Monthly Archives: January 2013

Rebranding Gone Wrong

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called on GOPers to “stop being the stupid party” at a national Republican Party last week.  He said some Republicans have damaged the brand with “offensive and bizarre comments” and an “obsession” with the federal budget and government bookkeeping instead of connecting with voters.

Jindal’s tough love didn’t go over well with some – including the American Family Association.  Montanans know this group as the folks who helped Denny Rehberg gin up a fake campaign to “save” a cement Big Mountain Jesus statue that the Forrest Service had already committed leave in place.

Continue reading

Page from the GOP Playbook: Solve a Problem by Making it Worse

Montana GOP Rep. Scott Reichner of Big Fork has put forward what can best be described as a Republican solution to the problem of “dark money” in politics.  Dark money is the anonymous, unlimited and unregulated money, usually of corporate origin, that has helped the GOP win seats in the legislature in the last two elections and also helped Tim Fox become attorney general.  Most of it was funneled by a group called American Tradition Partnership, a group that has been in severe legal trouble in Montana.  Dark money is bad because whoever spends a fortune bankrolling a candidate will later demand something in return.   Its legality, unfortunately, has been partially decreed by the conservative U.S. Supreme Court in its pathetic collection of Citizen United decisions.  Steve Bullock has led the fight, in Montana and nationally, against dark money.

Unless I’m missing something, Rep. Reichner’s  proposal (HB 229) seems designed to make the problem worse.  Continue reading

Setting the Bar Higher

There is much to be concerned about this session. There’s the rightward shift of legislative leadership, the return of piles of frivolous, unconstitutional bills, and the make up of the house and senate.

Rep. Amanda CurtisBut there are also some bright spots.  A smart new generation of Democratic legislators has appeared on the scene, of a caliber rarely seen in years past, who are setting the bar higher for what it means to represent Montanans at the legislature.

Word is already getting out about freshman state Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, who’s blowing the doors off pretty much everything that’s been done in the past to keep constituents informed and involved. (You can read even about her innovative outreach in the Billings Gazette.)  Once people find out that there are legislators like this, other districts are going to start to demand the same kind of representation–which can only raise the quality of the legislature as a whole. Continue reading

Conservatives Staying Home?

There is an unmistakable lull in the world of firebrand conservativism right now in the Montana legislature.  When the legislature was last convened in 2011, right-wing bills were getting big crowds of proponents lining up to testify, to rage against the machine, as it were.

champ edmunds

Champ Edmunds

This year, not so much.  I read in the IR this week that Democrats proposed getting rid of Montana’s so-called anti-sodomy law which criminalizes homosexuality, and that only two people came in to oppose it.  A bill to allow the state to require all state workers to submit to drug tests received no support at all from any citizens.  A bill requiring the teaching of creationism similarly did not get a single citizen testifying in favor of it.  Several other GOP bills have met with similar indifference, with few if any conservative citizens attending the hearings.

Clayton Fiscus

Clayton Fiscus

This muted expression by the Tea party and the Right Wing presents a marked contrast to the frenzy of conservative activism witnessed in the previous legislature.  So what’s going on? Continue reading

Democratic Caucus Blog

The Democratic caucus of the Montana legislature has a blog, which is regularly updated with important bills, information, and opinion pieces.

The Montana Capitol Report has been around for a couple of sessions now and is a good source for information on what’s going on during the session–both with good bills and with bad.  Be sure to check out the Women’s Caucus page. 

Last session the blog was written by Mike Wessler and became quite popular.  Although this year it seems to have multiple authors, they appear to be aiming for the same level of quality. The site is well-designed and easy to navigate.

BREAKING: Sheriff, Legislators Take Refusal to Enforce Federal Law a Step Further

Tom Rummel (right)

Sheriff Tom Rummel (Right), Sanders County

By now, you’ve probably seen the newspaper and television coverage about Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel.

Rummel sent out an email with the subject line “letter to citizens” saying “he and his deputies will not enforce any federal regulations enacted by Congress or Executive orders of the President circumventing the rights of the citizens of Sanders County.”

Rummel’s letter, which KXLH published, was a reaction to President Obama’s call for reducing gun violence.

But what you may not know is that Rummell also sent out a second letter.   Continue reading

Taking the Think Out of “Think Tank”

Carl Graham, executive Director of the Koch brothers’-funded Montana Policy Institute, published a guest opinion in the Great Falls Tribune last week so riddled with factual errors that he should probably go ahead and resign.

Graham wants state lawmakers to reject the federal government’s offer to cover 100% of the costs of providing health care to 57,000 uninsured low-income Montanans.  There is no good reason to block the federal government from helping Montanans who can’t afford health care.  As the Montana Hospital Association told a legislative panel this week, Montana is paying taxes anyway. And if the state rejects the federal funds, our tax dollars will simply go to provide access to health care to people in other states.

Here are some of the lies and misinformation Graham is peddling across the state. Continue reading