Monthly Archives: November 2011

Location, Location, Location

Besides Ken Miller and a few Republican staffers, Congressman Rehberg had a pretty sparse turnout for his recent “Liberate Main Street” astroturf tour.  What gives?

After decades as a politician, perhaps Congressman Rehberg knows more big shots in Washington D.C. than actual Main Street Montanans. Maybe if he had held his rally inside the Beltway, Rehberg could have found someone to stand up for his effort to stand up for Wall Street CEOs.

Here are some guesses on who would have attended Rehberg’s rallies if he had held them in D.C.:


Political Quick Hits

Supporters Wanted

Behlmer honk and waveSupporters of the right-wing City Commission candidate Lorabelle Behlmer took to the streets in support of her candidacy this weekend–or rather a supporter did.   A Cowgirl tipster captured this photograph of Behlmer’s “Honk and Wave” event.  It doesn’t look like her candidacy was able to garner much of a turnout. Matt Elsaesser and Katherine Haque-Hausrath are running against Behlmer.


More Time Off for Rehberg

Congressional Republicans released their 2012 House calendar recently.  Did you know that there is no month in which they plan to work more than 14 days?  As the Slate Political Gabfest reported on a recent podcast, there are only two weeks of 2012 that the House plans to put in a five-day week like the rest of us. The House will be in session 109 weekdays, and on recess 151 weekdays.   That’s 14 more vacation days than last year.


 Mississippi to Vote on Birth Control Ban Tomorrow

A Mississippi initiative so broad that it would likely mean not just a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest or to save the mother’s life, but also a ban on birth control and in vitro fertilization will be voted on tomorrow. As USA Today points out in an editorial page piece against the measure:

Backers of “personhood” angrily deny that some of these things would happen, but the amendment says what it says, not what they say it does.

The law is so far outside the mainstream that no state has passed it.  Mississippi’s extreme government intrusion initiative could appear on Montana’s ballot in 2012.  Montanans have twice declined to sign enough petitions to get it put on the ballot and Colorado voters have twice panned the proposal.  According to the same article, only 20 percent of Americans support a total ban on abortion.  If the measure passes in Mississippi  (or in Montana or other states facing petition drives–OH, MI, and FL among others), it would certainly face immediate constitutional challenges.  Whomever is Attorney General in those states would  then defend the initiatives against the challenges.


Caught on Tape

Congressman Dennis Rehberg was caught on tape this weekend waving around a picture of Obama as Qaddafi.  Talking Points Memo has the story, picture and video.   A Rehberg staffer says that the Congressman was just being “polite” by brandishing the cartoon.  But if someone hands you something that ridiculous isn’t the  “polite” thing to do putting the cartoon away, not promising to give it to a campaign staffer, as he appears to do in the video?  I mean, if he had been handed, say, pornography would he have done the same thing?  As this  Missoula Independent article points out, a classier candidate would have handled the situation differently, while Rehberg “didn’t exactly stand up and set the record straight like McCain did in 2008.”

War on Jesus

 Jesus jumps into the Montana Senate Race

Amid the worst recession in 50 years and with unemployment at record levels, Montana GOP congressman Denny Rehberg is focusing on what matters: a statue of Jesus.

For the last three weeks, Rehberg, who is challenging Jon Tester for a Senate seat, has been entirely consumed with a small statue of our savior that sits next to a ski slope at the Big Mountain Ski resort in Whitefish, MT. Rehberg began with a press release, followed by a blitz of national TV appearances, including one on Fox and Friends. He then put up a Save the Jesus Statue website (the site was constructed with his congressional office funds, by the way). Then he went on a whirlwind Save Jesus tour with an email action alert about a rally and a “DRAFT legislative solution”  and robo-calls to thousands of Montana voters, telling them that he is working hard to save Jesus and urging them to support him in this important work. (You can hear the robo call from Rehberg here: Rehberg Robo-call). Finally, he spent Veterans Day meeting with veterans to tell them their support for him (Rehberg) in this important cause is crucial.  Other Republicans this week held an “Occupy Whitefish to Save the Jesus Statue.”

So from here on out, it’s going to be all Jesus, all the time.  Why?

The statue was erected on a piece of National Forest land in the 1950s and the permit has now come up for renewal. The Forest Service was notified by some silly group from Wisconsin that if it renewed the permit, it would be in violation of the establishment clause.  And so the agency said it might consider moving the statue a few feet onto private land. That’s an outrage, says Rehberg.

At first I had thought maybe Rehberg had seen an opportunity to make inroads among persuadable churchgoing voters.

But I now realize that all of this Jesus stuff is being aimed at Tester for his strength: support from veterans.  The statue was constructed 50 years ago by World War II veterans, as a memorial, an homage to a similar statue that these vets had seen in Italy during their tour of duty.

And Jon Tester’s star is very high among veterans, and has been so ever since he took office in 2007 and immediately made vets a centerpiece of his domestic policy.  He focuses not on statues, but on services–health care for veterans, jobs for veterans, loans for veterans, things that matter. Veterans like Tester, a lot.

Naturally, Montana Republicans (who after two decades of dominance have been virtually eradicated as statewide officeholders, thanks to Schweitzer, Tester and a resurgent Democratic party) believe that the veteran vote is a GOP birthright that can never be taken from them.  And now that Tester has taken it from them, Rehberg had decided to pander to vets. He is has taken up a meaningless issue, trying to seem as if he is fighting a battle for their statue, when in fact the statue never stood any chance of being moved.

Tester also believes the statue should remain unmolested.  But after making his opinion known, he moved on to doing real work on things that matter, because he understands (unlike Rehberg who is a man-child) that if you are in Congress, you should be acting like an adult.

And so Tester is in the news this weekend, for example, fighting for a bill that would help decrease unemployment among veterans by offering tax credits to businesses who employ them.  He is fighting for soldiers who fought foreign wars, while the dunce Rehberg is looking for credit for fighting a fictitious War on Jesus.

As between nonsensical pandering and real results, I suspect veterans will see the difference.

UPDATED: Mrs. Smith Going to Washington?

A woman named Diane Smith, from Whitefish, has announced a run for Congress.


Smith has an interesting profile as a candidate with some strengths and weaknesses.   She has never run for office (likely a strength) and she has an impressive professional resume.  She built a $190 million business in Kalispell that employs 100 people, and before moving to Montana from the DC area in 2002 she served Vice President of the Alltel cellular company.  She is an author as well, having written a book on rural entrepreneurship.


At the same time, Smith is known in Whitefish to have close alliances with some local Republicans and Realtors, on key local issues like development and sprawl.  And based on the feedback that has been sent to this blog in the last 24 hours, there is clearly a sector of democratic voters in Whitefish that will not be voting for her in the primary. Smith also donated in on two occasions to Rehberg and Burns, some time ago (and has also donated to Tester and other Democrats).


The wild card, of course, is that she helped found a business that is worth $190 million. Meaning she probably has some good personal wealth, which is something that the other primary candidates–Kim Gillan and Franke Wilmer–do not.  Right now Kim Gillan leads the pack in terms of funds raised, and Smith is starting at zero assuming she spends no money of her own.


So it looks like we will have an interesting primary.  And a feminist one, too.

UPDATE: The Flathead Memo also has a piece up on the Congressional Primary that you’ll want to read.

Rehberg Tries to Change History of Defunding Community Health Centers

Remember when Congressman Dennis Rehberg personally tried to cut $1 billion from the nation’s community health centers earlier this year?  You might remember the public outcry up in Kalispell, because had Dennis Rehberg gotten his way, he would have shut down the Flathead Community Health Center.   Here’s a reminder from the Flathead Beacon:

“The cuts in [Rehberg’s] continuing resolution will defund 127 new access programs,” Wendy Doely, executive director of the Flathead Community Health Center, said, “which essentially means that we would close.”

“The only one in Montana that will disappear if this goes through is us,” she added.

The Flathead Community Health Center saw nearly 6,000 patients last year.

Apparently, Rehberg is feeling the sting of his own unpopularity.  In a recent taxpayer-funded letter to Montanans (link), he actually tries to change history by saying: “Healthcare is among my top priorities in Congress” and “We must make healthcare accessible and affordable for every American.”


There’s more from Rehberg’s letter:


“The appropriations bill that I recently released authorizes and additional $70.2 million of funding for the Department of Health and Human Services.  I have also increased funding for the Health and Resources and Services Administration, thereby preserving funding for Community Health Centers.”


Oh really?  So why the change of heart?  And more importantly, how are we coming on that bill, Congressman?

Rehberg’s unpopular appropriations bill still hasn’t even passed out of his own subcommittee.  It probably never will.  He failed as its chairman.  And he failed to tell Montanans the truth yet again.

Farther, Faster, Racistier

Drew TurianoHow many times have you heard Republicans hold up their hands and say “Hey, we have no problem with minorities, we are against illegal immigrants.”

This may be true for some conservatives, but others use it to mask their true anti-immigrant – legal or not – views. That has become even clearer now the TEA Party arrived on the scene–its members proudly wearing the confederate flag in public ceremonies and urging white flighters to make Montana home.  This kind of thing has inspired conservatives to take off their masks and show their true faces. It ain’t a pretty site.

Meet Drew Turiano, “TEA Party Conservative Republican” candidate for Governor in the Montana Republican Primary.

Turiano apparently believes that the ideas he espouses need no longer be confined to white supremacy sites. He sent out a mass mailer this week saying (among other crazy things) that his problem is no longer only with the undocumented and the “many murderers, rapists, and thieves in that group.” Turiano urges that the target must be shifted to legal immigrants.

I can hear the GOP defending their man Turiano now, “You can’t call him a racist, he’s not saying that non-white people are bad.” No, Drew Turiano is only saying that they caused “severe damage” to our “culture, customs, neighborhoods, crime rate, English language, schools, health care system and the general economic health of America” is all.

Like Nazi candidate Shawn Stuart, Turiano proudly boasts the endorsement of the Montana Right to Life.

He’s got so many wacky positions we’ve only just tapped the surface here, so read the rest of his screed now.  He wants the message spread about him “AS FAST AS YOU CAN.”

The Best

The blogosphere in Montana is like anything else. Sometimes you get a small group of guys that shows up and seeks to define the conversation.  Sometimes statements are made that aren’t true– and are made in such a way only certain voices are supposed to matter.  I started blogging to add a female voice to that element when it does pop up.  All things being equal, I like to do the same for women candidates.   There seems to be a bit of this element who are ganging up on Democratic AG candidate Pam Bucy.

Pam Bucy is the one of the best female candidates that Montanans have ever had for high office.

She’s a 20 year prosecutor and an accomplished lawyer with extensive private and public practice experience. She’s good looking and personable–the whole package so to speak, an odds-on favorite. Now, some have decided to try to tear her down in favor of someone who has a good future but is very young and is not as progressive as Bucy.

Pam Bucy, who would be Montana’s first female Attorney General, is a dream candidate. In fact, the GOP has strangely conceded the AG’s race, as evidenced by the fact that their guy doesn’t even know which way is up.   His major contribution to Montana policy is getting caught drinking a red beer in his car. I mean this is a cycle where they even recruited a real candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction–a seat Republicans never win.  Shockley’s not even raising money.  He is clearly not ready for prime time.

I’m proud to say Pam Bucy is.

One Hot Mess

Readers here will no doubt recall TEA Party Republican Greg Hinkle’s Senate Bill 114, which would have given county sheriffs authority trumping that of the federal government – one of the nuttiest bills of the legislative session.

TEA Party Congressman Dennis Rehberg has the latest iteration of this nutball idea–he is an original co-sponsor of the infamous bill that would give the Department of Homeland Security complete control over all federal lands within 100 miles of the Canadian border.  We’re talking about the top half of the entire state of Montana.

It isn’t known to what extent Hinkle may have helped Rehberg to develop the idea.  Perhaps they thought that starting with half of the state first and switching from County Sheriffs to Homeland Security would somehow be more palatable.  What is known is that local hunters and anglers are furious.  Montana Hunters & Anglers today have launched a second ad campaign aimed at Congressman Dennis Rehberg.

Here’s the ad:

On the Hunters and Anglers website, the group explains why they created the second ad:

Rehberg is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 1505 by Representative Bob Bishop of Utah. The bill would allow the DHS to obtain “operational control” of federal lands within 100 miles of the Canadian border. Although Rehberg says his amendment makes the bill more palatable, Montana Hunters & Anglers Action President Land Tawney called those provisions “lipstick on a pig” and he says the legislation remains “ominous and frightening.”


Whatever you call it, the bill is evidence that a combination that includes Rehberg and lawmaking only results in one hot mess.

Political Quick Hits

We Take It Back

The Great Falls Tribune reported this week that the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce has flip-flopped, rescinding its endorsement of embattled Great Falls TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker, who is running against Mary Jolley.  When asked about whether the reason for the un-endorsement had anything to do with the fact that  Baker had threatened local schools with “bad publicity” if they didn’t offer her a government job as a liaison to the TEA Party, a Chamber representative said that was “part of it.”


Rehberg’s Lawsuit Continues to Make Waves

Dems continue to pound Rehberg for his lawsuit against Billings firefighters this week, but that’s not the only controversy the lawsuit has raised. Some Democrats are upset that Attorney General candidate Jesse Laslovich has found an unusual source for his campaign treasurer and financial support in Cliff and John Edwards. The pair are, respectively, the Rehberg’s lawyer and his son.  Both work at the Edwards firm, which represent the Rehbergs.  Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D-House District 42) posted on her Facebook page this week:

I just learned some disturbing news. The law firm that is representing Rehberg in his lawsuit agains the Billings Fire department are supporters and donors of the Jesse Laslovich campaign for A.G. One of the lawyers is even his campaign treasurer. What is Laslovich thinking! This is ridiculous.


Flathead Fallout

The latest political scandal in the Flathead keeps getting bigger.  James Conner of the Flathead Memo and former State Representative Mike Jopek have some harsh words for the Flathead County Commission today.  Here’s a sneak preview.  The entire post is not to be missed:

Once only landowners did have the vote — and those landowners had to be white men. There are those who think that’s how things should be today.

Flathead County Republicans: Renters Aren’t Real Citizens

Flathead County planning surveyIn the United States of America today, it would be illegal to allow only wealthy property owners to vote.  So the Republican Flathead County Commissioners have done the next best thing.

They sent out a survey to the ‘doughnut’ residents (people who live in a ring around the outer edge of the city of Whitefish) asking who they prefer to manage planning and zoning, the county or city of Whitefish.  Instead of mailing surveys to the registered voters in the area in question, they sent the surveys only to corporations and property owners.

The the lack of transparency seems to be an issue here is well, though the county claims that, “the survey is not a voting ballot measure,” [GOP County Commissioner Jim] Dupont said in the Flathead Beacon. Commissioners also apparently  believe it “doesn’t require a public notice process” either.

It’s just a “tool in the toolbox” in the effort to bring clarification to an issue in need of it.

Over at the Informed Whitefish forum, word is that some sixty surveys went to a single Whitefish address (one for each parcel of land the individual owns in the area) while others expressed outrage that many of the surveys were mailed to out-of-area addresses – including Texas, California, Canada, Switzerland and England.

In fact, some say most of the surveys that the County mailed went to owners who do not live in Whitefish: Forty percent of the survey votes were actually mailed out of Montana.  Flathead County surveys our Canadian neighbors to the north 300 times.  Texas gets 70 votes, Missoula 60, and California got nearly 160 surveys.

Here’s Commissioner Jim Dupont explaining the merits of the GOP-ers’ plan:

“Then we’ll have exactly what the people in the doughnut think because I don’t know – I hear so much one way or the other,” Dupont said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to complain about it. It’s a simple answer.”

Perhaps next the Commissioners can throw out any surveys from women and people of color.  Whitefish is 45 percent renters, Flathead County is 27 percent and Montana is 31 percent.