GUEST POST: Art Wittich Defeats Democracy; Again?

by NK, Montana Human Rights Network Community Organizer

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By now everyone agrees Art Wittich is the real Speaker of the House. Austin Knudsen has never been in charge of the 2015 legislative session. Wittich has been pulling the puppet strings of the Koch Brothers caucus of the house Republicans the entire time.

First, Wittich killed the healthy Montana plan with a dismissive and disrespectful committee vote, allowing no discussion among committee members, after a six hour hearing of compelling testimony. Now he’s using procedural tricks to try to kill the HELP act. He refuses to let the majority of the house vote on this compromise plan that was worked out between Democrats and Reasonable Republicans to finally pass Medicaid expansion in Montana.

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A history lesson is in order; Wittich allegedly received money from the meth house bust tied to Western Tradition Partnership. Art Wittich won his race in 2010 that has been tied to the meth house and alleged illegal, unreported money spent on his campaign. Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl has accused Art Wittich of violating campaign law and his trial is set for 2016. This means we have the de facto leader of the Montana House awaiting trial on charges of stealing an election.

Currently, Wittich has set the hearing for the HELP act for 11am on Tuesday April 7th. The legislature does not even come back into session until 5pm on Tuesday and the House Human Services committee normally meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3pm. It never meets on Tuesday or in the mornings. Wittich is holding this hearing when no one is in the building so he can kill it with fewer spectators. He’s playing political games with people’s lives and breaking standard procedure to do the bidding of his buddies at American’s for Prosperity and The FGA (Koch Brothers front groups).

He is holding a hearing 6 hours before the house clocks back in from Easter break.  Wittich will do anything to keep the entire house from voting on the bill because he is afraid of the majority passing this bill that Montana needs.

Art Wittich is doing a spectacular job of installing himself as dictator of the 2015 Montana legislature.



16 Comments on "GUEST POST: Art Wittich Defeats Democracy; Again?"

  1. Wittich is known for playing political games with people’s lives. I mean this is a guy who once sued his own clients to turn a $90 legal bill into $3,000 in late fees.

    I agree with Mr. Kosted’s analysis and want to add a couple of additional observations about the games Wittich could be playing here.

    Perhaps he hopes that some legislators on the committee won’t be back in time for the hearing, limiting the vote and debate to a few TEA partiers he’s organized to be in attendance. It’s also possible that he’s coordinated the hearing timing with the arrival of a busload of Americans for Prosperity and Floridians for Government Accountability (FGA) astroturf, recruits as was done in Wyoming and Tennessee. This is a strategy used by Lazsloffy’s bunch in the past.

    Or perhaps this hearing, held outside of the time when the house is officially “clocked in” in session, will be subject to interim committee rules instead of regular session rules and that these will be used to argue for the bill’s defeat.

    To be sure, he probably also plans to attempt to add multiple TEA party poison bill amendments to the HELP act. We saw a similar strategy in the senate, but in the house it has an extra twist: any amendment to this bill is a poison pill at this stage, because if sent to conference committee appointed by Knudsen and Barrett, those appointees are not likely to be pro-jobs, pro-healthcare votes.

    Finally, anyone who hasn’t read this Dan Brooks piece is missing out. A must-read:

  2. There’s no difference between Art Wittich and the pilot of that Germanwings plane. Both are hellbent on destruction, regardless of the costs. Like the pilot, Wittich has little to look forward to in life.

    Why do we have to wait until 2016 for a trial? Who’s the genius who set that one up?

  3. Folks: Wittich had the hearing scheduled AFTER the house already announced its break- the reason to schedule it before they get back–and have a floor session–is to prevent the working majority from moving it out of a kill committee ( a committee like Wittich’s which was set up specifically to kill expansion- and into Business and Labor where the HELP Act and its jobs focus belongs) . The working majority passed SB 289 in this way-the compromise campaign finance reform bill- and Wittich wants to block the compromise health care and jobs bill so he’s using this slimy trick to do it.

  4. I agree that Wittich’s scheduling is suspect, but these sentences are very misleading:

    “A history lesson is in order; Wittich allegedly received money from the meth house bust tied to Western Tradition Partnership. Art Wittich won his race in 2010 that has been tied to the meth house and alleged illegal, unreported money spent on his campaign.”

    Wittich’s political practices indictment does not allege that he received money from that meth house, nor has he been directly connected to it. His alleged campaign finance violations have to do with a Bozeman direct mail company that was tied to WTP via documents found in a box in that meth house. How they got there remains unclear, but there is no evidence suggesting that Wittich received money from the meth trade or any activities going on in the house. The truth is damning enough. He deserves censure, but he doesn’t deserve a smear.

    • It was a “meth house bust” and should be called one. That’s not a smear, that’s information. What if Montana Human Rights Network got caught funneling dark money that had a “meth house” connection, even a transitory one? These far-right creatures invented prurient self-righteousness in the name of political and financial gain. Let ’em sink and swim in their own sh—. “If you want it, here it is, come and get it….”

      • Actually it was not a meth house bust. The boxes in question were the subject of a 2012 PBS “Big Sky Big Money” a Frontline story. Its possible the boxes were in a car that was stole by a meth head and thats how they ended up at the meth house in Colorado. There was a convicted felon who recognized what the documents were and got them in the hands of an attorney and from their they ended up at the Montana Commission on Political Practices. Wittich did not receive money from the meth house, but it sure is one case of delicious irony.

    • This asshole has left a SMEAR on Montana and its citizens. He does deserve to be rode out of town on a rail, after being tarred and feathered that is.

  5. What Wittich stands accused of doing is illegally coordinating with a dark money group- American Traditions Partnership- the mail vendor is the agent that was found by the courts to have facilitated that illegal coordination.

  6. Does anyone actually believe he intends to have a fair hearing? I mean, this will just be the last dog and pony show again with an executive session along party line vote right afterward. There is no need to hold the hearing again. The real action will be on the floor and in the rules committee. At that point, Wittich is one vote in a sea of 100 where the beloved working majority can hold strong.

    In a year he will be found guilty of campaign violations and unable to run. He’ll take it all the way up, but his career in politics is nearly at an end. Let him throw tantrums and feel entitled. He is a symptom of the waning of the GOP on steroids.

  7. Art Wittich, a lobbyist with a vote.

  8. Thank you for raising public awareness about this scheme. Rep. Wittich is using the chairmanship to carry out his duties for the benefit of AFP and FGA, not the people of the state.

    James Conner’s Flathead Memo also raises a curious point in the blog post “Two of Buttrey’s SB405 cosponsors vote against their bill”. These two state senators are identified as Rick Ripley and Nels Swandal.

    • Wittich, the pimp for AFP, Americans for POVERTY imposed on the working class! This is the ‘super slimy’ tactics, and the WHOLE body needs to slam him down! What committee does this before the whole
      body convenes?!! Is he that desperate?

  9. Between Pogie going after Zinke and you Wittich, man, you guys are really diddling the base. Fun to watch, but how do you sleep? Does a paycheck justify every lapse of ethics?

  10. Wittich in fine form this morning, another cruel charade, ‘wringing’ his hands to direct a short hearing to allow Sen. Buttrey to get to senate floor session by 1PM, and thinking half and half for pro/con, but it’s more
    like TWO to one, and more evidence why Wittich staged the medicaid expansion hearing for 11AM on a Tuesday, so he can manipulate the audience, put AFP shills in audience since NONE showed up at Buttrey’s
    SB405 senate hearing on the bill. Another example of Wittich’s desperate and devious tactics which legislators from both parties with integrity needs to resist.

  11. People complain about this committe and the Republicans, but it’s really no different the local politics where the city council is controlled one group. Missoula would be a good example. 100’s could show up to protest in opposition to some law and it would pass because those folks don’t listen to the people they represent. The council already has it’s mind made up just like legislative committee.

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