A lobbyist testifies before a House committee earlier this year in this Helena IR file photo.


Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has spent tens of millions to transform the Montana landscape, but likely few Montanans have heard of him. Now the New York Times has a story out telling how Wyss has “quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats.”

Wyss, who lives in Wyoming, donated millions through his foundations towards creating the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana and to a project to convert private timberlands in the Swan Valley to public lands.

The Montana media has said little about Wyss’s donations to Montana conservation causes, but the Great Falls Tribune did note in 2015 that the Wyss Foundation had given $2.5 million to the APR wildlife preserve project. The Tribune also noted that the conservative Daily Caller web site had reported that Wyss settled a sex-abuse claim brought by a former employee, while at the same time Wyss had given $5 million to Hillary Clinton's "No Ceilings" women's empowerment project.

A reserve spokeswoman told the Trib at the time there was no plan to return the Wyss money. "It's a tough situation all around," the spokeswoman said. "But we're trying to honor the foundation's wishes that this project become a reality independent of whatever may be happening in Mr. Wyss' personal life."

The Wyss Foundation also gave $35 million to the Montana Legacy Project, which eventually acquired over 300,000 acres of land in western Montana, mostly in the Swan Valley, and converted it to public lands.

While Wyss has focused much of his early attention on environmental issues such as those in Montana, in more recent years he has funneled a lot of his funds into dark-money groups that help Democrats and liberal causes, the New York Times said in its new report.

Wyss donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three other nonprofit funds that gave money various groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year, the Times said.

​​​​​​BOTH political parties had their share of winners and losers this election, but there was one clear set of losers: the pollsters.

Pollsters greatly underestimated the level of support for President Trump in many states – something that also happened in 2016, but didn’t get fixed.

Polling on Senate races around the country was even more off base. In the Maine U.S. Senate race, for example, incumbent Sen. Susan Collins trailed Democratic challenger Sara Gideon in every major poll. One had Collins 12 points behind. But she ended up winning by a 9-point margin.

The same scenario played out in Montana.

The Mountain States Poll sponsored by MSU-Billings gave Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock a 48-47 point lead over Sen. Steve Daines. The GOP senator won by 10 points.

Same for the MSU-Bozeman poll, which gave Bullock a 2-point edge a couple weeks before the election. Likewise, that same poll gave GOP state Auditor Matt Rosendale a 48-46 percent edge over Democrat Kathleen Williams in their congressional contest, but Rosendale won by a 56-44 margin.

In the Mountain States Poll, Rosendale led Williams 47-46.

One of the few races that a Montana poll came close to getting right was the governor’s race. The MSU poll had GOP Congressman Greg Gianforte leading Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney leading 47 to 42. Gianforte actually won by more than 12 points, but that was still more than the poll's 3,9 percent margin of error.

The MSU-Billings poll had Gianforte and Cooney in a dead heat at 45 each.

From July 1 until Election Day, 17 polls took the pulse of Montana voters, and virtually all of them declared the Senate race a neck-and-neck affair. Some said Bullock was leading by as much as 4 points. Only one pollster, Emerson College, came close to getting a true measure of the sentiment of voters, having Daines up by 6 points in one and 9 by another.

In an interview aired Sunday with GOP and Democratic strategists Ashlee Strong and Eric Stern, MTN’s Jay Kohn asked about the polls. Both Strong and Stern said private polls done for the parties and candidates have been a lot more accurate than public polls, particularly those done by Montana's universities. What's the point, they agreed, in having taxpayers fund polls that have been so far off the mark in several election cycles?

Update: MTN's Mike Dennison has done a story in which he asks how the pollsters "missed the mark so badly." Possible factors, according to the analysts and pollsters he talked to: Many GOP voters are reluctant to talk to pollsters as they see them as part of the liberal media, or the polls used faulty methodologies that didn't adjust for the number of GOP voters there are in Montana. Another possibility: the unexpectedly large turnout worked to the advantage of the GOP -- and wasn't factored into poll possibilities. 

UM political scientist Rob Saldin noted that the internal polling done by campaigns was closer to the mark. Still, Saldin said, they were "every bit as surprised – not necessarily in terms of who won, but by the huge margins that we saw the Republican candidates win by.”  


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​              A daily digest of Montana news

Sept. 20, 2021


Spending on lobbyists hit almost $7 million during 2021 session

Little progress being made on tracking lobbying spending in state

Interior Secretary signs Montana tribes' water rights compact

Public files over 200 proposed maps for dividing up US House districts

Ticketed entry eased pressure on Glacier Park's features

Lawsuit challenges mask mandate at Bozeman-area schools

Daines, Warren sponsor bill to honor 13 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Health officials urge Montanans to get vaccinations, wear masks

MT education board member calls 1619 Project 'untrue history'

Driver sentenced for high-speed chase after illegal border crossing

One man dies, 2 wounded in shootout in Kalispell parking lot

MT hospitals strain to provide services as they cope with COVID surge

Officer testifies Barrus said he wanted to be hanged after his capture

75 Afghan refugees to resettle in Montana

Teen Yellowstone Park worker burned burned at Old Faithful

Students ask regents to require vaccination

Licensing obstacles hurt efforts of rural schools to fix staffing shortages

Wildfires in southwestern Montana continue to grow

State has spent $54 million on firefighting this year

MT's GOP lawmakers not keen on Dems' federal voting rights' bill

Billings hospital says it may have to ration care as COVID cases rise

Leisure is Montana industry hardest hit by pandemic

Reorganization in the works for state's largest agency

Supreme Court orders new trial in case of rape of disabled child

Officers testify about high-speed chase after shooting of deputy

3 killed in ATV crash in ravine east of Billings

GOP lawmakers quiz judges about Judicial Standards Commission

US tribes seek emergency protections for wolves

MT hantavirus study may have COVID implications

Pathologist says deputy likely survived initial barrage of shots

Ten National Guard members to help at overwhelmed Billings Clinic

Great Falls High School turning to remote learning due to COVID

UM, MSU get almost $2M for mental health training

ATV rider struck and killed by train on Hi-Line

Right to Work group sues in effort to torpedo Clean Campaign Act

Environmentalists sue to get state to enforce 'bad actor' law

Flathead livestock stores see increased interest in Ivermectin

9/11 ceremony at MT Capitol honors those who lost their lives



First Interstate expands by buying South Dakota-based bank system

Montana's sheep ranchers seeing strong demand for their lambs

Once dead Missoula hotel and events center may come back to life

Billings Gazette puts up its downtown building for sale for $7.8M

Businesses wrestle with fed vaccine mandate as COVID cases climb

Drought reduces crops for MT wheat producers, but drives up prices

CA biotech opens Missoula branch as it pursues cure for spinal injuries


Bobcats rout San Diego 52-10

High school games being rescheduled, canceled due to ref shortage

UM linebacker O'Connell wins Big Sky defensive honors

3 top Montana recruits commit to Bobcats for football

Big Sky Resort installs North America's fastest 6-person chairlift

MSU rolls past Drake 45-7 in Gold Rush game

UM wallops Western Illinois 42-7 as defense shines once more

Helena racer breaks own land speed record with almost 200 mph run


Attorney General Knudson should stop meddling in local matters

This Fourth of July demands extreme caution from Montanans

Crickets from the media over lack of transparency from judicial branch

Stone-Manning deserves Daines' support as director of BLM

AG Knudsen's firing of law firm was in best interest of state

We're in a strange place when it comes to masks

How might Montana be reapportioned into 2 representative districts?


The effort to save Somers' Mansion on the Hill

John Maclean reviews the legacy of his father's classic book

Reed Point hosts Great Montana Sheep Drive for 33rd year

Biplane flights honor World War II veterans

New law allows cadaver dog training in MT with human remains

Anaconda native delves into mystery of his grandmother's murder

How one Crow man used his education at Carlisle to save his culture

Hobby group enjoys gold-prospecting claim near Libby

Getting to the top of MT's tallest peak -- Granite -- in one day


First Whitefish Songwriter Festival kicks off this weekend

MSU's Kenny Chesney concert rescheduled for July of 2022

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