Author Archives: Cowgirl

Funding the Fringe

Texas Fracking Brothers Fight to Force Their Religion into Montana Laws by Backing Right-Wing Legislative Candidates

Two Texas fracking billionaires who own land in Montana are again funneling hundreds of millions into right-wing causes and candidates after it was revealed that the Texans were the top donors to Montana legislative candidates last election cycle.  The brothers backed TEA Party and religious extremists with frightening beliefs.

The brothers own land in Montana, and their father is a right-wing pastor whose influence over state and federal laws they hope to spread- including the belief that rape victims should endure forced pregnancies. (Note: This extreme view is shared by none other than Steve Daines, who is on the record in favor of forcing women to bear children from rapists.   Remember last election cycle after Rick Santorum that told CNN that rape victims should suck it up and accept “the gift” that  “God has given to you”, Daines brought Santorum out to a fundraising event he had in Montana–with Santorum as the guest of honor.)

Anyway, back to the Wilks brothers scary views.  As Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation, writes of their dad who is a wingnut pastor at their church:

In his sermons, he decries “socialism” and argues that the Bible was grounded in the free market….He has suggested that the melting of the icecaps might be punishment for sin, and that President Barack Obama’s re-election may be a harbinger of the “end times.”

Besides being the largest donors to Montana legislative candidates, the Wilks brothers also gave $4 million to the parent organization of the Montana Family Foundation, a group which in turn worked to influence legislative races–including attack mailers in GOP primaries across the state. 

The MT Family Foundation is also crusading to dummy down education standards and keep discrimination against LGBT Montanans legal.  As the School Administrators of Montana have pointed out, the Montana Family Foundation claims that higher standards for reading and math are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and that the new, better standards are the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ‘dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.”  The Family Foundation and its anti-illuminati cohorts also believe that celebrating bigotry by importing stale, greasy fast food from hundreds of miles away is a good idea.  Like the Wilks brothers, Greg Gianforte is also a major bankroller of the Montana Family Foundation.

But apparently Montana’s wingnut candidates are perfectly happy to do the bidding of out-of-state billionaires. In fact, a report by FollowtheMoney.org’s Amanda Harrow found that “70 percent of Republican legislators and 42 percent of the legislative body as a whole received contributions from the Wilkses during the 2012 election”–as did Attorney General Tim Fox.

GOPers Fret Sharia Law Conspiracy May be Afoot in Bigfork

Montana Republicans are bringing a conspiracy theorist to Bigfork this month who says Obama has handed over the internet to Islamists to enforce Sharia law

Brigitte Gabriel, leader of the right-wing anti-Muslim loons known as “ACT for America” claims in her own words that she is just saying “what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racistbigotIslamophobic, or intolerant.”

She told the New York Times that

America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.”

I guess Montana Republican are worried that these supposed radicals have also infiltrated the town of Bigfork and could be forcing Sharia law onto the community. The Repubs are bringing her in to address the issue on August 18, as you can see from this flyer, which has been sent out a few times from the Flathead County Republican Party. (Presumably President Obama is behind this evil plot.)

Gabriel claims that there is a conspiracy to impose Sharia law and Sharia courts in the American justice system. Her group also believes that elementary school classrooms are “recruiting grounds for Islam.” 

Gabriel is pretty well known for her bigoted rants, but not especially for sticking to the facts. For example, she used to go around saying that Hezbollah terrorized her family in Lebanon (she is a Lebanese Christian) for seven years–between 1975 and 1982.  She stopped making this claim after it was pointed out that Hezbollah was formed after she had already left Lebanon.

Bigfork is home to just over 4,000 people.  The latest Flathead County GOP email announcement on this came out yesterday and is pasted below the fold.

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Fact Checking GOP Hypocrisy on Federal Funds

The Montana legislature has proven itself to be more concerned with TEA Party orthodoxy than with our well-being, health, and economy. One of the most glaring examples of this is how they rejected free medcaid money for the Medicaid expansion–in a state where 16 percent of the population is still uninsured–in a state with the lowest percentage of employer-sponsored health care in the U.S.

When Montana TEA partiers and legislators try to explain why they refused money to pay for 100% of the health care benefits for 70,000 working poor Montanans for three years and never less than 90% of this cost, they try to make it sound like we’re taking on a “long-term liability” because they claim the feds will refuse to pay what they’ve committed to. Even thought this share is mandated by federal law–and even though this has never happened with Medicaid which has been operating in Montana since 1965. They say that accepting Montana’s share of this federal money makes us “lemmings about to jump off the cliff” and demand “belt tightening” to end the “tyranny” of federal funding.

Yet there is a mind-numbing level of hypocrisy on this front. It seems that some federal dollars are tyrannical lemming bait and others are not. Montanans welcome billions in federal funds that build highways, bring c130s and f15s to Great Falls, fight fires, clean up asbestos in Libby, and of course hand out  farm subsidies for Montana legislators. But when it comes to providing affordable health coverage to our working poor neighbors, some lawmakers want to draw the line. Why? Because they believe that federal funding for health coverage is somehow different than funding for concrete slabs, cleanup crews, or wildfire fighting camps. Of course, there isn’t any difference between these federal funds and the supposed dependencies they create—except in what the money pays for, and who it helps.

When Montana obstructionists refuse to accept these federal funds, they are saying that Montanan’s federal tax dollars won’t be put to work to help Montanans but will be instead sent to other states. The money won’t be circulating in Montana’s economy at all. This is beyond hypocritical: it’s just stupid. If a state rejects federal funding, that money is reallocated to other states. That’s how it works – those funds don’t magically go pay down federal debts. In when the Republican controlled house had a bill to change how federal appropriations work, the refused to even move it out of committee, so you know this is true, and its not going to be any different.

Next time you here someone trying to make the anti-federal money argument to hurt working poor families, feel free to set them straight.

 

 

Bit of a Stretch

The Montana political world was upended yesterday with the revelation that that John Walsh, our U.S. Senator and candidate, wrote a college paper in which he used language verbatim that he failed to properly attribute.  He cited the sources in footnotes, but he was using the exact language belonging to another author and did not so indicate with quotation marks.

Today, Walsh is saying that he realizes he made a mistake but has shrugged it off by saying that he is not an academic, and that we should look at his entire military record rather than a term paper. That’s a fair point.  He’s not the first person to make such a mistake. Authors of all stripes have done it.  Walsh also says that he was suffering from PTSD at the time, having just returned from Iraq, but made it very clear that he won’t blame his mistake on PTSD.

There is no question that this story will affect Walsh’s candidacy, but it should not disqualify him at all.  He’s a military leader, not Samuel Johnson. It’s not good, but it’s not anything near the outrage that the GOP is making it out to be. If Walsh was a decorated General, Awarded Bronze Star For “Exceptionally Meritorious Service,” the Commander of the National Guard, the Lt. Governor and now U.S. Senator, how can someone say that he is unqualified, in retrospect, to have been all of these things and to have won all of those medals and commendations because of a college term paper?  It’s a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, let the circus now begin.

Steve Daines, predictably, is nowhere to be seen or heard on this issue because he knows there’s no percentage, and indeed no need, for him to say anything about it.  But a week or so from now, expect to see a TV ad, probably from the Republican Party, telling us all about John Walsh’s plagiarism with scary music in the background.  Expect also to hear from veterans who will talk about how outraged they are that Walsh would try to excuse plagiarism on PTSD, which he has not done. We might even get a pure swiftboating–hear from some soldier claiming that Walsh never had PTSD.  It’s also interesting that this suddenly becomes a news story just as polls are starting to show Walsh gaining on Daines.

This is politics, and this is what happens when a story like this breaks, and their ain’t much Walsh can do beside put his best face on it and remind voters that Steve Daines plays childrens’ games in Congress and does things like throw tantrums and threaten to default on bills and shut the National Parks down–costing us $45 million in lost tourism and other dollars.  And why is no one talking about how Daines opened all kinds of factories in China while his company laid off people in the U.S.? Meanwhile Walsh served in combat has a 33-year career fighting for Montana and wants to get something done in Washington rather than play games.

As for rumblings from the internet fringe today about whether Walsh should jump off the ticket before the August deadline, enabling the party to put in someone else, I think this would make no sense.  First, there is nobody to replace him with, unless you think John Bohlinger would have a better chance against Daines right now which is debatable.  Brian Schweitzer, Linda McCulloch, Denise Juneau and Monica Lindeen have all taken a pass already. Names like Carol Williams, Dirk Adams and so on, they would be starting at zero against a sitting Congressman, and would have an impossible fundraising hill to climb.

 So this is what it is: Walsh is the best candidate for U.S. Senate, and this too shall pass.

 

Montana is at the Forefront of National Fight Against Election Corruption

A Montana case is the next battle in the fight to keep elections from being for sale to the highest bidder by keeping campaign finance limits in place.

Now, a group of leading national legal non-profit advocacy groups including Free Speech for People, former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, the American Independent Business Alliance,  the American Sustainable Business Council.the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Justice at Stake and the League of Women Voters are joining Montanans in the fight to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place.

The groups joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl.  They are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a District Court ruling that struck down Montana’s political campaign contribution limits.  Earlier, a District Court disregarded both Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent to overturn Montana’s limits on contributions to state candidates, including judges, from individuals and political parties.

In Lair v. Motl, American Traditions Partnership board member Doug Lair wants campaign finance limits abolished.  Several prominent Republican office holders and candidates in Montana caught up in the infamous Meth House Scandal, in which documents belonging to the infamous American Tradition Partnership (ATP), were found in a Colorado meth house.  The documents incriminated TEA Party Senate leader Art Wittich, Mike Miller, Derek Skees, Pat Wagman, Jerry O’Neil, Bob Wagner, Dan Kennedy, Scott Mendenhall, Wendy Warburton, Ed Butcher, and Tom Burnett to name a few.  Wager, Burnett, Miller, O’Neil and Wittich are currently running for office.

Here’s how Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, explains it:  “Campaign contribution limits are justified by an interest in ensuring political equality for all, regardless of access to wealth. When political equality is jeopardized, democracy itself is at risk.”

Justice James Nelson, a former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, and on of the court’s most respected justices, said, “Candidates for political office and elections should not be for sale to the biggest spenders. The Supreme Court has decreed that money equals speech; and contribution limits help to level a playing field tipped in favor of the big spenders by Citizens United.”  I could not agree more.

The District Court overturned the Montana’s candidate contribution limits applicable to individuals and PACs, even though the limits have already been upheld by the Ninth Circuit.

In addition to the limits on candidate contributions from individuals and PACs, the lower court struck down Montana’s limits as they apply to contributions from political party committees. Montana does not limit the amount that any individual or PAC may give to political parties, but instead restricts the “aggregate” amount a candidate can receive from his or her political party.

Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t been covered by Montana news outlets, even though its the next step in a nationwide battle to protect America’s and Montana’s elections from corruption.

After all, this case comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down longstanding limits on the total amount of money wealthy individuals could contribute to federal candidates in an election cycle. As with the Citizens United ruling which now allows unlimited corporate dollars into our elections, the high court’s McCutcheon decision is unleashing further money into the political process from wealthy interests.

We’ll see if it gets more attention by Montana reporters after the op-ed by Justice Jim Nelson and Ron Fein appeared in yesterday’s Billings Gazette.