Saturday, August 4, 2012

Election 2012: Steve Daines, dinosaurs and a Kentucky breakfast

Posted By on Sat, Aug 4, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Intelligent Discontent brought to our attention an interesting announcement in Montana’s overshadowed U.S. House race this week. Republican candidate Steve Daines is appearing at a breakfast bash Aug. 29 at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, just a short drive from Cincinnati. Daines will attend the fundraising event alongside Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan. Contributions go directly to Steve Daines for Montana. The list of hosts includes out-of-state Daines donors like Hillsdale College marketing vice president Chris Bachelder, as well as Nathan Estruth, a Procter & Gamble executive in Cincinnati who has donated generously to Jordan’s campaign. Procter & Gamble itself has donated $3,500 to Daines’s campaign this cycle. Daines is the clear financial frontrunner against Democrat Kim Gillan, having raised over $1.1 million to Gillan's $379,399.

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Out-of-state fundraising events aren’t unusual; Sen. Jon Tester appeared at one in San Francisco in June, and Tester challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg hosted a reception for Daines in Washington, D.C., that same month. But the venue seems a curious choice this time around. The Creation Museum, which cost $27 million to establish, houses a number of exhibits including a replica of Noah’s Ark, a Garden of Eden and displays depicting dinosaurs co-existing peacefully beside early humans. The museum's mission is to educate the public on the belief that Earth is only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs were included on Noah’s Ark. The Creation Museum’s website states that “Biblical history is the key to understanding dinosaurs.” It was created in 2007 by Answers in Genesis, a ministry founded by Australian Ken Ham. Suffice it to say, the scientific community has spent a lot of time questioning the young-earth theory behind this bizarre museum.

Daines's campaign says it played no role in choosing the breakfast venue. "During his 28 years in the private sector Steve developed close relationships with several fellow business leaders, many of whom are now active supporters of his campaign for More Jobs and Less Government," Daines's campaign told the Indy in an official statement. "This event was set up by several of those supporters. All location details and speaker invitations have been made by these supporters. We are grateful for their support and the support of Representative Jim Jordan."

The list of hosts who invited Daines to Kentucky includes the names of two men tied directly to the Creation Museum. Brad Benbow, chairman and CEO of the Chicago-based firm Joseph David Advertising, has served as advertising consultant for Answers in Genesis since the museum opened. Ron Beshear, a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Cincinnati and donor to Republican Josh Mandel's Senate bid in Ohio, has coauthored a number of faith-based motivational books with his wife, Mary. The two actively promote and raise funds for Christian interests, and they list Answers in Genesis under "organizations we support" on their website.

Kentucky’s Creation Museum isn’t the only one of its kind. The Foundation Advancing Creation Truth, a creationist non-profit founded by Otis Kline, unveiled a similar museum in Glendive in 2009. The $1.5 million Glendive Dinosaur and Fossil Museum includes extensive dinosaur fossil exhibits, but as the National Center for Science Education points out, this “is not your typical natural history museum. Instead, it’s an elaborate young-earth advertisement that uses Montana’s rich dinosaur-related history to lure people to lessons on biblical literalism and anti-science nonsense.”

The museum’s premiere Tyrannosaurus Rex and acrocanthosaurus exhibit was funded by the Bozeman-based Gianforte Family Foundation, a foundation established by Greg Gianforte. He’s the founder and CEO of RightNow Technologies, where Daines has served in various executive positions since 2000.

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