Posted: October 1, 2014 at 7:21 am by Justin Robbins

GUEST POST: Lawrence VanDyke is the Biggest Threat to Montana’s Outdoor Heritage

By Justin Robbins

The great myth of the 1% in America is that, in this land of opportunity, any one of us could get there. Our history is chock full of examples from Henry Ford to Bill Gates, from Jackie Robinson to Derek Jeter, from Clara Barton to Oprah Winfrey or from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. From whatever socio-economic, geographic, ethnic or cultural background you hail, we have an iconic American story that proves you can succeed. That idea constantly tickles the mind of every American citizen, and every other poor bastard dying to be one.

With that established, please allow me, or better still join me to take a long, hard, honest look in the mirror. If you’re anything like me, your circumstances in life are a little better than those of your parents; largely because of their efforts. You are better educated, make more money, and enjoy more luxuries (if only in entertainment options) than mom and dad. They would have it no other way. If you have children, you not only understand your parents’ priorities and sacrifices, but have dedicated yourself to ensuring the pattern continues.

Now, keep looking, and maintain the honesty of your assessment. It is incredibly unlikely you will be in the 1%. The odds are literally astronomical…there’s around a 1 in 750,000 chance you or I will be even a millionaire, let alone billionaire.

My argument here is not one of class warfare. I am neither crying foul, nor claiming status as a victim of anyone or anything. It is merely a summons to stand free of illusion and face reality; unflinching, unforgiving and unwelcoming reality…warts and all. I ask you here because it is only from a firm grounding in reality we may see the world as it is rather than as we would have it be.

For example, my preference would be a world wherein the people who seek elected office in my state would do so out of a sense of duty or service rather than of personal reward. Where education and independent thought are valued, and ignorance is not virtuous. Where conclusions are supported by evidence, and a course of action is chosen by reasoned debate, rather than revelation.

In reality, there are very wealthy, powerful elements in this country looking at the State of Montana the way…frankly, the way wealthy, powerful elements look at anything. They recognize the abundance of natural resources (be it oil, fish and game, or lakefront property), and the very limited means of the average Montanan to engage in meaningful protection or preservation of those assets. Then they see Montanans like Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat author the opinion that protects our access to our streams and rivers. They can’t have that.

They realize the important role the Montana Supreme Court plays in protecting the rights and privileges of Montana’s hunters, fisherman, hikers and rafters. How one pivotal seat can mean the difference between a public stream access, and their gated, riverside subdivision.

Enter candidate Lawrence Van Dyke…but, just barely. The Montana Constitution requires a Supreme Court candidate to have been admitted to practice law in Montana for five years prior to the election. Van Dyke was inactive in Montana from 2006 to 2013 while working in DC and Texas. Nonetheless, he is on the ballot, and has some pretty professional, expensive literature floating around the state.

While the literature trumpets dedication to the law and the interests of the people, it avoids mentioning what law and which people. As mentioned previously on this site, Van Dyke has an established set of conclusions about the world, informed in large part by a flat earth, creationist ideology, and a back pocket full of Koch. He also has a record of starting with the desired result, and then figuring out how to use the law justify it. We, the people, will not see nor hear him debate his opponent, nor even do a live interview; but he will confide to friendly crowds that he will be the voice on the Court “of right thinking people.” If you still have that mirror handy, look and see if he means you.

You see, in reality, the biggest threat to Montana’s outdoor heritage isn’t “the government” coming door to door to collect your guns. It’s the private fence around the place your dad taught you to hunt. It’s your public lands sold to the highest bidder. It’s a mine clouding up the Smith River, and a pipeline bursting in the Yellowstone River. It’s Lawrence Van Dyke.

Posted: September 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm by Cowgirl

New Ad for LR-126

The committee that is fighting against LR-126 (the Tea Party ballot measure to repeal election day registration) has put out a new video. You can watch it here. Featured are Montana voters, including a military veteran and native American, as well as the Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

LR 126 is an odious measure, and all you need to know about it is that very few Republicans have the courage to support it publicly right now.  In case you haven’t noticed, Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke have run for cover and will not even say where they stand.

They both do support it, we know, because it is designed to suppress democratic turnout.  Statistics show that people who register on voting day tend to be more Democrat than Republican. In 2013, all of the Republicans in the legislature voted to send this measure to the ballot, while all of the Democrats voted against it.

If you think you are registered and you go to vote on election day, only to find out that there was a clerical error and your registration was never processed, election day registration is the only chance you have. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans supported the law creating the system in 2006.

Unfortunately, Republicans were later advised by their leaders in Washington that they should reverse course and work to abolish it, because it might result in voters voting who are not Republicans.  Another civics lesson from the GOP.

Posted: September 29, 2014 at 9:08 pm by Cowgirl

Meet the Corporations that Want a Montana Supreme Court Seat

Corporate Lobbyists, GOP Operatives Set Up PAC to Back TEA Party Supreme Court Candidate

A barrage of mailers arrived in Montanans’ boxes this week, sent by a group calling itself Montanans for a Fair Judiciary PAC.   The newly-created PAC is spending big money to put another TEA Partier into the Supreme Court who will represent corporate interests over yours.

photo (12)

photo (13)

A look at who is behind the mailers makes it clear that the Montana Republican machine is kicking its big money power brokers into gear for VanDyke. Here we see they have set up yet another corporate astroturf PAC to use big money to drown out citizens’ interest in the Montana Supreme Court race.

Let’s look at who’s really behind this newly created “group.”   The so-called “Montanans for a Fair Judiciary PAC” was filed on Sept. 9, 2014 with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office. The PAC’s officers are listed as Jesse Luther, Wendy Smith, and Jake Eaton. Smith and Eaton both list 47 North Communications as their place of employment and e-mail contact.

Readers of this blog know Jake Eaton well.  He’s the former Executive Director of the Montana Republican Party–the one who was forced to resign over the scandal to make it more difficult for 6,000 Montanans to vote.   Eaton has also worked for former  TEA Party Congressman Dennis Rehberg and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Eaton’s firm was the one Jason Priest and Ed Walker used to do the dirty work of the dark money group they set up to buy the last Supreme Court race for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. But they weren’t satisfied with just one seat. Priest, Wittich, Essmann and others were the TEA Party were caught emailing each other about their plot to take over the supreme court when a reporter their plot was leaked to the press last session.  

And yes, this is the same group is the group Art Wittich and Jason Priest used send mailers out to attack moderates who tried to support medicaid expansion last session.

Wendy SmithThe treasurer of the Montana for a Fair Judiciary PAC is Wendy Smith, who is not identified on the 47 North website, but does have a 47 North e-mail address and lists it on the PAC’s official paperwork, as you can see here: Montana for a Fair Judiciary PAC – Filing with Office of Commissioner of Political Practices

Leo Barry, Corporate Lobbyist, has set up a political action committee to influence the Supreme Court race in his favor.

Leo Berry, Corporate Lobbyist, whose firm has set up a political action committee to influence the Supreme Court race in his favor.

The third agent of the Montanans for the Fair Judiciary PAC is Jesse Luther, an attorney with Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry and Hoven, P.C., one of Montana’s largest corporate law firms. Luther is an Associate of the firm, serving its two notorious top extractive industry and large corporate lobbyists, Leo Barry and Mark Taylor.

Mark Taylor, Corporate Lobbyist

Mark Taylor, another Corporate Lobbyist whose firm set up a PAC to influence the outcome of the Supreme Court Race

If you’re not yet familiar with the work of Berry, Taylor and Luther, you’ll know their clients.

Here are a few as listed at the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices):

Coal Mountain Mining, LP

Montana Contractors Association

National Association of Publicly Traded Partnerships

3M Traffic Safety and Security Division

Intoximeters, INC


Montana Self Insurers Association

Consumer Data Industry Association

Phillips 66

MHA, Montana Hospital Association, An Association of Montana Health Care Providers

BNSF Railway Company

Benefis Healthcare

Anheuser-Busch Companies

Ash Grove Cement Company

and several others…

(Don’t you just love that they can work for Monsanto, Big Booze and the Hospitals at the same time.)

The fact that Leo Berry and Mark Taylor are going after Mike Wheat and putting big money behind VanDyke is indeed telling. These corporations want a court that represents their interests over ours.


P.S. With every day that goes by it becomes more clear that Lawrence VanDyke is a TEA Party Republican with strong ties to the GOP’s right wing and big corporate interests. One only needs follow the money to see the truth–you won’t get it from VanDyke, which is troubling.


Posted: September 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm by Cowgirl

GUEST POST:  A letter the US Senators of Montana

[This is a guest post by David M. Jordan who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy and lives on Georgetown Lake.]  


I question the appropriateness of Ryan Zinke using his military background as the basis for a political campaign. I believe his actions denigrate all who have served in the US military, worn the uniform with pride, and do not expect acclaim for our deeds; that his actions could be conceived as being condoned by the US Navy as being in violation of US Navy Uniform Regulations, which prohibit the wearing of the uniform or any part of it for political aims, seems to have not occurred to Mr. Zinke.

We who have been retired from the US Navy long enough to realize that most people get tired of hearing about it real quick, have many medals and decorations among our souvenirs have had experiences that we might sometimes reluctantly share if someone asks. We can put some things on a resume and some things we can’t. None of us can hang up a sign with our stars or chevrons and a gentleman really never brags. We care for our families and our way of life as we always have.

Mr. Zinke, on the other hand, has really not been a civilian long enough understand that he is selling his uniform and insignia to espouse a political agenda and that act is disrespecting everyone else who has worn that uniform.

I now spend my life in the National Forests. I am writing this letter in a cabin with a Forest Service property lease that is across the lake from our past [Montana] governor’s home. I work at a ski area that is on Forest Service land up the road. My family is comfortable.   Mr. Zinke is selling out the life I fought for and he is trying to make it look like I agree with him.

I am a retired Master Chief Petty Officer. I am very proud of my service but am a little embarrassed when someone thanks me for it. I love my uniform and it would be nice to wear it to a job interview. I can’t really share most of my sea stories because most people think I’m boasting or lying. Many of my friends are Honorably Discharged, not retired, and wear things on their VFW  and American Legion hats. The rules for active duty, reserve and retired persons are different. These rules and reasons for them are spelled out in US Navy Uniform Regulations. Google it.

I don’t expect you to attack a hero. A well-intentioned query to the CNO or Chief of Naval Special Warfare could be interesting.   I did not make Rear Admiral because I was not that perfect. I made it as far I did with the help of people above me and the sweat of my shipmates. Most of us don’t make it to the top but we are all honorable.

Mr. Zinke has not had the courage to publicly embrace his Tea Party friends and giga–buck backers. He does not advertise his plan to destroy our way of life and cash in on Montana’s wealth of natural resources.

The military life is nothing if not politics. It is not noted as an incubator for statesmen. (Colin Powell is an exception, but he made 4 Star General.)

Thank YOU for your service and sacrifice for our country,

David M. Jordan MCPO(SW) USN,ret.

Ps. To Senator Walsh, Sir, I have seen strong men ask for help in the most unbelievable ways. War is hell. Welcome home.


Posted: September 29, 2014 at 6:34 am by Cowgirl

Reason Number #458 Lawrence VanDyke is Lying about Not Being A Right-Winger

TEA Party Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke is trying desparately to hide his extreme-right views and political affiliations.  He’s doing this for two reasons – first, his views are far outside the mainstream, and second, he plan to  continue to accuse Justice Mike Wheat of being unable to make impartial decisions and claim that he alone can do so because he has no political beliefs or affiliations whatsoever.  If the truth gets out, his strategy won’t work.

Yet VanDyke is having troubles keeping the truth hidden.  His campaign finance reports show he dropped $2,000 on Chris Shipp via Mr. Shipp’s LLC Clear Sky Strategies, as reported in the most recent campaign report from VanDyke.

Mr. Shipp is the former Republican Party Communications Director, and a longtime GOP political operative. Shipp also worked for the TEA Party-controlled Montana legislative “leadership” as well.

Obviously, VanDyke can hire anyone he wants, but he can’t hire the Montana Republican Party’s Comm Director and still claim he has no political affiliation.  I predict there is lots more to come out on VanDyke’s extreme-right beliefs and his true affiliations. Stay tuned.


Posted: September 28, 2014 at 7:02 pm by Cowgirl

Oil and Gas PAC Tries to Prop Up Bangerter’s Flailing Campaign with Misleading Ad

Dave Galt and his Gas and Oil Industry Political Action Committee (PAC) are running an ad on behalf of Helena Republican Liz Bangerter.  This after rumors that her own campaign appears to be struggling to stay afloat.

The ad is pretty misleading.  It appears that the Gas and Oil PAC is trying to paint Bangerter as pro-public lands given even though she opposed stream access and as pro-public school classrooms even though she voted to send our tax dollars to sectarian private schools.

Here is a transcript of the ad, which you can listen to here:


Here in the Treasure State, we shouldn’t be exporting our most valuable resource: our kids. Beneath our feet we have the means to provide thousands of high-paying jobs right here in Montana.

Liz Bangerter, candidate for House District 82, knows that natural resource jobs are the ticket to keeping our educated workforce and skilled laborers from leaving the state.

Bangerter will stand up for the generations of today and tomorrow by promoting new employment opportunities for all.

Paid for by the Montana Gas and Oil PAC. Treasurer Dave Galt. PO Box 1186 Helena, MT 59624

Bangerter faces democratic candidate and Helena teacher Moffie Funk in the November election.


Posted: September 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm by Justin Robbins

GUEST POST: No Room on Supreme Court for Fringe Ideologues Who Reject Evidence

by Justin Robbins 

An interesting idea has recently been posited by one of the men seeking to serve the people of Montana as a Justice on our Supreme Court.  The candidate is Lawrence VanDyke, and he asks us to trust that his personal views will not influence his interpretation or application of the Constitution and laws of the state.  It is a tactful, articulate and ironic way to request voters adopt a willful ignorance to the content of his career, while simultaneously awarding credit for his resume.  

It is actually a very clever strategy; relying chiefly on public indifference and cynicism either toward this race, or politics in general.  History is rife with examples of this approach, from Mitt Romney’s assurances about his Mormon faith, to fairy tale grandmas with such big teeth.  However, I submit that the stakes, a seat on Montana’s highest court, are too high to accept VanDyke at his word, or to simply shrug and apply an egalitarian “they’re all crooks.”  We must ask what it is he’d have us ignore. 

Turns out it’s an ominous list. In his role as Solicitor General under Attorney General Tim Fox, VanDyke sought to join Alabama filing a brief in the New Mexico case essentially asking the legal standing for discrimination based on immutable personal characteristics.  He also co-wrote a brief with the state of Arizona seeking to apply enhanced government regulations to healthcare.   Bear with me on the high-dollar cover language…it’s part of a larger point. 

The hat-trick here is a 2004 book note VanDyke wrote, for Francis Beckwith’s “Law, Darwinism, and the Public Education,” supporting the teaching of creationism, or “Intelligent Design”, in public schools. His explanation of this is the rest of the larger point:

“Most of the book note simply reported Dr. Beckwith’s arguments,” VanDyke said. “My limited commentary focused on whether First Amendment law was being improperly influenced by the genetic fallacy something that is an interesting academic question for constitutional law in many contexts well beyond intelligent design.”

Did you catch it?  Notice, if you will, his unqualified use of the term “the genetic fallacy” as if he is simply referencing an accepted status of the field genetics, and by association evolution, as fallacy. An artist with the language, this one…a real wordsmith. But, if you take the time to read between his lines, not Supreme Court Justice material.    

The clear common denominator throughout VanDyke’s resume is a conspicuously cloaked religious dogma.  In fairness, a casual review of modern politics indicates many people, especially in rural states like Montana, are just fine with this, and may think it long overdue. However, I would ask you to consider why VanDyke is at once both a proud champion of his causes, and a humble apologist only serving at the direction of AG Fox. If you’ve read this far and still find yourself leaning VanDyke, please consider these final thoughts. 

In 1801, Founding Father and then President Thomas Jefferson responded to a letter from the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, who had written requesting protection from “infringement on their religious liberty”.  This is the very same language VanDyke employs to argue a New Mexico photographer should have the government bless and codify his right to discriminate against gays.  

The offending party in 1801, from whom the Baptists sought relief, was a rival church; the Congregationalists of Danbury, Connecticut.  It was in his response to the Baptist pleas that President Jefferson assured all people of faith there would “forever be a wall of separation between church and state.” 

What is often forgotten, yet equally often exploited by candidates like Mr. VanDyke, is that the establishment clause in the First Amendment was designed not to stifle religious liberty, but to ensure my religious views could not be imposed on you. The alternative is a slippery slope, at the bottom of which is theocracy; modern examples of which include the Islamic State and the Taliban.  Therefore, whether we agree with Mr. VanDyke’s obvious positions on gay marriage, abortion, and religion in the public schools, it is incumbent on us to evaluate the paths he takes to arrive at his conclusions.

It is critical to have, and Montana deserves Supreme Court justices who will review cases before them on the individual facts and merits, with respect to the rule of law.  That reasoned debate among our leaders be argued rationally and logically, with attention given to the intent of our legislators, and the well being of our citizens and communities. That model is not reflected in either the career or resume of Lawrence VanDyke. 

Posted: September 24, 2014 at 6:53 am by Cowgirl

Montana GOP Reveals Health Care Reform Alternative, and It is a Doozy

Montana Republicans are touring the state to say that they’ve finally found the alterative to the Affordable Care Act they’ve been searching for:  legalizing religious insurance ponzi schemes.

Republicans are hosting seminars on the scheme across the state, the latest was in the Flathead, as you can see from this flyer. Former state insurance commissioner John Morrison took legal action and shut down such schemes as fraud in 2007, but now  Republicans are hoping to resurrect the effort to legalize the insurance ponzi schemes as an alternative to allowing Montanans to buy insurance through the exchange or to expanding Medicaid to the working poor.

Here’s how this works: To join the ponzi scheme you must must pledge your devout Christian faith (and even get a reference from a minister).  You must not to drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a “traditional” marriage.  Pre-existing conditions make you ineligible to participate at all, although one does get the benefit of a “prayer chain.”

The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance rehabilitation–or preventive care like PAP tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.

Usually, bill-sharing plan members contribute a predetermined amount each month. When they have a medical bill, they receive monetary help from fellow members. All of the programs are careful to bury in the fine print that they not promising to pay bills, only “facilitating a voluntary sharing.” Some of these schemes even publish your medical problems in a newsletter to “share” your bill with the community in case anyone wants to chip in–so much for medical privacy.

The MT case in which insurance commissioner John Morrison shut down the scam was initiated after a Montana pastor submitted his bills for treatment of a heart condition and a company called Medi-Share refused to pay for them. The pastor had signed a contract with a scheme called Medi-Share for coverage of his medical expenses, but the company continued to maintain that they had no duty to pay claims.

The last couple of sessions saw a couple of bills to legalize religious the ponzi schemes including SB 181, which were vetoed by both Schweitzer and Bullock.

Meanwhile Art Wittch has tried to plagiarize  Scott Walker’s failed planfrom Wisconsin, which has already failed in that state, been widely panned by the states own legislative counsel and the states largest papers.  They say Walker cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions more than if they had gone with the actual medicaid expansion and that besides costing state taxpayers hundreds of millions more the Walker plan “left the state worse off.”

To be sure, these are positive developments in that Republicans have realized that they have lost the battle of whether reform and coverage should go forward, the battle is now over what kind of coverage and reform that should be.  So this is, for now, a victory for the people of Montana, even though these ludicrous ideas for costly failed boondoggles and insurance ponzi schemes from other states must not go forward.


Posted: September 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm by Cowgirl

Posted: September 21, 2014 at 8:48 am by Cowgirl

Zinke Tries to Put the “man” in Second Amendment

When the history of the 2014 congressional races in Montana is written, literacy will not rank high among the themes.   First there was our senator who plagiarized his college paper.  Now we have Ryan Zinke, whose official campaign booth has been displaying this sign for gun rights:

h/t @MontanaPundit

zinke spelling error