Author Archives: Cowgirl

This is Hypocrisy, Plain and Simple

Media coverage of TEA Party Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen’s response to Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s Healthy Montana Plan has failed to explain that Knudsen’s family farm has benefited from large government subsidies, despite highlighting his upbringing on his family farm and ranch and calls to cut government spending.

Rep. Austin Knudsen (R-TEA-Culbertson) is one of the largest beneficiaries of federal farm subsidy payments– $705,941.00 from 1995-2009 in farm subsidy program payments.  And he’s not alone.  Knudsen has said the following:

“The governor’s budget shoots the moon and is everything. We’re going to want to pare it back.”

“Like most Montanans, I was raised not to spend outside my budget. I want to see to it that Helena does the same, because Helena, like Washington D.C., has a spending problem.”

“Republicans are concerned about federal funding.”

“Excessive taxes and government spending in Montana is another primary concern.” *

“All state programs need reduction, across the board.”**

Knudsen himself receives health coverage paid for by Montana taxpayers–from a “third party administered” plan for state lawmakers just like the Healthy Montana Plan–except that Knuden’s plan is more costly than the plan that will cover the working poor.

He’s also been caught lying about Medicaid expansion – he told the Wolf Point Herald that  that “eventually Montana will have to pay for this entire bill” for Medicaid expansion, when in reality, federal law requires the federal government 100% for the first two more years—but never less than 90% of the costs.  That means for every dollar Montana puts in, the feds put in nine dollars.

Knudsen has not spoken out against other federally funded program in Montana.  From energy to telecommunications, roads, defense contracts, law enforcement, national parks, airports, hospitals and local clinics–all are supported by federal payments.

*Sidney Herald, March 12, 2010,
**Billings Gazette, Know Your Candidates Profile,

GUEST POST: Invitation to Speak before the Yellowstone County Democratic Club

Dear Western Montana Democrats:

If you are thinking about running for statewide office in 2016. It is time to establish contacts in Billings.

The Yellowstone County Democratic Club would like to invite you to speak at one of its dinners. The Yellowstone County Democratic Club resumed dinners with the first dinner on January 20th. The Club’s future dinners are scheduled to be held on February 17th, March 17th, April 17th, and May 20th.

The dinners of the Yellowstone County Democratic Club are at the Elks Club at 930 Lewis Ave. in Billings. The evening starts with sign in/no host reception at 5:30pm. A buffet dinner starts at 6:00pm. The evening’s program will start at 6:30pm with some very brief Club business.

After this business is done, the rest of the evening is yours. You are completely free to structure your presentation in any manner that will best suit your goals and best tell Yellowstone County Democrats about your future plans.

The Club pays for the dinners of the speakers. Yellowstone County Democratic Club is an avenue for the party faithful to meet on a regular monthly basis. Many have referred to the Club as the “Social Arm” of our Yellowstone County Democratic Party. The Club is separate from the Yellowstone County Democratic Central Committee which is a body created by law.

Billings Democrats also meet each Wednesday morning at 7am for breakfast discussions at McCormick’s Café at 2419 Montana Ave. You can combine a talk at the Club’s dinner with a talk at the breakfast group the next morning.

Paul Van Tricht, President, Yellowstone County Democratic Club
Ph: 406-371-5350


Note: If you’re interested in a guest post on the Cowgirl Blog, email me at the tipline at  And certainly anyone considering becoming a candidate would do well to take advantage of this opportunity to get to know Democratic leaders in Billings!  – Cowgirl


Ohio GOP Governor Blasts MT TEA Partiers’ Ridiculous Stance on Medicaid Expansion

John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune has once again obtained some very interesting video from a closed-door Republican meeting.

In the video,  TEA Party Republican Scott Sales appears to have attempted some chest thumping in front of the press after Adams discovered the meeting.  He launched into an attack on the visiting Republican governor, who was the leading proponent of expanding medicaid in Ohio, only to get immediately and somewhat embarrassingly schooled.

You can click here to watch the raw video John Adams recorded from the meeting Montana GOP legislators had with GOP Governor John Kasich yesterday. 

Sales launches his attack with:

You recently approved Medicaid expansion – if you have this extra money at the state level why not use state dollars instead of federal dollars?  By your own admission you are reenforcing this idea that you want someone else to do the heavy lift. You could have said no to federal dollars. You as the governor–and we as the legislature–we can say no to all the federal dollars.  And quite frankly under section [unintelligible] of the constitution, you know as well as I do that the federal government is way out of bounds in a lot of areas where it has no authority. I’d be singing your praises and probably support you for president if you had cut the apron strings and said no to federal dollars  – especially since you had a surplus and not enabling this thing to go on and on and frankly, I find you to be somewhat hypocritical.

Sales apparently was referring to the TEA Party GOP-ers scheme they say they are concocting, which, I kid you not, would turn away the money available to pay for Medicaid expansion in Montana, and ask Montanans to spend more state money to cover a small fraction of those actually eligible for Medicaid expansion.

Kasich, apparently realizing straight off that he was dealing with .22 caliber minds in a .357 magnum world, quickly shot down this TEA Partier:

There’s no money in Washington, it’s my money. I brought my money back to Ohio. And what did we do with it? We treat the mentally ill.  We treat the drug addicted.  And we help the working poor stop going to emergency rooms and forcing me to pay for their medical bills because they go there sicker.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever read Matthew 25, but I’d commend it to you- the end of it. It’s about do you feed the homeless and do you clothe the poor. I’m a believer that it is in the conservative tradition to make sure we help people get on their feet so they then are not dependent…

Now do I think that it is appropriate for the federal government to in some ways  be a partner and provide some resources to and help solve problems in the states?  I do.

Kasich continued by pointing out that:

Ronald Reagan expanded medicaid.  I don’t know if you know that or no,t but he expanded medicaid and he’s the patron saint of all the conservatives I know.

Kasich did not add the other GOP president who expanded Medicaid, George Bush senior, so I’ll do it here.   Bush’s Medicaid expansion initiative, which he called the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) initiative or HIFA Waiver program, was created in 2001 to allow states to cover able-bodied adults.  It’s something that the majority of states now do, but Montana is far behind in this area.

Kasich then asked Rep. Sales “how fast has your Medicaid program grown in Montana?”

Sales tried to shrug off the question and said “I don’t know.”

But Kasich again pushed back, “No you’re asking me so I’m asking you – how fast has it grown in Montana.”

Sales started to make excuses for his cluelessness like “Oh, well I’m not on appropriations”

“So you don’t know…” Kasich shot back.

When I came into office state share medicaid grew at 9% my first budget it grew at 3% and we didn’t cut anybody off and we didn’t reduce any benefits. Now what we’ve been able to do is keep the promises we made to the mentally ill.

Kasich is highlighting the mentally ill because one of the best ways to help address the problem Montanans face with untreated mental illness is Medicaid expansion. In fact, in Montana, 42% of uninsured adults with mental health conditions would be eligible for coverage when Bullock’s Healthy Montana Plan, which uses a private contract to provide health coverage for working poor Montanans, passes.

Kasich continued by pointing out that:

Turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis–when people can lose their lives becauses they get no help–that makes no sense to me. So I read in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday about the doctor in MT who is treating all these people after a guy froze to death. I read that and I thought – we gotta help those people…

I’ve been in all these places – and if I thought expanding medicaid would keep us from being able to have a balanced budget or from having fiscal responsibility or was going to create dependence, I wouldn’t be for it.  In my state, its working…

Your position is based on strict ideology its not based on the practicalities of what happens in the street.

I can’t tell from the video if TEA Partier Art Wittich, public enemy number one of working poor Montanans, is in the closed-door meeting.  He may have been busy dealing with his upcoming jury trial in the political practices case against him, where he faces removal from office. 


Political Quick Hits: Wild Animals, Melanomas and St. Peter Edition

Kabuki Theater

Kirsten Brown

Ms. Kirsten Brown, Libby, from her public Facebook page. Ms. Brown testified that she would like to be able to scan Facebook to try to “prove” that information from multiple official verified income data sources is wrong, and that Montanans in need are lying about their need and eligibility for safety net programs.

It seems that the people TEA Party representatives Tom Burnett, Ron Ehli and Art Wittich subpoenaed to rail against medicaid expansion and other help for Montanans in need have been caught using an analogy which references the people they were paid to help as “wild animals” and liars.  This is shameful and repulsive.  As Intelligent Discontent writes, given this email has come to light “presumably [Wittich, Ehli, Burnett and crew] were aware of her attitude and lack of evidence—and they chose to present this farce to the people of Montana in order to gin up a controversy about fraud in public assistance programs.”

At the “hearings” in which Ms. Brown and a couple of other Libby public assistance workers were brought in to denigrate Montana’s most vulnerable citizens, no members of the public were allowed to speak, nor was any requirement made that these individuals verify any of the claims they made.  The “hearings” spectacle did serve one purpose: it exposed the motives and true beliefs of Wittich, Ehli and Burnett.


Gaffe of the Week

This week, John Fitzpatrick, chief lobbyist for NorthWestern Energy this week called net metering of renewable energy ”

As the Billings Gazette reported, a net metering device allows customers to sell back to utility companies any power generated by the renewable energy systems like wind or solar that the customer didn’t use.

“There is no such thing as a small piece of melanoma,” Fitzpatrick told the committee, “because, as it grows in time it causes bigger and bigger problems. And that’s the fundamental problem with net-metering.”

Fitzpatrick’s comments pits the utility against rational thought, modern innovation, and logic.  I mean, even Art Wittich is sponsoring a bill to increase this practice so you know it isn’t controversial.  Montana’s solar industry is growing, bringing jobs and reducing future pollution.  Basically, what Fitzpatrick is saying I guess is that he considers growth in any industry other than his own to be a cancer. Duly noted.


Ohio Governor John Kasich in Helena Today

Ohio’s Republican Governor will be in Helena today to “rally” about an amendment to the U.S. Constitutional Convention he would like called in hopes that it will pass a balanced budget amendment.  As many have already pointed out, passing a balanced-budget amendment wouldn’t actually balance the budget.  Only decisions by congress about what to fund and how to pay for it can do that.  So anyone attending this rally in Helena needs to tell Montanans, on the record,  which specific programs they would cut.  The Montana Budget and Policy Center has a good fact sheet out on this nonsense:Fact Sheet ConCon ResolutionFINAL.

Kasich is an interesting figure in GOP politics because of his vocal criticism of fellow Republicans who oppose Medicaid expansion, which Kasich supported. Ohio is moving forward with expansion and expects 366,000 to sign up for Medicaid expansion by this summer.

“The opposition to [Medicaid Expansion] was really either political or ideological,” Kasich told the Associated Press. “I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”

Gov. Kasich told a local state legislator,

“I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do too. I also happen to know that you’re a person of faith.”

“Now, when you die and get to the, get to the, uh, to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not gonna ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor,” Kasich said. “Better have a good answer.”

Wildlife Killing Derbies a Blight on Montana

At least three wildlife killing derbies were scheduled to occur in Sanders County, Dillon and Belt over the weekend.  A Meagher County was scheduled for the previous week, as you can see from this flyer: Ringling Bar Killing Derby.

Here’s how these killing derbies typically work: Contestants pay a small entrance fee, and then usually compete for certain categories such as, as you can see in the flyer below, a prize for the “biggest dog,” as you can see from the flyers below.  In Montana, no regulations against these wildlife massacres exists currently.

The event in Sanders County put the local no-kill animal shelter in a bind after the business sponsoring the killing event is where the animal shelter had held its annual fundraising variety show for several years.   Having a fundraiser for a “No Kill Shelter” at a facility whose owner actively promotes a “Killing Derby” doesn’t seem like the best way to attract friends of animals to attend and was likely a disservice to that shelter.

A similar slaughter had been planned in Idaho but the permit for the event was revoked. One of the three organizations supporting the “1st Annual Sanders County Great Montana Coyote and Wolf Hunt,” is the Montana Trappers Association. According to these flyers, other sponsors include Coors Light, Pepsi, Big Bear Sports, Harvest Moon Saloon, and others.

The trappers are also working this year to create for themselves a right to the cruel, unnecessary and barbaric practice of trapping and enshrine the practice as a constitutional amendment in the Montana Constitution.  The bill is HB 212 by Rep. Kirk Wagoner.

Trapping is a horrid practice which results in the animal’s leg being crushed and the creature left to lie in agony for days before dying.  It is cruel and barbaric.  And yes, such traps also frequently ensnare and torture animals such as dogs as well as endangered species such as lynx, despite the idiotic protestations by certain commenters here who apparently believe that dogs don’t get caught in animal traps.  Here is a sad story from Missoula about a man’s dog. 

injured animalThe outdoors should be trap free, by law.

Trapped bobcatAnd finally, it is not a defense to trapping to say that it “is a Montana heritage.”  Hunting is an age old practice and is a heritage, but it has merit and is actually a more humane way to get meat than by going to the grocery store, where we buy carcasses of animals who lived short and miserable lives in a factory setting.  On the other hand, trappers trap to make money or collect pelts as entertainment.  Given what the animal must endure, that’s not a sufficient justification.

You can see the flyers promoting the killing derbies below.




Poster_Coyote killing in Dillon MT Jan 16018 2015




Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 9.31.08 AM



Political Quick Hits

Another Way to Get Better Representation

I was walking in the Capitol recently and it resembles a nursing home.  Legislators are senior citizens predominantly.  Largely this is because legislators are volunteers.  They get $5,000 a year roughly.  Who, other than a retired person, someone who is wealthy, or someone who is married to someone wealthy, can afford to take four months off from their job and come to Helena?  Other than retirees and the wealthy the only people who can be a legislator it seems are a few people who are either self employed, are young enough to be extremely flexible, those who work from home, work part-time, or work in fields where there is a special arrangement (teaching, for example).

I say let’s pay legislators a living wage.  Maybe $20,000 a year.  Also, let’s accompany it with a law, similar to the Family Leave Act, which protects workers’ jobs if they want to take leave to serve.   It’d still be a part-time job for many, but a livable stipend, along with protection for their job, would at least open the door to others becoming legislators.  One final important change that would allow more women and younger people to serve. Rep. Ellie Hill is sponsoring House Bill 131, Revising Legislative Compensation to Include Daycare Reimbursement. This is a no-brainer.  The hearing will be January 21 at 9:00 am in Room 455 (State Administration).  Rep. Hill also has a new blog – check it out Tales from the Dome here.


Hate Sermon Organizers Revealed

Ed Kemmick at Last Best news has a must read piece up this week, revealing the right-wing lawmakers behind the hate-group leader they organized to kick off the 2015 session:  Here are the ‘lesser magistrates’ who hosted bizarre sermon.  Yesterday was “National Religious Freedom Day,” which was established to mark the enactment of Virginia’s law upon which the separation of church and state was based, written by Thomas Jefferson himself.  So much for respecting the nation’s founders.

Health Care for the Working Poor Gains Momentum

This week, right-wing Idaho Governor Butch Otter is urging lawmakers in his state to consider expansing Medicaid.  Back in Montana, the Choteau Acantha also endorsed Medicaid expansion this week.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has endorsed extending health care coverage to 70,000 working poor Montanans. And a Chamber of Commerce poll.  As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, even the notoriously conservative Chamber of Commerce poll found that “Montanans, by more than 20 percent, ‘support the state providing health care coverage for up to 70,000 uninsured childless adults whose income is below $16,100 per year.'”



Troubled Waters

An interesting email from Concerned Citizens of Western Montana (the right-wing group from the Flathead opposing rights to water for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes) was accidentally disseminated today.  The email was sent by Terry Backs, titular head of the organization, to Kate Vandemoer a birther blogger who once infamously launched an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the U.S. government by ousting President Obama, which she called the Usurpathon.

Backs is asking for marching orders on how an email to legislators opposing access to water for a tribe in northwest Montana should be handled. Particularly interesting is the embarrassing question of whether or not it should go to all  legislators or to all except Tutvedt and Salomon (as though they could somehow be kept out of the loop) and the overall impression that Dr. Kate is the eminence grise of this outfit.  Also, note that “Montana Land and Water Alliance” and “Concerned Citizens of Western Montana” are the same bunch.

You can see the entire email below.

The most important thing to know about “Dr. Kate” Vandemoer is that she has some pretty extreme, marginal views–and some writings that reflect the soundness of her judgement and the rational of the effort to stop a tribe from getting water.

She co-hosts a radio show with white supremacist Red Beckman, who wrote that the Holocaust was God’s punishment for Jews because they worship the devil. Besides the usual racist birther garbage, Vandemoer’s blog features the ravings Eustice Mullins, who “claimed that Jews kidnap Christian children, ritually puncture their veins, and drink their blood as a restorative for their own degenerate bodies,” The Atlantic reported.

Vandemoer herself has written that, “the Rothschilds (translated ‘Red Shield), Rockefellers, and many other monied JKhazar Jews, who together form a cabal acting like a synagogue of Satan that is in full gear enforcing its agenda on America, including Agenda 21.”

But back to Vandemoer’s Usurpathon–her campaign to organize 10,000 TEA Partiers and birthers from across the U.S. to descend on Washington in 2010.  The goal: unseat “the Usurper,” President Obama, with a national event she called “The Usurpathon.”

“Out from the depths, out of every seam on the sidewalk, from every neglected corner, from the ether we come–filled with the mission of thousands, and the intention of millions to begin the usurpathon–the  siege and removal of the Obama administration.”Kate Vandemoer's Usurpathon

Unfortunately for Vandemoer, only two people showed up for the Usurpathon. (She claimed after the fact that she intended only two people to show up because more than three people would have required her to get a government permit.)  The Cowgirl blog has obtained an actual photo of the Usurpathon, which is posted here.

It is shameful that, on advice of the Usurpathoner and crew,  the 2014 legislature failed, for the first time in the 34-year history that the water rights commission has existed, to pass a water rights agreement that was already negotiated between the state of Montana and a tribe.

You can see the entire email from Terry Backs to the Usurpathoner below:

 ———- Forwarded message ———-

From: Concerned Citizens of Western Montana <>
Date: Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 7:11 AM
Subject: Flathead Water Compact – Quantification Information
To: bennettforhouse@gmail.combrownformontana@gmail.comcliff@larsenusa.comconnell4sd43@yahoo.comdansalomon12@gmail.comediemcclafferty@gmail.comelliehillhd94@gmail.comfacey_tom@hotmail.comja
Cc: “Dr. Kate Vandemoer” <>


Now that the Compact Commission has voted to forward the CSKT Compact to the legislature for consideration, we have attached the first of a series of informational documents describing the still outstanding issues involved with the Compact that were not resolved during the 2013-2014 limited renegotiations.  This first document is from Montana Land and Water Alliance lead attorney, Richard A. Simms, and discusses the “quantification” proposed in the CSKT Compact.

Please do not hesitate to call or email with questions

Terry Backs
(406) 626-3353

Catherine Vandemoer, Ph.D.
(520) 369-1404 or (406) 552-1357

Concerned Citizens of Western Montana and Montana Land and Water Alliance


From: TerryK []

Sent: Monday, January 12, 2015 9:37 PM
To: Dr. Kate Vandemoer
Subject: email to legislators

HI Kate,

Hope the meeting this evening wasn’t too much of a bummer for you.

A few questions on the email for Richard’s letter in the morning:

  • Out to All legislators?  Including Salomon Tutvedt etc?  Richard did say all but I’d like to make sure.
  • What kind of cover letter do you want?  Something from MLWA or concerned citzens.  Have any thoughts about what to say?

Sleep well.  Talk tomorrow.


Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the thoughts I think toward you,” says the LORD, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. “

Family Foundation Private School Textbook List Revealed

The Montana Family Foundation is obsessed with privatizing Montana’s schools and using your tax dollars to do it.  Last session, they tried to force an ALEC boilerplate bill sponsored by Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen to use taxpayer money to subsidize private schools in Montana, but did not succeed.  They also control the house eduction committee, which has frightening implications for Montana’s public school classrooms.  Just look what happened in Texas when fringe groups got control of school curricula.  They required schools to teach about the communist threat, censored the word capitalism and required that “free enterprise” be used instead, and required students to read treatises by political leaders of the confederacy.

If their so-called “school choice” privatization scheme passes, your money could go toward textbooks like these*:

[*When satire flies this close to reality, it must be responsibly labeled as such.]

1. Gluing a purse on your head will not protect you from Satan ladies, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Probably will keep you from speaking out in public, which the bible forbids.



2. The Montana chapter of the TEA Party astroturf group Americans for Prosperity has an author on the payroll.  Former executive director and now policy director Joe Ballyeat is the author of “Babylon: The Great City of Revelation,” (from $7.95 used on which attempts to make the TEA Party case that if Christians don’t get involved in politics, “not only will hell prevail against us, but abortionists and homosexuals and humanists and pornographers and tin-horn TV networks will as well.”


3. I wonder if this screed against birth control, something 85% of women use at some point in their lives, explains how having more children than you can afford in rapid succession is supposed to line up with the GOP dogma of personal responsibility and hatred of government assistance.



4. Perhaps this is what will be taught in the time that used to be filled with science classes.



5. This one probably covers crop circles, United Nations conspiracy theories, and the health benefits of genetically modified organisms and pesticides.



6.  Montana doesn’t need Medicaid expansion to save lives – it just needs books like this. And people who have been trained how to bring the dead back to life of course.



7. The Bible can do pretty much anything, which is very important.



8. Mandatory Federalism Training - will soon be a requirement for all public employees in Montana, thanks to GOP Vice Chair Jennifer Fielder, which is likely based on this ALEC boilerplate bill – and is yet ANOTHER idea Sen. Fielder has copied from her new favorite person, Utah TEA Party state lawmaker Ken Ivory of the land grab debacle.  So certainly this indoctrination will also be required of the Family Foundation’s new private school corporations.


9. TEA Party former legislative candidate Tonya Shellnut’s book  “Women Power Revolution: shellnutbookUnderstanding True Feminism” (written like the Ron Paul Revolution graphic) in which she explains how she found that true “feminism” was of the conservative “true femininity” woman hating right-wing traditional role variety.


10. Wherein a good Christian man heartwarmingly colonizes Africans and gets them to farm potatoes, and love Jesus.


For reference, the members of the House Education Committee are:

Laszloffy, Sarah (R) – Ch
Lamm, Debra (R) – VCh
McClafferty, Edie (D) – VCh
Bennett, Bryce (D)
Essmann, Jeff (R)
Funk, Moffie (D)
Greef, Edward (R)
Hertz, Greg (R)
Kelker, Kathy (D)
Meyers, G. Bruce (R)
Monforton, Matthew (R)
Price, Jean (D)
Salomon, Daniel (R)
Schwaderer, Nicholas (R)
Webber, Susan (D)

GOP Chair Calls Special Meeting to Deal with TEA Party

Over 120 state Republican leaders met in a special caucus this weekend in Helena, to vote on whether the GOP should close their primary or keep it open.  Under current law, primaries are open which means anyone can choose either ballot.  In a closed primary, only a registered Republican can vote in the Republican primary.   In the end, the GOP voted 2-1 to close down the primary.

The TEA Partiers won, as I expected they would.  This meeting was packed with right-wingers who came from rural counties.  It was a big victory for the ringleader Matthew Monforton, the Tea Party hot-head from Bozeman who wants to wage war against GOP moderates.  They are working in concert with the TEA Party faction in the legislature including Art Wittich, Jennifer Fielder, Jeff Essmann and the rest.   They are seeking to prevent more independent types and non-purists from voting in the GOP primary.  They believe that if they can make this change, then in the future they will no longer have to contend with a moderate faction who wants to work with Governor Bullock.

This is exactly what would happen if primaries were party-member only affairs.  Imagine if the only voters who could participate in a GOP primary were Tea Partiers.  What do you think such a party would be like? Nominees would be loons like Matt Rosedale, not Ryan Zinke; not Rick Hill, but Klansmen like Drew Turiano.  Rick Santorum, not Romney, would have won the primary in Montana.  And legislators would be more like Wittich and Monforton and less like Tutvedt and Ankney.

Monforton’s Republicans are suing the state, with Monforton acting as lawyer. He is claiming that although  Montana’s open primary has existed for 100 years and was founded on the notion  that the voter deserves as many choices as possible, the system is nonetheless unconstitutional because a party should have the right to restrict who votes in its primary.   The GOP vote this weekend was in fact a vote to formally join this lawsuit.  Such lawsuits have been won in states such as Idaho, although Brian Morris is the federal judge in this suit and I expect he will rule against the GOP.

TEA Party Committee Chair Subjects Lawmakers to Indoctrination Rather Than Orientation

This week, more information continues to come to light about the extreme measures hard-right Montana lawmakers are going through to make sure the will of the public never sees the light of day.  If you haven’t read the latest shenanigans uncovered by MT Streetfighter, you should, because “Either TEA Partiers Have Started Teleporting, or There’s Something Very Fishy Going on at the Capitol.”

But it doesn’t end there.  Last week, lawmakers engaged in a series of orientations last week to learn about the issues that might come before them in their various committees.

But something different happened in the House Human Services Committee Thursday, when Chair Rep. Art Wittich (R-TEA Bozeman), put indoctrination on the agenda instead.  He brought in two TEA Party opponents of Medicaid expansion from out of state instead.

TEA Party Appointees Brought in to Denigrate Programs to Help Working Poor Montanans

The first presentation Wittich scheduled was from a political appointee of Maine’s TEA Party Governor Paul LePage, one of the nation’s most prominent appointees of Medicaid expansion.

Rather than expand Medicaid, as most states are doing, Maine actually tried to bar people from the health care coverage who were already eligible. The AP reported this week that LePage spent tens of thousand in taxpayer funds on private lawyers in a failed attempt to remove thousands of low-income young adults from the state’s Medicaid program-against federal law with federal law–after being told by Maine’s attorney general that her office wouldn’t take the legal fight because he couldn’t win the case.

The LaPage appointee’s primary accomplishment appears to be that Maine’s Medicaid program had paid its backlog of debt it owed to hospitals (Maine did not say it had paid all its debts.) Montana’s Medicaid program is not in debt.  The appointee’s goal seemed to be to convey that federal money to help the working poor is bad (but not presumably federal money for defense contracts and highway funding).Wittich and the TEA Party wing of the GOP has come out in favor of a nonsensical “plan” to refusing federal funding that would pay for most of the Medicaid expansion.  Rather than bringing home the federal tax dollars that Montana has already paid, they are actually proposing that we throw that money to the wind, and spend additional state money for health care.  This is one of the worst ideas ever to come out of the state GOP in a long time.

Next on the indoctrination agenda was a representative of a right-wing, Koch brothers funded “think tank” called the Foundation for Government Accountability. No joke.  This group’s primary goal is fighting Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.  The group’s director, Tarren Bragdon, is a former state representative with ties to the Koch brothers.

Rule Banning Information Testimony Debated

This committee even discussed whether it would bar informational witnesses, who do not support or oppose legislation but simply help inform the discussion, from stating anything other than their name and area of expertise unless called upon.  Apparently, the only information Wittich wants this committee to hear is approved TEA Party dogma. Democrats on the committee objected to this move, forcing Wittich to back off of an official rule banning informational testimony–for now.