Monthly Archives: October 2010

A Giant Handicap for State Democrats

The sad reality of the 2010 Montana elections is this: if the Dems can keep control of either chamber of the state legislature, it will be an astounding triumph.

Why? Put aside the obvious reason that Obama and the Washington Dems have offered very little in the way of persuasive rhetoric in defense of the big ticket items like health-care, stimulus and bailout. Put aside the enthusiasm gap. Put aside the frenzy of excitement among TEA-trash. In Montana, there is a far more disturbing obstacle: the millions of dollars in right-wing corporate money that has stealthily infiltrated the 2010 legislative races, unmatched by any such funds from the left.

Let’s look at some of the totals. First, there is the CI-105 group, run by GOP operative Chuck Denowh. This groups has spent $1.9 million, all raised from the National Realtors Association. These funds have been used to run TV ads for months, and the number of commercials that have aired is staggering, surpassing the amount of TV that is purchased by a major US Senate campaign. The commercials are ostensibly to promote the CI-105 constitutional amendment. But they are basically generic commercials for republican legislators. The ads falsely say that “Helena” is trying to raise taxes, which is basically a way to get people to vote for a Republican legislator since many Montana voters don’t know that Democrats, not Republicans, have delivered the largest tax cut in the history of the state.

To this whopping $1.9M, add a hundred or so thousand more from Chuck Denowh’s other two shady groups, the Better Goverment PAC and the Jobs for Montana PAC, also funded in whole or in part by corporate cash to the tune of hundreds of thousands, according to their Oct c-6 reports.  Then you have an undetermined number of local groups that seem also to be controlled or influenced in some fashion by Denowh, such as the Flathead Business and Industry Council which has dropped a ton of money in select local races like that of Joe Brenneman, a commissioner from the Flathead who Denowh is trying to unseat to clear the way for abolishing all zoning in Flathead County.

Nauseous yet? We aren’t done. Throw in Erik Iversen’s Montana Business Leadership Council, which has made huge media buys around the state, for an undisclosed sum. And then add the Western Tradition Partnership. We don’t know how much they spent, but they said a few months back that they would be spending at least $500,000 this election cycle in Montana, most of it raised from out-of-state corporations, mostly energy companies who want environmental regulations defeated.

Grand total? An estimated $3-5 million. Why can’t I give you an exact tally? Because several of these groups have simply refused to disclose the amounts and sources of their funding. The Western TP and Iversen’s MBLC take advantage of a federal tax loophole to evade reporting, by claiming to be involved principally in “educational” activity, not “political” activity.

Tell that to Will Hammerquist, who had this mailer from WTP dropped on him today.  WTP NEG (Fortunately, it appears that a moron, possibly John Sinrud who founded WTP and is now active in Flathead politics, designed this mailer. It is silly, over-the-top and largely illiterate, so it probably has no effect at all, especially this late in the game.)

Anyway, if you add it all up, Republican groups spent $3,000,000 this cycle conservatively and maybe as much as $5,000,000, the overwhelming majority of it being spent on activity designed to influence legislative races. It is virtually all corporate money, the majority of which comes from out of state. At least a million of it, maybe more, is mystery money, about which we will never be able to learn the amounts, the sources, or even the races on which the money was expended. Unfortunately, the Democrats in Montana don’t have access to this type of soft corporate money.

True, there are unions and wealthy individual donors, and environmental advocacy groups. But but none can, or will, write a two million dollar check in the blink of an eye. Not even close. There is no corporate interest that wholly owns the Democratic party in the way that the GOP is owned by entire corporate sectors. That’s a good thing. But it makes this season an uphill climb.

Zac Perry: Education, Community, Commitment

Guest Post by Barry B. Conger, Columbia Falls

Dear House District Three Voters:

Election day looms near. There is an awful lot of noise out there right now about national races, but in the end, what really effects our everyday lives happens a lot closer to home. Our property taxes, our children’s education, our personal rights and privileges are most often determined at a much more local level.  For those in House District #3 race for State Legislature, I ask that when you go to the polls on Nov 2nd (please vote!), please be careful when considering who can best carry your concerns and issues to our State House.

If you don’t already know him, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Zac Perry:

Zac Perry was born in House District 3, grew up in Martin City, went to Canyon Elementary and graduated from Columbia Falls High School – he was football player, a basketball player, a track runner, and still managed to graduate with a perfect 4.0, first in his class. He then took advantage of the great education he received in our small town, and secured a Bachelors degree in political science from prestigious Notre Dame University. Then he brought this education home to the Flathead Valley and to his community.

When Zac is not running the Ox Yoke Inn in Martin City, or teaching kids at Ruder and Glacier Gateway, he is working on building a safer walking/biking system for local kids to get to school, and to rebuild the Historic Red Bridge across the Flathead, and singing in the CF Community Choir, and helping with anything and everything at the Columbia Falls Farmer’s Market, and working with Canyon business leaders to improve the economic climate and extend the business season. When was the last time you saw any of the other candidates in the race participating at this level – not just showing up for public meetings seeking votes, but working behind the scenes to help our community?

The fact that Zac is the only candidate in the District 3 race with a four-year degree from a major university should be telling to folks thinking about how to vote on Nov 2nd . Having a local to represent us who has the knowledge, background, and skills that Zac does is a win for everyone.

The fact that Zac came back to his home town to work with his family running a local business should be a measure of his commitment to the community he lives in. Zac’s deep belief in this community will allow Zac to translate the concerns of all of his constituents into reasonable and effective legislative action.

Zac also works as an educator for School District Six, which should tell you a lot about his strong commitment to education. If you value a quality education for your children, and recognize its benefit  to the entire community,  you need Zac in Helena.

Why are these things important? Because representation of Columbia Falls, Martin City, Hungry Horse, Polebridge, West Glacier, and all the other communities  in the district is personal. We send legislators to Helena to represent OUR needs, OUR issues, OUR values. Zac Perry knows these needs. Zac Perry lives these issues. Zac Perry has our values as his own. Zac will take with him to Helena a deep personal commitment to this community, not a private agenda to forward his own business, and not a radical effort to bring fringe ideas to the Legislature.

With Zac Perry representing us in the State Legislature, we will be able to feel confident that a local native with his eyes squarely on the best interests of our community is representing US in Helena. I believer that Zac will go to Helena with a reasoned attitude, a thorough understanding of local issues – jobs, education, taxation, preserving our way of life – and a deep commitment to serve the community he represents.

I am proud to stand up in support of Zac for House District 3. I believe that he carries with him the very essence of what we should look for in political representation – values, commitment, integrity, education, and a selfless drive to better his community. I hope that you will get to the polls on Nov 2nd and I hope you will send Zac to represent you in Helena.


MT TEA Party Lawsuit Part of National Religious Right-Wing GOP Strategy

The Helena IR reported yesterday that the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party faction is suing the state to invalidate Montana laws that regulate sunshine in campaign  spending and reporting in politics.

The lawsuit, filed with the help of the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind., says Montana laws requiring various financial reporting by political committees are unconstitutionally vague and should not apply to groups like Montana Shrugged.

Just who is the out-of-state “James Madison Center for Free Speech”?  It is backed and lead by the conservative and religious right-wing of the national Republican Party.

Indeed, one of  [the group's leaders James] Bopp’s greatest sources of funding emerged when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) embraced Bopp and his cause of campaign finance deregulation and helped him set up his own nonprofit litigation center — the James Madison Center for Free Speech — in 1996, on which McConnell agreed to serve as the honorary chairman.

The group’s leader, James Bopp Jr., is a Republican-backed lawyer who’s fought campaign finance laws for 30 years.  In fact, he’s the guy that filed the suit that led to last January’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate influence on elections.

Once again, the so-called “local TEA Party movement” is just a pawn of a national Republican movement to obliterate transparency in campaign spending.

In fact, the Kansas City Star reports that this same entity is now challenging laws in at least a dozen states that have disclosure laws like Montana: including California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

And finally, all this garbage about how the TEA Party is supposedly not to be interested in social issues must finally be put to rest.

In Spite of Ruling that It Broke Montana Laws, Sinrud’s Western Traditions Partnership Keeps Attacking Democrats

The Billings Gazette reported this week that John Sinrud’s so-called “Western Tradition Partnership” broke state law and should have to pay a civil fine because it failed to report its donors and register as a political action committee.

As previously reported by The Gazette State Bureau, in two years of investigation, Unsworth’s office uncovered evidence that Western Tradition Partnership had been involved in 19 Montana legislative races in 2008 and that it had a budget of $660,000.

As the Havre Daily News reported, Unsworth ruled that:

The evidence shows that WTP’s ultimate purpose in Montana in 2008 was not to discuss issues, but to directly influence candidate elections through surreptitious means.

According to Unsworth, the group planned to spend $537,000 on targeted Montana elections this year. Here’s what they’re spending on.  Would you call this advocating for issues or electoral work?

This flyer from Sinrud’s so-called “Western Tradition Partnership” suggests Sheila Hogan will stop that darling little princess from becoming a doc, because her Mommy and Daddy will be forced spend all their dough on the utility bill, instead of saving it for her college. I guess this is because Hogan might like to see some effort on renewable energy.

This “organization’s” address is 2020 Pennsylvania Ave N.W. #186, Washington D. C. 20006. Not exactly a grassroots local citizens group concerned about legislative races in Whitefish or Polson, or Jefferson County.