Monthly Archives: December 2010

Rehberg’s GOP Colleagues Decry Wasteful Congressional Mail

A little while back, we discussed Dennis Rehberg wasting taxpayer money by abusing his franking privileges. This week Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn released his “Wastebook 2010,” which reveals what he deems to be wasteful government programs.   Rehberg should take a look at item number 83 on page 53 in which Senator Coburn writes:

Postcards from members of Congress may not be so fun – especially if you are the one paying for it.

Indeed.  Coburn continues:

This is certainly not a priority in a time of budget shortfalls.

Rehberg tries to position himself as a champion for eliminating waste in government. But here he is protecting his precious campaign war chest by having taxpayers fund his early campaign lit. Besides, if Rehberg were such a champion for eliminating waste in government, what about the billions we’ve been wasting in Iraq?   There’s where the real spending is going.

Congressman Rehberg can’t be working very hard at fighting government waste, as he claims, when he is contributing to it so mightily by funding his campaign for higher ambitions like U.S. Senate or Governor with taxpayer dollars. He should come clean today, give us a clear accounting of what these mailings really cost us and repay the amount to the U.S. Treasury.

A Montana Talk Radio Fact Check

For the past few weeks, rightwing radio talk show host Aaron Flint has been trying to harpoon the Food Safety Modernization Act. Not sure what his problem with safe food might be. This is the bill that sailed through the Senate Sunday with unanimous support.  I guess Mr. Flint is against it because it includes a very good amendment in it by Senator Jon Tester, and it’s hard for a rightwinger to give credit where credit is due.

Tester’s amendment exempts family produce farms and food producers from what would be very expensive new federal regulations that are needed for the big food factories and huge growing operations that ship thousands of bags of lettuce to half the states in the union in a matter of hours… the companies responsible for our nation’s food-borne illness problems.

Under Mr. Flint’s rationale, since the exemption doesn’t apply to Tester’s own farm, then “there’s a chance  your farm doesn’t qualify either.”  Aaron Flint sounds like he’s against the Tester Amendment because “the typical family farm in Montana would not be exempt from the new regulations.“

Now I’m no farmer, but even I know that “typical family farm” in Montana probably wouldn’t even be subject to the new Food Safety Act regulations in the first place.   It makes me wonder if the talking heads over at Northern News Network even read the bill.

The Food Safety Act applies to those who grow produce or make processed food.  The majority of Montana farmers grow grain (like Tester) and sugar beets.  The last time I checked, grain and sugar beets weren’t the cause of America’s food safety problems, rather things like tomatoes, bagged lettuces and whatnot.  Ranchers won’t be impacted either because this bill doesn’t even deal with meat.

But, if you grow produce or process food in Montana, then chances are you make less than $500,000 per year in sales and you sell directly to the marketplace.  If Aaron Flint had actually read the bill, he’d see that’s exactly who the Tester exempts.

“Establishment” GOP vs.TEA Party Legislators: Fight Set for January 3rd Starts Early

Roger Koopman Speaks at a Ron Paul RallyThe session hasn’t even started and tensions that have been bubbling behind closed doors are flaring up publicly now between ultra-far-right wingers, on one side, and your run-of-the-mill conservative Republicans on the other.

In a press release entitled “Is the conservative mandate derailed before leaving the station?” former GOP legislator Roger Koopman, of Bozeman, fired the first public attack on the “Republican Establishment” over the lack of leadership bones thrown to the GOP’s hard-right ideologues given the fact that the TEA Party delivered the GOP a “a powerful conservative mandate” in the November elections.

Judging by who received plum leadership positions, Koopman is part right and part wrong.  Wing nut appointees include Krayton Kearns (House Ag), Ted Washburn (House FWP) and David Howard (House HHS).  Those guys are RWNJs all the way.  So the question is, is Koopman trying just to get attention for himself, or does he honestly believe that these yahoos are somehow not conservative enough?  Koopman ends the rant by calling for a separate TEA Party caucus of truly “principled” conservatives:

If there is any hope for conservative Montanans in the coming legislature, it will come from a highly organized, principled group of Republican legislators who will simply not allow the conservative mandate of November 2 to be stolen from them.

The best part, you might recall, is that Koopman was caught sucking off the government tit a while back, and basically got cited by the state for using public resources to line his own pockets.

The Rehberg Puzzle

Denny Rehberg’s vote against the tax cut package could be explained by his expected bid for higher office, either Governor or Senator–he’s keeping his options open.  As The Hill reports,

A slew of House Republicans thought to be contenders for higher office in 2012 voted against the tax package on Thursday.

Rehberg was one of them, and Rehberg’s vote against the recent spending package can be explained by these ambitions, because votes against the spending measure will likely be a positive with Tea Party activists and could help in a GOP primary against Daines or Hill.

But the question isn’t which office he’ll run for, what’s really puzzling is why some far-left liberals would rather fight the friends who disappoint them on occasion than focus on the enemies who want to destroy them. The right doesn’t do this.  They just want to win.  If actions are any indicator, some liberals just want to whine.

T.E.A. Party’s Number One Earmarker Campaigns Against Earmarks on Taxpayer’s Dime

Here we see what looks like a pretty typical piece of sleazy campaign literature: An oversized, glossy, mailer touting the evils of earmarks.  But the first problem is that it is from Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, Citizens Against Government Waste’s Number One Porking Earmarker in Congress.

Now take a closer look.   It’s not a piece of campaign literature, it’s a piece of congressional franking–paid for with our taxpayer dollars.   Not only is it a clear violation of the spirit of the franking rules, if not the law itself, but it is the embodiment of wasteful government spending to campaign against wasteful spending on the taxpayers’ dime.

Indeed, Rehberg’s ethical indiscretions have been raising eyebrows and filling mailboxes for years. There’s a pretty blurry line between what is or is not a legitimate use of franking privilege, but just the message alone here makes this one cross it by a mile.

Rehberg Abuses Franking Privilege1Rehberg Abuses Franking Privilege2

View both sides of FrankingPrivilege here.

V for Vendetta, Guy Fawkes, Extremism, and a School Board Shooting

During the recent 2010 campaign in Montana, the ultra-right-wing legislative candidate Derek Skees and his gang were accused of extremism because they appeared at Tea Party rallies wearing masks of Guy Fawkes. Fawkes, you will recall, was an English revolutionary and terrorist who tried to blow up the British parliament.

It wasn’t just Skees. The Fawkes fad was a nationwide phenomenon among the far-right, and even the Republican party got into the action. The Republican Governor’s Association, in its fundraising material, featured Fawkes-mask wearers, like in this scary video named “Remember November” by the RGA, the title being a dual reference to election day and to the November 1605 plot by Fawkes to assassinate every member of Parliament. Throughout 2010, Fawkes masks were popping up around the right-wing circuit, on Youtube, and at Tea Party rallies. Time Magazine ran a brief snippet on the whole Fawkes business, but that was about it as far as media coverage.

When confronted about this apparent endorsement of anti-government violence (which is a sensitive subject in the Flathead, where some militia members reside in the deep countryside), Skees brushed off the criticism and provided a clever answer: he and his right-wing pals who pay homage to Fawkes are not extremists, and don’t condone revolutionary upheaval such as Fawkes practiced.  Rather, they are just big fans of the movie “V for Vendetta,” in which the protagonist freedom-fighter wears a Fawkes mask himself (and blows things and people up, but as a good guy).

So what shall we make, then, of the deranged and angry gunman who walked into a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida, spray painted a giant red V with a circle around it (the logo for the movie) on the wall, ranted briefly about taxes and his wife losing her job, and then opened fire on the school board members?  Police later found hard-core anti-government propaganda at the gunman’s house, and also discovered that his entire Facebook page was devoted to “V for Vendetta”.

In the immediate reporting after the shooting, virtually no major news sites made the connection between the Movie, the Masks, the Right Wing and the shooter, but it is very real.

Time and again, whether at abortion clinics or in Oklahoma City or now at a school board meeting, we see the end results of the right-wing’s number one reason for existence: make ignorant, simple people as enraged at the government as possible.

Of course, when someone acts violently out of his anti-government fever as this man did, and a liberal blogger makes the claim that the Right Wing’s constant efforts at incitement are partially to blame, conservatives will promptly declare outrage not at the shooter, but at the Left.

Too Much Eggnog

‘Tis the season for Christmas cards, full of seasons greetings, prayers and wishes for Christmas and the coming year, photos of families and paintings of snowy landscapes and holly trees and Santa and….political updates? about a potential campaign that the sender of the card might be contemplating?

Denny Grinchberg, perhaps having had one too many cups of eggnog (or just nog), sent out a Christmas card yesterday which reads (paraphrasing) “I’m still weighing my options for a run for something other than Congress in 2012, and p.s. merry christmas from my wife and family.” It is simply a bizarre greeting card from a politician, wildly inapprpriate and tasteless, almost to the point that it looks like a gag.

But it’s not, and it’s certainly not making Steve Daines or Rick Hill laugh. Daines is the wealthy Bozemanite who has declared he is running for U.S. Senate, and Rehberg’s Christmas greeting is a lump of coal in Daines’s stocking, because will likely have to bow out if Denny takes the Senate plunge. Hill, of course, is the once-upon-a-time-philanderer/impeachment voter and Helena landlord who has alrady served in Congress, but wants to be Governor and is trying to get the Repubican establishment behind him. In a guberntorial primary, Rehberg would preempt him as well.

If Hill and Daines were raising money before, they ain’t raising it no more, not until Rehberg follows up his Grinchy card with a definitive announcement saying what he intends to do. It’s hard to imagine that Rehberg would do this if he hadn’t already decided to run for something other than the House in 2012. But who knows.

Rehberg’s Earmark Hypocrisy Causes Rumblings in Montana T.E.A. Party

It appears that not all TEA party members in Montana blindly accept that Denny Rehberg is really for controlling spending, after this article came out revealing that members of the so-called Congressional TEA party caucus had taken more than $1 billion in earmarks.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

A Montana TEA party member posted the article on the Montana Shrugged Facebook page and this discussion followed:

Helena IR Lets Rehberg Off the Hook Again

An article in this weekend’s Helena Independent Record reports on Denny Rehberg’s urgent call to eliminate and expose all earmarks.  In the article, Rehberg is seen puffing his chest about evils of earmarks, the need to eliminate them, and the need for Tester and Baucus to get on board with him and fight the evil earmarks, etc.

Astoundingly, the article leaves out this fact: Earlier this year, Rehberg was voted “Biggest Pig in Congress” by the annual Pig Report, done by the leading government-waste-watchdog, Citizens Against Government Waste. Rehberg achieved this honor by having requested more earmarks than any other House member. Even the conservative National Review sheepishly had to report it, and I did a short post on it, but in Montana the story was picked up only by the Flathead Beacon.  Everyone else seemed to believe it was not relevant.

So did the author of this weekend’s article, Sanjay Talwani (a newcomer to the Montana political scene) not do his research? Or did he do his research and write up the Pig incident, only to be told by his staunchly anti-choice, strongly conservative editors that he must omit this fact about Rehberg?

The greater irony here is that I really don’t care about Rehberg having brought more earmarks back Montana. Congressman are supposed to fight for a piece of the pie. The pie will get distributed one way or the other. Whether by earmark (which bypasses most of the need for consent and debate of the legislative body) or by normal vote.  And earmarks constitute one percent of federal spending.  The whole earmark debate is classic Fox News-Republican smoke screen.

True, earmarks are more wasteful on average than other types of things, which is why they are done.  Things like bridges to nowhere and other wasteful pork.  But as usual, Republicans are crying about something that has virtually no impact on the deficit, while spending trillions of dollars on wars and a trillion away in tax cuts, and refusing to make any cuts in entitlements, which along with defense, are the bulk of the federal budget.

Tester took a tough, principled political stance in not going along with earmark-hysteria, since most of the public (including me) doesn’t fully understand exactly what earmarks are or how they work.  He should be commended. As for Rehberg, his jaw-dropping hypocrisy in calling on others in Congress to join him in an anti-earmark crusade is the earmark-equivalent of Ted Haggard calling on gays to become straight.

Rehberg should be exposed on this issue, and in most other media environments he’d have already been humiliated by it all, though obviously you won’t see it from the IR.

Weekend Gossip

Here’s one to take with you to your weekend festivities.

Sources report that Denny Rehberg and Elouise Cobell were on the same flight out of Washington last night–and observed not acknowledging each other.  There are some hard feelings to say the least, after Rehberg voted against her settlement (and also against his own bill, the Crow Water Compact).  The bill includes $5.5 billion in settlement agreements that will mean hundreds of millions of dollars to Montana Indians.