Category: 2012 Elections

Posted: July 10, 2013 at 10:52 pm

The Shoe Falls

A complaint was filed by a government watchdog organization against James Bopp, the architect of Citizens United  yesterday.  Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington filed a whistleblowers complaint against Bopp and his organization, the “James Madison Center for Free Speech.” The complaint alleges he diverted nearly all of the funds from the non-profit to his own law firm in violation of prohibitions against using charitable organizations for private inurement and private benefit.  

As the Wall Street Journal reports,

 As a result, JMCFS and the Bopp Law Firm now owe the IRS more than $6.2 million in back taxes. Further, by repeatedly signing and submitting to the IRS inaccurate tax forms, Mr. Bopp may have made false statements in violation of federal criminal law.

James Bopp was one of the original lawyers for Citizens United, the legal challenge led to the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said corporations are people and can spend money to influence elections.

Besides deregulating the nation’s campaign finances, Bopp has been up to no good in Montana too.

In 2010, the Helena IR reported that the Bopp’s firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Olsen and the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party faction is suing the state to invalidate Montana transparency laws and political reporting requirements. Olson was the Chair the Billings GOP Republican Party who was caught posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon in February. She did not seek re-election after the post became public.

And in 2012, the Billings Gazette reported, Bopp and his firm were listed as lead counsel for the failed recount effort of Republican Office of Public Instruction candidate Sandy Welch.

 

Posted: July 7, 2013 at 9:45 am

Group Behind MT Ballot Measure Also Pushed Laws to Justify Homicide of Abortion Doctors

The group behind Montana’s anti-choice ballot measure is also behind several bills to expand justifiable homicide laws, so that they cover murder committed in the defense of a fetus.

Law enforcement officials say the bills “could be used to incite violence against abortion providers.”

ALEC’s anti-choice step-sister, a group, called “Americans United for Life”  is the out-of-state group pushing this bill in multiple states.  Missouri and Oklahoma passed the bill, and South Dakota and Nebraska have considered it multiple times.  Like ALEC, Americans United for Life is behind a whole slew of boilerplate bills to roll back science, public health, medical standards, and privacy rights by a hundred years or so.

We know Montana lawmakers are using the group’s bill templates.   The language of HB 391, the parental consent for abortion bill that passed the MT legislature this session,  is practically a verbatim replica of the AUL’s model legislation.   And what do you know, the bill which put the parental notification referendum on the Montana ballot in 2012 is also identical to the AUL boilerplate.

You can see a whole list of AUL’s current boilerplate legislation here.  While American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the best known boilerplate bill factory, AUL has operated more under the radar, proliferating hundreds of right-wing bills for non-thinking legislators who get their ideas about policy from out-of-state think tanks instead of listening to their own constituents.  It’s disturbing to thing that there are other such groups, and that there are so many Montana lawmakers who would rather pander to TEA party carpet-baggers than come up with some thing that actually is important to the Montanans they are supposed to represent.

AUL is led by a woman named Charmaine Yoest, a former adviser to Mike Huckabee’s failed presidential campaign.

Posted: May 16, 2013 at 6:07 am

National Watchdog Group Profiles Jason Priest’s Dark Money Group

Michael Beckel has just published a new profile on the dark money group a GOP state senator used to influence the Montana state Supreme Court race and block the Medicaid expansion.

The profile shows how Priest used dark money to demonize Supreme Court candidates Ed Sheehy and Elizabeth Best in support of a TEA Party candidate.  Priest also used the dark money group to send out attack mailers to kill the Medicaid expansion.  Because of Priest’s actions, 70,000 of Montanan’s most disadvantaged working poor won’t be able to get health care. 

Beckel, who writes for the Center for Public Integrity, published the report on the heels of a new analysis by the National Institute on Money in State Politics that found Montana is one of 35 states where rules regarding the disclosure of political spending by independent groups are less stringent than federal election law.

There’s much more on this, so check out the links in Beckel’s story above.

Posted: May 3, 2013 at 6:53 am

Laszloffy’s Losses Part 2

by Cowgirl

The Montana Family Foundation’s Jeff Laszloffy suffered a slew of losses this session, but perhaps none was felt so bitterly as his failure to get a parental consent legislative referendum on the ballot for 2014. The Family Foundation’s legislative referenda work was the organization’s major cash cow last election cycle.  Since Laszloffy failed to get the measure on the ballot for 2014, the Family Foundation’s ability to impact elections has now evaporated.

Cowgirl readers will recall that Governor Steve Bullock allowed Laszloffy’s unconstitutional bill to become law solely so that the bill can be struck down in Montana’s courts. As John Adams at The Lowdown reports, the move allows women to immediately challenge the measure in court long before an identical referenda passed by the legislature gets to the ballot in 2014.

Sure, Laszloffy knew that the measure was unconstitutional–everyone knew it. But Lazloffy’s purpose in pushing it was electoral, not policy-driven.

You see, last election cycle Laszloffy raised some $300,000–purportedly for the parental notification legislative referenda which was sent to the ballot by the 2011 legislature.    Montana Family Foundation’s Incidental Ballot Committee Reports in 2012 show they were able to raise and spend $320,000 in 2012.

In a typical year, the Family Foundation raises about $20,000 for electoral work.  But because of the LR, LR-120, they were able to raise more than 15 times that amount. You can see the reports below.

$18,000 May 8-May 24

$3,000 May 25-June 18

$2,000 June 19-July 3

$6,000 July 4 -Aug 3 

$29,000 Aug 4-Sept 3

$191,000 spent Sept 15-Oct 15

$3,000 spent Oct 16-Oct 25

$68,000 spent Oct 26-Nov 19

For one thing, this is money that could be used to supplant Family Foundation funds that had been going toward Laszloffy’s salary.  What’s also interesting is that the campaign finance reports for Laszloffy’s ballot committee  shows that some of the money he raised was leveraged to actually help the GOP’s top targeted legislative races–not just the ballot initiative.

Here’s a screenshot from his “incidental ballot committee’s” campaign report.  It reports the expenditure Lazsoffy made for a mailer that was about the ballot measure on one side, and a top tier targeted GOP race on the other.   This means that all of the polling and research Laszloffy did for these mailings was supporting the GOP’s legislative candidates too.

MT Fam Foundation hide campaign work as ballot

Thanks to Cowgirl tipsters for pointing out these fundraising anomalies. Reader tips are the essence of this blog. Send tips to mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com

Posted: April 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Meet the ATP Board of Directors

by Cowgirl


A court has demanded that the dark money group American Tradition Partnership must reveal its board members, the Associated Press reported today.  Let’s meet them.

Doug Lair

ATP Director Doug Lair
ATP Director Doug Lair

Doug Lair (pictured right), resides in Sweet Grass County.

For some reason, ATP is operating in the county under a different name: Sweetgrass Citizens for Constitutional Integrity.  The group hosts an innocuously named website sweetgrassroots.org–and it’s really something to see.  On it, Mr. Lair warns his ATP followers that “Progressive programs and indoctrination have found their way into our local government and schools at an alarming rate.”

There is one insidious new influence in Big Timber that Mr. Lair is especially worried about.  He fears that a local economic development project of the Northwest Area Foundation may really be a secret “progressive indoctrination boot camp.”  Actually, the program gives grants to local communities for projects like sprucing up their business and industrial parks to help get the local economy moving.

When the FRONTLINE documentary exposing ATP’s activities was aired on PBS, Lair posted a tirade against PBS on the Sweetgrass Council/ATP website.  He accused the station of everything from “belittling Jesus” to spreading anti-American views, to being part of a government conspiracy to vaccinate kids against diseases.

The site indicates that Sweetgrass County Commissioner Bob Faw is heavily invoved in the group.  It also helpfully lists the emails of all the legislators they say have done right by ATP in the legislature, so that you may thank them.

 

Geoff Goble

Not really a picture of Mr. Goble, probably


Mr. Goble 
is a  commercial property developer who also lives in the Big Timber area.  He’s also your garden variety secessionist.   He’s been linked with the website SovereignStateProject.com  According to this campaign finance complaint filed by former state legislator John Esp,  some ATP documents uncovered in a meth house  appear to show that Goble helped finance the pro-secession website.

Geoff Goble

The website proclaims such views as:

“The Project was inspired by Rep. Joel Boniek’s recent legislation in Montana and the clamor for states’ rights that is sweeping the U.S. We are part of a grassroots movement of ordinary citizens who are FED UP with the Federal Government.”

and

“States should seize back the power over their own borders and BOOT the Feds. Let them control ONLY the international borders, and stay out of our Sovereign States.”

The complaint also describes how Oathkeeper-affiliated Joel Boniek, Geoff Goble, and ATP worked together to defeat Esp and support Boniek’s campaign for state legislature.  Boniek was the former state legislator who made headlines after a bizarre incident which led to his arrest.  Goble has also signed his name to statements declaring that Earth Day is “straightforward paganism,” and a “tool used by those who seek to control individuals and engineer society.”

 

Peter MacKenzie 

Peter MacKenzie, ATP Bankroller
Man thought to be Peter MacKenzie, ATP Board member

Peter Mackenzie is a large land owner and Livingston real estate developer and a major bank-roller of ATP.  Here’s how he’s described in ATP’s donor prospecting notes, which were uncovered among the infamous meth house documents:

Peter Mackenzie

A Peter G. Mackenzie of Mackenzie Associates LTD from the Livingston zip code has given money to Burns, Daines, Fox, and Brown. His profile appears to match this Peter MacKenzie (pictured) who is described thusly:

“Over the past 25 years, Peter MacKenzie has developed and operated 200 plus nationally-known franchises. In addition to spending a number of years on Wall Street, he continued to raise and manage monies for clients. Peter has developed properties in Big Sky as well as currently owns and operates several retail businesses there.”

Peter Mackenzie check

 

Posted: January 23, 2013 at 6:43 am

Livingstone Resurfaces

A small crowd of gun rights advocates came to the Capitol this weekend to protest Obama’s plans to crack down on gun violence in America.

And wouldn’t you know it, one of the speakers at the rally was Neil Livingstone, as you can see from this AP photo.  The GOP gubernatorial candidate lost in the primary in 2012 when it was revealed that he had once authored an instructional book for world business travelers which included a chapter on how to solicit a prostitute. Protect Yourself in an Uncertain World: A Comprehensive Handbook for your Personal and Business Security is available for $4.98 at Amazon. Continue reading

Posted: January 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Legislative Roundup

Roger Koopman Should Not Be In Charge of Taxi Cabs

Rep. Ellie Hill of Missoula has proposed deregulation–not of energy, but of taxicabs.  Little did anyone know that the Public Service Commission is the branch of government that regulates taxis in Montana.  That is ludicrous.  If you’ve ever tried to get a cab in Missoula, you will know that Ms. Hill is on the right track here.  There is a government-granted monopoly in the city, and that needs to change.  Hill is trying to move authority over cab regulation from the PSC to the Montana Legislature.  After all, can anybody, Republican or Democrat, say that it’s a good thing that Roger Koopman is in charge of taxis?  The bill is LC1416.

 

GOP Voter Suppression Bill

The Repubs have wasted no time in trying to revive their bread-and-butter, old faithful favorite piece of legislation.  Representative Ted Washburn of Bozeman has introduced a bill (HB 30) to do away with election day registration. If Washburn were from Billings, he’d not be sponsoring this bill.  Voters waited on line several hours to vote in Billings in 2012, and if there had been no voting-day registration option, many would have been turned away after the long wait, even though they were lawfully qualified to vote.

Thankfully, Schweitzer vetoed the bill in 2011 and Bullock will almost certainly do so as well.  Funny enough, the GOP does not believe this type of shenanigans has any political repercussions, that you can brazenly make a legislative move to take away voters’ rights and voters won’t notice. But I think they do notice, and Democrats will remind them in 2014.  In fact, in 2014, Democratic volunteers should be walking the line of voters, explaining to the people waiting on the infernal line that the reason they have to wait so long, and waste half a day, is that the GOP likes it that way.

Although it’s not in the bill, Washburn told the committee he believes voting should be restricted to “driver’s license, the person that pays taxes in Montana, the person that actually resides here in Montana,” Chuck Johnson reported.  Meaning if he had his way, many seniors, students, the disabled, and the very poor would not get to vote.

 

The Ruling Class

Washburn wants to restrict voting to taxpaying residents, but another GOP legislator wants to expand voting to non-residents–non-resident property owners, that is.  Rep. Terry Murphy’s bill (SB 130) would let non-residents vote in municipal elections, including mill-levies, bonds, and candidates.

The Flathead County Commission tried a similar scheme in 2011 to decide who will control zoning in the outskirts of the city of Whitefish – the city, or the county with an “official survey.”  They sent surveys to all those who owned property in the area–some of whom didn’t actually reside in the area at all. Some people got multiple votes depending on how many properties they owned. If you resided in the area, but didn’t make enough to own property, well, you weren’t allowed to voice your opinion.  According to a citizens group who analyzed the survey results, “less than half, 47%, of the survey cards mailed out went to people who actually live in the two-mile area around Whitefish, while another 53% went to people who don’t even live in Whitefish.”

 

“Immigration Sanctuaries”

Speaking of stupid bills, the GOP has also revived the “immigration sanctuary bill” from 2011.  An immigration sanctuary, as best I can tell, is a state of affairs in which a local government refuses to order its policemen to go hunt for dark-skinned people and ask to see their passports.   This bill was vetoed last session and will be no doubt vetoed again as is it is utterly ridiculous.  HB 50 is sponsored by David Howard (R-Park City).

 

Many Novice Legislators

Chuck Johnson has an interesting piece about a tough fact: lots of newbies in the Montana Legislature.  Term limits have created a rookie majority, and several observations made in the Johnson piece are worthy of discussion and perhaps demand a re-examination of term limits.  A few of the points struck me as intriguing: that the legislative branch of government is weakened by a lack of institutional knowledge that once resided in veteran legislators; that the executive has been strengthened, because legislators must rely on executive-branch bureaucrats for policy expertise; and that reliance on lobbyists for legislative expertise has become excessive.   One wonders, looking back, whether Schweitzer’s successful bullying of the legislature was made easier by a weakening of the House and Senate by term limits, which eliminate veterans.

 

Reduce Size of House and Senate

Republican Jason Priest of Red Lodge has put in a bill to shrink the Montana legislature to 40 and 80 members, Senate and House respectively.   I don’t know what to make of this, although one can assume that if a right-wing Republican is introducing such a measure, it probably disadvantages Democrats in some way.  But here’s another idea:  How about a unicameral legislature, like Nebraska?  Actually, Nebraska has no party affiliation for members.   How’s that sound? 100 legislators, one house, all independents by law.

 

Posted: January 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Dick Leaves Party

Ted Dick left his post Tuesday as director of the Montana Democratic Party. He either resigned or was fired, depending on who’s telling the story. Jim Elliott, the MDP chair, sent a note around saying that Dick had chosen to depart after several years of good service. Later in the day, board member Jim Larson sent an e-mail disputing Elliott’s account.

Either way, Dick deserves some credit for presiding over turbulent times, including big wins for Jon Tester and Steve Bullock in 2012 with also some tough losses in other races. In the 2004 election he helped pull the Montana House to a 50-50 draw, something we might not see again for a while.

The good comes with the bad. Timing is everything in politics. We wish Ted well.

Posted: January 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to…

Roger Koopman…Roger Koopman. The honor is well-deserved.

While running for a seat on the Public Service Commission, Koopman demanded that fellow Republicans be “sanctioned” for calling him “ineffective and divisive”.  He then used the first PSC meeting to vote against the PSC’s own legislative proposals–bills his fellow Republicans unanimously supported.

As the Bozeman Chronicle reported:

After one day on the job, Public Service Commissioner Roger Koopman cast the lone unfavorable votes on two PSC-sponsored bills headed to the Montana Legislature.

Koopman voted against a bill that his fellow GOP commissioners believed would fix flaws in an existing program–flaws that would force utility companies to waste money.  He said he’s against fixing the problems because to do so would imply support for clean energy, which he called ”anti-market, anti-consumer and anti-freedom.”

But the hypocrisy didn’t end there.

Koopman had campaigned on what he called a ”no show, no dough” platform, saying if you don’t show up you don’t get paid. (His opponent had attended some PSC meetings by phone so he could care for his wife, who has MS.)   While the other commissioners agreed to talk about their legislation at the next meeting, Koopman told them he wouldn’t be showing up.  Seems he can’t even make it to the second meeting.

Posted: January 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Bullock on National Radar

Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s election and fight for clean campaigns are garnering national attention this week, earning Montana a spot among the Huffington Post’s 25 best progressive victories of 2012.

Peter Drier writes:

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 — equating money with free speech — unleashed a flood of money from billionaires and corporations, much of it through hard-to-trace “super-PACs” and so-called “social welfare” organizations.

In the wake of that ruling, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock defended his state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which banned corporate campaign funds, all the way to the Supreme Court. The court overturned the Montana law 5 to 4, undermining the ability of states and cities to restrict corporations from trying to buy elections.

Although Bullock lost that fight, Montanans admired his populist ideals and elected him governor in November. That same day, Montana voters also supported Initiative I-166, which endorsed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, by a 74.8 percent margin.

The final shoe dropped this week on one group that tried to keep Bullock out of the governor’s office. The criminal enterprise ”social welfare organization” known as American Tradition Partnership (ATP), a group that has spent millions of dollars in Montana electing (or trying to elect) GOP candidates like Bullock’s opponent Rick Hill while defiantly ignoring state campaign finance rules.

The group, laughably, tried to argue that their mailers and other advertisements spreading lies about Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012 were not “political activity” as defined under Montana law.  Rather, ATP argued, these ads and mailers were “issue advocacy.”

Among the many shameful examples of this group’s “advocacy” for “issues” was a fake newspaper circulated widely during the Bullock-Hill contest for governor, which depicted Steve Bullock in a lineup of sex offenders.  This was ATP’s way of “advocating” for tougher sentences for sex offenders, which they claimed (falsely, of course) Bullock was opposed to.  So that gives you a flavor of the type of business this group is in.  By the way, the ATP’s headquarters is a P.O. Box at a mall in Washington, DC, a fact uncovered by the great PBS documentary that shed light on this miserable group back in October.

There are also some fifteen GOP legislators who owe their seats to the ATP (which spent enormous sums of money putting them in office) and are now in hot water because they appear to have been engaged in possible illegal coordination with the group.  One of ATP’s favorite tricks was to send out mass-produced, hand-written letters that appeared to come from a candidate’s wife, a scheme that would appear to break the firewall that is supposed to exist between third-party groups and candidates.

Ironically, these letters are now the subject of a lawsuit by Republican legislators against their former primary opponents, as reported in the Bozeman Chronicle reported.  Meanwhile, the Missoula Independent  reported that more “wife letters” from other GOP races surfaced this week.

ATP’s only staff person, Donny Ferguson, recently resigned.

What does any of this mean going forward? Most likely there will be fines, but I doubt any lawmakers will be forced to resign their seats.