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.”  


Robert Kurtzman, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner for the state of Montana, testified in court Monday that the first shots that hit Broadwater County Deputy Mason Moore in a 2017 shootout near Three Forks were likely not fatal. (Helena IR)


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

Sept. 20, 2021


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

Body of Billings man pulled from Yellowstone River

79% of Montanans who died choosing to be cremated

Jurors see chase, crime scene video in deputy's fatal shooting

26 MT water and sewer projects get federal stimulus funds

AG Knudsen says he'll challenge Biden's vaccine mandate

Gianforte calls Biden's vaccine mandate plan 'unAmerican'

4 grizzlies killed after getting into garbage, vehicle near Glacier Park

Prosecutors: Father, son were on 'suicide mission' when deputy killed

Groups file 4th lawsuit that challenges new election laws

Flathead River rafters find human remains

Labor Dept: MT's economy booming, but it faces many challenges

Suspected pipe bomb detonated at Jefferson River fish access site

Trial to start for man accused of killing Broadwater County deputy

All state workers returning to offices despite recent COVID surge

Native transgender lobbyist accuses conservative website of libel

AG asks court to reject challenges to state's new abortion laws

Nurses' group calls governor's emergency rule 'junk science'

North Dakota trooper fatally shoots Billings driver after I-94 chase

As school starts, COVID disrupts some classrooms

Winds push Alder Creek fire toward structures

Wildfire smoke seeps back into Montana

State senator from Buffalo named state's new budget director

High court rejects lawmakers' quest to reopen case

On tap in Montana this week: Dry, warm and sunny

Body of missing Virginia hiker, 34, found in Glacier Park

Fire and smoke spoil many Americans' plans for western adventures​​



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

FoodCorps suspends operations in Montana schools

State eases planned advertising restrictions for marijuana retailers

MT butchers have a beef with big meat packers

Environmental watchdog: Canada failed to control mine pollutants

Missoula firm develops germ-killing equipment


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


Summer music festivals, concerts on tap in Montana

Foreigner to perform in Billings in June, Butte in September

MSU's Kenny Chesney concert rescheduled for July of 2022

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