Montana District Judge Laurie McKinnon, who recently emerged from a primary contest as one of two general election candidates for the state Supreme Court, enjoyed major financial support from an independent group that supported her with mailers.
As of mid-May, the Montana Growth Network spent $41,865 on mailers supporting Judge McKinnon in a June primary, according to a Helena Independent Record article. That amount surpassed the $36,834 that the candidate had raised herself through May 16.
The Montana Growth Network was founded by Jason Priest, now a state senator. He was described in Slate last year as “a Republican who ran on a tea party platform.” In 2010, Priest made news in the Billings Gazette after referring on Facebook to the economist John Maynard Keynes as “a big homo.” Priest also accused President Obama of “giving America … the dry thumb.”
Priest, who serves as treasurer for Montana Growth Network, said he would disclose its donors only when he was required to do so, the recent Helena Independent article said.
In May, the race for the Montana Supreme Court, typically rather collegial in the past, turned negative, according to a different Independent Record article. State public defender Ed Sheehy accused fellow candidates Judge McKinnon and lawyer Elizabeth Best of judicial code violations through their campaign activities.
Also, Sheehy was referenced in a mailer supporting Judge McKinnon, and paid for by Montana Growth Network. It called one of his legal efforts the “Christmas Day Killer lawsuit.” The mailer said lawyer Best had filed an “environmentalist, global warming lawsuit,” that would “seize control of the state’s atmosphere.”
Earlier this month, Sheehy and Judge McKinnon were the top vote getters in the state Supreme Court primary, and they will square off in November for an open seat on the court, according to a Missoulian article.