Author Archives: Cowgirl

Powerful New Ad Shows Why We Should Not Let GOP Legislators Take Our Voting Rights

“The Right to Vote is the Basis of Freedom.” Lance Cpl. Tomy Parker, Ronan, MT

It’s pretty telling that the GOP-controlled legislature put LR-126 on the ballot to restrict our voting rights.  Vote no on LR-126, and spread the word about the republicans who voted for it.

Every single Republican state senator voted to restrict our voting rights. Every single one.

The treasurer of the committee that has been formed to advocate for L-R126–the ballot measure that would eliminate election-day registration and result in thousands of Montanans being unable to vote–is a woman named Shelby DeMars, who also happens to be Ryan Zinke’s campaign spokesperson.



Lawrence VanDyke Left Some Things Out of His Candidate Bio

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Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke has omitted from his candidate bio and website that he is part of a group of attorneys called the Blackstone Project whose aim is to “reorder society” and turn the U.S. into a theocracy.

The Blackstone Project and its “Fellows,” of whom VanDyke is one, have committed to commit to using their legal careers “to ‘reorder society’ according to a ‘christendomic’ worldview, in which there is no separation between church and state,”  as the women’s reproductive health news organization RH Reality Check reports.  The Alliance Defending Freedom to Discriminate Against LGBT People runs the Blackstone Project.

The Cowgirl Blog has obtained information that shows VanDyke’s affiliation with Alliance Defending Freedom–and his membership in the group’s Blackstone Fellowship Project, which can be seen here. [screenshot]

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.05.32 AMAs RH Reality Check reports, Blackstone Project Fellows strive “to glorify God as society is reordered bit by bit according to His design.”  The project includes readings from the Christian Reconstructionism Movement.  As the Southern Poverty Law Center reports, Christian Reconstructionism is “a theocratic movement that seeks to demolish American democracy and replace it with the legal code of the Old Testament, which calls for stoning to death adulterers, homosexuals and in some cases, wayward children.”  

Lawrence VanDyke chose to omit these things from his candidate bio-nor does he mention his own bachelor’s degree in theology [screenshot]. These things are not mentioned on his webpage [screenshot] and he doesn’t mention them in his ads or in interviews with the media.

Voters have a right to know who this man really is and what his true objective is in this race. It’s pretty clear VanDyke left these things out because he knows that the voters of Montana don’t want our society reordered into a theocracy, taking us back to the Dark Ages. Plus these revelations wipe out his whole campaign message – in which he has tried to make the case that Montanans shouldn’t vote for someone who would inject personal ideology into the race–someone like VanDyke himself.

Indeed it seems there is somewhat of a cloud of secrecy not just around VanDyke’s role in the Blackstone Project, but around the Blackstone Project itself, which does not publicize its relationships between Project Fellows and state offices of Attorney’s General and has insisted in public statements that they are “not the illuminati.” So at this point we do not know if VanDyke was recruited to work for Fox specifically for Blackstone Project purposes or because Fox just works hard to recruit any variety of wingnut.

However,  it is interesting to note that Tim Fox’s replacement for Van Dyke is said to be an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney too.  Word on the street is that Dale Schowengerdt, who made a name for himself defending business owners who discriminate against LGBT people, will be the next solicitor for AG Fox.  He’ll likely show up in the marriage equality case pending before Judge Morris in Great Falls. (That’s the case VanDyke is alleged to have quit over after refusing to work on it.) If it comes out that Fox is recruiting lawyers based on their goals to reorder society into a theocracy then this issue indeed could become not just Van Dyke’s problem but Fox’s as well.  

Perhaps it is time for another public records request for all communications between Fox’s staff and this group.

Hate Group Hosted Fundraiser for Lawrence VanDyke

Today, more details were revealed about the Washington DC fundraiser held for Supreme Court Candidate Lawrence VanDyke by the so-called Family Research Council, a group the the Southern Poverty Law Center designated as a hate group.

If you aren’t familiar with this group yet, you should know that the Family Research Council is totally dedicated to promoting hatred, denigration, misinformation and discrimination against  LGBT Americans.  The group’s leader is Tony Perkins who is on the record as supporting Uganda’s “kill all gays” bill.  [screenshot here] The group even lobbied Congress to try to convince the U.S. not to condemn the Ugandan law.

Tony Perkins has a history of working with white-supremacist organizations, the SPLC explains:

In 1996…Perkins paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of former Klan chieftain David Duke. The campaign was fined $3,000 (reduced from $82,500) after Perkins and Jenkins filed false disclosure forms in a bid to hide their link to Duke. Five years later, on May 17, 2001, Perkins gave a speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described black people as a “retrograde species of humanity.”

As Right Wing Watch reported today, among those donating to VanDyke at the fundraiser were prominent figures in the War on Women and anti-gay movements, including leaders of the militant anti-choice group Americans United for Life , Koch Brothers-funded groups, and the anti-gay hate group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Today’s Must-Read Political Blog Post

Is up on Preserve the Beartooth Front, where David Katz writes about how the Montana Supreme Court race could impact the front’s future.  You can read it here:

Outside corporate interests are trying to shift the balance of the Montana Supreme Court. What it means for oil drilling along the Beartooth Front.


ANALYSIS: Curtis Puts Daines on Defense in U.S. Senate Debate

Today, it was made quite clear why Steve Daines has sought to desperately to avoid debating democrat Amanda Curtis in the U.S. Senate race. Tonight’s debate was Daines’ to lose.  And he did.

Daines’ strategy throughout the campaign (and indeed throughout his tenure as a member of Congress) has been to try to hide his true views, beliefs, and acts from Montana voters–all while voting as Montana’s most extreme-right member of Congress in state history.  But tonight, Amanda Curtis made sure the TEA Party congressman had to answer for some of his ideological oddities–and his actual voting record–and it was quite a treat to watch.

Daines looked visibly shaken several times after he tried to answer a question, only to have Curtis, a high school math teacher and popular state legislator, point out how his voting record contradicted his claims.  Daines has never had an opponent go toe to toe with him before, and he was clearly not comfortable being called out for his true views.

Take, for example, the statement Daines made in answer to Dennison’s question about how banning abortion served the people of Montana.  Daines tried to say he supports access to birth control, but Curtis pointed out that Daines actually voted to ban it.  In response, Daines awkwardly muttered something about how he hopes his daughter has access to birth control “some day.”  I guess he means some day after he is no longer in Congress.  It was a very strange moment in the debate.

Obviously the new GOP thing is for their candidates to try to hide their anti-birth control history and message – clearly they’ve realized they can’t win otherwise.  Daines tried to make us believe he supported birth control, but he couldn’t quite pull it off.

Even if he hadn’t flubbed the question tonight, women are figuring out that that Daines has made repeated attempts to take away our rights as women to make our own healthcare decisions, outlaw birth control, eliminate prevention efforts and authorize the IRS to audit rape victims. In the past, Daines has also tried to claim that he supports victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but of course what he does not mention is that he voted against funding the same domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs he touts.

Another golden moment in the debate came when Curtis pointed out that we need a better representative in the Senate than someone who throws tantrums with the whole government shutdown and ACA repeal idiocy. Surprisingly, Daines refused to say he wouldn’t vote to shutdown the government again – even after being asked the question twice.  Even after it was pointed out by Curtis that Daines refused to say he wouldn’t shut down the government again.

I was surprised that the TEA Party Congressman ran from his own anti-Affordable Care Act votes – claiming he hadn’t voted for 40 of the 50 some ACA repeal measures the U.S. house passed.   Daines said he only voted for repeal once.  Which is easily disproven. Daines himself has bragged about his repeal votes in his press releases and public statements, but I guess he forgot about that – or hopes we did. Curtis didn’t.

It’s interesting also to see how defensive Daines was on the GOP boondoggle conceived by TEA Party GOP vice-Chair Jennifer Fielder and TEA Party Rep. Kerry White - the public land grab scheme they passed unanimously at the GOP convention.    The GOP legislators’ proposal was so unpopular that it must have started to hurt their federal candidates in the polls, because now we see both Zinke and Daines running from an idea they both have publicly supported.

Perhaps it was Zinke and Daines who convinced the TEA party imbeciles in the Montana legislature to nix their own proposal to try to cauterize the wound they inflicted on their own party.

Amanda Curtis and John Lewis have both been successful in putting their opponents on defense simply by shining a light on what they really stand for.  And this strategy I suspect will continue to close the ever narrowing gap in the polls.

I’m interested to see what others who heard the debate think.  Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a good factcheck of the statements Daines made tonight online here.

Live Blog of the Curtis Daines Debate

5:57 pm I had thought that Twitter put live blogging out of business, but others say Twitter in Montana political circles is still a tiny niche audience and live blogging reaches more people – would be interested in what readers think.  You can follow the debate here for regular updates.

6:02 Audience asked not to clap, hiss or boo.  Amanda Curtis introduced first as a Butte High School math teacher and Montana legislator.

6:04 pm Debate moderators introduced: Mike Dennison of Lee Newspapers, Jackie Yamanaka of Yellowstone Public Radio, and TV reporter and political director for KXLH, Sanjay Talwani.

6:06 pm First question on ISIS – Curtis says we can’t be the world’s police and we must ask where the money will come from

Daines claims the president lacks strategy and needs approval of congress. Daines tries to say the response to ISIS is “secure our borders.”

Daines asked how we will pay for ISIS threat but avoids question with “secure the homeland” platitudes.

6:08 pm  Daines asked if he would shut down the government again. Tries to blame president Obama for government shut down. Says it “takes two” to shut down the government. Total cop-out. Tries to justify it by saying he didn’t take a salary during that time.

Curtis reminds audience that Daines voted for shutdown and is so out of touch he can afford to go without pay which is something most Montanans can’t do. Gets audible agreement from audience.

Daines asked again to answer the question of whether he would vote for the shut down again.  Curtis points out that Daines didn’t say he would not vote for a shutdown again.


6:14 pm Talwani question for Daines on repealing Affordable Care Act and replacing it with “tort reform”  Will this really help people get health insurance?


Daines says response to health care is “tax deductions” and tort reform to save money.  Also Health Savings Accounts – doesn’t mention these mean nothing without health coverage.  Daines also tries to say that ACA should be repealed because not everyone will have insurance coverage even though it passed.  Makes no sense.


6:19 pm Sanjay T. points out  in a question to Daines: if people can’t afford health insurance, can these people afford health savings accounts – will they benefit from tax cuts?

6:22 pm  Dennison asks Daines about his statement that abortion should be illegal in most cases.  His true position is that he opposes abortion in ALL cases, even when a woman is raped.

Curtis nails Daines for voting for a bill to ban most forms of birth control.

Daines is saying something weird about how the first amendment supposedly limits birth control. As Curtis points out, Daines is saying he supports Hobby Lobby decision to let corporations decide which women get birth control and which do not.  Well done Curtis.

6:28 pm Debate is half over – taking a 1 minute break.

6:30 pm – Odd Question from Jay Kohn about whether “one of us” means a dumber U.S. Senate.  Curtis points out that the founders did not intend corporations to run the U.S. Senate and Curtis says you don’t need to be a silver-spoon fed politician to be a good senator.

Follow up – asked if Curtis has the experience to be a good U.S. Senator.  Curtis says she has dedicated her life to education because it is the pathway out of poverty. Daines is saying something weird about his grandparent’s high school mascot….trying to relate to normal people I guess after Amanda’s comments about relating to working families.  Not really impressed by this pathetic response by Daines.

6:34 pm Daines called on carpet by Jay Kohn for touting a bill in one of his campaign ads that has never even passed – his so-called balanced budget act.  In my opinion, it is disingenuous to take credit for a bill that never passed.  As Jay said – “isn’t this just a symbolic bill with no teeth?”  Kohn calls the ad false.

Glad to see moderator holding Daines accountable.

6:36 pm Jackie Y. asks Daines about what his real concrete specific Medicare reform proposals are.  Daines is saying he supports “reforms” but is not saying what they are.  He again avoids the question.  It’s becoming a theme tonight (Daines avoiding answering.)

6:39 pm Daines claims the Affordable Care Act harms in-home health care for seniors, says he knows this anecdotally.  Curtis reminds audience that Daines has a 10% (abysmal) rating with seniors groups.

6:40 pm Dennison to Curtis - Why should I support you if I’m a gun owner?  Curtis points out she does not opposed guns and was just out shooting recently.  Daines goes all TEA Party liberty and freedom language on guns, says guns are not about hunting….

6:41 pm Curtis points out that Daines has lowest rating on conservation/public lands of any politician ever in MT – a 4%.

6:42 pm Talwani asks Daines why he refuses to compromise on public lands solution proposed by Tester that would result in logging and timber jobs – a solution that can actually pass.  Daines says Tester’s bill is “a good start.”  But he doesn’t say why he wouldn’t vote for it.

Curtis said she supports Forest Jobs and Recreation Act as a true compromise by Tester.  Says Daines didn’t support the Montana solution and instead is forcing a DC solution Montanans don’t back.

6:46 pm Jackie Y.:  What do you think should be done on immigration to protect public health?  Curtis supports doctors and agencies working to protect us from biological threats. Points out that Daines voted for shutdown, which harmed these agencies.

Daines repeats “secure the borders” pablum again.  Starts telling some anecdote he heard from a Texas house member. Says “secure the borders” a few more times.  Says the threat of ebola and national security is at stake.

Curtis says she supports immigration reform.

6:49 pm Dennison asks how Daines jobs rhetoric isn’t just warmed over trickle down economics.  Daines launches into his same talking points in response.  Seems to believe Keystone pipeline is some kind of magical talisman for the middle class.

6:52 pm And at this point, the live stream from KUFM’s website appears to be no longer functional. (Or Charter internet just stinks–always need to remember this possibility is probably the most likely.)

6:53 pm Last question about to be asked.  MSU-B poll says 20-25% still decided in the race.  Candidates asked to give their final pitches.

Curtis says people should be able to retire without worrying about where their groceries are from.  Says out public lands shouldn’t be sold off and that Medicare shouldn’t be a voucher system.  Daines thinks corporations are people and money is speech.  Intermittent cheering.

Daines says he “grew up a sportsman” and has an A plus rating for NRA. Says “Montanans vote their guns.” More jobs blah blah blah – I’m not Obama, basically.  (Curtis pointed out earlier that Obama isn’t on the ballot.)  Daines tries to say his background is different than most in congress.  Bwhahahahahha!  Right.  Basically keeps saying “I’m not Obama.”  Really embarrassing.

Curtis says choice is between Daines, most extreme Congressman Montana has ever had, and a woman like herself. Says she’ll help all sectors of economy, not just big corporations. Says as Montana’s first female senator she’ll vote for equal pay for equal work and FOR the minimum wage.  Loud cheering, louder and longer than for Daines.

Debate concludes.



GUEST POST: Preserve the Power of the Vote

by Jackie Gysler

While 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Montana women’s right to vote, few Montanans can compete with $10,000 to $425,000 campaign donations.

Only 28% of Ryan Zinke’s donations and 33% of Steve Daine’s donations come from Montanans compared to over 70% of John Lewis’s and Amanda Curtis’s funds. Zinke’s recent fundraiser cost $10,000/couple with John Boehner who leads the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever, with only a 10% approval rating. Steve Daines collected $425,000 from a Wall Street billionaire and vulture capitalists. Corporate fundraisers are the newest fad in Washington, D.C., thanks to fewer anti-corruption rules.

Your vote is extremely important!

In 2012, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices, many whom were nominated with a religious promise to strike down a woman’s right to vote on her own reproduction, struck down Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, diminishing the right to vote of all Americans.

As a result, in 2012, 75% of Montanans voted for a referendum directing Montana’s two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Congressman to create a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to stop unlimited corporate money from buying elections. In September 2014, Republican U.S. Senators blocked this bill.

Can you afford to buy politicians?

Preserve the power of the vote! Get your community to vote for math teacher Amanda Curtis to be Montana’s first female US Senator, and instead of the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever, vote John Lewis starting October 6th at your county courthouse!

Let me know if you see this in newspapers or can help get it into your local newspaper.

Jackie Gysler
Bigfork/Wolf Point
jigysler (at)

Montana Supreme Court Candidate Compares Pregnant Women to Animals in Emails about Abortion Ban

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An email from a candidate for the Montana Supreme Court surfaced this week in which he compared pregnant women and fetuses to animals.

Suggesting that if it applies to animals, it applies to women, VanDyke sent an email from his state government account to an Ohio attorney recommending that Ohio amend an amicus brief to reference animal pain statutes to bolster the case against women’s medical privacy in Ohio.  You can read VanDyke’s email and his edits to the referenced amicus brief here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.00.57 PMThe fact that VanDyke spent so much time on right-wing causes in other states like this has recently become a focal point in the Supreme Court race. You see, during VanDyke’s very brief stint as a Montana Department of Justice employee, he spent much of his time chasing down right wing lawsuits in other states rather than working on Montana laws as he was asked.  

According to emails from high-ranking DOJ management, KXLH reported, this created frustrations and problems for the other attorneys who had to pick up his slack while VanDyke pursued his wingnut agenda in other states instead of doing the Montana work we taxpayers were paying him for.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 9.53.15 PMEven worse, VanDyke fails to grasp that women, unlike animals, have fully functioning brains and the ability to make choices.  VanDyke isn’t just comparing women to animals: he’s assuming that women are incapable of making our own medical decisions and that, like animals, he should be making choices for us.

Montana doesn’t need a judge who applies animal laws to women.

But at least with these remarks coming to light one mystery is solved.  We now know why the National Republican Party is spending more on this race than VanDyke has raised himself for his entire campaign.  This is a party for which comparing women to animals to try to justify taking away our basic constitutional rights is a key tenet.

TEA Party Republican Rep. Keith Regier made statewide news in 2011 when he compared pregnant women to livestock in the Montana legislature.  And TEA Party Republican Rep. Krayton Kerns earned national derision when he compared Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke to a rutting bulldog for advocating for contraception coverage. And there have been many others who have done this on the national scene.


GOPer Sabotages Own Campaign by Sending Out Wrong Election Date

Another telling profile in GOP leadership has emerged from the Flathead today.

A postcard arrived in local mailboxes recently from conservative candidate Phil Mitchell, who is running for Flathead County commissioner.  It reads:

Remember to return your absentee ballot by June 2nd, or vote at polls on June 3rd. I appreciate your vote.    — Phil


If Mitchell’s campaign can’t be bothered to send out correct information about his own election, that says a lot about what kind of commissioner he’d make.

mitchell commissioner mailer

The election is November 4th.