Posted: July 24, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Bit of a Stretch

The Montana political world was upended yesterday with the revelation that that John Walsh, our U.S. Senator and candidate, wrote a college paper in which he used language verbatim that he failed to properly attribute.  He cited the sources in footnotes, but he was using the exact language belonging to another author and did not so indicate with quotation marks.

Today, Walsh is saying that he realizes he made a mistake but has shrugged it off by saying that he is not an academic, and that we should look at his entire military record rather than a term paper. That’s a fair point.  He’s not the first person to make such a mistake. Authors of all stripes have done it.  Walsh also says that he was suffering from PTSD at the time, having just returned from Iraq, but made it very clear that he won’t blame his mistake on PTSD.

There is no question that this story will affect Walsh’s candidacy, but it should not disqualify him at all.  He’s a military leader, not Samuel Johnson. It’s not good, but it’s not anything near the outrage that the GOP is making it out to be. If Walsh was a decorated General, Awarded Bronze Star For “Exceptionally Meritorious Service,” the Commander of the National Guard, the Lt. Governor and now U.S. Senator, how can someone say that he is unqualified, in retrospect, to have been all of these things and to have won all of those medals and commendations because of a college term paper?  It’s a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, let the circus now begin.

Steve Daines, predictably, is nowhere to be seen or heard on this issue because he knows there’s no percentage, and indeed no need, for him to say anything about it.  But a week or so from now, expect to see a TV ad, probably from the Republican Party, telling us all about John Walsh’s plagiarism with scary music in the background.  Expect also to hear from veterans who will talk about how outraged they are that Walsh would try to excuse plagiarism on PTSD, which he has not done. We might even get a pure swiftboating–hear from some soldier claiming that Walsh never had PTSD.  It’s also interesting that this suddenly becomes a news story just as polls are starting to show Walsh gaining on Daines.

This is politics, and this is what happens when a story like this breaks, and their ain’t much Walsh can do beside put his best face on it and remind voters that Steve Daines plays childrens’ games in Congress and does things like throw tantrums and threaten to default on bills and shut the National Parks down–costing us $45 million in lost tourism and other dollars.  And why is no one talking about how Daines opened all kinds of factories in China while his company laid off people in the U.S.? Meanwhile Walsh served in combat has a 33-year career fighting for Montana and wants to get something done in Washington rather than play games.

As for rumblings from the internet fringe today about whether Walsh should jump off the ticket before the August deadline, enabling the party to put in someone else, I think this would make no sense.  First, there is nobody to replace him with, unless you think John Bohlinger would have a better chance against Daines right now which is debatable.  Brian Schweitzer, Linda McCulloch, Denise Juneau and Monica Lindeen have all taken a pass already. Names like Carol Williams, Dirk Adams and so on, they would be starting at zero against a sitting Congressman, and would have an impossible fundraising hill to climb.

 So this is what it is: Walsh is the best candidate for U.S. Senate, and this too shall pass.

 

Posted: July 24, 2014 at 6:27 am

Montana is at the Forefront of National Fight Against Election Corruption

A Montana case is the next battle in the fight to keep elections from being for sale to the highest bidder by keeping campaign finance limits in place.

Now, a group of leading national legal non-profit advocacy groups including Free Speech for People, former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, the American Independent Business Alliance,  the American Sustainable Business Council.the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Justice at Stake and the League of Women Voters are joining Montanans in the fight to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place.

The groups joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl.  They are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a District Court ruling that struck down Montana’s political campaign contribution limits.  Earlier, a District Court disregarded both Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent to overturn Montana’s limits on contributions to state candidates, including judges, from individuals and political parties.

In Lair v. Motl, American Traditions Partnership board member Doug Lair wants campaign finance limits abolished.  Several prominent Republican office holders and candidates in Montana caught up in the infamous Meth House Scandal, in which documents belonging to the infamous American Tradition Partnership (ATP), were found in a Colorado meth house.  The documents incriminated TEA Party Senate leader Art Wittich, Mike Miller, Derek Skees, Pat Wagman, Jerry O’Neil, Bob Wagner, Dan Kennedy, Scott Mendenhall, Wendy Warburton, Ed Butcher, and Tom Burnett to name a few.  Wager, Burnett, Miller, O’Neil and Wittich are currently running for office.

Here’s how Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, explains it:  “Campaign contribution limits are justified by an interest in ensuring political equality for all, regardless of access to wealth. When political equality is jeopardized, democracy itself is at risk.”

Justice James Nelson, a former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, and on of the court’s most respected justices, said, “Candidates for political office and elections should not be for sale to the biggest spenders. The Supreme Court has decreed that money equals speech; and contribution limits help to level a playing field tipped in favor of the big spenders by Citizens United.”  I could not agree more.

The District Court overturned the Montana’s candidate contribution limits applicable to individuals and PACs, even though the limits have already been upheld by the Ninth Circuit.

In addition to the limits on candidate contributions from individuals and PACs, the lower court struck down Montana’s limits as they apply to contributions from political party committees. Montana does not limit the amount that any individual or PAC may give to political parties, but instead restricts the “aggregate” amount a candidate can receive from his or her political party.

Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t been covered by Montana news outlets, even though its the next step in a nationwide battle to protect America’s and Montana’s elections from corruption.

After all, this case comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down longstanding limits on the total amount of money wealthy individuals could contribute to federal candidates in an election cycle. As with the Citizens United ruling which now allows unlimited corporate dollars into our elections, the high court’s McCutcheon decision is unleashing further money into the political process from wealthy interests.

We’ll see if it gets more attention by Montana reporters after the op-ed by Justice Jim Nelson and Ron Fein appeared in yesterday’s Billings Gazette.

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.  Hertz used 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 intention of doing what Hertz implies. In fact, the EPA has no effort nor any effort even 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 healthcare.gov 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 healthcare.gov 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 healthcare.gov 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).