The Puppet Show

Yesterday on the floor of the Montana House of Representatives, TEA Party Republican Randy Pinnocci gave a speech in favor of his bill to prohibit the United Nations from the “use of technology for controlling human activity…and the indoctrination of children for global citizenship.” (Which 41 Republicans voted for.)  Pinnoci said the goal of his bill was: “to prevent us from being told what to do by an outside entity.” “What I believe is that if we have a good idea in Montana we should implement it on our own,” he continued.

But two new and separate pieces of investigative journalism in the Bozeman Chronicle and the Flathead Beacon, and documents obtained by Cowgirl tipsters, show that outside entities are indeed telling the Montana legislature what to do, even writing boilerplate bills introduced in Montana and providing direct instruction to legislative bill drafters.

A Florida right-wing group called the Foundation for Government Accountability is instructing Montana legislators and legislative staffers on how to write our laws, and TEA Party lawmakers are attempting to pass boilerplate legislation provided by the same organization. But that’s not the only disturbing evidence of the extent outside forces are pulling the strings at the Montana Legislature.

Inside Job

First,  we turn to the office of TEA Party Senator Jennifer Fielder.  Fielder alone has requested dozens of different bills to address the same scheme – which republicans call TPL for “takeover of public lands.”  The Utah-based American Lands Council has been pushing the idea at at  ALEC conferences.  It is an ALEC boilerplate bill, and it would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

It has now come to light that the individual that has been serving as Jennifer Fielder’s staffer and legislative aide (granting him full floor privileges amongst other things) was at the same time being employed by the American Lands Council as their registered lobbyist.  Montanans deserve to know what the deal is here including the serious ethical questions raised regarding her own staffer being paid by the American Lands Council.

You can see here screen shots from the commissioner of political practices website showing he is the registered lobbyist of the Utah land-secession group.

And here is a shot of this guy’s Facebook page where the lobbyist publicly posts his position as a Senate Aide.

And finally here you can view a picture with him wearing his official Montana state legislature name badge which grants him unrestricted access to the Senate Floor and GOP leadership.

 Boilerplate and Behind the Scenes Instruction

Yesterday,  the Bozeman Chronicle reported that as many as 1/3 of the bills written by legislative staff come at the request of or under the instruction of outside groups rather than from Montana elected officials.

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The group behind this is the Florida-Based “Foundation for Government Accountability” or the FGA.  The group is active in several states – usually working to kill Medicaid expansion as they did in Wyoming and Tennessee.  They also worked to kill Medicaid expansion in Maine, where they conducted a biased “poll”.  A similar push-poll was also in conducted recently in Montana and is expected to be released soon.

Below is a screenshot of that FGA-AFP Facebook AD.

FGA-AFP Facebook AD

You can see the Florida group’s  Montana attack site here: Here is their Facebook timeline:   Like AFP, the group is spending big bucks to kill Medicaid expansion in Montana with ads and talking points being parroted by right-wing, “legislators” (or should we just call them puppets). The FGA is saying that if we expand medicaid we will lose school funding, highway funding, prison funding, funding for first responders etc., which is obviously a complete lie.

But it doesn’t stop there.


The FGA is also behind Fred Thomas’s Senate Bill 206 – one of the worst bills of the 2015 session which would take assistance buying food from thousands of hungry seniors, people with disabilities, and kids. As the Bozeman Chronicle reported:

State Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, a longtime legislator, introduced a bill last month to create limits on food stamp assistance in Montana.

Thomas told the Associated Press that he drafted the bill after hearing from store cashiers that food stamps are being used to buy energy drinks, frozen pizza and other items.

According to emails obtained by the Chronicle, the bill was written in large part by the Foundation for Government Accountability in Florida. A copy of the group’s boilerplate bills was provided to drafters.

It’s not just Thomas who is pimping Foundation for Government Accountability boilerplate bad ideas- check out Sen. Cary Smith (TEA -Billings) who is carrying SB 148, an ALEC boilerplate bill also procured from him by the same Foundation for Government Accountability, as you can see here.  That bill aims to strip tens of thousands of the poorest Montanans from Medicaid or food stamps – even though they are still eligible.  As the Flathead Beacon reported:

 portions of a bill introduced in the Montana Legislature, SB 148, which aims to prevent welfare fraud, are taken nearly verbatim from a piece of model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council,

This is likely the tip of the iceberg and I expect more such evidence of who’s really calling the shots at the Montana Legislature to come to light.  The Great Falls Tribune and the Flathead Beacon have already reported on the series of fake “town hall meetings” that backfired on Americans for Prosperity recently.

With this latest revelation, Montanans will respond to the bills these right-wing legislators and out-of-state groups are attempting to foist on us with even greater skepticism.  Because while Fred Thomas embarrassingly tries to spin this insider influence for out-of-state special interests as a good thing, I doubt most Montanans would agree. 



48 Comments on "The Puppet Show"

  1. If the goal of his bill was “to prevent us from being told what to do by an outside entity,” TransCanada beat Rep. Pinnoci to the punch. President Obama should be receiving 41 thank you notes.

  2. Montanans should all be well aware that legislators have specifically exempted their own emails from state sunshine laws – all public documents in MT are public – EXCEPT for legislators own – they carved out a special exemption for themselves.

    If they were public – i bet what we see would be truly sickening – like the all-expence paid Florida vacation Thomas, Smith, Balance, and Wittich were treated to courtesy of the Foundation for Government Accountability before they came back and pushed that group’s agenda.

  3. “Livestock production and most meat consumption will be eliminated. It will be a vegetarian world.”
    ~Dan Happel, former Madison County Commissioner

    A vegetarian world! I was kinda excited about that part of HB 583!!! (Though a vegan world would be better…but once we get our foot in the door…heh heh) ~Kathleen

  4. As a senate aide myself in the 1990s I can tell you that these staffers are told they are strictly prohibited from lobbying. Something smells here folks and it’s time to disclose who knew about this and when.

  5. The MT GOP/TEA Party Republicans are driving Montana and the U.S. into an Oligarchy and they are too smug, self-assured and deluded to even notice (that should scare the crap out of everyone). The Revolutionary War was fought for Democracy and against the Oligarchs….and now today’s TEA Party “Patriots” are fighting FOR the Oligarchs and against Democracy every step of the way. If the MT GOP/TEA Party knew what they are doing I would call them Treasonous, but I don’t think they really even have a clue…..

  6. Oh, my good buddy “I don’t care, if you live, or die, Click” Rep. Fred Thomas……Trying to *KILL* us, one Bill, at a time!

  7. It seems to me that Montana has generally been controlled by “outside” corporations, Standard Oil, or more recently Enron & Goldman Sacks. All of the mining and most of the timber companies are global, and most foreign owned. The 1997 Electricity Deregulation bill allowed for the looting of Montana Power. Gannon and Racicot took the money and ran, and the Butte delegation and about 1/3 of the Dems made passage of HB390 easy even though the bill was introduced past the legislative midterm. As with the criminality of bank failures in 2008, there has never been an accounting, much less anything close to justice, either monetary or criminal. So long as Citizens United stands we are f**ded by both parties. The tea-baggers may look and sound stupid but they have managed to control the legislature and win a US Senate seat, no doubt because of a funding advantage. We are the next Kansas it seems…

    • Thanks Mr. Hobbs. Excellent analysis. Whenever you hear the words “Made in Montana” or “bipartisan, ” run for your life.

      • That “analysis” has a huge flaw, Steve. one you willfully fail to recognize. The Tea Party hasn’t won because of money. They won because they got the most voters out, and ‘persons’ such as yourself go out of their way to suppress opposition to them.

    • Mr. Hobbs, as I read your comment I felt a sense of satisfaction – you can both analyze objectively and write with clarity. I am inclined to agree with you, and that might tilt my prejudices your way, but I still sense native intelligence and some historical footing there.

      I ran for legislature in 1996, and lost, and as I watched the 1997 session unfold and saw Racicot and Goldman Sachs run roughshod over the legislature, realized that I too would have fallen victim. A first-timer in that body does not have the depth and breadth to fight such powerful forces. We face many, many problems, one among them is term limits.

  8. It’s all part of the hypocrisy of Republicanism. We don’t want “federal” control but we have sold our souls to out-of-state interests. We believe in “small government” except when it comes to other people’s sex lives. Etc.

  9. Speaking of puppet shows and Pinnocci….Just today the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker awarded Senator Tester the maximum 4 Pinnocci’s for his public lands logging ‘whopper.’

    Montana senator twice gets his facts wrong on timber sales and litigation
    By Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Fact Checker

    “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”
    – Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), interview with Montana Public Radio, Feb. 18, 2015

    “Nearly half of the awarded timber volume in Fiscal Year 2014 is currently under litigation.”
    – revised statement issued by Tester’s staff, Feb. 19, 2015

    Our inbox started flowing with e-mails from outraged residents of Montana shortly after Montana Public Radio ran an interview in which Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asserted that “every logging sale” in the state was “under litigation.” The complaints also reached the radio station, as within a day, Tester’s staff offered a revised statement that focused on “volume” rather than sales. Marnee Banks, his spokeswoman, apologized for the original statement, but Tester himself made no comment.

    But when we asked Tester’s staff for evidence to back up the revised statement, they simply directed us to the U.S. Forest Service, rather than explain the data themselves. It’s taken a few days to unravel the numbers, but this is a case of apples and oranges, with a few limes thrown in.

    What’s the actual effect of litigation on logging in Montana?….

    First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging….In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation…..That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”….

    The Pinocchio Test

    Given that Tester is the senior senator from Montana, his comments on litigation in Montana’s national forests are embarrassingly wrong. In both statements, he was wildly off the mark. He needs to brush up on his facts — and his math — before he opines again on the subject.

    Four Pinocchios

    Full Story:

  10. More rhetoric, less fact checking | #mtpol— Mike Jopek (@mikejopek) February 25, 2015

  11. Steve Daines: “We will never solve this problem until we stop what is called ‘the obstructionists.’”— Bozeman Chronicle (@bozchron) February 25, 2015

  12. Sign the @coalxportaction petition: Fight @stevedaines' climate science denial in Montana #p2 via @CREDOmobile #MtPol— boB Petersen (@gyrogyrloose) February 25, 2015

  13. .@SteveDaines There's $100MIL+ worth of #ShovelReady USFS #publiclands restoration work in #MT/#ID. What's your funding plan? #MTpol #MTLeg— Matthew Koehler (@KoehlerMatthew) February 24, 2015

  14. Matthew Koehler: .@SteveDaines There’s $100MIL+ worth of #ShovelReady USFS #publiclands restoration work in #MT/#ID. What’s your funding plan? #MTpol #MTLeg

  15. Matthew Koehler: #Montana #wildlife expert says @SteveDaines pushing phony #publiclands #forestry. #MTPol #MTLeg #MTNews #KeepItPublic


    This is why some of these idea’s we have in places like Missoula don’t work. The writer uses Portland Ore as an example. Missoula does like to use that term sustainable a lot.

  17. I don’t know what’s more offensive, Bitterroot Bubba Fred Thomas pushing boilerplate legislation for FGA or him taking credit for drafting it himself after hearing store cashiers claim that benefits were being used to buy energy drinks and frozen pizzas. He wants check stand workers making the nation’s food policy? SNAP is a federal program, it does not require a dime of state money! Thomas needs to crawl back under the rock he came out from and leave poor people alone.

  18. The “Macon” in William Macon Richardson, the lobbyist who is also Fielder’s aid, kindly says it all.

  19. William Macon also has a facebook page under that name where he identifies himself as working for ALC. He provided video of the Agenda 21 bill testimony to Rep. Theresa Manzella on her facebook page today. Since this came out, I personally have found that Ms. Manzella has blocked my access to her facebook page.

  20. Rumor has it, Art Wittich, is trying for Tim Fox’s Job? Tell me it isn’t true? Tell me he CAN’T even try?

    • Rep. Wittich has an ax to grind with AG Fox for settling a lawsuit against former Commissioner of Political Practices Dave Gallik. Wittich represented plaintiff Montana Policy Institute.

    • Can he run if he’s in jail? Notice how the GOP has been desperately trying to defund the COPP so that they can’t have his trial – he’s facing criminal prosecution folks. Let’s remember that.

  21. Heh heh, chuckling here … Heh heh heh .. Cowgirl included herself, Flathead Beacon, Bozeman Chronicle all in a sentence talking about “investigative journalism,” which barely exists here in the Land of the Free.

    That’s a whopper.

    • I would love it if you started a website. I’d love to analyze your daily writings and put in my two cents. Why don’t you do that?

      • He’s unbearable to read here. Who in the hell is going to actively seek out his babble. Although if he and Rob were to go together the pomposity and self-righteous factor would go to near zero. Hey, that’s not a bad idea.

        • Oh the sweet irony. Do you have any idea how pompous and self-righteous your own comment is, SYJ11? Still, feel free to shoot away, that’s what comments are for. ‘Just thought I’d let you know that you’re shooting blanks.

        • If I had so much time and money to travel to New Zealand, well, what would there be for me to bitch about? I mean, I have money, right? I’m sorry…I just don’t understand, but I’m sure I’ll be berated for it nonetheless.

          • I’ve followed you and your writing these past couple of years as you ran for office, thinking you might have a breakthrough. None that I’ve seen. I don’t see much difference between you two years ago and you now.

            I’ve been writing almost every day for almost eight years. I go deep on politics, and the eight years has been a learning experience – never stand still, as one must do to be a Democrat. I supported Tester in ’06 and Obama in ’08, and Then I slowly realized that the only difference between these men and their Republican opponents where the words they were given to speak while running for office. Worse, there was no connection between their words spoken in campaigns and performance in office. They are unrelated to one another.

            If there are no differences between Republicans and Democrats other than the words they use to speak to their respective bases, then what is the point of having two parties? The answer is that it keeps us interested in politics without having any effect on public policy. It keeps us out of the hair of real power, the factions – banking, oil, military procurement, PhRMA and AHIP – that really run the country.

            So Cowgirl’s job here is to keep Democrats focused on Republicans. If she one day writes something, anything about a Democrat misbehaving, she’ll be out of a job. She is here to keep the rabble busy tossing rocks at a concrete wall.

            More than you asked for.

          • Greg, you give Mark too little credit. His comments here are boilerplate: Democrats = Republicants except that Democrats are worse and all people not Mark are stupid. Anyone who points out the stupid in the world is agenda driven save Mark. His website, on the other hand, is an absolute HOOT!. Lately he’s on a kick about “moral courage”, thinking he has any. Having spent years explaining how he has gained wisdom by removing himself from any consequence of free thought, Mark now thinks himself the arbiter of who has courage and who has not.

            Heres the thing, moral philosophers since Socrates have described “moral courage” as standing for truth in the face of severe consequence. Mark has spent a great deal of time describing how he could only speak truth to power once he removed himself from consequence and then judges others who face far greater consequence than he ever will. One could point out the obvious hypocrisy, but that one would not be savoring the absolutely clueless humor of the situation. I enjoy reading his website because I enjoy good comedy. Though I will happily deride you when it’s deserved, (and expect you to return the same) most of us here who use our own names, including myself, face very real consequence in speaking our minds. Take no guff from him. He has no stake in this hunt, nor will he ever again.

  22. Wow, all this ranting about some puny little think tank — 791 grand worth.
    That said, they are not real grassrooty, with more than half their income from checks bigger than five grand. Just like the left wing “think tanks” in Montana. Like there’s a Montana Organizing Project which seems to have fiscal sponsor of the Alliance for a Just Society out of Seattle — got money from High Stakes (the sparkplug heiress doctor lady) and 67 grand from Alliance for Just Society which also funded 10 grand to the Montana Small Business Alliance, a member of the MOP. Lots of kabuki going on there, too.

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