Posted: October 30, 2014 at 7:50 am by Cowgirl

Let’s Not Retain Haynes

Voters in Ravalli County must vote whether or not to retain District Court Judge James Haynes for District 21.  Haynes does not deserve another term. 

Haynes is the hypocrite judge who made statewide headlines for refusing to allow a pregnant woman to get drug treatment and then penalizing her less than a week later for testing positive for drugs.

As Amy Canatta writes:

Prosecuting a woman for criminal endangerment for using drugs while pregnant is a violation of her right to equal treatment under the law. It singles pregnant women out, and treats them differently. A man and a pregnant woman, both arrested for using the same drug at the same time, would not be charged with the same crimes. Equal protection forbids this.

Not only is criminalizing the use of drugs while pregnant unconstitutional, it goes against the recommendations of health care professionals, who universally say that drug addicted women should be treated during pregnancy not criminalized. In fact, tapering off of illegal and prescription drugs – not going cold turkey – is often recommended to combat withdrawal symptoms that can hurt a woman and her pregnancy.

But Haynes here decided to prevent this  pregnant woman from going to drug treatment because it would interfere with his trial schedule.

As the Billings Gazette reported, here is what Haynes said in court:

“In this case, we have this woman who has managed to impregnate herself, plus she’s got these criminal charges. Her decision to have a child in the middle of all this is her decision,” Haynes said. “It’s not society’s responsibility to take up the cause for her decision. So the child to me is pretty immaterial at this point. She can decide how to care for her child. She can decide how to care for her health to ensure she has a healthy child, if she chooses to….I don’t know why I should have to scurry around, change my trial schedule.”



Posted: October 30, 2014 at 7:30 am by Cowgirl

ALERT: Trapping Season Started on Public Lands

A Public Service Announcement from Footloose Montana

Fall is here.  Hunters, hikers, skiers, and all who enjoy public lands, be aware that trapping season is upon us!

The general trapping season is nine months long, September through May. As of September 1, semi-aquatic animals such as beavers, muskrat and mink can be trapped in Eastern Montana.  In Western Montana, the furbearer trapping season begins November 1. Wolf trapping season is December 15 through February 28.  For a $19 license, five wolves can be killed by traps and/or guns.  This means thousands more large traps will blanket public lands already seeded with tens of thousands of traps.

Every year, traps kill at least 50,000 of Montana’s wild animals for their fur and for sport. As conflicts between public land users and trappers increase, a growing number of companion dogs have been maimed and killed. Concealed and baited body-crushing traps, foothold traps and snares catch any animal unfortunate enough to be lured into them.

Trapping for predators, including foxes and coyotes, has no regulations. Traps can be set at any time of the year, anywhere, on hiking trails and public roads. Traps for “furbearing” animals can be set 50 feet away from hiking trails and 30 feet from the centerline of public roads (the length of two pickup trucks).  Foothold traps and body-catching snares can be set 300 feet away from trailheads.  Spine-crushing conibear traps and neck snares can be set 1,000 feet away from trailheads. Traps and snares can be set 1,000 feet away from campgrounds that are accessible by a highway vehicle. Increased trap-setback regulations apply in certain areas in Trapping Districts 1 and 3 (mostly around Whitefish, Eureka and Bozeman, Montana).

Please check the trap map at  before you go on an outdoors adventure.  Footloose Montana posts trap locations reported by the public. If you have any questions, or if you see a trap, or have the unfortunate experience of encountering one, please immediately report the instance with photos if possible to Footloose Montana at 406-274-1069, or email   It is illegal to remove traps.


Many people think the trapping days of Jim Bridger—almost two hundred years ago—passed into history, but in Montana the 2014 furbearer trapping season begins on September 1.  This means tens of thousands of baited snares, steel leghold and conibear traps are set and hidden, on our public lands.  Today trappers do not suffer the elements as Bridger and his fellow mountain men did.  After setting their traps, they head home, checking their traps whenever convenient.

However, hikers, skiers, hunters and wildlife watchers need to be aware that traps can be anywhere, and must take great caution because of the possible serious injury and death that traps pose to people and their children and pets.   Every year in Montana, pets are injured and killed in non-selective traps—anyone can step into a trap.

The general trapping season begins September 1 and ends May 31. Trapping for beaver began in Central and Eastern Montana on September 1. Trapping of swift foxes in North East Montana and for otter, muskrat and mink begins November 1.

Devices used to trap these semi-aquatic animals include conibear traps and may be submerged along creek and river shorelines; dogs, including bird hunting dogs can easily run across one and be killed or seriously injured.  Trapped animals can suffer for days in panic, suffering hypothermia, hunger and thirst.  Some chew off their feet or wring off entire limbs to escape the pain.

Trapping for bobcat, fisher, pine marten and wolverine begins December 1, through February 15. Not only beavers, coyotes, martens, otters and bobcats are killed in traps and snares, but also rare and endangered species, including fisher, wolverine and lynx, and recently reintroduced species such as the tiny swift foxes.

Trapping seasons mean more traps on the landscape, but trapping for predators has no regulations at all.  Coyote traps, for instance, can be set anywhere year round.  No license is required.  Setback regulations along trails and near campgrounds don’t apply.   There is no season completely safe from traps on public lands.

If your companion animal is caught in a trap, the animal may panic in fear and pain, so it’s best to put your jacket over his head while you release the leg from the trap.  Even if you see no blood, nerve damage and blood loss to the foot can be severe so take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.  If you can’t open the trap take the trap and your pet to emergency help.  This is a very stressful situation, but it is important to take photos, if possible, and note the exact location of the trap, and any markings on the trap and report to Footloose Montana as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Posted: October 29, 2014 at 6:46 pm by Cowgirl

GUEST POST: It’s one thing to experiment with voters, quite another to experiment with candidates, too

by Dr. Daniel Carpenter

Professor Carpenter is Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of the Center for American Political Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Dr. Carpenter mixes theoretical, historical, statistical and mathematical analyses to examine the development of political institutions, particularly in the United States.  

The piece is cross-posted and first appeared on Talking Points Memo at the Editor’s Blog here, as The Hottest Thing In Political Science This Week!”


My colleagues and I at Harvard are discussing this and thinking about how to discuss the issue with our graduate students. I teach the intro to political science course here and we’ll be talking about it for weeks if not years to come. I do think that Montana and California state officials need to chill out a bit. The universities are cooperating and I doubt very much that the academics here meant to “interfere” in any way maliciously with Montana’s election system.

That said, I wanted to raise a point that I see missing in a lot of this week’s discussions: that it’s one thing to experiment with voters, quite another to experiment with candidates, too. (See point 4 below.) This is not to say that what the Stanford-Dartmouth crew did is necessarily wrong or unethical. We still lack a lot of information there and we need a calm debate that avoids becoming a witch hunt. It is to say that it differs a bit from the usual turnout experiments in a particular way.

On the study itself, I’m still digesting things, but I see four issues here, in decreasing order of clarity:

(1) The unauthorized use of the Montana state seal in mailers. Unless I’m missing something, this just wasn’t smart.

(2) The miniature disclosure (rather implicit) that people were part of a study. I can see that the Hawthorne effect is there to worry about, but state-of-the-art is to make this very clear, sometimes to include it as a treatment condition.

(3) The question of whether Stanford should have also approved the experiment. (This is often an issue with multi-center clinical trials.) Dartmouth appears to have approved it, and now the Stanford spokesperson and their official letter says the University would not have approved it. (This as of Wednesday morning; the facts here could change.) This raises the question of appropriate venue-shopping and is another point on which to instruct our graduate students. If their name is going to be associated with an experiment, Harvard IRB should probably be in on the approval even if the experiment has already been approved by another school.

(4) The fact that the candidates were unwittingly part of, and affected by, the treatment. This is where I disagree with Chris Blattman and John Patty, at least for the moment. Blattman is right that we all “intervene” in the lives of our subjects (so too with observational research). But I think part of the discomfort here comes less from the fact that we’re intervening in the lives of voters and more in the fact that we’re intervening in the lives (or prospects) of the candidates.

So suppose I’m a candidate running for selectman in Massachusetts (these are non-partisan elections) and Team Bonica estimates that I’m left of Che Guevara while my opponent is in the center. Unlike the Gerber-Green-Larimer turnout experiment, there really isn’t neutrality to this information. Especially the way that people read graphs, the probability that the information has zero tilt for the treatment group is knife-edge. The treatment directly affects those outside of the subject pool. (Of course there is always a plausible indirect effect with social contagion or what we later learn from the experiment, but the key here is direct effects.)

And of course there’s a positive externality here. Even with perfect or cluster-based randomization, people inside the sample can take the treatment information and run outside the sample with it, e.g. to the news, and that news coverage can then have an independent effect on the outcome.

In other words, if I’m in a non-partisan election and someone decides to place me and my opponent on an ideological scale along with major national (partisan) politicians and mass-mail the evidence all over the state, you can say that the election has become a lot less non-partisan.

Now we could respond that this is simply revealing information, and that campaigns do this all the time. But there are two countervailing arguments that suggest that it’s more than this. First, given an election that may not otherwise have lots of internal and external spending, it’s far less clear that this intervention is innocuous. At some level, this is the point that Sen. Tester is making about interfering with non-partisan elections. We could respond that voters deserve information about candidates that may reflect on their partisan leanings, but for better or worse, Montana has designed a system in which they wish elections to have as little partisan influence as possible. The crucial feature of this system is that the candidates do not run with party labels attached to their names, either in the campaign or on the ballot.

John Patty, a former colleague at Harvard whose creative mind I very much admire, has argued that non-partisan elections are not really so non-partisan. If he means that non-partisan elections do not have zero partisanship, he’s trivially right. You can, for instance, be a registered Republican and run for one of these offices. But these elections differ dramatically from elections for the state legislature, and once you look at the longer history of non-partisan elections, it’s clear that Progressives and Populists who put these institutions in place meant to minimize partisan influence in the selection of particular judicial and administrative officials.

So in a state whose institutions intend to minimize partisanship in one set of elections (judicial) and not others (the state legislature), it’s not clear that political scientists should feel entitled to engage in mass provision of party-tinged information in one (judicial) case just because campaigns do it in a whole bunch of other (largely legislative or executive) cases.

And second, the risk is to people outside of the subject pool. Suppose the following. I want to know whether the reputation of business owners affects the sale of the products of the companies they own. There are two major pizza shops in a town. I gather (publicly available) information on (a) the criminal histories of their owners and those owners’ family members and/or (b) what people said about them online. Then I randomly distribute summaries of this information to the residents of the towns in which they have their market.

Whether this is ethical is a question that would have to be considered. But in thinking about whether it was ethical — i.e, if I’m on the IRB — I would want to consider the effect not only on the subjects (pizza consumers) but also on people identified in the treatment mailings (pizza shop owners). This alone makes the experiment quite different from intervening in the lives of participants in a study of poverty and violence of the sort that Blattman cites. In those cases and in the Gerber-Green-Larimer treatment, for instance, publicly recognizable figures are not part of the treatment, and/or the treatment does not make those figures more or less publicly recognizable.

I’ll conclude that I don’t think it helps anybody to pursue a witch hunt here, and there is a risk of politicians, social scientists and others piling on a group of young scholars. I’m writing warily on that score, but I’m writing nonetheless because some of the recent commentary (published as well as what I’ve heard around the water cooler) suggests that the only thing that plausibly went wrong here is the mis-appropriation of the state seal. If that is all that political scientists learn from this episode, I think we’ve fooled ourselves.

Posted: October 29, 2014 at 7:16 am by Cowgirl

Evidence of Past Deceptive Practices from Mailergate Profs Uncovered

Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that one of the three “researchers” involved in mailergate has a history of shady, deceptive, and unethical “research” practices.  The article noted:

…a previous study co-authored by Mr. Dropp, who is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth, in which more than 1,000 email requests were sent to Texas legislators in 2010. The emails appeared to come from Texas citizens, but were actually sent by the researchers to measure the legislators’ response rates.

“It crosses an ethical line to create fictitious people and use government resources for people who don’t exist,” Mr. Krosnick said. “There’s a habit here of lying to people.”

You can read the whole article here.  I’ve downloaded the PDF on Dropp’s fake email experiment here in case he takes it down: dropp_peskowitz_jop

Of course, we still don’t have answers on whether the “research” from this debacle is for Stanford and Dartmouth – or for CrowdPAC – or both.  Stanford isn’t saying.   Instead, as Mike Dennison reported, a Stanford spokesperson would say only that,” Any connection between CrowdPac and the project that produced the Montana mailer is part of the school’s internal investigation of the project.”

We also still don’t know if Stanford is a shareholder or holds any position in CrowdPAC, which raises additional ethics questions the school has yet to address.  I’ve previously outlined the ethical questions raised by the silicon valley start-up’s connection to mailergate here. 

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said yesterday “she believes this is the first time in Montana history that a campaign mailer has been retracted,” MTPR reported. 

Two city councilors from Montana’s capital city, Andres Haladay and Katherine Haque-Hausrath last night sent a letter to Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon condemning the fake voter guides:

Montanans take the non-partisan nature of our judicial elections very seriously.  In fact, Commissioner Haladay recently defended a portion of Montana’s Judicial Code of Ethics that prohibits candidates from seeking, accepting and using partisan endorsements.  The Federal District Court of Montana, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and United States Supreme Court all recognized that allowing such partisan identifiers in the midst of an ongoing election would be disruptive to the entire process.

We believe these fliers clearly violate the spirit of Montana’s election laws, and likely violate the substance of our laws.


Posted: October 28, 2014 at 6:57 am by Cowgirl

Wheat has Broad Range of Support for Supreme Court

As Billings attorney James Healow writes in the Billings Gazette this week:

Montana is a dark red state, teeming with hundreds of experienced attorneys armed with unassailable, rock-ribbed conservative credentials. If Justice Wheat were truly a runaway activist liberal tool of the trial lawyers, somebody who’s actually fit for the job certainly would have stepped up to the plate. Instead, we see those qualified conservative guys endorsing Wheat, for example, Ken Peterson, a Republican, Mormon, career insurance defense lawyer (and a great guy, by the way).

Former Republican State Senator Ken Peterson (R-Billings) has a letter to the editor himself in the Billings Gazette this week explaining why he’s endorsed Mike Wheat for Supreme Court.  Peterson also curtly fact checks the lies Wheat’s opponent is spreading about him:

He said Wheat sided with a Canadian power company on eminent domain. Actually, if you read the Supreme Court case you will see that the case deferred to the Legislature on that issue. The Legislature passed HB 198, which clarified that there was a right to eminent domain in that situation. I carried that bill and it was passed by a Republican majority legislature and allowed to become law by a Democrat governor. Also, Wheat never sued anyone as a state senator. He did through his broad varied legal career represent persons and entities that believed they had a legal cause against some other person or entity. He also defended persons and prosecuted persons accused of crimes.

I do not always agree with Wheat on issues, and I do agree with Lawrence VanDyke on his position on intelligent design, but I believe Mike Wheat is sound in his legal opinions and is the best qualified of the candidates.

Ed Kemmick at the Last Best News also endorses Mike Wheat for Supreme Court Justice this week.  Ed says his two most satisfying votes this election were his NO vote for LR-126 and his vote for Wheat for Supreme Court Justice.  You should go read Kemmick’s whole piece here. 

As Kemmick points out, VanDyke has tried to counter his utter lack of experience practicing law in Montana (Wheat has 36 years, VanDyke has just over 1) by saying it is his supposed “Constitutional” experience which he claims is more meaningful.   But as Kemmick points out, Chuck Johnson looked into how many cases before the Supreme Court were actually Constitutional cases.  “The answer: since 2006, in only 34 cases—out of 6,202—did one of the parties give notice that a constitutional issue was at question.”

It’s also worth pointing out here that VanDyke has also tried to counter his utter lack of experience practicing law in Montana with a claim that he as Montana roots, and claims to have grown up in Bozeman. His family may have moved there as in infant, however, VanDyke actually left Montana in his early teens to attend a small, isolated boarding school in rural Canada.

He actually graduated from this private religious live-in high school school, called Western Christian College, in 1991. The boarding school is in Dauphin, Manitoba after it moved form Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1989.  I don’t  know whether the school is accredited or not.  I also don’t know if this is where Lawrence got the “theology degree” he touts here-the high school does offer one.


Posted: October 27, 2014 at 7:42 pm by Cowgirl

Private Whitefish Ski Resort: White Nationalist Banned from Europe is Welcome Here

The Daily Beast is reporting this week that the Big Mountain Ski Club, which is the private country club at the Whitefish Mountain Resort, decided to keep Whitefish white nationalist Richard Spencer as a member and allow a fellow member who complained about Spencer’s membership to resign rather than ousting the white supremacy group leader.

One of the other members, a former McCain advisor and lobbyist had a problem with Big Mountain allowing Richard Spencer, who runs a “white nationalist think tank” to remain a member. Apparently the two private ski club members got into an inter-conservative argument on the ski-lift last year, prompting the lobbyist to give the club an ultimatum: ‘pick him or me.’ The club picked Spencer so the other member resigned.

Spencer was arrested in Hungary earlier this month,  and now is banned from certain European countries for the next three years. Apparently he was trying to have a big racist conference in Hungary, but after Hungary banned the conference Spencer and crew tried to sneak in and hold it anyway and was arrested.

And so, while banned from Europe, Spencer, who owns a $3 million dollar home in the Whitefish area, will remain welcome welcome at the Big Mountain Ski Club.

Posted: October 26, 2014 at 9:01 pm by Cowgirl

Questions Emerge About Potential Conflict of Interest Between Mailergate and Silicon Valley Start-up

Other Oddities Come to Light

mailergateThere are a few interesting developments today in the evolving mailergate scandal in which Stanford “researchers,” along with a researcher at Dartmouth College, sent 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides. You can see the fake voter guides at the Flathead Memo here.

First, it appears that one of the Stanford professors has a for-profit side venture called CrowdPAC   This obviously raises questions about about a potential conflict of interest between mailergate and Assistant Professor Adam Bonica’s for-profit silicon valley startup company.

Bonica co-founded CrowdPAC with a former aid to British Prime Minister David Cameron named Steve Hilton. CrowdPAC is funded by blue chip venture capital funds and appears to have both republicans and democrats involved in various capacities.

So one new question that has emerged is whether Bonica was using the fake voter guide experiment he sent in Montana, in which he wanted to test how his partisan scores drive voter turnout and behavior, not for academia but for his for-profit venture-capital backed side venture, CrowdPAC.

We also need to know if Stanford is a shareholder or holds any position in CrowdPAC.  This is surprisingly common–in fact sources close to the industry say Stanford loves to brag about its role in creating Silicon Valley companies like CISCO Systems and Google.

Here’s what CrowdPAC does and how they make money doing it.

Bonica’s company sells data complied with algorithms for quantitative measurement of political ideology.   Bonica built a model for CrowdPAC that uses algorithms based on political contributions, consumer data, and Twitter and social media “scraping” technologies to unlock all of this.  Want to find a list of candidates who support cyanide strip mining or oppose GMOs?  Supposedly CrowdPAC will sell it to you.  It’s like Moneyball for political candidates or groups, with a little bit of Kickstarter thrown in.

CrowdPAC plans to make money in three ways:

1-Selling consulting services, presumably to SuperPACs like CrossRoads GPS.

2-Taking a percentage of donations it solicits.  For example, it finds me a list of candidates who oppose trapping, and then gives me a confidence rating that they will actually vote as if they really are a friend of animals.  And for this service, CrowdPAC will take a piece of the donations that I spend with those candidates–all through their own CrowdPAC online portal.  Think Kickstarter for politics.

3-Selling ads on their sites.

If the research were for Bonica’s for-profit company, that would explain why it didn’t go through Stanford’s Independent Review Board.  Stanford has confirmed “…the study did not follow Stanford’s protocols that would have required a review by the Standford IRB.”

Whether this is being done to line the pockets of a silicon valley start-up or to publish academic research, is unethical to make Montanans guinea pigs and meddle in our Supreme Court race. The Western Association of Political science featured a post that condemned the experiment.

Political scientists told Talking Points Memo in a report released Monday morning that the “study” was:

“malpractice” and “improper and unethical” because, by introducing the ideological position of non-partisan candidates, the flyers could — intentionally or not — influence the results of the elections.

“It’s basically political science malpractice. That’s what I’d call it,” Jennifer Lawless, professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C., told TPM. …there is a difference between trying to have generalizable results and playing electoral god.”…Jeffrey Tulis, associate professor of government at the University of Texas-Austin, told TPM in an email after being alerted to the study: “My initial reaction is that this quasi-experiment is improper and unethical.”

Thanks to Granite State Progress, Dartmouth College now says it too will launch an internal investigation into the fake mailers after local New Hampshire media began reporting on the scandal. 

MTguineapigfightersAs James Conner at the Flathead Memo writes however, internal investigations will not be enough here.  Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl are both launching investigations into the fake mailers. Sen. Jon Tester sent scathing letters to the presidents of both colleges and has called for an investigation into federal mail laws that might be in play here.

There are still too many unanswered questions.  I’ll add a couple to the questions on Conner’s list.

Why was Adam Bonica in Montana earlier this year trying to sell his for-profit services through CrowdPAC at a conference in May of 2014?

Why did the site, which until yesterday had posted a graphic nearly identical to the fake voter guide mailers, suddenly scrub that graphic from the site?

The only the difference was that the Montanans4Justice graphic and the fake voter guides is that Montanans4Justice used little pictures of the candidates heads showing how close or how far a candidate’s head was to Obama.  But as soon as the mailergate story broke, the graphic on Montanans4Justice was obliterated from that site.

As the Flathead Memo reported, the anti-Wheat site “Montanans4justice was registered on 3 September 2014 by an anonymous party.”  And even though the graphic was removed as of this posting, it still contains references to the exact same partisanship metrics used by the mailers and the supposed “experiment” –CrowdPAC’s DIME method, as well as criticism for Wheat and praise for VanDyke.  [this time I got screenshots, see below.]  CrowdPAC launched the same day. 

If you’re new to this scandal, you can read the list of problems I have  with this here.  There is more good information on the Flathead Memo, as always.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 6.42.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 6.41.15 PM


Posted: October 25, 2014 at 8:42 am by Carole Mackin

GUEST POST: A History Lesson about Montana Voters  

by Carol Mackin

In 1920 the Montana Legislature was controlled by Democrats who were controlled by the Amalgamated Copper Company.  The company wanted to get rid of the Open Primary, which voters had passed by a vote of 78% in 1912.  It was a brutal fight that was finally decided by the MT Supreme Court.  Montana voters kept their Open Primary but they took revenge.  They elected a Republican woman, Jeanette Rankin, who had never held public office, and put her into the House of Representatives.

2014: Republican memories seem short.  Corporate-controlled factions are trying to arm-twist the Montana Republican Party into closing the Open Primary.  But, Republican candidates may suffer at the polls for complying with corporate whims.  Democratic State Legislator Amanda Curtis is the perfect choice for U.S. Senator.  And the voting climate is right to give a woman the edge just as it did in 1920.

Carole Mackin is the Website Administrator for the People’s Power League in Helena

Posted: October 24, 2014 at 5:02 pm by Cowgirl

Update on Mailergate, and How You Can Take Action

mailergateThe question that everyone wants answered right now is: who paid for two Stanford “researchers” and one researcher Dartmouth College to send 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides.  You can see the fake voter guides on the Flathead Memo here. Stanford has apologized, Dartmouth has been silent.  Stanford is also claiming it to have been a part of a political science “study” to see how injecting partisanship into our non-partisan Supreme Court election would effect voters.

There are a few strange circumstances surrounding this whole thing, and we need answers. First, understand that what the mailers actually say isn’t “Paid for by Stanford and Dartmouth” but rather, “Paid for by researchers at Stanford University and Dartmouth College.”  This is an important distinction.  It means, perhaps, that the University staff might have  gotten funds for the project from an outside source.  That happens very often  as corporate influence grows in academia. Stanford and Dartmouth faculty, as is the case in many major universities, often work for hire and make good money doing it.  We know that Stanford and the Hewlett Foundation apparently paid for some of this research, but we do not know if they funded all of it or which parts.

Say I am a professor of political science at one of these schools.  I learn that Stanford University prohibits research funded by the tobacco industry.  No problem.  I have my own company for that.  I accept the funds not through Stanford, but through my private research or consulting firm, and yet I still allow Phillip Morris to say the research I did “was conducted by Stanford Professor Dr. Jane Smith.”  See how this works?

This very thing, in fact, caused a big controversy a few years ago between former Governor Brian Schweitzer and a law professor at the University of Montana.  She published a “study” in which she concluded that the tax climate in Montana was bad for business.  Unfortunately, the study was not commissioned or funded by the University but by a private group, the Tax Foundation, which consists of a bunch of right-wing economic imbeciles who spend 40 hours a week worshipping Ronald Reagan.  I think this is how many major schools are able to take advantage of corporate money.

We don’t know whether these Dartmouth and Stanford researchers were using such funds, but it is something that I am looking forward to finding out.  What if a conservative think tank funded the project?  It would be a wholesale corruption of academia and of politics; actually, it’d be corruption by academia of politics.

Although it’s  too early to tell what’s going on,  the #mtpol crowd took to twitter today to rail against Dartmouth and Stanford, as if these universities had launched a full scale invasion against Montana.   We should all take a deep breath.  The state of Montana will still be here Monday, ill conceived though the mailer may have been. Even Jon Tester got into the act, sending a letter to the Postmaster General demanding that he investigate whether federal law has been broken, and sending a letter to  Stanford’s President John Hennessy and Dartmouth’s president Philip Hanlon, seeking answers.  This comes on the heals of a Linda McCulloch press conference yesterday which kicked things off, which she followed up today by filing a formal complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Basic questions abound and need answers.  For one thing, how can a learned professional who is an expert in politics and government not understand the nature of a mailer that links a candidate in Montana to president Obama, who is at 27% job approval?  How could they not understand the basic rules of political practices?  Conversely, why would anyone think that a single mailer, which most people glance at and then toss along with 30 other political mailers that arrive at their home, create a measurable effect to be studied in a lab?  I assume that these professors were going poll voters who received the mailer, and compare it to a poll of voters who did not, and then see if the mailer had any effect on the recipients.  It just seems kind of silly, given the amount of mail flying around on the judicial race, that these researchers could somehow test the efficacy of the mailer of their choice.  Finally, what of the ethical question at the root of this? Namely, should a University be using a state as a petri dish, meddling with our political process and causing real-world results to the citizens of Montana?  Doesn’t that cross the line? And what if these professors are, in fact, getting paid by a right-leaning entity so that the Stanford and Dartmouth names are stamped on this effort, to disguise it as a research project?

Unfortunately, both Dartmouth nor Stanford refused say precisely where the money came from.  That’s not good, and it entitled us to speculate wildly. I also wonder whether the Stanford University and Dartmouth College faculty senate have even heard of this controversy, or if so, whether they will take action.  They need to get in the game and should probably do an investigation of their own.  Recall that it was the faculty senate, not the President, that forced Stanford University to ban funding and grants from Big Tobacco for research and development, and to divest the endowment from tobacco stocks. How can Cowgirl Blog readers take action?  Give the presidents of Stanford and Dartmouth a shout, and ask them why they are treating our voters like guinea pigs.

President John Hennesy
Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon

President’ Phone: 603-646-2223

And, let the faculty senates know what’s going on. Russell Berman is Chair of the Stanford University Faculty Senate.  He can be reached at:650 723 1069 / 650 723-1068

Dean Michael Mastanduno is the Chair of the Dartmouth College Committee of Chairs of the Arts and Sciences Faculty 603-646-3999

It might be good to send them both some of the local media reports for background.  Here’s the most recent.   They should also be asked to demand that these professors disclose who paid for this disaster.

Judy Goldstien is Chair of the Department of Political Science at Stanford.  She is also a member of the Faculty Senate (650) 723 0671

John Michael Carey is Chair of the Department of Government at Dartmouth 603-646 1130

It is important to know that Prof. Adam Bonica, one of the authors of the study, is a member of Chair Judy Goldstien’s Political Science Dept.  It would be good to ask her why Bonica is meddling in Montana’s elections? Did she know about this?  What will she do about this?  Does she know who paid for it?  Kyle Dropp is under Professor Carey.  What does he know about Kyle Tropp’s meddling in our elections?

Richard P. Saller is Dean of School of Humanities & Sciences and  he is an ex Officio member Faculty Senate

The Stanford Department of Political Science is part of the  School of Humanities.  He needs to be asked the same questions posed to Dept. Chair Judy Goldstein.


Posted: October 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm by Cowgirl

UPDATED 10-24: Two involved in Stanford fake voter guide scandal are fellows at right-wing think tank

More info has emerged on the 100,000 fake voters guides from Stanford and Dartmouth that flooded Montana this week, which were falsely presented as an official state mailing and urged voters to make a partisan decision in the non-partisan supreme court race.  Stanford University claims the mailers were part of an “experiment” on our elections, which is about an unethical as you can get.

Cowgirl tiptsters also report that Stanford University is affiliated with the conservative think tank the Hoover Institution, and what do you know–two of the people behind this experiment, Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden, are both Hoover Institution Fellows.

It’s also important to note that the Stanford Office of Sponsored Research (this is actually the name, no snark) doesn’t review studies for objectives or methodology, only for costs.

Also the Flathead Memo had obtained Stanford’s canned talking points on the election experiment scandal. So you can read them here.  Note that the talking points do not disclose who paid for the study.  Was it the Hoover Institution or one of their affiliated funders?  The “researchers” did not respond to multiple requests to disclose who funded the mailers.

Big Sky Words has more on the specific people behind the fake mailers. After he posted the names I was able to google them and found they were Hoover Institution Fellows.   The more you peek under the thin veil of pond scum, the more you see this looks less and less like a legitimate study and more and more like a right-wing ploy to influence our elections.