House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting

Republican state representatives got busted yesterday for holding an illegal, secret meeting.  John Adams of the Tribune broke the story after he and Shane Castle of the Helena Vigilante were tipped off about it.  It happened in the basement of a Helena hotel.  State law requires that all such meetings to be conducted openly, and that the public receive advance notice.  These rules form the most important set of laws in Montana,  the public access or “right to know” laws, enshrined in the Constitution and the Montana Code, requiring that Government be conducted in the open.

At this meeting, a questionnaire [pdf] was handed out to all of attendees, asking those in attendance to state their position on some hot-button issues such as whether they agree with the TEA Party proposal to annex federal lands away from the U.S. Government.

Republicans furiously to tried to claim to the reporters who crashed the meeting that it was not technically a caucus meeting.  But the questionnaire was labeled:

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.08.18 AM

…and thus it was illegal.

Keith Regier, the newly elected house majority leader, distributed this  questionnaire to fellow house members and ran the meeting.  It ended not long after the reporters showed up.

Not a good start for House Republicans, with the legislative session still a month and a half away.  And the last thing on earth that the GOP wants is for every member to have to put in writing whether they support or oppose various TEA Party schemes.

Perhaps the questionnaires were to be used as a kind of conservative purity test.  Such loyalty oathsalliance tests, and party purges have often surfaced among Montana Republicans, who are somewhat obsessed with such things.

Or, given that the survey asked about what they call the “TPL” proposal (transfer of public lands) perhaps Republicans want to determine if they have the votes to do pull it off.  Previously, GOP moderates tried to distance themselves from this stupid and childish idea, especially after the idea got a nearly unanimous endorsement at the recent GOP platform convention.  Moderates backpedalled when it was revealed the transfer would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

Other questions on the survey included how much money they would like to leave unallocated at the end of the session and what “the priority should be” with regard to the ending fund balance. Each legislator was also asked to try to identify his (or her, but they are mostly men) top priority bill, and what their “thoughts were” about some of Governor Bullock’s priorities which Regier listed, such as the CSKT water compact, Medicaid expansion, campaign dark money,  and preschool.

And here’s an interesting question: are the completed questionnaires (presumably some have already been collected by Regier and stashed by him somewhere) public documents, by law,  which the press and citizens have a right to view?  I sure hope so :)

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46 Comments on "House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting"

  1. The biggest slime ball there, Jeff e(A)ssmann said it was okay to have this meeting and it did not need to follow the law as it was held in a private place. Let the fun begin I guess.

  2. Good recap with important and useful links. It’s disconcerting that Republicans believe they are so anointed with privilege they can flout the law in a public place and in such a public manner.

  3. Another thought…..spend the money on postage and print out the questionnaire, fill it out and sent it to the idiot’s name that is on the questionnaire.

  4. Not only did these schmucks decline to ask what we the people they are supposed to be representing might think about these issues, they went to great lengths to ensure we couldn’t even find out about the meeting.

    They don’t represent the people – and they go out of their way to make sure they won’t have to.

  5. Here’s the link to a copy of our lawsuit against the Governor Bullock and the DNRC over their secret meetings and process which resulted in 5 million acres of National Forest public lands in Montana being nominate for ‘fast track’ logging. http://forestpolicypub.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/WildWest-v-Bullock.pdf

    Keep in mind there was no public notice for any of these meetings organized by Governor Bullock and his Natural Resource Policy Advisor, Tim Baker [Note: Baker was previously the executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association and Baker’s wife is State Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker].

    There were no minutes recorded and made publicly available for any of the meetings. No agendas for the meetings were provided to the public before the meetings were held.

    Only one agenda was prepared for the first meeting, which was only provided to the public on April 14, 2014 in response to Plaintiffs’ public information request. The agenda for the first meeting reflects an initial intention to provide the decision or recommendation to the Governor by April 1, 2014 “after broader input/review”, but no such input or review was ever sought or obtained.

    No opportunities were provided for the public – other than the few individuals selected for the collaborative group – to participate, or to submit data, views, or arguments before the group made its decision advising DNRC and the Governor of lands to nominate, or before DNRC and the Governor decided to nominate those lands.

    Finally, keep in mind that these 5 million acres of public National Forest lands nominated for ‘fast track’ logging through Governor Bullock’s secret, no public notice, no public input process will now be available for an unlimited number of 3,000 acre logging projects that are “Categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA.”

  6. I think this session will be a gold mine for reporters, bloggers, and humorists.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 8:32 AM at 8:32 AM |

      Agreed! The crazy train has al READY left the station. Next stop, Kockhistan! And the Lege isn’t even in session yet. When I saw who they put in leadership positions, it was a given. Ol’ Pregtested Man wants to find out just which of his herd are pure! And Assman, well, he just wants to see how much crime he can get away with!

      The Pube party is simply a party of criminals now. And it’s damn funny that they got caught so soon! Great work by Adams. He won’t be gettin’ a Christmas card from Assman and Pregger boy this Xmas!
      The mischief that they can cause during the session is enormous. They’re gonna try to steal what they can while they can. Test the waters so to speak. The ONLY thing stopping them will be Bullock. And they’ll design their crazy ass bills to make it appear that Bullock is the problem so that they can run a REAL fascist next time like timmy focks! THEN, it’ll be game over! We’ll be Jesus Land with our own militia! JAYSUS TAKE THE WHEEL!

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 8:44 AM at 8:44 AM |

        p.s. I’m kinda hopin’ that they can get ol’ Cliven Scumby to come here and help out. You see, Cliven is sort of an expert on The Negro, and I’ll bet he’s an expert on The Injun too! He’d be a great help on the water contract and the public lands issues. How ’bout it, Assman, pregger boy?

    • In other words, JC, just like a Democrat-controlled legislative session, except that Democrats tend to be humorless.

  7. Where did the Democrats hold their secret meeting? Of course they had one. They are better at keeping secrets. What they don’t have is a disgruntled representative that went crying to the media.

    • Oh god, here we go, two years in store for us now of whining about mean old Republicans doing this and that. Let us all now collectively cover our ears and loudly sing “la la la la la la la la …” until the shrill Democrat noise machine shuts up.

      And again, Democrat leadership and their employees, including Cowgirl, have failed miserably and led their party to disaster. When will they be held accountable?

      • You’re right, Mark, about the Republicans being mean and old. The Democrats did a terrible job this past election, but it would’ve been almost impossible for even a well-run campaign to succeed against all the out-of-state right-wing money that poured into Montana. That and the apathy of voters, many of whom seemed unaware that there was an election.

        But it is absolutely true, Mark, that Republicans are mean and old.

        • Maybe this is heresy, but I see the job of the Democrats as giving voters a reason to vote. Absent that, path of least resistance is always to stay home. Out of state money runs both Montana parties. That has always been the case, as there isn’t enough money in the state to run a big campaign. That issue has always been a red herring, and anyway, who is to say that in-state money is any less corrupting than out-of-state?

          • You dont vote In4it, Mark, Whatever the crap you call yourself? Thats what you always say, and therefore you actually voted GOP by not voting.

            Secondly this isn’t about your state of Colorado. where you live,

            Lastly Your Mam-by Pam-by Bullshit as Usual is that voting is… too hard???. Well so is breathing rotten AIr, Drinking poisoned water, but your doing that Quite well in Colorado with all the other non voters who allowed the GOP to flourish by not voting.

            So your version of Politics is to do nothing of consequence but complain. Problem is as usual your voice was flooded away with all the Koch money, buying commercial time ever since Citizens United. so your Colorado Opinion is of no Consequence anywhere especially in your state!

            You deserve the wreaking Ball. YOur a complete Idiot

            • I’ll answer in detail:

              I vote. I send in a ballot, voting for school levies and for people I think genuine. But to imagine that voting for or against the low-lifes that generally run as D’s and R’s makes a difference is folly.

              I lived in Montana 59 years, and own property there. We’ll likely move back there some time, if only for summers. I love my former/future home state. Totally my business.

              Voting for or against various pols in various disguises has no effect on “breathing rotten AIr, Drinking poisoned water,” which is just your fanciful wish fulfillment system at work.

              The fact that the American political system is designed to marginalize the public, rather than engage it, in important decisions, does not mandate my participation therein before voicing an opinion. I am proud to say that I voted against use of gambling money to finance Colorado schools, against a few judges, and for a Green Party candidate in our state. I participate to teh extent that I think my vote actually defines an issue.

              Now, go play with your friend,s little boy. Politics is for the big kids.

              • You own nothing here Mark and You own nothing in Colorado either. Do we have to go through this same conversation again? I have asked you to prove your personal fortunes for years but you and other just like you, just run away and hide. So I again ask you to prove yourself.

                The name calling you use against me and others recklessly diffuse itself the utter BS every time you fart out some dumb Iies. Geez you make me laugh….. Or are you lying for all the newbies here now, hoping no one remembers you????

                You haven’t lived in Montana since 2007, or is it 2008? Your story changes each time you open your mouth! Was it two years ago you were telling everyone here you wont vote because everyone is corrupt? Now you want to change your tune and your address? LOL Excuse me as I try to get over my Hysterical laughing. Geez dude you outed your baffoonery here years ago.

                Dont you get it? Every time you come back with a new name, every time you’re banned, your writing style of ineptitude when you sneak back under a pseudonym gives you away? Stop and seek real help.

                You have been banned or barred off of every Dem political blog in Montana, so who are you impressing? Certainly not me. Ive known your pitiful utterance from Colorado since 2010 and you were proudly bragging of living there and it hasn’t changed.

                Please insult someone else’s intelligence if you can find someone who will allow it….. Ya see, I know who you are and where you live because we have had this conversation before. You Lost it then, your losing it now!

                Even your website says: “We live near Aspen Park, Colorado, in a small log cabin, from which I send missiles of frightful content. I will continue to do so unless my goddammed brother turns me into the law.”

                As for your last sentence, your sexist remark, lets just say I am happily just a plain empowered democratic female. Forced to listen (yet again) to the sighs and moans of another, male complaining about how insurmountable the problems he caused himself by their continued Lying.

                Mark, Instead of complaining again, why you hate me and anyone else because they have listened to your dribble for years and dont believe you, Why aren’t you out there actually doing something to resolve your mental medical condition?

                Obamacare, will still be here even after the supreme Court looks at it again. There is mental medical health care it can offer you.

              • Now it only remains for readers to compare my measured words against Norma’s intemperate rant.

                • A rant needed to prove how much you lie. Ill do it anytime and as much as necessary, to show people who you really are.

                • Norma, Mark is many things and has a plethora of ideas I disagree with. But an overt liar is not among those things any more. If anything, you and Mark suffer from a similar malaise, thinking that ‘If people only saw the truth as I do, they would agree with me’. Though he didn’t used to, Mark at least offers token allowance for different modes and manners of thinking. You don’t. You automatically (kneejerk) conclude that disagreement with you means that the other is *lying*.

                  That’s hardly a surprise. You’ve expressed many times that to be male is to be a liar. One of you is definitely dancing with falsehoods here, and I just don’t see it being him …

            • Oops – Duffy, last I heard, is female. S/b “little girl.”

        • Dems did well enough to HOLD the LINE and keep numbers stable in the legislature, but did add TWO in the House. The grassroots folks fought HARD to keep those numbers despite up-ticket disaster and anti-Obama headwinds, and general low-information voting public too distracted, feckless and apathetic. Apathy can be more dangerous than Tyranny.

      • Complaining about what you consume as if it’s the others fault? I’ll bet you’re a frickin’ hoot in the stores on Black Friday …

  8. Was there a legislative quorum? Was there any official act or action conducted? “Official act” or “official action” means a vote, decision, recommendation, approval, disapproval, or other action, including inaction, that involves the use of discretionary authority. How many attendees were sitting legislators versus legislators “elect”, not yet sworn into office.
    I don’t blame you Cowgirl this sort of inuendo is your bread and butter. But, Adams at the Tribune should be held to a minimum journalistic standard. His article is shallow of facts and biased in intent.

    • Gallagher, you’re certainly entitled to voice your opinion on Adams’ compliance with journalistic standards — and I’ll vigorously defend your right to do so.

      What I won’t do is defend your opinion that Adams is guilty of slipshod reporting. That’s because your accusation is baseless. His story is professionally sourced and attributed, and worthy of publication.

      You correctly note there may be a legalistic argument that the meeting didn’t run afoul of Montana’s open meeting laws. But Adams didn’t say that it did. And he reported Essmann’s opinion that it didn’t, carefully noting that Essmann’s an attorney.

      I strongly suspect that your chief complaint, not articulated in your comment, is that the GOP caucus comes out of this looking rather foolish, and that you’re more displeased with Adams for letting the voters know what their representatives and representatives-elect were doing than you are with Regier, et al, for proving themselves incapable of keeping a clandestine caucus meeting clandestine.

  9. Kudos to the tipster(s) for doing the right thing.

  10. The video is out. Find out is your next GOP Legislator was at this meeting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NCHmTtefB0.

    Art Wittich’s argument is complete Horse *hit

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 6:21 PM at 6:21 PM |

      Sumbitch! Hey, Assman, Fart Fettish, it IS a cock us you no good fascist lyin’ bastards! Videos don’t lie. ONLY criminal assed PUBBIES lie! Sheesh. What a couple’a buffoons! Jeebus, dudes. What the hell are the Kockh brothers PAYIN’ you worthless nutless bastards for if you’re gonna get your sorry asses caught be FORE the Lege even starts? You morons belong on the old Bad Boys show, where dumb azzed criminals do dumb azzed things! Jeebus! And poor Jeff Preggers. The dude is Pubbie SPECIAL ED! Where the hell is THAT moron from?? Jeffy boy, if you’re gonna commit a freakin’ CRIME in Montana on behalf of your Kock brother benefactors, at LEAST be smart about it dufus! Jeebus. Do I have to educate you fascist idiots? Never heard of a brown paper bag of money under the table over at the Continental??? WTF is WRONG with you morons? Got a dufus genes???? The GREAT thing about inbreds is that they really ARE too fucking stoooopid to succeed!

      Hey, Adams, you have redeemed yourself, amigo. Would you please allow me to buy you a beer?

      868-3808. HEY, it’s your wilderness TOO, dude!

      p.s.s. And if you get fired for doing your job, hell, you can always come cut trees with me. That’s REAL man’s work anyway! (unlike those old bald fat bastard tryin’ like hell to score a Kockh before they die!) I mean, look at those old fat bald limp d*ck Pubbies. THAT is what you look like when you sell your soul to the Devil Kockhs! Kind’a dick cheneyish!

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 6:58 PM at 6:58 PM |

        WTFaaaaaa?????! Forty virgin wives here on EARTH????? Screw the Mooselims. I WANNA BE A MORMOM! You see, if you’re promised that you’re gonna get laid a WHOLE lot, why not do it in THIS life while you still CAN?! And that, my friends, is my problem with Islame. I mean, WTF???? The NEXT life??/ What the friggin’ HELL is wrong with THIS one?? I mean, who has ever come back from the grave and said, YEAH, baby! I’m glad I took my wingding to heaven WITH me?! No one that I know. So, I must conclude, that when we consider the various merits of the veriass relligeeeons, I prever the HER AND NOW! Give me virgins in THIS life, and by GOD and whatever the Mormor god is, I’ll take the here and now!

        I see. I See. I SEE the golden tablets in my hat! Yes, YEs. YES, god, I will get LAID to do your will!……jus’ doan make’em ugly! THAT is my prayer!

        http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/bill-maher-bashes-mormon-religion-its-based-on-a-19th-century-sex-cult/

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 7:02 PM at 7:02 PM |

          Hi, I’m Randy, Randy JESUS! Yeah, baby. Ooo! You wanna go to HEAVEN???? Randy Heaven???? Too bad that ol’ Jeff Preggers and the Assman can’t get it UP any longer! I mean, wtf is heaven with OUT Boner Jesus?????

          You see, criminals are NOT the smartest dudes in the world. For what does it benefit a man to inherit the entire Kockh world with OUT a woody???? I ask, you decide!

          • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 15, 2014 7:10 PM at 7:10 PM |

            Hey, Assman, how long has it been since you felt like a man, loser boy? Stop and ask yourself, my corpulent nazzzi puke, do you even REMEMBER what it was like to have a real stirring in your loins??? Ol’ Moses was in his freakin’ NINETIES when his “juices” still flowed! When was the last time that YOUR juices flowed, you limp member???? Was it worth it, tubby??”?

            You see, Assman, when you sell your soul to the Devil, you basically cut yourself off from the rest of humanity. You ostracize yourself from this beautiful gift called Earth. Are you happy with that decision, you fat, lardassed bastart? That’s kinda sad. No. REAL sad. How long do you think you’re gonna LIVE, lardbutt?

            Well, you made your choice, wimp. Now, live in hell with it!

    • Yes indeed, BOTH parties subject to public’s RIGHT TO KNOW and Participate Laws, and GOP and Dems must be equally transparent. Too bad the Dems mean well but act incompetent while GOP acts competent but mean-spirited and somewhere in between is the Truth.

  11. The AP is reporting that”

    Mike Meloy, a Helena attorney who specializes in freedom-of-information cases, said there’s no question the caucus violated Montana’s open meeting laws.

    “It doesn’t make any difference where a public entity holds a meeting,” Meloy told The Associated Press. “The problem of this meeting is they didn’t notify anyone, so without that it’s just as effectively closed as if the doors were locked.”

    Meloy also said if any business is discussed at a meeting of elected officials in Montana, it’s covered by open meeting law.

    Essmann questioned whether democracy is improved or hindered if people can’t have frank discussions.

    Meloy said speaking frankly is not an exception to an open meeting law.

    “In Montana the rule is you have to speak frankly in front of the public, and if you want to be a public official in Montana, you just have to accept that legal proposition,” Meloy said. Mike Meloy

    http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/3fd4bd521e42443f8f4925265c528c6c/MT–Republican-Caucus/

    • Exactly and they closed the meeting right after the reporters showed up and started filming. Assemans veiled threats that he could at anytime kick the reporters out is very Noteworthy.

    • GOP was very, very eager to VILIFY a good man like Walsh who did make a mistake, but GOP ilk can’t stand it when they own hypocrisy is exposed. What’s worse is the arrogance displayed to the journalists when GOP caucus was ‘caught in the act’……….

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | November 16, 2014 8:03 PM at 8:03 PM |

        Pubbly, you might like this. Some might call it Wounded Knee Two. But I would simply call it Wounded Kockh! Things is heatin’ up for the nazzzis.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/16/rosebud-sioux-keystone-war_n_6168584.html

        Crazy Horse smiles on this!

        • Roger that fellow veteran and you also probably recall – if also a scout – that we learned not to ‘crap in our messkits’ and I remind the Bible ‘thumpers’ to again READ Isaiah 24:4-6 about the Lord’s warning to the powerful and greedy about DEFILING (yes that IS the word
          used in Scripture…that means Rapture rascals read it!) the Earth and the consequences, where the Lord will make it rather ‘hot’ for all. Obviously Senator James Inhofe on his new
          ‘Climate Hoax’ KRUSADE and getting his ‘jollies’ for sure, better than sex to be the incoming chair of the Senate’s environmental and public works committee!!!

        • Poetic Justice if tribes can win one this time, considering how the Canadians are raping, pillaging and plundering native (first people) lands, literally poisoning the waters and all that will NEVER be restored in seven generations. Maybe just once Justice might prevail here for the Cowboy and Indian Alliance who show BALLS, not cowardly Dems acting Republican ‘Lite’, less balls, NOT filling.

  12. If anyone is interested in the Supreme Court decision finding that the open meetings law applies to legislative caucuses, here is a link: http://www.ecases.us/case/mont/884139/assoc-press-v-senate-republican-caucus . The issue in the case was whether a caucus was a “person” as defined by the M.R.Civ.P.

    Does anyone know of the case to which Essman refers?

  13. Does this law have any teeth? That is, are there any consequences for violating the open meetings law?

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