearly $175,000 on television ads that praised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., ahead of his contentious re-election fight. The ads urged viewers to call Reid and ask him to back a specific legislative proposal.

That year, Economy Forward raised just shy of $176,000 — all of which came from another social welfare nonprofit called the “Citizens for Strength and Security Action Fund,” as previously reported by ProPublica.

For its part, Citizens for Strength and Security Action Fund, also called the CSS Action Fund, received $2.5 million in 2010 directly from PhRMA, as the Center for Public Integrity first reported earlier this year.

Hilltop Public Solutions works primarily with Democrats in races across the country. Hilltop’s founder, Nicholas Baldick, has been involved with every Democratic presidential campaign since 1992, including serving as John Edwards’ national campaign manager in 2004, according to the group’s website.

Other Hilltop clients have included Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia.

Press officials at PhRMA declined to answer questions about the contribution.

Andrea Fuller and Alexandra Duszak contributed to this report.

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SOUTH JERSEYTed SiroisMark SullivanTom LarkinAnonymous Recent comment authors
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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Martin Shellabarger
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J. Stevenson, what are you drinking? Trump has more lobbyists in his administration than probably any other president. Trump is totally “for sale”, and the corporations know it. Grow a brain!

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.