Posted: July 23, 2014 at 6:48 am

Idaho Tribe Nixes Bigot Ted Nugent: Wyoming TEA Party Makes Him Keynote Speaker

An Idaho tribe has cancelled an appearance by racist rocker Ted Nugent at a public casino this week.  Meanwhile the Wyoming TEA Party has nabbed him to be the keynote speaker at its upcoming annual event.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe of American Indians  has a history of being strong human rights supporters, so it’s not surprising that the tribe immediately cancelled Nugent when it learned of the booking.  The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Nugent, a board member of the National Rifle Association,

has a “long history of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, animus towards immigrants, and propensity to use violence-tinged language,” Media Matters reported earlier this year.

That came after Nugent called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and referred to him as a “chimpanzee.” Nugent previously called Obama a Nazi and a “piece of shit” who should “suck on my machine gun.” He once called Hilary Clinton a “toxic cunt” and, on another topic, said, “I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best [if] had the South won the Civil War.”

Apparently, these same “qualities” make Nugent a perfect person to address Wyoming TEA partiers. WY TEA Partiers told the Casper Star Tribune that Nugent “thinks he can help” Wyoming–a state which used to be proud to call itself “The Equality State.”

Posted: July 23, 2014 at 6:04 am

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

…Rep. Greg Hertz R-Polson.  For using public meetings to spread misinformation and TEA Party conspiracy theories, while crowing on his Facbook page that information is only valid if it is “straight from the horse’s mouth.’

For posting on his Facebook page the motto “Unless you hear it from the horses’ [sic] mouth, don’t listen to a Jackass.” then ignoring his own advice and spreading misinformation at a public meeting, Hertz is this week’s hypocritical hero.

Hertz made some embarrassing unsourced claims at a Polson public meeting recently.  As the Valley Journal reported:

Citing the EPA trying to say farm dust was a hazard and irrigation ditches are navigable water ways, Hertz said cities need to stand up and push back on EPA since it’s very difficult to meet their standards.

In fact both of Hertz’s assertions have been debunked years ago.  Hertz is practicing a rhetorical sleight of hand which avoids explicitly stating the agency actually has any such intention of doing what Hertz implies. In fact, the EPA has no effort nor any effort planned to regulate farm dust.   That’s a conspiracy theory Herman Cain used in a presidential debate in 2011, after which the conspiracy theory was immediately debunked.  

Nor is there any attempt to declare ditches navigable waterways. Hertz and other conspiracy theorists make this claim based on the TEA Party myth that the Clean Water Act only applies to navigable waterways.  It doesn’t, and therefore declaring ditches such does not make them subject to regulation and therefore has no point whatsoever.

Come to think of it, if we’re to take Hertz’s advice, I guess there isn’t much point in listening to him.

Greg Hertz Motto


Posted: July 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Four Reasons the Affordable Care Act Is Not Going Anywhere

TEA Partiers briefly went nuts this morning.  That’s because a D.C. circuit court’s three-judge panel ruled that Congress did not intend for anybody in states that use the federal marketplace to get the insurance subsidies available to people in other states.

But the frenzied celebratory consumption of snack cakes was short lived.  Just hours later a three-judge panel in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Congress did intend people receiving coverage through the federal government to get subsidies.

The issue at stake here is of particular interest to Montanans because we’re one of the 27 states that uses the federal marketplace.

But the Affordable Care Act subsidies aren’t going anywhere.  Here’s why:

1. The DC appeals court decision was made only by a three judge panel, not the full DC court of appeals.  The federal government says it will appeal to the full DC court of appeals. This means that all eleven judges would review the ruling.  The D.C. Circuit as a whole is much more liberal than the panel of three judges who heard the case.  It has seven judges appointed by Democrats and only four appointed by Republicans.  This means that the full court is likely to reverse the earlier decision.

2. The Fourth Circuit also liberal-leaning, so even if the Affordable Care Act’s opponents requested a full review to the Fourth Circuit, their ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act would still stand.

3.  As Vox reported earlier today, this means full panels of both circuit courts are likely to uphold the Affordable Care Act subsiies.  This means the Supreme Court is actually less likely to weigh in.  They are more likely to get involved with cases when  two lower courts with inconsistent rulings.  Of course they can choose whether to weigh in or not.

4. Finally, its pretty ludicrous to try to argue that Congress intended that the subsidies would only apply in states that run their own health insurance marketplaces.  “It is…clear that widely available tax credits are essential to fulfilling the Act’s primary goals and that Congress was aware of their importance when drafting the bill,” the Fourth Circuit Court ruled. Experts up and down the line agree that they couldn’t possibly have meant anything else.

The impact to tens of thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans who would no longer get a price break on insurance would be devastating.

Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen reported recently that there are 30,000 people who were previously uninsured who gained coverage in Montana under the Affordable Care Act.  If the subsides were stripped from these middle class and low-income people, their premiums would have been an average of 76 percent higher in price than what they are paying now. Many of these people would no longer be able to afford health coverage.

If the DC panel’s ruling were upheld it would be one of the most devastating blows to middle class America in the nation’s history. It puts into perspective just how devastating a blow a faction of TEA Party legislators dealt Montanans last session.  That’s when they voted to bar Montana from accepting the money to pay for 100% of the health care coverage costs for 70,000 working poor Montanans.

Montana uses the federal marketplace because the Montana legislature rejected two bills in 2011 to create a state-based marketplace: HB 124 and HB 620 .

You can read the DC Circuit Court of Appeals anti-Affordable Care Act 2-1ruling here: Halbig v. Burwell,No. 14-5018 (D.C. Cir. July 22, 2014)

The Fourth Circuit ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act 3-0 is here: King v. Burwell, No. 14-1158 (4th Cir. July 22, 2014).


Posted: July 21, 2014 at 7:41 am

Corporate Tax Protests Have a History of Harming Schools

Unfortunately for Montana’s public school classrooms, big corporations refusing to pay the taxes is apparently  a fairly common practice.

 Pennsylvania Power and Light, a multi-national company worth $17 billion, did the same thing more than ten years ago after acquiring its dams from Montana Power. This was in large measure the reason Great Falls Public Schools had to close down a middle school to make up for the money PP&L owed but refused to pay.

The district was forced to put 6th graders back in elementary schools,  which soon led to overcrowding.  It will surprise no one that the city and the school board became divided over which of the three middle schools they would have to close. Several highly respected school board trustees were voted out of office thereafter, replaced by a group that voted to reverse the previous school board’s decision and close another middle school instead.

Great Falls schools suffered the brunt of PP&L’s actions, but as the Billings Gazette reported, schools in Sanders Count (Thompson Falls), Lewis and Clark County (Helena) and Rosebud County (Colstrip) were also impacted.

All thanks to PP&Ls refusing to pay the its taxes and protesting them instead, 94% of which courts later ruled the company owed and must pay–but by then the damage to these school districts was done.

As Mike Dennison reported in 2004, a lawyer for the state of Montana in the tax appeal case said he had “never seen a taxpayer so blatant in its attempt to avoid being taxed on its fair market value.” 

At the time, PP&L also tried to send unsolicited political donations to state legislative candidates, state Sen. Jim Elliott of Thompson Falls refused to take the money. It would be interesting to see who has been taking political contributions from Charter and Verizon, the corporations the most recent examples of this kind of despicable behavior. 

Posted: July 18, 2014 at 7:35 am

Tax Laws Skewed Against Schools

Montana law favors corporations over schools and local governments when it comes to taxes, and some corporations are exploiting this to the hilt.

Montana just settled with Verizon and Charter–two corporations which together had protested paying more that 70 percent of the funds they owed local governments and schools.

According to the Montana Budget and Policy Center, Verizon and Charter together had protested paying $66 million of their tax bills. That means the money goes into an account but the schools can’t use it.  Even in the rare cases schools are allowed to spend protested taxes, the law requires the schools to pay interest to the corporation on any amount later returned to the company.  But get this. It doesn’t work the other way around –corporations don’t have to pay interest to the schools and counties if the protested taxes are, as is usually the case, found to be legit.

This is a real problem for schools and local governments, who need the money to fight fires, build roads, and help sheriffs protect citizens. In Montana, the law appears to be skewed in favor of corporations who protest their taxes.  As MBPC reports:

Generally speaking, there isn’t much disincentive for a corporation to protest a significant portion of the taxes it was assessed, regardless of how much that company may believe is in question….There is little stopping Charter or Verizon from protesting nearly all of its taxes even if it believes only a small portion is in error. As a result, local economies are in limbo – sometimes for years – for settlements to be reached and funds to flow back into communities.

So basically,  corporations can protest more than they owe as a way to pressure Montana and local schools and governments to granting them a more favorable settlement.  Our laws appear to encourage this practice.

You can read the MBPC’s full post on their Charted Territory Blog here, but prepare to be none too pleased.