Monthly Archives: November 2012

UPDATE on Pharmaceutical Industry Cash and Montana Growth

The Center for Public Integrity has issued an update to a story they published yesterday about drug industry campaign donations.  Previously, the Center for Public Integrity had reported that the drug company lobby “PhRMA” provided the primary financial support for TEA Party Sen. Jason Priest’s “Montana Growth Network.”

Late Friday afternoon, the Center for Public Integrity issued a new story saying that their previous report was incorrect.  I had blogged about the old report here.  This post has been updated to reflect that correction. The Center for Public Integrity had previously reported that $500,000 in PhRMA cash went to Jason Priest’s “Montana Growth Network.”

In fact, the money actually went to an organization called “Montana Growth” which CPI reports is linked to a PR firm called Hilltop Public Solutions. That group has an office in Billings, MT.

When contacted about the money, Hilltop refused to answer questions:

When the Center for Public Integrity called the D.C. office of Hilltop Public Solutions to inquire about Montana Growth, an intern who answered the phone said, “We don’t take calls for that group here.”

Schuyler, via email, directed the Center to “contact@bigskygrowth.org” — bigskygrowth.org is a Web domain name that was created Friday, shortly after the public relations firm was contacted by the Center, according to a website registry report.

An unattributed reply came back that stated: “Thank you for your questions.  It is the organization’s policy to not publicly comment on its advocacy or budget.”

In 2010 the group, formerly known as “Economy Forward”  spent $175,000 on television ads for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

After Eight Years of Saying Uncle, GOP Happy to be Rid of Schweitzer

In an article in the IR this weekend reflecting on Schweitzer’s eight year reign, past and present Republican leaders said they don’t much care for Schweitzer and are anxious to see him go. Given how many times they tried getting the better of him but ended up getting burned, I can’t really blame them for having had enough of him.

Former Senate President Bob Story complained in the article that Schweitzer ruled with an “iron hand” and often belittled the legislature and did not “share credit.” Outgoing President Jim Peterson was quoted in a grudging admission that Schweitzer has “put Montana on the map,” but went on to say that he doesn’t like Schweitzer’s “divide and conquer” strategy.

What these guys are not mentioning, of course, is that they spent the full eight years of the Schweitzer administration sending awful bills to the Governor’s desk, constipating the legislative process wherever they thought it benefited their party politically,playing games to try to jam Schweitzer politically, and often killing good legislative proposals solely to prevent good policy from being achieved by Democrats. Like, for example, the 2011 bonding bill that would have created great numbers of jobs around the state by investing in much-needed infrastructure. Clearly that would have been bad news for a GOP legislature, to have new jobs created by a Democratic governor. So they used their superior numbers to scuttle it. And yet these same bozos are now complaining that Schweitzer was somehow too heavy-handed a governor. It’s laughable.

Really what you are seeing, with these weak shots across Schweitzer’s bow in the waning days of his administration, is the agony of defeat. Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a successful Democratic executive, especially one who humiliates his opposition and occasionally poaches traditional GOP territory. And humiliated they were.

Without a strong GOP leader in either chamber, they simply got routed again and again, progressively worse each session, and in 2011 stumbled over themselves so badly that they became a national joke. And yes, the Governor took the credit for himself and his party, as well he should have. Why would he give credit to a bunch of obstructionists?

With the exception of a few moderate Republican lawmakers who have a commendable approach to public service that puts citizens above political games, the GOP crew in House and Senate have mostly focused on playing petty games, pushing Tea Party lunacy, and searching for a reason to get in Schweitzer’s way. Having morphed slowly but surely, over thirty years or so, into a party that does nothing but complain about liberals, environmentalists, “big government”, “illegal immigrants”, “people getting stuff for free” and all the other supposed ills of Democratic governance, the GOP now knows no other existence except to try to paint Democrats as boogeymen and boogeywomen. They tried the same thing with Schweitzer, but it never worked.

Worse, he beat them on their own turf: managing taxpayer money, creating a vibrant business climate, developing energy, and cutting taxes. Not to mention the bag of goodies with a more traditional Democratic flavor, including new programs like full-time kindergarten for toddlers, tuition freezes, a new public health system for state workers that might eventually be expanded for private citizens, many renewable energy projects, new protections for those seeking to avoid discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and new relations with Indian country, who were excluded from government and ignored by the GOP.

And so the GOP’s whining and moaning about Schweitzer’s shortcomings are nothing more than the whimper of a defeated army. It is enjoyable, predictable, and hopefully will continue on.

And Steve Bullock will continue the fight, I am certain. Though he doesn’t necessarily have a stage act like Schweitzer’s, Bullock showed during his campaign that he can be ruthless and nasty. His campaign hit hard at Hill. They crucified him over his taking the illegal 500lk$ and also ran brutal negative ads portraying Hill’s support of a sales tax. Hill himself has complained that these ads finished him off and were unfair. All is fair in politics.

I’ve even heard it whispered that many of the low blows dealt Hill during the primary– which forced him to empty his wallet to defend himself and caused infighting among the GOP, and ultimately suppressed enthusiasm for Hill in November–were instigated by Democrats, perhaps even Bullock’s operatives. Plausible, I suppose. If it’s so, it’s good stuff. It means he plays for keeps. It’s important, because if any of my readers think the newly appointed GOP leadership in the legislature wants to work in a constructive way with the new Governor, you are suckers, I’m afraid. A few moderates will want to do business with a Bullock administration. Otherwise, the name of the GOP’s game is to try to find ways to embarrass the new Governor. The GOP will, as always, be looking to start a knife fight. Like Schweitzer, Bullock will need to bring a gun.

GOP Launches Job Creation Plan

Today, the Montana GOP laid out its plan to bring more high-paying jobs to Montana.

TEA Party Republican state Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) is proposing a bill that would require the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in all Montana schools.

The Huffington Post and the National Center for Science Education reported this week that ridding our schools of science is Fiscus’ first orders of business.   (If his website is any indication, ridding our schools of technology might be next.)

As the NCSE points out, this brilliant plan has already been declared unconstitutional in Kitzmiller v. Dover, in 2005.

The last time a creationist bill was tried in Montana was in 2001, when Joe Balyeat, now with Americans for Prosperity, introduced it.  This latest effort reaffirms the GOP’s position as the anti-science party.

 

GOP Legislator Junkets Exposed

Today, new evidence of the extent to which Montana’s legislature has been corrupted by out-of-state corporate interests has come to light.  Citizen advocates have released documents showing that several Montana legislators received all-expense paid junkets where they were wined and dined by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  The latest ALEC extravaganza kicks off tomorrow in Washington D.C.

As Cowgirl readers know, ALEC is the bane of workaday Montanans’ existence. It’s corporate America’s mainline to corrupting the lawmaking process.  At lavish, closed-door “summits” they write “model bills” and instruct GOP state legislators to force them through back home.

ALEC won’t say which Montana lawmakers are showing up for tomorrow’s posh retreat. However, documents released today reveal some of the state lawmakers who were in on these junkets from 2006-2008.

This influence-buying scheme is illegal in some states, and should be in Montana. Probably some smart democratic legislator is already coming up with a bill to this effect.

The list of the Montana junkateers who are still in office includes:

Elsie Arntzen R-Billings
David Howard R-Park City
Lee Randall R-Broadus
Llew Jones  R-Conrad
Cary Smith R-Billings
Wendy Warburton R-Havre
Scott Sales R-Gallatin County
Jesse O’Hara R-Great Falls
Tom McGillvray R-Billings
Roger Koopman (now on the PSC)
Verdell Jackson  R-Kalispell
Jeff Essmann  R-Billings
Debby Barrett R-Dillon
Rick Ripley R-Wolf Creek
Bob Lake R-Hamilton
Krayton Kerns R-Laurel

Besides those listed above there are many other legislators who are members of ALEC.  Some have already been busted directly introducing ALEC bills, including: Mark Blasdel, Jason Priest, Ted Washburn, Scott Reichner, Pat Connell, Tom Berry, Jeff Welborn, and Jon Sonju.

What kind of laws is ALEC pushing this year?  Lots.  One way to find out if a bill is ALEC boilerplate is to compare it to the lists of the latest model legislation from the various corporations which can be found here.  Examples of new model ALEC bills include:

  • a law to require Attorneys General to do the legislature’s bidding,
  • requirement that all public employees must personally pay the costs of producing public documents unless the printed item does not display the publication’s printing cost,
  • a resolution for a constitutional convention to eliminate consumer protections,
  • repeal of voting access laws,
  • and ironically, a bill to create a new government commission to identify ways to cut to state government–at taxpayer expense,

and dozens more.  Some of the bills are designed to enhance corporate profits by stripping consumer protections from the laws, while others are “message” bills designed to enhance GOP chances in upcoming elections by forcing democrats to vote on controversial, if impractical, bills.

 

What are Your Plans for the Upcoming Civil War?

The Missoulian is reporting today that wingnuts are stocking up on ammunition in preparation for “a civil war”:

“People seem to be scared out there,” Newsom said. “They seem to be scared there is going to be something like a civil war. They are preparing for something bad to happen.”

“In 2008, they thought their rights to buy ammunition might be taken away,” he said. “This time they seem to be buying in preparation for a revolution.”

Bitterroot Valley Ammunition and Components plant manager Misty Browning said she too has been hearing from people stocking up for some sort of doomsday scenario. [emphasis mine]

Why would people think a civil war is coming?  Perhaps because a prominent member of the Montana Legislature says so.   As Intelligent Discontent reported, Rep. David Howard, Chair of the House Human Services Committee, told his supporters in a Facebook post:

If we lose this election the Secular Socialist Democrats will place two more secular anti-American Justices on the Supreme Court and kill America from within.

This is reality and this will happen if we lose this election!

This could force American Patriots into a Civil war to regain our freedoms. Where we won’t be able to worry about being offended by what some people in a political party do or don’t do!

I Guess the GOP Just Doesn’t Like Some People

When it comes to what the GOP really thinks about young people, minorities, and poorer Montanans, actions speak louder than words.

Montana Republicans are already working on several bills to make it more difficult for Montana citizens to exercise our voting rights–and it is these Montanans who are particularly impacted.

Rep. Ted Washburn (R-Gallatin County)  has introduced the first bill to repeal election-day registration in Montana. GOP-ers seem to think that it is election day–or “same day”–registration (rather than bad ideas) which harms their chances of winning.  But the facts show otherwise.

As Salon reports, studies have found that election day registration actually provides no partisan benefit.  What same day registration does do is help more people vote–particularly young voters, poorer Americans, minorities and people who have recently moved.  Studies have found that election day registration boosts turnout by 7 to 14 percentage points.

GUEST POST: Why Brown Quit

There is such a rich collection of subject matter offered for consideration by the sudden resignation of (former) Lewis & Clark County Commissioner Derek Brown, it is hard to know where to begin.  Should we wonder at his audacity to continue drawing a salary from tax payers despite abdicating his role as a “Public Servant” (his ironically named blog)?  Perhaps we should marvel at his ability to point words like “naïveté” and “failure” at himself while simultaneously refusing to take responsibility for his immature and unprofessional conduct.  Or maybe touch on all facets by simply examining the concept of commitment.

In modern parlance, words like “patriot” and “Christian” are hijacked and bastardized by fringe elements to describe people who advocate secession, misogyny and  discrimination.  Watch for “traditional” to start preceding “American” in the wake of President Obama’s recent triumph. It’s hard to imagine we are all reading from the same page.  But simple words like “commitment” still mean what they once did.

When a person offers himself as a candidate for public office, he asks…fights…for a contract with  the people that office serves. Often, certainly in Mr. Brown’s case, he disparages another person who also wants the chance to serve.  To emerge victorious in a free, public election is an incredible challenge, therefore an enormous honor.  It is the cornerstone of a democratic society and it is, quite literally, the people placing their trust in the candidate’s commitment to his declared intent and principles.

Enter Derek Brown. Five years ago, he insists the L&C County Commission is flawed, and none but He can fix it.  He’s committed to the people of the county.  Kind of a Hopey, Changey theme, if you will.

Today, L&C County taxpayers are left holding a tab; not just in tangible figures of the pay he seems to still feel entitled to, or the man-hours lost in the replacement process. In a free, democratic society, a great cost in faith is paid when those who court the public’s trust then violate it.  We are now left only with Brown’s manifesto at the bitterly ironic Public Servant blog, with his assurances that despite being rigid and uncompromising in his approach, he accomplished nothing. Who would have guessed?

On the positive side, Mr. Brown gives us the opportunity to reflect on our language; to decide if we agree with the meaning of commitment, or still value the concept.  It also brings to mind another word that has retained its meaning, if not its ability to gain purchase in the modern Republican psyche: “shame”.

 

Give Thanks, for the Crazies in Montana

It was a fun week all around for Tea Party loons in Montana. First, to court we go.

Boniek,  and some courtroom drama

Yesterday, Tea Party leader Joel Boniek appeared in court in Livingston, to answer for his arrest earlier this year at a traffic stop.  You will recall that a few months back, Boniek was detained by a cop at a traffic stop, appeared to then fondle a pistol in his clothing to try to scare the officer, and then ran the roadblock.  Boniek is a former legislator and ran for Lt. Governor this year. He rides his mule to work sometimes.

TEA Partier

As any good Tea Partier knows, when you have a date before a judge, the best way to win your case is to bring an angry mob of lunatics with you to court, to heckle the judge and prosecutor.  This is what Boniek did, and a hilarious scene ensued.  As the Livingston Enterprise reported, Boniek showed up and refused to recognize the authority of the prosecutor or judge, the crowd of foaming imbeciles hooting and hollering encouragement.  Boniek then tried to prevent the prosecutor from making an opening statement, saying, “Your honor, why is this woman even speaking to me if she can’t prove she’s a public official?” Boniek, like many wing-nuts, believes that neither a prosecutor nor judge has jurisdiction over a citizen unless she can  “prove to they have taken an oath.”  Oatherism, let’s call it.

Then things really got fun.  The raucous crowd began heckling the judge, and so the judge and prosector got up and left the courtroom. At that point, Boniek stood up and declared that he was “now in charge of the court.”

“The judge abandoned the courtroom and I announced the case dismissed as the last man standing,” Boniek later explained to an Associated Press reporter. A bailiff who remained in the courtroom told Boniek that he was mistaken, that he had no authority and that he better take his angry mob and leave.  Frighteningly, the bailiff saw a lump under Boniek’s clothing and asked him whether it was a firearm, and Boniek refused to answer.  At some point the mob and Boniek finally went home.  The charges remain.

 

Birther at Helena IR

Speaking of Oatherism, you will be happy to know that its better known cousin, Birtherism, is alive and well in Montana–and is being practiced by the editorial staff of the Helena Independent Record.

For those that did not see the item on A Chicken is Not Pillage, in Sunday’s IR there was a news article, written by a national AP reporter, which stated that President Obama was “allegedly born in Hawaii.”  Naturally, the Associated Press writer wrote no such thing.  The draft of the story that the IR received from the AP did not use the world “allegedly.”   Instead, the editorial room of the Independent Record took it upon itself to insert the qualifier–since, as we all know, the place of Obama’s birth has never been proven, right?

Outrage traveled quickly.   The Huffington Post wrote about the insertion, as did a former copy editor of the Helena IR, on his blog, where he expressed mortification at what had happened.

“That right-wing notion [that the president isn’t a U.S. citizen] has been so thoroughly discredited that only Donald Trump and assorted other loonies still cling to it. Neither the AP nor – I hope – The Independent Record belongs in their company.”

The IR had to do damage control, and a small retraction note was printed on the following Tuesday in which the paper claimed that a copy editor in the newsroom had merely played a prank by inserting the word “allegedly,” believing that his fellow copy-editor would catch it and delete it.

I suppose this could be a valid excuse, but it is also a perfect ruse, an escape hatch by which the conservative Republican publisher of the newspaper Randy Rickman can protect somebody in the newsroom who might have been doing his bidding.  I would say there’s a fair chance that, despite what he might say publicly, Rickman believes that Obama’s nationality is an open question.  He would not be the only editor in Montana to hold such an opinion. Frank Miele, who runs the Interlake, is a proud birther.

Anyway, I doubt that a reporter will digging into the IR incident any time soon.

 

Civil War, Anyone?

Speaking of the Helena IR, and speaking of crazies, am I the only one who was surprised when a full week passed after Intelligent Discontent and this blog wrote about it before the IR decided to report the fact that the Montana Tea Party has mounted an effort to get Montana to secede from the Union?  Unable to live under the terrible yoke of an Obama presidency, unwilling to move en masse to Canada or someplace else, and wholly approving of the actions of the Confederacy in 1860, the Tea Party in Montana and in many other states has launched a secession movement.

Like everything else the Tea Party does, this effort will flop because of consists of imbeciles who can barely read or write, let alone organize a mass movement.  However, as with other Tea Party antics that humiliate the GOP with image problems, the IR decided to wait on reporting it until a slow news day with few readers, the day before Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, the Cowgirl Blog told the story shortly after it broke, which is why we continue to be Montana’s number one site for politics.

 

More National Focus on ATP’s Shady Activities

In case you missed it, this weekend’s New York Times included an editorial about the role of out-of-state corporate money in the Montana elections .  Here’s an excerpt:

The big money affecting many state races that most vexes Montanans came from a group of outsiders called American Tradition Partnership, a tax-exempt organization that describes itself as “fighting the radical environmentalist agenda” and refuses to disclose its donors. It brought the lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to strike down the state’s anti-corruption law.

The group has brought another lawsuit in Montana to strike down the state’s campaign contribution disclosure law, scheduled to go to trial next year. Its deeply flawed theory is that the more money there is in politics, the freer the exchange of ideas, and that disclosure inhibits that exchange.

Initiative 166 gave voters the chance to say they want to control how political campaigns are run in their state. As Gov. Brian Schweitzer summed it up, Montanans are saying loudly enough for the Supreme Court to hear, “Now it’s up to Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to get the dirty, secret, corporate, foreign money out of our elections for good.”