More letters surface in connection to American Tradition Partnership shadiness

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Two more letters purportedly written by the wives of past Montana political candidates surfaced this afternoon, both bearing a striking resemblance to letters linked to American Tradition Partnership by a joint ProPublica-Frontline investigation last fall. The letters, attributed to the wives of Livingston city commissioner Tom Kitts and 2010 Gallatin County Commission candidate Scott Sales, were forwarded to the Independent by Bozeman resident Kent Madin. Madin released a third letter to the Bozeman Chronicle last month that his wife received in October 2010 from the wife of then-House candidate Tom Burnett, a Republican in Bozeman.

The ProPublica-Frontline investigation in October centered on several boxes of documents recovered from a meth house in Colorado that hinted at illegal collaboration activity between the social welfare nonprofit American Tradition Partnership—then Western Tradition Partnership—and various political candidates in Montana. Among those documents was a collection of hand-written letters that appeared to be written by candidates' wives, though the investigation questioned whether they'd actually been created by WTP itself based on information supplied by those wives via questionnaire. Madin filed a complaint with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices last month, believing the three letters he possessed were similarly the products of collaboration with WTP. Madin says the Commissioner of Political Practices office now holds copies of all three letters.

Each of the two newest "wife letters" (PDFs below) contain detailed history on how the women met their husbands and an appeal to an unnamed recipient (simply "Dear friend") for support at the polls. Sandie Sales, whose six-page letter was penned on pink stationary during the 2010 Republican primary, refers to her husband as an "honest man" with "traditional family values." Lisa Kitts writes that her husband is a "strong person," a former "National Collegiate Olympic Weightlifting Champion" who worked two jobs to support Lisa when she grew seriously ill in 1999. Kitts' four-page letter from the 2011 election is the only one bearing a political disclaimer. At the bottom, scrawled in small cursive writing, are the words "Paid for by Kitts for Livingston City Commissioner"; Tom Kitts' campaign disclosure report for October and November 2011 lists $309.20 in stamps and letters for "(Mrs.) letter mailouts."

One of the wife letters found among ATP documents in a meth house in Colorado.
  • Courtesy ProPublica/PBS Frontline
  • One of the "wife letters" found among ATP documents in a meth house in Colorado.

The most striking connection between these two newest letters are the similarities in how each woman supposedly appealed to recipient voters. Both reference repeated "hurtful" attacks by political opponents. Sales writes that "It's painful to hear folks falsely attack the man that I care so much about." Kitts says "But for the sake of the man I love and the good people of Livingston, I have to speak up." Both men are duty-bound to support taxpayers, according to their wives. Sales concludes her letter with a final sales pitch: "With Scott, what you see and hear is what you get. And that's an honest, hardworking man who wants nothing more than for Gallatin to remain a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family." Kitts wraps up her own letter: "[Tom Kitts] is a good, good man who'll work hard and do a wonderful job getting our town through these hard times."

Sandie_Sales_Letter_Complete.pdf

KittsLetter2011-1.pdf

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