Left-Wing D.C. Political Firm Extends its Influence in Montana Democratic Politics

An ongoing Media Trackers investigation into the D.C.-based, left-wing political firm Hilltop Public Solutions continues to yield evidence of that organization’s influence in Montana politics and the Montana Democratic Party.

The firm is currently the subject of a Montana Office of Political Practices complaint which alleges that the group illegally coordinated expenditures on behalf of Gov. Steve Bullock’s election campaign, using funds provided by left-wing dark money groups and Political Action Committees.

Jon Tester debates during the 2012 election cycle. Many Hilltop staffers have former or current ties to Montana Senators Tester and Baucus (photo courtesy Associated Press)
Jon Tester debates during the 2012 election cycle. Many Hilltop staffers have former or current ties to Montana Senators Tester and Baucus (photo courtesy Associated Press)

Furthermore, Hilltop partner Barrett Kaiser has close ties to former Baucus Chief of Staff and President Obama’’s 2012 Campaign Manager, Jim Messina. Messina now heads the president’s political committee Organizing for America and recently spearheaded the groups efforts to implement the president’s gun control measures;which are overwhelmingly opposed.

Opposition aside, firms like Hilltop continue to push left-wing measures in Montana, often using questionable methods in which to do so.

Media Trackers’ investigation has thus far revealed Hilltop’s efforts in stacking local school boards with trustees favorable to big union interests, exposed firm employees creating astro-turf political blogs to manipulate grassroots perceptions in the state, as well as documented efforts by Hilltop operatives to channel Washington, D.C. dark money into Montana in an attempt to sway statewide elections while posing as advocates of conservative or libertarian political principles.

Media Trackers has also documented expanding ties between Hilltop Public Solutions and the Montana Democratic Party. Analysis of finance records conducted in February of this year revealed that Montana Democrats paid the firm during the 2012 election cycle to manage the party’s independent expenditure program — the same time period during which the aforementioned Political Practices complaint alleges that Hilltop illegally coordinated independent expenditures with Bullock’s campaign.

More recently, Matt Peterson, a Hilltop Associate who produced dark money TV ads for the firm in the 2012 election cycle, was appointed as Research Director by the Montana Democratic Party. It was an ironic appointment given the fact that Ted Dick, the state party’s executive director, publicly decried dark money ads during the 2012 election, stating that Montanans were “frankly disgusted” by them.

Hilltop’’s Montana branch was established by current firm partner and former top aide to U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Barrett Kaiser.

Other prominent Montana Democrats currently on staff with the group include:

  • Aaron Murphy, former Communications Director for Montana Senator Jon Tester. Aaron Murphy joined Montana politics after working as a producer at KGW-TV in Portland, OR and as Executive Producer at KTVQ-TV in Billings.
  • Former Baucus associate and U.S. Senate Finance Committee researcher Molly Bell.
  • Land Tawney, president of Montana Hunters and Anglers, who was an integral figure in advocating for U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s controversial wilderness bill.

Though many of Hilltop’s efforts in Montana attempt to assume the conservative or moderate mantle, Hilltop’’s website makes no efforts to conceal the firm’s connection to the Obama administration.

The site openly touts firm partner Barrett Kaiser’s connections to the president’s team, stating that Kaiser personally “organized President Barack Obama’s first-ever fly-fishing trip on Montana’s East Gallatin River in 2009.”

President Obama did not carry Montana in the 2012 election and opinion polls have consistently shown that most Montanas disapprove of the president’’s job performance.

Story edited for grammar and featured banner added at 1:09 PM 6/17/2013