Author Archives: Cowgirl

Republican Commissioner Wants Public Records Kept Secret

Republican County Commissioner Susan Good Geise

Republican County Commissioner Susan Good Geise

A Lewis and Clark County Commissioner is fighting to keep Helena residents from learning which businesses have submitted public comments in opposition to making Helena more walkable and bikeable, and which businesses support the transportation upgrade.

In a meeting in Helena this week on local transportation improvements, Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise demanded that comments from businesses who are fighting against the walking and biking options be withheld from the public. These businesses have filed public comments to protest a special assessment district to fund transportation improvements.

Helena City Commissioner Katherine Haque-Hausrath says the public has a right to know how these businesses are seeking to influence public policies. Montana has very clear, strict public records rules enshrined in the Montana constitution. Nearly every government document is public in the state. It’s never a good sign when those seeking to carve out special protections for themselves seem to believe that their positions couldn’t possibly survive public scrutiny.

Ms. Good-Geise expresses support on her own webpage for finding out what businesses stand for and brag about using her shopping dollars to support businesses who agree with her.  So it is hypocritical of her to attempt to refuse others the same option because their positions might differ from her own.

Susan Good-Geise was not elected by local voters, but rather was appointed to the Lewis and Clark County Commission by the local Republican Party after GOPer Derek Brown quit partway through his term.   She must now face the popular Dennis Small who is the democratic candidate for Lewis and Clark County Commissioner in the November elections. 

So what do you think readers?  Do we have a right to know which businesses support safe walking and biking for children, the elderly, people with disabilities, the working poor without cars, and everyone else, and which do not?  

Do local residents have a right to know which businesses support and oppose making Helena more walkable and bikeable?

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NEW STUDY: Montanans’ Access to Health Care Among Nation’s Worst

A new study has found that Montanans’ access to health care is among the worst in the U.S.

The July 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund found that only three states had worse access to health care than Montanans–Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska, as you can see in this chart.

The information shows that what the TEA party extremists did by refusing to accept the federal funds to cover the working poor was an especially poor decision in Montana, where the lack of access to health care is particularly bad.   You can read the whole study here.

Chart Health Care Access


Remember, the Medicaid expansion covers the working poor, people who earn “too much” to qualify for Medicaid now but don’t make enough to qualify for a price break through

The earnings ceiling for the coverage gap in Montana is $11,490 a year for a single person. If you make more than this, you could get a price break through the marketplace.

Earning $11,000 a year works out to a monthly income of $916.

  • Average rent for a (cheap, dilapidated) one-bedroom apartment in South Billings/Lockwood: $480/month. $436 left over…
  • Grocery bills: $125/month (Ramen noodles, 20 lb bag of potatoes). $311 left over…
  • Car insurance: $66/month. $245 left over…
  • Gas: $72/month (assuming 300 miles/month, or 10 miles/day to get to your job). $173 left over…
  • Clothing/Sundry items (shampoo, light bulbs, stamps): $25/month. $148 left over…
  • Entertainment: $15/month (1DVD rental on Sat night only). $133/month left over…
  • Utilities: $30/month (or a cheap cell phone). $103/month left over…
  • Savings/Debt: $50/month (making a future, or correcting the past–being responsible) $53/month left over…

That leaves about $53 to buy health insurance if nothing else goes wrong in your life–your car never breaks down, you never go to the dentist, etc.

The cheapest Bronze-level unsubsidized health insurance plan for a 40-year old in Yellowstone is $205/month – or four times more than what this person has left over for health insurance. Even on a bare bones budget without cable, an iPhone or a sports car–Montanans in the coverage gap can’t afford insurance thanks to the Montana legislature.

Remember, this single individual isn’t eligible for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace because those are only for people who make more than $11,490 per year.  So this person must pay the unsubsidized price.

Montana’s legislators need a reality check. They’ve made it so there is no path for a working poor person in Montana to do the responsible thing by getting health coverage.  This person has only one option:  pray they don’t get sick.

If your legislator doesn’t get it, she or he needs to be replaced.

A Book Burning in the Flathead

While Democrats were electing a new Senate candidate this weekend in Helena, right-wing conservatives in the Flathead were doing what else: burning books.

The so called “God and Country Conference” featured local and national extremists rallying against the government, promoting “confrontational evangelism” and that favorite right-wing past time, burning books.

As the Montana Human Rights Network reports, the event featured: anti-government activist Chuck Baldwin; a variety of carpetbagging pastors from out-of-state demanding more public displays of religious doctrine; a “street-protesting” hate-group preacher from California.  For reasons unknown, the festivities included a cross carrying to a so-called “Ten Commandment park dedication” and highlight of the weekend: a book burning on Sunday night;  Representatives of the Liberty Institute, which has aligned with Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke in conservative Christian legal cases, were featured prominently in the events.   You can read the whole Montana Human Rights Network briefing on these activities here. 




Dems Make Amanda Curtis U.S. Senate Candidate

Today has brought an interesting assortment of tips and impressions from people who went to the MDP nominating convention.

Im getting good feedback all around, about how the event was well managed and orderly and democratic.  Good job by the Party.  Amanda Curtis won with an almost 2-1 vote margin, making her the first woman to run for US Senate in a general election from a major political party. Apparently John Bohlinger was in attendance but did not get nominated, leaving Curtis and Dirk Adams.

I am hearing that both Curtis and Adams gave solid speeches, that both could still use some sharpening, and that Adams went on a little too long and was at times incoherent.  Also, apparently Adams said in his speech that candidates should not talk about women’s reproductive issues if they want to win.  That’s not a smart thing to say at a democratic gathering, nor is it even accurate.  Adams will have a future in the party but he’s rough around the edges and needs significant polishing.  He will get better.  We wish him good luck and I hope he comes back in 2016 and runs for something else.

Now Curtis will have to go from zero to sixty very fast.  She will need to raise a mean clip of dough before the reports are filed at the end of the quarter, to show what she’s made of.  It’s not clear who sits in her inner circle other than her husband, but let’s hope she’s taking good advice.  One thing she must do, for certain, is to keep alive for the next few days the fire that this entire event has lit.  She should let it burn out only when there is no more fuel.  And everything she does must be done with fundraising in mind. For despite our idealistic feelings that money should not matter, it’s unfortunately about the only thing that does matter nowadays.  If you don’t raise competitive cash, you lose big.  And it will be that way until we have a public financing system.  Curtis’s job is to convert the present excitement surrounding her selection into hard cash. She has about four weeks to do it.  By mid September she needs $300,000 in the bank.  That would require her to raise close to $500,000.  It is a very tall order.  Nine out of ten voters today do not even know that she is running for office, let alone know anything about her.  That won’t change much despite all the free media she can garner.  By the way, Amanda’s first financial ask should be from Dirk Adams, who, as a wealthy Democrat and good sport, should write it for the maximum amount.  Amanda should then tweet a photo of the check, showing unity to Adams supporters.

The GOP has (predictably) already put out a video which they believe serves to criticize her.  It is a succession of short clips from her homemade videos during he legislative session, using fragments of sentences edited together to supposedly show that she is anti-gun, anti-christian, and a socialist.  It’s not much, really. Just a silly, weak opening volley.

Flathead Memo Endorses Amanda Curtis

As James Conner writes:

Amanda Curtis represents the future. Moreover, she represents the long overdue and mighty welcome resurgence of organized labor in Montana’s Democratic Party. Insofar as I can determine, she’s neither a Wall Street Democrat like Hillary Clinton, nor an acolyte of Robert Rubin or Tim Geithner. I think she’s best described as a modern lunch-bucket Democrat who isn’t afraid of the company goons and the Washington, D.C., political consultants. She’ll fight for the 99 percent — and that’s more than good enough for me.

Nominating Convention Could Prove Tricky for Adams

The Democratic Special Nominating Convention is just two days away, and it’s likely Dirk Adams is worried.  The contest is down to two announced candidates–Adams and Butte lawmaker Amanda Curtis, since state Sen. Dave Wanzenried has withdrawn his name from consideration.  And Adams faces some heavy barriers to being chosen.

For one thing, Adams is definitely not going to want to talk about his support for Citizen’s United, since those voting Saturday have organized rallies and letters to the editor campaigns against the decision. Central committee leaders across the state collected signatures to pass the nation’s first ballot initiative against Citizens United. They’ve driven to Helena to testify in the legislature against election corruption and they’ve organized fundraisers across the state for candidates who championed democratic opposition to the Supreme Court decision that said corporations are people.

This isn’t going to be easy for Adams to evade. Adams is already on the record saying in the Bozeman Chronicle that he supports Citizen’s United, a sentiment he echoed on his campaign website. “I think the Citizens United case was properly decided based on the U.S. Constitution and legal precedent,” Adams wrote.

Adams will also be hoping to avoid discussing Saturday his role in the subprime mortgage crisis. As Politico reported, Dirk Adams was the director of bank that closed because of “questionable” activities. Adams was also executive vice president at Golden West Financial and World Savings. These were among the first banks to sell the risky home loans that led to the banking collapse and subsequent financial crisis, Politico reported.  As has already been pointed out, “that background makes Adams an odd fit for a party that’s loudly denounced the predatory ways of big banks.”

Finally, I think Adams will do everything he can to avoid talking about his delinquent taxes in Park County–especially since Charter Corporation’s delinquent taxes have been such a big issue in the media of late given their ballot initiative fiasco. Adams is hoping convention-goers don’t visit Park County’s website at and type in “adams dirk.”

If they did, they might find the information depicted in these screenshots (if you’re reading this from the email listserv, click the post title to see the pics.)

taxes main page

delinquent 1-1

delinquent 1-2 delinquent 2-2 delinquent 2.1



Give Me Your Crackpots, Your Liars, Your Befuddled Faction Yearning to Drink TEA

by Cowgirl

It looks like Billings Mayor Tom Hanel got into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn’t looking.

Lee Newspapers photo

How else to explain that Hanel cast the deciding vote to keep discrimination legal in Billings, Montana’s largest community.  By doing so, Hanel put the crackpot ideology of certifiable nutjob Jeff Laszloffy over the views of most people in Billings–people Hanel is supposed to represent.   Laszloffy is head of the “Montana Family Foundation.” He’s the guy  who led the fight to allow discrimination against LGBT Montanans.

To be sure, readers may note that I have found it necessary to call people nutjobs fairly often, since I live in a state where elected lawmakers introduce bills to declare that global warming is good and plan to demand that the federal government prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully acquired. But even amongst these world-class minds, Jeff Laszloffy still appears to have been napping in the nutpile the day the man upstairs was cracking nuts.

So let’s take a look at the man whose views Mayor Hanel valued most when it came time to make city policy. This was certainly a very poor calculation on Hanel’s part.

Hanel listened to a proven liar

Earlier this summer, Laszloffy was the subject of a documentary exposé on influence peddling in the Montana legislature. He was caught lying on camera when he claimed that there was “no connection, absolutely none” between the public school privatization bill he backed last session and the corporate front group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, which was pushing this same bill nationwide.

The PBS documentary uncovered multiple connections between Laszloffy and ALEC, including how Laszloffy’s bill to force taxpayers to subsidize sectarian religious schools is almost a word for word copy of ALEC’s bill. Laszloffy claims in the documentary that charter schools aren’t for-profit corporations, and was caught in another lie. The exposé pointed out financial and investment news reports outlining the high profitability of these private charter schools. ALEC even funded the PR campaign Laszloffy used to push these private charter schools in Montana.  And even though Laszloffy said he had nothing to do with ALEC, PBS also uncovered jointly funded surveys by ALEC and the Family Foundation–and jointly funded articles trumpeting the Family Foundation’s private school push, all of which appear in Laszloffy’s groups’ own legislative testimony.  You can watch the entire expose online here.

Hanel listened to a birther

Laszloffy went live from Birtherstan in 2011, when he actually supported the infamous birther bill, Bob Wagner’s House Bill 205 which would have required all candidates to produce birth certificates–especially a certain black candidate. Laszloffy testified:

We’ve gone over 200 years without this being a problem and it just became a problem in the last election cycle. And I think the circumstances surrounding this are frankly bizarre. There is question as to whether the president was born in the United States, we all know that…The president could fix this by simply releasing his birth certificate and that would get us past this little road bump.

Hanel listened to a certified crackpot

Yep, the mayor of Billings chose to listen to a man who sent his daughter to a school which claims it can teach how to bring people back from the dead.

Hanel listened to a man who celebrates discrimination 

Laszloffy also organized a small group in celebrating their hatred of gay people by throwing a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  The day was marked by bringing gay-haters together to teach their kids that discrimination against others is something to celebrate–preferably with stale fast food from 1000 miles away.  Just the kind of person you want to be playing a key role in making city policy right?

Hanel listened to a man who led the fight to allow religious boarding schools to operate without regulation despite terrible allegations of child abuse.

Laszloffy lead the fight to allow religious boarding schools in Montana like Pinehaven Ranch to remain unregulated. These religious schools, which have no licenses, no accreditation and employ teachers who are not certified,  are now dealing with allegations that staff used violence to discipline students. And yet the Montana GOP has voted, under Laszloffy’s direction, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it  on the Anderson Cooper 360 show.  Rep. Ellie Hill’s HB 236 would have addressed the problem. Laszloffy lobbied hard against Hill’s bill, convincing the GOP majority to let these kids suffer free from protection.

So yeah, this is pretty bad policy making, and its pretty ridiculous that Billings Mayor Tom Hanel went so wrong by listening to this guy instead of his own constituents.  He should be replaced at the earliest opportunity since he has demonstrated such poor judgement.