GUEST POST: Wittch, Gianforte push dangerous activities that violate freedom of speech

Pat NoonanPat Noonan is a democratic legislator running for PSC against Roger Koopman, and a great guy.

by Rep. Pat Noonan

 State Rep. Pat Noonan, D-Butte, is running for the Public Service Commission’s District 3 seat — which encompasses southwestern Montana.

One of the basic rules of campaigning for elected office is to stay focused on your issues. In the chaotic world of today’s politics, it is easy to be distracted by inconsequential issues and subsequently miss those that you could have solved. This is especially true in my campaign for the Public Service Commission.

The PSC is an increasingly important regulatory body that affects every Montanan’s pocket books. There is much to understand about the power of the Commission most of all the dangers of having the Commission controlled by a single-minded narrow ideology.

I am breaking this basic rule today because I believe the struggle for an open and inclusive democracy is everyone’s responsibility. Promoting civility in public discourse, allowing all issues full review, is in the best interest of everyone -– Democrats, Republicans and Independents. This is why this past week I was alarmed and disappointed by the recent actions of my colleague, Belgrade Representative Art Wittich.

Obviously, since he lost his primary election I am not concerned about his impact on future legislative sessions. What concerns me is Rep. Wittich’s conviction that intimidation and threats are acceptable as means to close the marketplace of ideas. Last week he sued a constituent who wrote a letter to the editor in opposition to his unsuccessful candidacy. An elected official suing constituents who write letters to the editor has a chilling effect on not only that letter-writers’ participate in their government, but also silences others who may want to use the public forum. We all must stand up for our critical First Amendment right to free speech.

Suing citizens who write to the local paper, however, is not Rep. Wittich’s most heinous offense. He is also suing in an attempt to violate the privacy rights of Montana citizens. He is seeking to access critical healthcare data and this cynical ploy should be called out for what it is, a plot to get through intimidation what he couldn’t achieve through the democratic process in the legislature.

I was proud to sponsor the bill on Medicaid expansion and I was proud to work with many of my friends across the aisle to see that it passed. In those deliberations Rep. Wittich wanted to kill the effort to increase Montanans covered with health insurance, but because of bipartisan efforts, a compromise was proposed and subsequently passed. Rep. Wittich obviously could not accept the results of the democratic process at the Legislature, so he decided to sue in an attempt to frighten Montanans into not joining the health exchanges.

Rep. Wittich did make sure that the critical infrastructure bill was not passed and boasts of it every chance he gets. How cynical, how destructive, to work against the public interest when you on don’t get your way. Greg Gianforte has joined in with his own frivolous and dangerous anti-free speech lawsuits. Gianforte is suing radio and television stations, shouting down attempts at public discourse. This is not the political world most of us want, but we will be cursed with it until each of us say enough is enough. I hope you will join me in calling out these dangerous activities that violate our freedoms of speech and privacy.



6 Comments on "GUEST POST: Wittch, Gianforte push dangerous activities that violate freedom of speech"

  1. The “marketplace of ideas” has become the cage of mixed martial arts. Today expressions of ideas or positions elicit personal attacks and childish tantrums. What is so hard about responding to a bad idea or one a person doesn’t agree with, with a better idea or argument or evidence? It would help, before responding, to repeat or paraphrase an argument or idea to demonstrate an understanding of it. Once establishing that, demonstrate through evidence and argument why a another person’s argument or idea fails. If you have a better argument or evidence than I have, bring it on and I will change my opinion. That’s the way thinking people do it.

    Name calling, violence and vitriol, on the other hand, are all non-starters and do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to change anyone’s mind. Who, on the right or the left, ever said “you have a good point” after being called any kind of “-tard,” or unpatriotic, criminal, stupid, or evilly motivated? Likewise, litigating political speech is, in my opinion, silly, and fails to refute speech one objects to. As Pat observes, the best it can do is have a chilling effect on discussing ideas. We can do better, we must do better, to salvage the benefit of free speech as a means to improve our democracy and our society.

  2. Old Line Democrat | August 5, 2016 6:23 PM at 6:23 PM |

    It is interesting that these teapartiers or whatever they have now morphed into are so dedicated to hiding their motives and trying to intimidate anyone who questions them. These folks have instituted voter suppression legislation here in Montana of a type that is being overturned by federal courts across the nation. They refuse to negotiate or even discuss anyone else’s ideas, particularly in the tax cuts as economic stimulus arena, even though it has failed on such a grand scale in states like Kansas where these folks were given carte blanche to enact these tired, failed policies. And the worst of all is the triumph of the “Citizen’s United” concept of being able to spend your money on “free speech” but you don’t have to share any responsibility for the results because you remain anonymous. It speaks volumes about the believes these folks espouse. They want to support views anonymously to promote their own private interests but don’t want anyone to know who they are and then set their “attack dogs” like Wittich and Monforton to attempt to intimidate anyone who challenges or exposes them. A very clear statement on the weaknesses of their beliefs. They can’t be defended in a true public forum, so they stoop to these tactics. Too bad so many Montanan’s have taken the bait and are now writhing on the hook.

  3. As I read it, Art “the most corrupt politician in Montana History, based on fines” Wittich is suing, will lose, will appeal an so forth in his determined quest complete a hat trick and go zero for three before the Montana Supreme Court.

  4. Art Wittch doesn’t understand Montana politics or Montana history. In 1982, Larry Williams who was a Republican candidate for US Senate sued a constituent for libel. The Montana Supreme Court decided the case (DA82-50). The court said Williams was a public official and he could not expect to prevail when a citizen defamed him. Slander/libel of a public official seems to be a voter’s first amendment right in Montana. If Wittich keeps up these frivolous lawsuits, he will be in court declaring bankrupcy due to excessive legal fees.

  5. Montana Mountain Man | August 19, 2016 12:58 AM at 12:58 AM |

    wittich is an evil crybaby and should be behind bars.

    • Ready for a dose of reality?

      “Jeff Essmann, executive director of the Montana Republican Party, believes the state GOP has the advantage heading into election season. He said his party’s list of candidates is the strongest it has been in more than 30 years.

      All but Gregg Gianforte, who’s vying to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, has run a campaign before, Essmann said. The GOP’s statewide delegates are also strong, he believes.”

      Martin Kidston, I do not know you,or the Missoula Current, but thank you and associates very much for advancing journalism!
      I had no idea over in progressive Missoula, the printed Missoulian newspaper has been without a City Editor.

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