Is it a watch dog or an attack dog?

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First, I want to say I did not vote for Donald Trump. In the past, I have voted for so many Republican presidential candidates while holding my nose that now my nostrils have a pronounced lean to the left.

Yet our president has tried to make some very much needed changes in the way our government functions. He has been opposed by a well-entrenched alliance of highly placed bureaucrats, the opposition party, and a motley assortment of left-wing lobbyists posing as nonpartisan public interest groups; all collectively known as the “deep state.”

Now, I believe in responsive and informative review as an a necessary check on every administration, but this constant drum beat about the size, shape of conference tables, the cost of plane tickets for necessary travels and so much more is an attempt to prevent the changes so many of us have long desired. Again open opposition is necessary for good government. But when such critics hide their identities and motives and financial incentives from us, they should be exposed.

An example: the Daily Inter Lake ran a guest column attacking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Writer Chris Saeger claimed he works for a nonpartisan “watchdog” group, the so-called Western Values Project. “Western Values” sound good to me. But who is he, who pays him, and why?

As suspected, a short session on my computer produced the true story. I was not surprised.

To begin, Saeger seems to be one of two Western Values Project staffers, both of whom have backgrounds as political communications appointees in former governor Brian Schweitzer’s Democrat administration. Nonpartisan?

Western Values Project itself doesn’t seem to exist. It is not registered as a business entity with the state of Montana. Their website reveals no office address or contact phone number, not even in the Project’s public “news releases,” while the site itself was anonymously registered in 2013.

However, the group’s Freedom of Information Act filings against Interior provide a reply address: 704C East 13th Street, Suite 568, Whitefish —– really a small mailbox in the UPS store behind the Whitefish Walgreen’s. Some office!

Tiny as that office is, Western Values Project seems to be hiring, as Linkedin shows the groups was seeking a “Research Associate” in April. Trouble is the job is not in Montana, rather in Washington, D.C. Western Values?

The listing explains where new hires will really work: “Western Values is a project of the New Venture Fund.” “Guidestar,” a charity-transparency website, reveals New Venture’s headquarters is in Washington, D.C. Even more amusing (or scary), the New Venture Fund enjoyed a whopping $370.8 million in revenues for 2016, over a third of a billion dollars!

That explains how New Venture could pay 148 “contractors” over $100,000 each in 2015.

Bottom line? This so-called Whitefish “watchdog” is just another attempt to hide its true identity, nothing more than a pop-up political spin house, a dishonest, and partisan front for a high-dollar Beltway money laundry pretending to be a “charity.” Western values? Washington D.C. Values is far more accurate.

Richard Allen is a resident of Troy.

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