Author Archives: Cowgirl

The TEA Party Revolving Door is in Full Swing in Montana

man-leaving-revolving-doorWhen top campaign staff and senior congressional staffers swing in and out of the TEA Party front groups working to influence elections and congressional votes, so does inside information, strategic decisions, money and special access for the TEA Party.

Some call it a form of corruption.  Whatever you call it, the revolving door often leads to TEA Partiers and members of congress working in their own self-interest, rather than that of the people of Montana.

Here are three recent developments you need to be aware of related to the TEA Party’s revolving door in Montana.

First, the Billings Gazette has reported that Zacharay Lahn has switched from his position as Steve Daines’ State director to being the state director for Americans for Prosperity, which is bankrolled by the Koch brothers, as has been often reported.

Lahn, who was also Steve Daines’ campaign manager in 2012, replaces TEA Party state senator Joe Balyeat in the position.  Balyeat was demoted to State Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile over at the Montana Policy Institute, which had gone dark after losing some major funding sources, a man named Brent Mead was hired as director to fire the right-wing “think” tank back up again.  Mead swings in from his former position as policy director for the Montana Growth network, as is noted on the also-Koch brother’s funded Americans for Tax Reform’s website.

The Montana Growth Network, as you will recall, is embattled state Sen. Jason Priest’s group which funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to buy a supreme court seat for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. The group was also revealed to be behind a barrage attack mailers poured into moderate GOP legislative districts to stop the moderates from supporting the Medicaid expansion. Most recently, some of the group’s board members tried to distance themselves from that organization after it was revealed that 70% of the Montana Growth Networks funds came from only five people.  The Montana Policy Network also has ties to ALEC and is also funded by the Kochs.

The third interesting development is that the former head of American Majority in Montana is now working for the Ryan Zinke campaign.  American Majority in Montana is the state chapter of national TEA party group out of Virginia called American Majority.    As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, American Majority gets 70% of its funding from a Koch brother’s funded group.

Jeremy Carpenter was the group’s leader.  He said publicly that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base by teaching people how to be candidates and put tea partiers in offices up and down the ballot from school board to statewide and federal races–doing field work for the TEA Party. Now he’s working for the Zinke campaign as a field director.

All of these groups will be working to influence elections in Montana, and perhaps most frighteningly legislative campaigns. Whether through get out the vote efforts, thinly disguised “issue ads”–attack mailers that read “tell said democrat that kids and puppies don’t deserve to be murdered” mailed out right before ballots, and by organizing right-wing campus groups to train volunteers for campaigns.


Steve Daines and the Environmental Boogeyman

Steve Daines is an embarrassment.

Steve Daines is an embarrassment. He’s bad for the state.

Steve Daines has a new radio ad on the air, in which Daines portrays himself as the protector of the timber industry, keeping timber mills and loggers safe from “fringe environmentalists” and “extreme environmental groups.”  A narrator also describes Daines as “ranked as one of the most effective congressmen” although she doesn’t cite any study or group that made this dubious determination.

 Listen to this idiotic advertisement, or read the transcript, here.

Daines has simply dusted off a twenty-year-old playbook for these ads:  Environmentalists are shutting down the state and costing us jobs, and we must fight against their lawsuits and the federal regulations that they have persuaded Obama to enact.  Montanans could all be rich from natural resource development if the environmentalists would simply get out of the way.

There’s one problem with the radio ad: In the sixty seconds of narration and sound bites from Daines, timber owners and loggers, nobody cites a single item, a single tangible thing, that environmentalists have recently done to effect the loss of jobs or the decline of the timber industry.  The script is simply Daines and his supporters talking about how he has “stood up” to “environmental radicals.”

Now, if the discussion were about coal or fossil fuels, Daines could at least claim credit for voting against, or opposing publicly, whatever is currently being advocated for in DC by the environmental community, such as EPA regulations, carbon limits, and so and and so forth.  Those are not radical ideas or proposals, but they at least are real.

Daines has instead decided to create a nebulous boogeyman, “the fringe environmentalists,” and claim himself as working hard to vanquish it insofar as it is trying to destroy the timber industry.

There is a reason that Daines can’t point to anything to substantiate his claim, not a single timber sale that has been blocked or federal law that has Obama has signed that have negatively affected the timber business: because there really aren’t any.  The cold fact is that the timber industry–in fact the entire wood products industry–in Montana has been devastated in recent years by one thing, and one thing only: the bursting of the housing bubble.  The market for the product crashed, and has not returned nearly to where it was.

But that doesn’t really matter now, because Daines has discovered, likely through polling and other market research, that if you tell persuadable voters that timber jobs have been lost due to the activities of “fringe environmentalists,” they are ignorant and misinformed enough to believe it.  Which is enough for Daines.  That’s Steve Daines’s brand of leadership.  Enjoy it.

Zinke and the Vote Suppression Campaign

Here is a juicy nugget for you all to chew on: 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.

Does this mean that Ryan Zinke supports LR-126?  LR 126 is a ballot measure, written and promoted by Tea Partiers who want to make it difficult for Democratic voters to cast a vote. Specifically, they want to prevent elderly people, Indians, lower-income people and others who tend to register on election day from being able to vote.  What is Zinke’s position on this measure and why has he hired as a senior aide the person who is apparently leading the charge?

The committee has an Orwellian name: Montanans for Equality. You can view the latest campaign filing here.

TEA Party Leader Leaves Door to Medicaid Expansion Open

The statements of disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich [pronounced "WIT-ick!"] reveal a major shift in TEA Party rhetoric about the Medicaid expansion in an article in the Bozeman Chronicle this weekend.

Rather than close the door completely on any kind of Medicaid expansion, as Wittich has done in the past, the former Senate GOP leader told the Bozeman Chronicle that he is “not opposed to negotiating a Medicaid expansion program” but that his version would look different than what has been proposed by Democrats.  By doing so, Wittich is signaling that conservatives have moved on from a single-minded focus on blocking health care for the working poor. This is a major shift and an interesting development in the discussion.  It shows Wittich is willing to publicly admit that conservatives may no longer simply refuse to move forward.

To be sure, in the same article Wittich was again caught lying many times about the Medicaid expansion and how it is paid for, saying he opposes how it is funded.  So he must be called out for these lies once again.  He’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own version of the facts. 

First, Wittich tries to claim that, “Medicaid was never supposed to be an insurance program. It was meant to provide services to disabled people.”

Fact:  Medicaid provides health coverage to children, seniors, pregnant women, babies, and parents in every state. Able-bodied childless adults have been eligible for Medicaid coverage in other states for decades, thanks to the major Medicaid initiative of the George H.W. Bush administration.

This initiative, called the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) initiative or HIFA Waiver program, was created by the Bush administration in 2001 and has been used in many states to provide full basic healthcare coverage to childless non-disabled adults.

The next lie Wittich tells is that “community health centers are funded differently [than Medicaid expansion] eliminating the fear that federal government debt would force states to pay increasingly large shares of the Medicaid program.”

Fact: The federal government has never cut Medicaid support for states.

This is a lie that Wittich has used several times, and it has several times been disproven.  First, the Washington Post has explained that the federal government cutting support for Medicaid would be an “unprecedented” move, as the government has only increased its share of expenditures since the program’s inception and has never reduced them below their original percentage:

There is one time the federal government did fiddle with funding levels, in the late 2000s. That, which you can see in the [below] chart, was to increase their share of Medicaid spending during the recession.


I know that Wittich does not like being fact checked by this blog.  It’s probably why he’s attacked my blog in public speeches.  However Wittich did not dispute the facts of any of my posts, rather he tried to attack me personally by flatly proclaiming that I’m not a woman, that I’m not a Montanan and that I “don’t know anything about cows.”  Why he thinks this is beyond me.

But I do know that politicians who lie put their reputations and careers at risk when their lies are exposed. Perhaps he’s still worried that if he sticks to the facts people aren’t going to be pleased with his and Jason Priest’s actions to block health care for 70,000 working poor Montanans. Perhaps he’s worried about the thousands of Medicaid expansion ballot initiative signers who vote in this district.  Perhaps for these reasons he is now leaving the door open for Medicaid expansion, in some form or another, to move forward.

Both Wittich and Priest were senate leaders during the last session – but neither will be back in the senate.  Wittich will be running for house, while Priest faces felony partner and family member assault charges.

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

MonfortonTinFoil…TEA Party legislative candidate Matthew Monforton. Monforton has filed yet another lawsuit to get his name in the paper close down MT primaries, claiming that there is a need to keep democrats from infiltrating them. Monforton has no proof that this happened, because ballots are secret. However it has been proven already by several major papers that this year a bunch of  local Tea Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. Monforton was silent on this dirty, below-the-belt, highly dishonest stuff, and so he is certainly this week’s leading hypocrite.  Congratulations are not in order.

If you weren’t sick of the entire Monforton Melodrama already, you will be today. This individual has filed perhaps his 9th or 10th lawsuit of the election season (and really it is too tiresome to count them). It’s all getting rather ridiculous.

Monforton refuses to acknowledge two simple facts. First, that the voters of Montana rejected the wingnut faction of the GOP this primary season. This is Monforton’s own faction so that concept must undoubtedly be a difficult one for him. Second,  that if the Republican party in Montana had really wanted this, they would have put it in place a long time ago. Even yesterday, the GOP executive director Bowen Greenwood stopped short of calling the lawsuit a good idea.  Instead, he said that his “personal” opinion, and not that of the GOP, it is certainly a “strong” idea–”…but I’m not inclined to spend valuable time and resources” on it.  Ouch.

Greenwood was not smart to say even that much. Closing primaries in MT would harm Montana Republicans, not help them. A large number of independent and third party conservatives would, rather than registering as a member of any political party, simply be disinclined to participate.

But this is about Monforton’s hypocrisy, not the problems with his proposals.  By refusing to address the eight fake candidates–the TEA Partiers who filed as Democrats in a nasty plot to invade and infect the Democratic Party, Trojan Horse style–Monforton shows that his strategy is one of press release by lawsuit rather than improving elections. Especially because Monforton even recruited one of the fake “democrats” to be the plaintiff in one of his frivolous lawsuits–his lawsuit to block a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. 

He is a hypocrite, and at this point, a most tiresome one.