Author Archives: Cowgirl

Meet the Corporations that Want a Montana Supreme Court Seat

Corporate Lobbyists, GOP Operatives Set Up PAC to Back TEA Party Supreme Court Candidate

A barrage of mailers arrived in Montanans’ boxes this week, sent by a group calling itself Montanans for a Fair Judiciary PAC.   The newly-created PAC is spending big money to put another TEA Partier into the Supreme Court who will represent corporate interests over yours.

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A look at who is behind the mailers make it clear that the Montana Republican machine is kicking its big money power brokers into gear for VanDyke. Here we see they have set up yet another corporate astroturf PAC to use big money to drown out citizens’ interest in the Montana Supreme Court race.

Let’s look at who’s really behind this newly created “group.”   The so-called “Montanans for a Fair Judiciary PAC” was filed on Sept. 9, 2014 with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office. The PAC’s officers are listed as Jesse Luther, Wendy Smith, and Jake Eaton. Smith and Eaton both list 47 North Communications as their place of employment and e-mail contact.

Readers of this blog know Jake Eaton well.  He’s the former Executive Director of the Montana Republican Party–the one who was forced to resign over the scandal to make it more difficult for 6,000 Montanans to vote.   Eaton has also worked for former  TEA Party Congressman Dennis Rehberg and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Eaton’s firm was the one Jason Priest and Ed Walker used to do the dirty work of the dark money group they set up to buy the last Supreme Court race for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. But they weren’t satisfied with just one seat. Priest, Wittich, Essmann and others were the TEA Party were caught emailing each other about their plot to take over the supreme court when a reporter their plot was leaked to the press last session.  

And yes, this is the same group is the group Art Wittich and Jason Priest used send mailers out to attack moderates who tried to support medicaid expansion last session.

Wendy SmithThe treasurer of the Montana for a Fair Judiciary PAC is Wendy Smith, who is not identified on the 47 North website, but does have a 47 North e-mail address and lists it on the PAC’s official paperwork, as you can see here: Montana for a Fair Judiciary PAC – Filing with Office of Commissioner of Political Practices

Leo Barry, Corporate Lobbyist, has set up a political action committee to influence the Supreme Court race in his favor.

Leo Berry, Corporate Lobbyist, whose firm has set up a political action committee to influence the Supreme Court race in his favor.

The third agent of the Montanans for the Fair Judiciary PAC is Jesse Luther, an attorney with Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry and Hoven, P.C., one of Montana’s largest corporate law firms. Luther is an Associate of the firm, serving its two notorious top extractive industry and large corporate lobbyists, Leo Barry and Mark Taylor.

Mark Taylor, Corporate Lobbyist

Mark Taylor, another Corporate Lobbyist whose firm set up a PAC to influence the outcome of the Supreme Court Race

If you’re not yet familiar with the work of Berry, Taylor and Luther, you’ll know their clients.

Here are a few as listed at the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices):

Coal Mountain Mining, LP

Montana Contractors Association

National Association of Publicly Traded Partnerships

3M Traffic Safety and Security Division

Intoximeters, INC


Montana Self Insurers Association

Consumer Data Industry Association

Phillips 66

MHA, Montana Hospital Association, An Association of Montana Health Care Providers

BNSF Railway Company

Benefis Healthcare

Anheuser-Busch Companies

Ash Grove Cement Company

and several others…

(Don’t you just love that they can work for Monsanto, Big Booze and the Hospitals at the same time.)

The fact that Leo Berry and Mark Taylor are going after Mike Wheat and putting big money behind VanDyke is indeed telling. These corporations want a court that represents their interests over ours.


P.S. With every day that goes by it becomes more clear that Lawrence VanDyke is a TEA Party Republican with strong ties to the GOP’s right wing and big corporate interests. One only needs follow the money to see the truth–you won’t get it from VanDyke, which is troubling.


GUEST POST:  A letter the US Senators of Montana

[This is a guest post by David M. Jordan who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy and lives on Georgetown Lake.]  


I question the appropriateness of Ryan Zinke using his military background as the basis for a political campaign. I believe his actions denigrate all who have served in the US military, worn the uniform with pride, and do not expect acclaim for our deeds; that his actions could be conceived as being condoned by the US Navy as being in violation of US Navy Uniform Regulations, which prohibit the wearing of the uniform or any part of it for political aims, seems to have not occurred to Mr. Zinke.

We who have been retired from the US Navy long enough to realize that most people get tired of hearing about it real quick, have many medals and decorations among our souvenirs have had experiences that we might sometimes reluctantly share if someone asks. We can put some things on a resume and some things we can’t. None of us can hang up a sign with our stars or chevrons and a gentleman really never brags. We care for our families and our way of life as we always have.

Mr. Zinke, on the other hand, has really not been a civilian long enough understand that he is selling his uniform and insignia to espouse a political agenda and that act is disrespecting everyone else who has worn that uniform.

I now spend my life in the National Forests. I am writing this letter in a cabin with a Forest Service property lease that is across the lake from our past [Montana] governor’s home. I work at a ski area that is on Forest Service land up the road. My family is comfortable.   Mr. Zinke is selling out the life I fought for and he is trying to make it look like I agree with him.

I am a retired Master Chief Petty Officer. I am very proud of my service but am a little embarrassed when someone thanks me for it. I love my uniform and it would be nice to wear it to a job interview. I can’t really share most of my sea stories because most people think I’m boasting or lying. Many of my friends are Honorably Discharged, not retired, and wear things on their VFW  and American Legion hats. The rules for active duty, reserve and retired persons are different. These rules and reasons for them are spelled out in US Navy Uniform Regulations. Google it.

I don’t expect you to attack a hero. A well-intentioned query to the CNO or Chief of Naval Special Warfare could be interesting.   I did not make Rear Admiral because I was not that perfect. I made it as far I did with the help of people above me and the sweat of my shipmates. Most of us don’t make it to the top but we are all honorable.

Mr. Zinke has not had the courage to publicly embrace his Tea Party friends and giga–buck backers. He does not advertise his plan to destroy our way of life and cash in on Montana’s wealth of natural resources.

The military life is nothing if not politics. It is not noted as an incubator for statesmen. (Colin Powell is an exception, but he made 4 Star General.)

Thank YOU for your service and sacrifice for our country,

David M. Jordan MCPO(SW) USN,ret.

Ps. To Senator Walsh, Sir, I have seen strong men ask for help in the most unbelievable ways. War is hell. Welcome home.


Reason Number #458 Lawrence VanDyke is Lying about Not Being A Right-Winger

TEA Party Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke is trying desparately to hide his extreme-right views and political affiliations.  He’s doing this for two reasons – first, his views are far outside the mainstream, and second, he plan to  continue to accuse Justice Mike Wheat of being unable to make impartial decisions and claim that he alone can do so because he has no political beliefs or affiliations whatsoever.  If the truth gets out, his strategy won’t work.

Yet VanDyke is having troubles keeping the truth hidden.  His campaign finance reports show he dropped $2,000 on Chris Shipp via Mr. Shipp’s LLC Clear Sky Strategies, as reported in the most recent campaign report from VanDyke.

Mr. Shipp is the former Republican Party Communications Director, and a longtime GOP political operative. Shipp also worked for the TEA Party-controlled Montana legislative “leadership” as well.

Obviously, VanDyke can hire anyone he wants, but he can’t hire the Montana Republican Party’s Comm Director and still claim he has no political affiliation.  I predict there is lots more to come out on VanDyke’s extreme-right beliefs and his true affiliations. Stay tuned.


Oil and Gas PAC Tries to Prop Up Bangerter’s Flailing Campaign with Misleading Ad

Dave Galt and his Gas and Oil Industry Political Action Committee (PAC) are running an ad on behalf of Helena Republican Liz Bangerter.  This after rumors that her own campaign appears to be struggling to stay afloat.

The ad is pretty misleading.  It appears that the Gas and Oil PAC is trying to paint Bangerter as pro-public lands given even though she opposed stream access and as pro-public school classrooms even though she voted to send our tax dollars to sectarian private schools.

Here is a transcript of the ad, which you can listen to here:


Here in the Treasure State, we shouldn’t be exporting our most valuable resource: our kids. Beneath our feet we have the means to provide thousands of high-paying jobs right here in Montana.

Liz Bangerter, candidate for House District 82, knows that natural resource jobs are the ticket to keeping our educated workforce and skilled laborers from leaving the state.

Bangerter will stand up for the generations of today and tomorrow by promoting new employment opportunities for all.

Paid for by the Montana Gas and Oil PAC. Treasurer Dave Galt. PO Box 1186 Helena, MT 59624

Bangerter faces democratic candidate and Helena teacher Moffie Funk in the November election.


Montana GOP Reveals Health Care Reform Alternative, and It is a Doozy

Montana Republicans are touring the state to say that they’ve finally found the alterative to the Affordable Care Act they’ve been searching for:  legalizing religious insurance ponzi schemes.

Republicans are hosting seminars on the scheme across the state, the latest was in the Flathead, as you can see from this flyer. Former state insurance commissioner John Morrison took legal action and shut down such schemes as fraud in 2007, but now  Republicans are hoping to resurrect the effort to legalize the insurance ponzi schemes as an alternative to allowing Montanans to buy insurance through the exchange or to expanding Medicaid to the working poor.

Here’s how this works: To join the ponzi scheme you must must pledge your devout Christian faith (and even get a reference from a minister).  You must not to drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a “traditional” marriage.  Pre-existing conditions make you ineligible to participate at all, although one does get the benefit of a “prayer chain.”

The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance rehabilitation–or preventive care like PAP tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.

Usually, bill-sharing plan members contribute a predetermined amount each month. When they have a medical bill, they receive monetary help from fellow members. All of the programs are careful to bury in the fine print that they not promising to pay bills, only “facilitating a voluntary sharing.” Some of these schemes even publish your medical problems in a newsletter to “share” your bill with the community in case anyone wants to chip in–so much for medical privacy.

The MT case in which insurance commissioner John Morrison shut down the scam was initiated after a Montana pastor submitted his bills for treatment of a heart condition and a company called Medi-Share refused to pay for them. The pastor had signed a contract with a scheme called Medi-Share for coverage of his medical expenses, but the company continued to maintain that they had no duty to pay claims.

The last couple of sessions saw a couple of bills to legalize religious the ponzi schemes including SB 181, which were vetoed by both Schweitzer and Bullock.

Meanwhile Art Wittch has tried to plagiarize  Scott Walker’s failed planfrom Wisconsin, which has already failed in that state, been widely panned by the states own legislative counsel and the states largest papers.  They say Walker cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions more than if they had gone with the actual medicaid expansion and that besides costing state taxpayers hundreds of millions more the Walker plan “left the state worse off.”

To be sure, these are positive developments in that Republicans have realized that they have lost the battle of whether reform and coverage should go forward, the battle is now over what kind of coverage and reform that should be.  So this is, for now, a victory for the people of Montana, even though these ludicrous ideas for costly failed boondoggles and insurance ponzi schemes from other states must not go forward.


Zinke Tries to Put the “man” in Second Amendment

When the history of the 2014 congressional races in Montana is written, literacy will not rank high among the themes.   First there was our senator who plagiarized his college paper.  Now we have Ryan Zinke, whose official campaign booth has been displaying this sign for gun rights:

h/t @MontanaPundit

zinke spelling error

Political Quick Hits

Shame on Skyview

Skyview High School is targeting young women with a new dress code – a ban on yoga pants and leggings.  Young men are not prohibited from wearing workout pants to school–it is only young women. Shame on Skyview for doing so–and kudos to the young women and men fighting this policy.

Students have put up an online petition drive to change the policy, led by Ms. Dayah Dover. What say you readers – how about some solidarity with our young sisters at Skyview.  Let’s give the school board a reality check from the adult perspective too.  You can sign here in support of these young women. 

As Ms. Raegan Bunting wrote on the online petition drive site:

I agree with [the petition to fight the dress code] because while tights are not pants, leggings, jeggings and yoga pants are. This change in dress code is sexualizing girls’ bodies by the mere fact that it was created because it is assumed that males are distracted by girls that wear leggings. But there is a difference between pants being tight because they are the wrong size, or pants being tight because that is simply the style of the clothing. Other articles of clothing that are tight include pencil skirts and certain dresses that. And if one argues that leggings and yoga pants should not be worn in schools due to their lack of professionalism, then schools should also ban other unprofessional articles of clothing such as sweat pants, skinny jeans, t-shirts, hoodies, and anything else that would not be considered appropriate for a “professional environment.”

The school board also seems to be suggesting that the none of the gentlemen at Skyview have any self control over themselves, which I think is also untrue. Mostly from what I noticed during my time at Skyview is that none of the boys in my class could not concentrate on the lesson because Sally chose to wear jeggings that day.

I believe that the school board is wrong in making their decision to ban leggings. It is sexist towards women and men, in the sense that women should not be allowed to show their completely covered figure, and that men have no self control over their bodies. I hope that Skyview reconsiders their choice.

War Between the Factions

The bitter battle between TEA Party and moderate Republicans rages on.  Today, Cowgirl tipsters are reporting that Cascade County Republican Party has ousted their own Chair, Rep. Roger Hagen (R-Cascade County.)  At the time of this posting there is no word on who will replace Hagen as CCRCC leader.   Rep.  Hagan is a moderate Republican who had ran for re-election but  was defeated by Tea Party fanatic Randy Pinnoci last June. 

What Do Happy Plumbers Know?

This video is making the rounds on Youtube and Facebook. Take a look.

Supreme Court Candidate Used State Position to Pursue Rightwing Activist Agenda

A very interesting development in the race for the Montana Supreme Court today.

The Great Falls Tribune has uncovered through a public records request that TEA Party candidate Lawrence VanDyke has spent his time on the public payroll chasing down rightwing cases in other states and filing briefs to support the rightwing causes in those states. Presumably he must believe that this  helps raise his profile with right-wingers in advance of his Supreme Court run.

Indeed, the public records were uncovered hot on the heels of a campaign ad VanDyke posted on his website in which he claims he will “apply the law as written” and attempts to paint himself as above political partisanship. VanDyke has apparently balked at his responsibilities as Montana’s solicitor general and instead pursued an activist agenda in other states in cases to block equality for LBGT citizens, eliminate the right to privacy for women, and repeal gun safety laws passed in other states.

But VanDyke did more than just spend your tax dollars chasing rightwing lawsuits in other states. He emailed photos of himself to one  out-of-state attorney working on the right wing cases.  He sent Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, a picture of himself that read: “semi-auto firearms are fun to hunt elk with, as the attached picture attests.”  

Apparently, he then solicited campaign contributions from at least one lawyer working on these cases as well.  As I reported here earlier, this same Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, took time out from trying to shut down women’s health clinics in Alabama, to write VanDyke a $320.00 check.

One wonders what conversations took place between VanDyke calling to say “hey I’d love to help you with your right wing cause in Alabama” and the Alabama attorney saying “hey I’d love to send you a check for your Supreme Court race.”

So VanDyke is not as he presents himself, and Montanans should be very wary of electing him to the Supreme Court.

You can read the whole article on the Great Falls Tribune website here or download a PDF of the article here. 

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 do 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.