Monthly Archives: June 2011

More Embarrassing Wiki-Moments for Republicans

TEA Partiers Michele Bachmann and Rep. James KnoxFor a party that loves to put itself on the highest pedestal of morality it sure has attracted a lot of dishonest and deceptive politicians and followers.  It appears that attempting to alter or hide the facts of history through Wikipedia is a becoming a major Republican past time.

Unfortunately for Republicans, its not just Wikipedia’s credibility they are damaging, it is their own.

GOP Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, the candidate who (as of this week) is leading among religious conservative voters and Montana Republicans according to the latest polling, was campaigning in Iowa a couple of days ago when she:

told a Fox News reporter that she was proud to be in the town where John Wayne was from, because she embodies his ideals. Unfortunately for her, it turns out that the actor John Wayne was not from Waterloo, but serial killer John Wayne Gacy was.

That’s when Republicans sprang into action to change John Wayne’s birthplace (in Wikipedia) to the Iowa town where John Wayne Gacy was born.  History of course remained unchanged.

But that’s not all, Bachmann’s lack of facts spurred a second round of furious editing this week when she claimed that:

the nation’s sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was a “founding father,” even though he was just a child when his father, the nation’s second president, signed the Declaration of Independence.

Republicans immediately altered the Quincy Adams’s Wikipedia entry was changed to call him a “founding father.”


Wikipedia Editor Issues Warning to Hill Campaign

This is a story that I have observed unfolding for some time and has now become public after being reported by the Billings Gazette. Rick Hill’s campaign has made a constant effort to remove basic facts about Rick Hill from Hill’s Wikipedia page. For a while, the campaign manager Chuck Denowh (or perhaps someone else with the screen name “cdenowh) was removing facts on a regular basis. The history of what Denowh was removing is all laid out for anyone to see. He was usually removing any reference to Hill’s extramarital affair, something that was well documented in the news when it came to light in the late 90s.

But now a formal warning has been issued by Wikipedia, in bold letters at the top of Hill’s page: “A Major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection to this subject,” the warning says, and goes on to say that the article is no longer reliable and is protected from editing because its viewpoint neutrality has been compromised.

Wikipedia editing is a common thing for political operatives to fiddle with (Conrad Burns’, Brian Schweiter’s and Brad Johnson’s people both were all reported to have been editing their bosses’ pages). But, Hill is trying to remove a basic biographical fact that is a fair-game item in a political race. He is trying to make something (namely, his penis, and the improper use thereof)  disappear, as if it never existed. Generallly not a smart thing in politics.

Scary Types in the Flathead: Realtors Have Some ‘Splaining to Do

A national AP article ran across the country last week, highlighting the right-wing nut-jobs that are gravitating toward the Flathead Valley and particularly Kalispell.

These include Chuck Baldwin, Randy Weaver and a long list of others who are on various watch-lists of human rights groups like Southern Poverty Law Center and Montana Human Rights Network.

But there is a great irony to it all.

The business that suffers most from this trend is real estate. To have a community become known as a haven for lunatics is a sure way to cause real estate prices to suffer.  And the Flathead valley does not need a drag on real estate right now, because the national real estate crash has hurt the Flathead, and hurt ancillary businesses there like wood products and construction and electricians and so on.

The irony? Realtors are partly responsible for the right-wing colonization effort in the Flathead.

For starters, the National Realtors Association had an enormous influence in creating the Montana Tea Party legislature, having spent over $2 million on Montana this past election cycle to get ultra-right-wing Republicans elected in the legislature by blanketing the airwaves with a series of campaign ads about impending taxes.

It brought new faces in the legislature like Derek Skees, who in turn started actively seeking the spotlight for himself and his crazy buddies and causes in the Flathead.  Skees, in fact, was just featured in TIME Magazine, which did a profile about him being the national leader of the nullification movement, headquartered out of the Flathead.   And there have been other disturbing articles in the national press, like the recent Associated Press piece, about how right-wing crazies are getting elected in, and moving to, the Flathead valley.  Not a good way to keep real estate values high.

John Sinrud, Realtors AssociationBut it gets worse.  Right-wing Republican John Sinrud (pictured), the current head of the Northwest Montana Realtors (the major real estate group in the Flathead), is the man who assembled the Western Tradition Partnership, a group that spent roughly $700,000 of secret, unreported funds on the 2010 legislative races (this was in addition to the $2 million that the National Realtors brought in). Sinrud has also been active in county and local races up there as well, something that the NWMR group doesn’t seem to mind at all.

So be careful what you wish for. The Realtors came to the 2010 legislative elections loaded for bear. But they are now being chased by a giant, runaway elephant, and might be regretting having gone hunting at all.

Dennis Rehberg Screws Up Again, Not as ‘Cash Poor’ as First Reported

Congressman Rehberg is trying to hide his wealth from Montana voters.Rehberg tries to "write down" his wealth so he won't have to run as one of the world's richest congressmen.One of the Richest Members of CongressRemember this story about Dennis Rehberg and his claim that the ranch he inherited then subdivided is somehow worth millions less than last year?  As it turns out, Rehberg is not quite as ‘cash poor’ as he first claimed.

Late last week, after the story went away, the millionaire congressman formally corrected  his finance report upping the value of one of his assets — Rehberg Ranch Land & Livestock — from the $500,000-$1 million range to the $1 million-$5 million range.  Read his amendment to his finance report for yourself—it’s online here.

Don’t blow this off as some minor mistake (as Rehberg’s office will surely try to do).  Now matter how he spins it, the fact is Dennis Rehberg’s original accounting was off by up to $4.5 million dollars.

As desperately as he wants to be a workaday Montanan like, well, Jon Tester, Dennis Rehberg just isn’t as “cash poor” and “struggling like everyone else” as he wants us to believe.  He’s trying to hide his wealth so he won’t have to run as one of the richest Congressmen in America.

Dennis Rehberg’s inability to accurately fill out a financial “disclosure” comes on the heels of his last effort to make headlines, when he wrote an amendment that was so bad (allowing tobacco companies to market cigarettes to children), his own party was forced to pull it.

And this guy wants to be a senator?


Worst Political Ad of the Week

This ad against CA Congressional candidate Janice Hahn is being called the most racist, sexist political ad in history. But this is bad on so many levels.  See for yourself. Youtube pulled the ad, but it is available on the video podcast below by The Young Turks.

The video was found to be produced by Ladd Ehlinger for a conservative political group called Turn Right USA, the same people who made this ad.

Damage Control Gone Wrong

Montana Congressman Rehberg

Congressman Rehberg's Lawsuit Against Firefighters is a major problem for his campaign.

Congressman Rehberg, MT-ALRehberg’s recent focus in the media on cracking down on lawsuits against the government is a classic example of abysmal damage control.

Rehberg seems to be attempting to get on the other side of the issue of “lawsuits against the government” by appearing to crack down on them.  By doing so, one presumes, he hopes to neutralize some of  the negative sentiment he dredged up over his own lawsuit against  the Billings, MT firefighters who risked their lives to save his scrub brush. No doubt Rehberg has polling which shows how damaging his lawsuit could be to his U.S. Senate campaign against the popular Jon Tester.

The most recent example of  Rehberg’s behavior can be found in today’s Missoulian, which reports that Rep. Denny Rehberg [is] one of 38 co-sponsors of the Government Litigation Savings Act that’s intended to reform the  Equal Access to Justice Act, which says any government agency that loses a lawsuit to a private individual, group or business must pay the legal costs of the winner.

But for such a practiced practitioner of political games,  Rehberg has violated the cardinal rule of Congressional crisis management: If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t behave like you do.  By signing on to this bill, and pushing it in the press at every opportunity, Rehberg appears overeager– and that is causing his strategy to backfire.  His focus on cracking down on lawsuits against the government is only serving to recall in voters’ minds Rehberg’s own lawsuit against Billings’ city firefighters.

Tester Stands Up for Rape Victims in the Military; Rehberg Thinks Rape Victims Are Lying Sluts

It’s no wonder women are getting behind Jon Tester, who is working hard for women in the quintessential good ol’ boys club (Congress), by backing legislation to better protect victims of sexual assault in the military.

Recent reports show a sharp increase in sexual assaults within the military over the past several years – twice as many service women are raped as women in the general population.

For example, female soldiers deployed overseas are reported to stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night.  Reports also indicate that many assaults have not been effectively investigated and being a rapist isn’t stopping anyone from receiving the highest military honors.

Tester’s bipartisan Defense Sexual Trauma Response Oversight and Good Governance (STRONG) Act would make make a bunch of changes to help protect women serving our country including providing access to legal counsel and services for sexual assault victims and actually requiring the military to keep investigation records of sexual assaults for the same amount of time required in civilian cases.  More info on the bill is available on Tester’s website, here.

Meanwhile, millionaire  Congressman Dennis Rehberg voted against rape victims when he voted to prevent the following situations from “counting” as rape: women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped, minors impregnated by adults, and women who say no but do not physically fight off the perpetrator for fear of being murdered.

Rick Hill’s Unusually High Negatives; They Increase in Latest Poll; Good News for Dems

It is very, very unusual for a major candidate to begin his quest for state-wide office with negative name ID among the general public.  I cannot recall a major nominee, for Senate, Governor, or any other major race in Montana, who began with negative popularity.  I’ve never seen it before.  Generally they are either popular by a good ratio, or else unknown.

And yet in the last two polls conducted in Montana, Rick Hill, running for Governor, has gotten strong negative ratings.  The first one, done late last year, showed him at 16-19 pos/neg.  The second one, done last week, shows him at 20-25 pos/neg.

By contrast, Steve Bullock, the likely Democratic nominee, is in the opposite situation. He is always been popular and remains so, at a 28-18 pos/neg.  This bodes extremely well for Bullock to be the next Governor. Something about Rick Hill clearly smells bad to a lot of voters, and so Bullock starts out a favorite. My prediction is Bullock takes him.  Realize, also, that Hill had a ten point lead over Bullock in the last poll, but in this latest one, Bullock has completely erased that deficit.

One flaw with this poll was that it didn’t didn’t take into account the Libertarian in the race, Ron Vandevender, who as a third party candidate automatically moves beyond the primary into the general.

Hill will most likely be the GOP nominee.  The man previously thought to be his closest contender, millionaire terrorist expert Neil Livingstone, appears to be AWOL.  He hasn’t campaigned, has barely spoken to the press, skipped the major candidate forum at the GOP convention, and wasn’t even included on the latest poll.  This is a sign that his campaign will either quickly go down the drain, or else he’ll try to buy the victory with some massive expenditure of his personal fortune. My sense is this guy has neither the stomach nor the inclination to put much effort into this race, and is setting himself up to get a little name recognition so he can run against Baucus in 2014, and go back to Washington DC where he is from.

Ken Miller is the dark-horse, for sure, but it is not clear that he has any fundamental knowledge about how to win a state-wide race.   Corey Stapleton, after beginning the race by referring to himself in his official biography as a “child addict” and then quickly removing this reference when the blogs caught on to it, is clearly not a serious threat, nor is he likely a consideration for a number two spot.

As with Bob Dole, John McCain and  Mitt Romney (probably), the GOP will simply go with what it knows, go with the veteran. And lose.

Poll: Essmann, Hill Unpopular with Montana Voters; Schweitzer, Bohlinger, Bullock Popular

Rick Hill, Jeff Essmann UnpopularAnyone who smokes pot (or is supportive of medical marijuana) will be happy to know that anti-cannabis crusader Jeff Essmann, who has recently claimed an interest in running for Governor, has a negative popularity rating of almost 4-1. That’s worse than any politician polled in Montana since Judy Martz.

For every six Montanans who like Essmann, 22 say they don’t like him.

Rick Hill also has surprisingly high negatives.  30-20 against.  These are terrible numbers for a candidate to start out with.  Essmann’s numbers are not surprising, but Hill is really weaker than I expected.  This is because he hails from Congress, and Montanans don’t really like Congress or Washington.

Worse yet, John Bohlinger would slap down Essmann in a head to head race if Bohlinger ran as a Democrat, by seven points. This tells me that Essmann’s gubernatorial aspirations appear to have taken a major blow, and his marijuana act might have been a major miscalculation on his part, a politically tone-deaf stunt that libertarian Montanans are upset about. Ken Miller would likewise lose to Bohlinger. Former state senator Corey Stapleton did not even get polled, nor did terrorism expert Neil Livingstone, who skipped most of the GOP convention last weekend.   So these guys are sort of a joke, at least for now, although Livingstone has millions of personal wealth, so don’t count him out totally.

And, Steve Bullock and Bohlinger both are roughly even against the mer-man, Rick Hill.   Schweitzer remains at top of list nationally as most popular Democratic governor.

The Hill-Bullock number is surprising because this same polling company (which is known for a slightly conservative bias, btw) had Hill beating Bullock by almost ten points when they polled five months ago. Remember too that this poll didn’t didn’t take into account the Libertarian in the race, Ron Vandevender, who as a third party candidate has the potential to take a large percentage of the conservative vote – especially if Hill is the GOP nominee.

The only explanation is  that the republican brand has taken a severe beating in Montana because of the wild and wacky legislative session.  As this blog predicted, it dragged the GOP down across the board.


Fuzzy Math

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish–Dr. Seuss 1965

The Montana Legislature, we now learn, was using strange counting methods and fuzzy math, from day one.

The chief forecaster for how much money the state should expect to have in its coffers on a quarterly basis is Terry Johnson, who reports to legislative leadership.  He and Schweitzer butted heads throughout the last four sessions session, because Schweitzer was evidently crunching the numbers and thought that there was more money available than was being estimated by Johnson, who takes marching orders from his bosses Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo) and Mike Milburn (R-Cascade).  As a result, as in states like Wisconsin, Florida and other places where the Tea Party as created a false premise panic about a lack of funds, the Republicans in the 2011 session were able to justify across the board cuts. Cuts in education, cuts in assistance to poor, and the denying hard working state employees a 1% pay raise they were slated to receive after years of going without.

In fact, the board of regents has announced that tuition at the University system must now be raised because of the Republican legislature’s cutting of funding for higher Ed.

Yesterday, I saw a mailing from the Policy Institute, a group run by Pat Williams, Ken Toole and other progressives, discussing the importance of standing up for what you value.  The mailing attributed democratic losses in 2010 to a tendency to try to reach persuadable voters at the expense of the base.   I agree with much of this.

But it also needs to be understood that many Democratic legislators seem not to have the stomach for butting heads with GOP front-man Terry Johnson and his crew, and instead enjoy singing kumbaya with him. Those who were guilty of this, and consider themselves progressives, now need to take a good, long look in the mirror.

UPDATE: Hamm on Wry has a good discussion of the Republican’s pathetic response.