Monthly Archives: November 2011

Daines Fumbles on Transparency

Steve Daines, the Republican millionaire who makes his money shipping American jobs overseas, recently tried to pull a fast one on Montana voters when he said that we need more transparency in Congress. If Daines really wants more transparency in Congress, he should probably remove himself from the Montana house race.

Here’s what happened.  Responding to Kim Gillan’s call for Montana’s next Member of Congress to pledge that they will place their assets in Blind Trust (smart move), a Daines spokesperson said in the Billings Gazette that Congress need to focus on “the real issues of increasing transparency.”

But even the briefest glance at Daines’ background reveals that Steve Daines is not really a big transparency fan.  In fact, back in 2007, Daines started a shadow 501(c)4 organization that attacked the Governor Schweitzer for being fiscally conservative.  When asked in the Billings Gazette to disclose who was funding his front group, Daines declined:

“Daines has declined to reveal who’s funding the group or how much it has spent, and he said GiveItBack.com will disclose whatever is required under the law.”

But that’s not all that this TEA-Party darling is hiding from the voters.  Recently, Daines’employer sold his Bozeman-based business to Oracle for $1.5 billion.  When asked by a reporter about his profits from the sale and about how many Montana-based jobs would be lost because of it, Daines apparently saw no need for transparency and quickly declined to comment. As the Bozeman Chronicle reports:

“He was unable to comment on anything regarding the company’s proposed sale to Oracle.”

Deficit Supercommittee Secret Transcripts Uncovered

Lee State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison reported this weekend on the workings of the supercommittee tasked with finding ways to fix the federal budget. Or rather he tried to:

I’d like to tell you, with some degree of certainty, which side is more to blame for the failure this week of the deficit-cutting “supercommittee,” which included Montana Sen. Max Baucus.

But I can’t, because the panel inexplicably conducted most of its business in secret.

There is a compelling and fundamental right on behalf of all citizens to have access to vital information relating to the deliberations of publicly elected officials to cuts $1.2 trillion from the federal budget.

That’s why the Montana Cowgirl Blog uncovered the secret transcripts of the debt panel proceedings, which are presented here for your edification.  As you can see, the transcripts reveal just how heavily the U.S. Senate relies on ancient tradition, logic and most importantly, precedent. Many of its current rules, procedures, and traditions even draw inspiration from the dealings of ancient Rome.  I hope you draw as much inspiration and confidence from these passages as I have.

DEFICIT SUPERCOMMITTEE OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT

Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas (Republican and committee co-chair): I call this meeting to order.  Twelve buzzards appeared around lunchtime last Tuesday, and, as provided for in Senate Rule 2837B-2, a surprise visit by more than eight buzzards signifies that it is time to commence our work.

Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan (Republican): Thank you gentleman for the opportunity to address the body.

Aide: Reminds Upton that there is also a woman present.

Upton: (Waves hand dismissively, continues.) When I was last home in Michegan in 1994, I witnessed two eagles dueling over a dead goat. This portends ill for the continuation of the Bush tax cuts.

Sen. Max Baucus of Montana (Democrat). Aside, to an Aide: How many goats do we have in Montana?

Aide: leaves to fetch graphing calculator, returns with a printout.

Baucus:  I vote no.

Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona (Republican): We must increase military spending by at least double the amount of any revenue increases we make. This is partially to fight terrorists who want to harm our freedom, but mostly because I saw three meteors strike the moon at dawn.

Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (Democrat): I disagree.  When meteors strike the moon that signifies an unhappy parent, meaning we must not cut Medicare and Social Security.

Kyl: No it doesn’t.

Kerry: Yes it does.

Kyl: LIAR!

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania (Republican): We must consult the Oracle to clarify this matter before proceeding further.  Lets adjourn for three weeks.  This work is very tiring.

Meeting Adjourns.

Brad Johnson Letter Compares Johnson’s DUI with Burns’ Stroke

Former Montana Senator Conrad Burns says he and Secretary of State candidate Brad Johnson are a lot alike.

Burns writes, in an endorsement letter to Republicans recently:

Brad and I have faced some challenges in our recent lives and I am pleased and proud to say we are both doing well. Anyone who has been thrown off a horse knows you got to get up, dust yourself off, and get back on.

The letter can be viewed here and here.  What is he talking about? Did Conrad Burns get a DUI and spend a stint in rehab? Did Brad Johnson have a stroke? No, the letter is an attempt to conflate the two as basically the same thing–hard times.

Problem with that is, getting DUI means you chose to make yourself a danger to others. No one decides to have a stroke. Burns was the victim of the stroke, Johnson, the perpetrator.

Recall that Brad Johnson’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit as he drove down the wrong side of the highway from Bozeman to Helena. The voters declined to give him a second term.

Would Burns have written the same letter if Johnson had killed or maimed someone? It’s a fair question for the self-proclaimed “party of life.”

Baucus Bumps

With the failure of the super-committee, it looks like Max Baucus’s bumpy ride is not smoothing out any time soon. He has his work cut out for him to regain some credibility with voters. He appointed himself onto the committee, a questionable decision since most observers at the time felt that there was little chance of the committee agreeing to anything.  And they were right.

Not surprisingly, Brian Schweitzer joined in the super-committee bashing-fest this morning while guest hosting an Air America radio program on AM760 out of Denver (listen online here to Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3).  He even conducted an on-air contest in which callers got a chance to rename the super-committee, with Schweitzer’s belt buckle as the first prize.

Baucus was at least nominally in the right place ideologically, trying to get a deal including tax increases and spending cuts. However, Baucus is one of the authors of the Bush tax cuts, a fact which he heralded often in earlier times. Thus is he sleeping in a bed he made.

No Love

In an email to supporters on September 9th, in which he talked about “starting to feel the chill of fall in the air” and questioned “Where did summer go?,” former Congressman Rick Hill said “In the coming weeks you’ll see my campaign name a running mate.” The entire email is posted below the fold.

That was over ten weeks ago.

Where’s the Lt. Gov?  What’s the problem?

Cowgirl tipsters say that Hill’s having trouble getting someone to agree to be his #2.  Word on the street is that Yellowstone County Commissioner John Ostlund met with former Congressman Hill and rumor has it turned him down.  The gossip also says Hill supposedly had similar conversations with many state legislators, including: Sens. Jon Sonju and Bruce Tutvedt, Speaker Mike Milburn and Rep. Scott Reichner.

There could be several reasons why he’s running into problems.   It’s possible that Congressman Rehberg and his team, who are lined up behind another candidate, stopping potential candidates from signing on.  It could also be that no one wants to jump on with a candidate with a sordid history of political scandals and high unfavorability ratings.  The lack of an LG could mean that the party establishment and state legislators beginning to agree that this guy is unelectable, or that they know of another scandal about to drop that the rest of us don’t know about.

Regardless, it’s clear Hill wishes he had someone–anyone by now.

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Flathead Republicans Save Democracy By Burning It Down

A Flathead citizens group this week released their analysis of an official county survey to decide who will control zoning in the outskirts of the city of Whitefish – the city, or the county.  It’s not good.

After the election switched control of the Whitefish City Council from conservative to progressive, the bigwigs on the Flathead County Commission (all Republicans) announced that the results of an official county government survey put them in charge of the outskirts of the city of Whitefish, not the city council:

“This points us in the direction to go,” Flathead County Commissioner Jim Dupont told the [Whitefish] Pilot. “The doughnut residents have spoken about what they want.”

The official government survey results came out in favor of the Republican County Commissioners by a 3-1 margin. Problem is, the county didn’t survey the “residents.” Rather, they only asked certain people.  Oh, and also some corporations. They asked those who owned property in the area–some of whom didn’t actually reside in the area at all. Some people got multiple votes. If you resided in the area, but didn’t make enough to own property, well, you weren’t allowed to voice your opinion.  According to a citizens group who analyzed the survey results, “less than half, 47%, of the survey cards mailed out went to people who actually live in the two-mile area around Whitefish, while another 53% went to people who don’t even live in Whitefish.”

How did the Republicans do this?  If you don’t call it an election,  you don’t have to follow those silly election laws.  Because some people hate our freedom, you know. And if we had allowed the democratic process to move forward by actually giving all residents equal voice, the freedom haters would have won!  Or so must have gone the sane and rational thought process of these Republicans. It all makes so much sense, I think my head might explode.

Citizens for a Better Flathead compiled some fun facts about some of the more unique aspects of this alternative to voting.

Some individuals received multiple ballots simply because their address had been spelled two different ways in the county’s list. For example, a person whose address includes the word “Highway” would have received two surveys, one to a “Highway” address and one to a “Hwy” address. Some 185 different corporations got at least one vote and many multiple votes.

So this is an exciting new electoral implementation of the Republican view that corporations are obviously people.

The citizens made a chart that detailed who got to vote in this election who received the survey and also noted some interesting data from the Flathead County Elections Office:

Registered voters in the two-mile area around the City of Whitefish in 2010, according to the County Elections Office 1916
Total surveys sent, according to Flathead County 3235
Total # of addresses receiving multiple surveys 1614
Greatest # of surveys for one address  58
# of addresses that received 3 or more opportunities to vote  840
# of couples who received only one ballot Many—not yet counted but estimated as high as 1/4 of list
# of corporations that got one or more votes 185
# of surveys sent to Whitefish addresses 1481
# of surveys sent to other Montana addresses 432
# of surveys sent to out-of-state addresses in the USA 933
# of surveys sent to out-of-country addresses 325

Unfortunately, the irregularities don’t stop there, the citizens inconveniently point out:

The county says they mailed out 3235 “surveys,” but the receipt from the business that did the mailing doesn’t match that total.  The mailing service includes a record for 3,080 post cards…168 more postcards than the county reports were mailed.  Additionally, an unidentified county mailing of 100 pieces was sent out of the country on October 21, 2011…One address received 58 [surveys] and another received 39 survey cards to vote with.

Anyway, the Republicans are very pleased that the survey turned out the desired results, so it should be counted as a total success. I predict some lucrative consulting opportunities in Zimbabwe are about to open up for these county commissioners, as the entire enterprise was a great proving ground for techniques that could certainly be used elsewhere.  They should get in touch with Republican PSC Commissioner Brad Molnar to find out how he started his consulting work in Moldova or whatever.

 

Livingstone Tried to Get Qaddafi to Hire Him, for $10 Million

In one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of Montana gubernatorial campaigns, GOP candidate Neil Livingstone last week was revealed by the New York Times to have sent a letter to Muammar Qaddafi, offering, for the small price of $10,000,000, to help Qaddafi escape Libya and relocate safely.

Alas, Qaddafi should have taken Livingstone’s offer because Gaddafi is now in a meat locker.

The letter obtained by the New York Times is signed by three people including Livingstone, making the offer to the Qaddafi family.  Here is an excerpt from the NY Times story:

Even as NATO bombed Libya, the Americans [Livingstone and his associates] offered to make Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi their client — and charge him a hefty consulting fee. Their price: a $10 million retainer before beginning negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi’s representatives.

“The fees and payments set forth in this contract are MINIMUM NON-REFUNDABLE FEES,” said the draft contract, with capital letters for emphasis. “The fees are an inducement for the ATTORNEYS AND ADVISORS to take the case and nothing else.”

Neil C. Livingstone, 65, the terrorism specialist and consultant, said he helped put together the deal after hearing that one of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, was interested in an exit strategy for the family. But he and his partners were not going to work for free, Mr. Livingstone said.

“We were not an eleemosynary organization,” he said.

Mr. Livingstone, a television commentator and prolific author who moved home to Montana this year to try a run for governor, said he had long been a vocal critic of Colonel Qaddafi and was briefly jailed by his government on a visit to Libya in the 1970s. The goal of the consulting deal, he insisted, was not to save Colonel Qaddafi but to prevent a bloodbath in Libya by creating a quick way out for the ruler and his family.

 

First, what the heck is an eleemosynary organization? (I mean, come on.)

Second, what kind of idiot would do this type of thing while actively laying the groundwork for a bid for Governor? Did Livingstone honestly believe that this activity would never be exposed?  I mean, even those who are raising money for Livingstone now appear tainted.  A piece in the Huffington Post last week dings former Republican Senator from Florida George Lemieux for hosting a fundraiser for Livingstone.

Needless to say, my inbox was flooded over the weekend with e-mails from anti-Livingstone folks, nudging me to write about this.  Which is another strange aspect of this story.  To date, not a single Montana newspaper except the Flathead Beacon has written about this crazy business.   Pogie at Intelligent Discontent also has a great post up on the scandal here.

The best part about the letter is that it is signed “Your obedient servant.”  Now if that doesn’t qualify you to be the GOP nominee for governor, I don’t know what does.

As I reported two weeks ago, Livingstone’s campaign is already pretty much dormant, and broke.  So it’s not likely that this development would change anything on the ground.  But I’m personally hoping that he can turn it around. With a little luck, maybe one of Qaddafi’s relatives will come to Montana to do a fundraiser for him.