Late last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters sent a cease and desist order to the 501(c)(4) Taxpayers for Liberty requesting that it stop using the union's logo on political attack mailers in Montana. The nonprofit recently circulated a flyer with a Helena return address proclaiming that Reilly Neill, a Democratic legislative candidate in Livingston, backs "anti-job policies"that are "disastrous for working Montanans." The hitch? Teamsters Local 190 in Billings has actually endorsed a number of the candidates Taxpayers for Liberty targeted.
Teamsters Local 190 spokesman Jim Larson claimed in a news release Friday that the mailers in fact originated from American Tradition Partnership, a separate 501(c)(4) currently at the center of a major controversy in Montana. Indeed, there isn't much out there on Taxpayers for Liberty. The nonprofit has no website and is not registered with the state as a political committee. Taxpayers for Liberty popped up in the Flathead Valley earlier this year, distributing similar attack mailers in a heated Republican state Senate primary. Nothing was known about the group then, either.
What is out there appears to support Larson's belief that Taxpayers for Liberty is somehow tied to ATP, though the connections are tenuous. GuideStar lists the same physical address in Aurora, Colo., for both Taxpayers for Liberty and ATP. The address is actually the home of the Shires Financial Group, a firm founded by former Western Tradition Partnership director Scott Shires. Fundraise.com lists Scott Shires as the primary point of contact for Taxpayers for Liberty. No smoking guns there. Just more questions about yet another shadowy group.
Tax documents from 2009 identify Andrew O'Neill as the director of Taxpayers for Liberty. While those filings list the nonprofit's address as a PO Box in Denver, O'Neill's contact number has a Montana area code. O'Neill did not return a call requesting comment.
The Teamsters weren't the only trade union whose trademarked logo appeared on Taxpayers for Liberty's mailers. The nonprofit also insinuated that the United Steelworkers, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the United Mine Workers of America and others supported the attacks. Teamsters Local 190 spokesman Jim Larson stated in a news release that "any mailers from these shadowy groups pretending to be from the Teamsters are desperate lies to Montana voters and they don't belong in our state."
Whether the Teamsters' cease and desist letter arrived at its intended destination is hard to say. The postage on the mailer was paid for in Loveland, Colo. The nonprofit's Helena address is actually a UPS store; the zip code listed is actually the zip code for Livingston.