The Bozeman Chronicle is reporting today that a Republican senator’s aide was asked to step down after it was revealed that the aide was a paid staffer of and lobbyist for the American Lands Council, a Utah group that is pushing for the takeover of Montana public lands. Sen. Jennifer Fielder has so far refused to comment on the matter, but it doesn’t look good that an out-of-state group was paying the salary of an individual serving as Fielder’s staffer, who was simultaneously a registered lobbyist for that organization to boot.
Typically, the only lawmakers that have staffers, are the leadership (majority and minority) of the House and Senate, and these shared staffers are paid for out of the legislature’s budget A personal staffer paid for by a lobbying group is something I certainly haven’t seen before. The Cowgirl Blog first reported the issue yesterday morning after tipsters discovered what was happening.
Fielder has introduced multiple land takeover bills on behalf of the Utah group this session, and has been helping the out-of-staters push the scheme for the past year and a half. But most people thought the land takeover plot was just too extreme–not to mention unconstitutional and somewhat ridiculous. Every bill Fielder introduced on this issue has died, even though Montana’s legislature has wide Republican majorities in both houses.
It’s concerning therefore that Montana’s Senate President, Debby Barrett has said she tapped Fielder as vice-Chair of the Republican party because of her stance on these very issues. As Lee newspapers reported recently, Fielder who is currently the vice-chair of the Montana Republican Party, was “nominated by Sen. Debby Barrett of Dillon, who is now president of the Montana Senate.”
Barrett says she was impressed by the job Fielder did as a freshman senator, working on the lands issue and representing her district.
“There’s not economic benefit from the forest up there anymore,” Barrett says. “It’s a problem and she’s searching for how to address that. … She has educated herself and she’s educating other people on the issue of getting the stewardship of our lands taken care of, because they’re just going to waste.”
The Lee Newspapers also discussed Fielder’s role in a group called the Sanders County Resource Council. But what they didn’t report is that Fielder and John Trochman, founder of the Militia of Montana, are co-leaders of that group. Fielder is on the group’s board of directors, according to her website. Here’s the screenshot in case this gets taken down.
Trochmann founded the Militia of Montana in the 1990s after the wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver were killed in a standoff with federal agents in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. He’s a big figure in the national militia movement. And the Sanders County Resource Council was formed by Trochmann specifically to serve as a front group for militia activity. We know this because Trochmann admitted it, in a radio interview, in which he explains that for legal reasons, he now conducts much of his militia-oriented activity under the guise of several new groups, SNRC among them.
So heads up, folks. If the American Lands Council starts agitating in your state next, this is the kind of thing you’d be wise to keep an eye out for.