Montana River Guides boats float the Blackfoot River on Monday. Tourists coming back to Montana in big numbers this year after the tourism industry suffered last year due to the pandemic. (Missoula)


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

June 15, 2021



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.”  

By 6-1 vote, Supreme court upholds new judicial appointment system

2 workers die in accident at Stillwater Mine

Judge blocks oil and gas drilling in MT, Wyoming, citing sage grouse

Florence-Carlton debates handling of LGBTQ club for 5 hours

Keystone pipeline sponsor drops project after Biden blocks permit

Gianforte sets priorities for above-normal wildfire season

Hecla plans to forge ahead with plans for mines in northwest MT

Belgrade man charged with crimes related to Jan. 6 Capitol riot

High court rejects appeal of man who killed foreign exchange student

DNA helps resolve 1956 double homicide case in Great Falls

5 apply to be new district judge in Cascade County

GOP senators grill MT environmentalist nominated to head BLM

Missoula police investigate fentanyl overdoses, one death

Gallatin Co man sentenced for falsifying voter registration

ARCO, Anaconda-area residents reach a settlement

Legislators say PSC has betrayed public trust with financial antics

Montana tourism sees rebound after steep drop in 2020

Judge extends order blocking campus carry law

Helena High student drowns at Canyon Ferry Reservoir

Controversy arises over LGBTQ club at Florence-Carlton district

Billings irrigation ditch overflows, some residents evacuate

Crow Tribe closes police agency created in 2020 with COVID funds

Inmate with history of mental illness dies after disemboweling himself

No one hurt in explosion at fireworks factory near Columbus

Some see clarity, others concerns in critical race theory opinion

PSC to hire executive director after audit finds problems

Butte man with wolfdogs challenges county ordinance

Charges against Basin man part of federal crackdown on hate crimes

Fire destroys barn housing antiques at Polson museum

Flathead residents hit by soaring home prices, influx of newcomers

Former PSC chairman calls for commissioner removal after bad audit

Missoula aims to stop illegal camping by housing the homeless

MSU says its policies don't conflict w/ AG ruling on critical race theory

Helena-based campaign-finance watchdog merging with another

Lightning storms trigger widespread power outages in Helena area

'100 Deadliest Days of Summer' starts with 4 deaths on MT roads

Montana Wilderness Association rebrands itself as Wild Montana



UM report says MT hospitals pump billions into state's economy

State: Planned wind farm could generate $700K for MT schools

COVID-relief funds to jump-start expansion of MT's broadband service

MT medical school standoff revives for-profit vs. nonprofit debate

Whitefish Resort scales back summer hours due to staffing woes

Slag plant at Anaconda to shut down

Judge says feds can't delay challenge to public land coal sales


ESPN signs agreement to televise Big Sky games

Cats lineman Connor Woods transfers to Missouri

Akron transfer should add depth to running back for UM

Former Lady Griz coach Mike Petrino takes Boise State post

Trio of Bobcat hoops upperclassmen to return next session

Michigan State transfer DeAri Todd looks to fulfill potential at UM

Flathead golf pro climbs to top of Mt. Everest


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?

Montanans should embrace feds' efforts to put bison on wildlife range

Bullock: GOP has delivered a setback plan, not a comeback plan

The late Stan Stephens gave his all to the state of Montana

Let Regents know how you feel about concealed carry policy


Jones family owns big swath of Montana, but is willing to share it

Montana UFO library tries to shed light on unexplained sightings

Tales from Glacier Park's historic chalets

Masterpieces from WA Clark Collection to be displayed in Butte

The Flathead legislator who took on a corrupt copper king

Bozeman women share tips on Montana eats through Instagram

Montana Zipline Adventures offers rides across sky near Anaconda


Summer music festivals, concerts on tap in Montana

Foreigner to perform in Billings in June, Butte in September

Helena's Symphony Under the Stars returns July 17

Under the Big Sky Festival slated for Whitefish July 17-18

Red Ants Pants Festival to headline Taj Mahal, Watchhouse

Country star Travis Tritt to perform in Billings July 31​​

MSU's Kenny Chesney concert rescheduled for July of 2022

Billings' Magic City Blues Festival features 12 acts in early August

Sheryl Crow coming to Missoula on Aug. 13

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