Category Archives: 2014 Elections

Lone Male TEA Party GOP Leader Poses as Non-Partisan Women’s Group to Back Local TEA Party Candidate

New TEA Party Plot to Defraud Voters Comes to Light

TEA Party Republicans in Montana know their ideology is so out-of-touch that Montanans wouldn’t support them if they knew the truth about their beliefs.  So they’ve resorted to dirty, dishonest plots to deceive voters about their candidates.  Here is the latest.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women's civics group endorsed him, they didn't.

TEA Party Republican Bob Brown, of Sanders County, was elected after the local GOP took out ads claiming the local women’s civics group endorsed him, they didn’t.

The male leader of the Sanders County Republican Party filed paperwork with the state to claim ownership over the name of a local non-partisan women’s group called Women for a Better Sanders County.  He then took out ads in the local paper claiming the group supported TEA Party Republican Bob Brown for legislature.  Brown won.  The Missoulian reported the story this week.

This is the only the latest in a series of deceptive plots hatched by TEA Party republicans to deceive the voters of Montana.

This spring a bunch of TEA Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. 

TEA Party legislator Debra Lamm, the Montana Family Foundation’s lobbyist, used a fake address on her campaign materials to imply that she actually lived in the district she now represents (she doesn’t.)  Lamm won.

Cascade County TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker, who ran for school board this may, created a separate fake organization called “Parents Coalition of for Accountability in Schools” to imply that there was a group supporting her campaign for school board. No such organization exists.  Baker did not win.

But only Dick Wells, who is vice-Chair of the Sanders County GOP, went so far as to pretend that an established, respected, legitimate group supported the local TEA Party candidate.  And get this, when the Missoulian asked him:

if he felt it was deceptive for a lone male to purchase “Women for a Better Sanders County” for the purpose of publicly endorsing a political candidate, Wells said no.

Wells said the name was his because he “bought and paid for it” by filing some forms with the Secretary of State.

If this isn’t voter fraud, I don’t know what is.

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

…the uber-right lobbying group the Montana Family Foundation.

Let’s hear it for the Montana Family Foundation, who went all Twitter Rambo criticizing another organization–for doing the exact same thing they did.

Both organizations committed what most people would consider a minor reporting mistake – they grouped election expenditures together on the same line, instead of breaking out the races onto separate lines.  But the Family Foundation expressed outrage on social media about the error:

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The COPP ruling referenced in these tweets says Planned Parenthood reported their expenditure incorrectly because it lumped mailers it sent together into one reporting line (instead of breaking it out per candidate).

But what takes these statements beyond annoying faux outrage and into the realm of rank hypocrisy is that this is exactly how the Montana Family Foundation reported its own expenditures, for the exact same election cycle, as you can see from this screenshot.  The full MFF filing is here.

The complaint against Planned Parenthood was filed by Tonya Shellnut, another of the Montana GOP’s hypocrisy heroines. Shellnut ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Mary McNally in Billings, with the backing of the Montana Family Foundation of course.

It seems hypocrisy is the backbone of the Montana Family Foundation.  So pat yourselves on the back Laszloffy and crew. You’ve wowed us once again.


GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women

GOP also decrees:  Don’t get caught in fleece, jersey, or open-toed sandals

The TEA Party House Republican leadership of the 2015 legislature has issued a new edict, the first of its kind that I have seen.

Because they love freedom and personal liberty, they’ve issued a formal mandatory dress code for anyone who seeks to be allowed into the House floor.  Besides demanding “business formal” dress, the new decree calls on women to mind their necklines and skirt lengths.   House GOP leadership are empowered to police the new edict.

This important policy is written in all capital letters, of course, because what else would you  expect from world-class leaders.

Since this new dress code is not particularly clear, the Cowgirl Blog has provided a handy guide below.   After all, the dress code is not just for legislators but also for “LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES” who  “MUST ALSO ABIDE BY THIS POLICY IF ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE BODIES ARE GAVELED INTO SESSION.”

Once you see what’s in the dress code, it’s clear it is targeted at women–and probably reporters.  After all, reporters are really the only people who can access the house floor besides the legislators’ own staff–and a handful of high school “pages.”  Last session, reporters were required for the first time to get special permission or “passes” to be on the House Floor at all.  Then the next thing we know, the senate president is looking into evicting the Associated Press from its capital office. Now this. But let’s get right to the dress code. There are eight rules in the edict, however, rule #6 was not released and we must presume it is being kept secret for some reason.

UPDATE:  GOP Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is now  blaming his staffer for the dresscode, as you can see in the Bozeman Chronicle article that just came out.

First,  women are ordered to be “SENSITIVE TO SKIRT LENGTHS AND NECKLINES.”

(No similar guidance was provided to men to be mindful of tight or sagging pants and hideously short eagle-carrying-an-assault-rifle-in-its-beak neckties.)

The dress code also bans leggings. The legging ban may be a dig at the young women of Skyview High School who are fighting a dress code policy that unfairly targets young women in Billings.

So leggings are out, as are open toed sandals.  However, under this dress code concealed carry holsters under beige suits with bolo ties would definitely be okay –at least once the legislature passes the obligatory “concealed carry for everyone” bill the TEA Party introduces every year. 


Next, I see that “FLEECE AND JERSEY (SWEATSHIRT) MATERIAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED “BUSINESS FORMAL.”  Somebody needs to tell the dudes that wrote this that jersey and sweatshirt material are two entirely different things, but alas until then the rule stands.  Jersey tops like this are banned:

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While this polyester number as shown on former TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is just dandy:



It also appears that men and women are required to wear suits, or suit jackets at all times or, for women  “a suit-like dress” may be worn, whatever that is.  Unfortunately, that means some of the clothing worn by GOP lawmakers in their own official legislative photos does not meet the new code.

This attire on GOP Rep. Christie Clark is now banned:

christy clark 2

Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)

Also banned would be any reporter who showed up to help inform the public dressed like this – as cardigans have been nixed:


While this garb (the closest thing I could find that might resemble the item supposedly known as a “suit-like dress,” and which ceased to be made 30 years ago) would be allowed:


suit-like dress


The dress code also specifies that “JEANS OR DENIM MATERIAL, INCLUDING COLORED DENIM, IS NOT ALLOWED.”  Which means the apparel worn by TEA Party Rep. Nancy Ballance would be banned:

Nancy Ballance


No mention is made of Colonel Sanders ties, but this must be an oversight and I expect further guidance on this Montana Legislature wardrobe staple soon (shown on former TEA Party Rep. Alan Hale).


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But it when it comes to requiring respectful behavior, there are some who would say this dress code appears to be geared more toward cracking down on women than on respectful behavior from men.

(I mean, it certainly would make everyone happier if men were more sensitive about the length of athletic shorts worn at the house/senate basketball game and if all Looney Tunes and Tasmanian devil ties were burned – but the dress code makes no mention of these.)

Instead of forcing backward modesty standards on women, here are some guidelines that the 64th Legislature would do better to adopt:

1. Legislators shall not refer to women as livestock, farm equipment, or household pets – and when debating a bill on breast cancer prevention, shall not berate their colleagues for supporting the “boob bill.”

2. Legislators shall take a breathalyzer test before they are allowed a vote, since they seem to think drug tests should be mandated on poor families.

3. High school pages shall be allowed to learn about the legislative process and not relegated to fetching 57 ice-cream sandwiches a day while being ogled creepily.

4. Legislators shall stop trying trying to hide their actions and true plans from the public and the press.

Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter tweeted a reaction from House minority whip Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena) this morning.  Eck said dems had nothing to do with the dress code.

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2015 Legislative Caucuses Meet Today

How this work – and what it means

Today, Montana’s new and returning legislators will convene for the first time to get some training, meet as R and D caucuses, and vote for leadership.

In the 2015 session there are a number of candidates vying for these offices.  Usually those who are seeking to become the leaders of a chamber reach out to members of their caucus to run for the office.  You’ll also often see those seeking leadership positions attempting to position themselves in the press or social media as leaders – or as attack dogs on the Governor or opposing party.

Today, the Rs will meet on the third floor to “caucus,” while D’s meet on the first.  Then the leadership selection process will begin. Until leaders are chosen,  the person of each caucus with the most seniority traditionally leads the caucus meeting and leadership selection to make it fair if leadership positions are contested.

Then those running for leadership need to be nominated and seconded for Speaker of the House or Senate president.  The nominators and seconders both must give a speech telling their fellow lawmakers why those they are supporting should be their leaders.   After that the candidates for Senate President and Speaker of the House give their own speeches.

Interestingly, members of the caucuses still vote by secret ballot and often the ballot count is never revealed and only known by counters, who must ensure the leader gets at least 50% of the vote or set up a run off.  I’m wondering whether this secrecy is actually allowed given MT open record laws and that caucuses are public meetings in Montana.  Legislators’ other votes are public too.

Leadership positions are very important because leadership of each body not only sets the tone of the session but, in the House, the leader is solely responsible for choosing committee chairs and committee members.  Also, it is the Senate President and the House Speaker who in the final days of the session will negotiate a budget with Governor Bullock.  Don’t let anyone tell you that someone wacky is the best fit for these jobs.  The budget and the committee makeup is too important. It needs to be someone who can work with both sides or nothing will be accomplished.  If the house alienates itself too much from the senate and the executive branch – either through leadership choices or committees or both — then it’s members may find themselves outside the loop and not involved when it comes to key negotiations, decisions, and bill passage.

Senate President

Senate President: In the Senate, the to position is the Senate President and she or he will effectively be chosen today by the Republicans as the majority party in that body, although there is an official confirmation vote on the first day of the session to elect this person.

Senate Committees

In the Senate, unlike in the House, a “Committee on Committees” will be elected today to choose who will serve on each senate committee.  This means senate Committee Chairs and membership will not be announced prior to the session beginning in January. The Committee on Committees will likely have Rs and Ds both.

Speaker of the House

Speaker of the House is the leader of the House, and is chosen like the Senate President, with an official vote of the full House on day one of the 2015 session. Because the four positions I just mentioned get voted on by the full membership of each body, depending on how this plays out and who is running, dems could play a role in the selection of the top two leadership positions of each body.

House Committees

In the House, the Speaker of the House personally chooses the committee leadership for every house committee.  For this reason, it is not likely that the committee chairs and membership will be announced today either.

Senate Pro-Tem and House Pro-Tem

Each body will also elect a Pro-Tem – basically a number two to the Senate President and Speaker.  The duties of this position are pretty much whatever they President and Senate want them to be – these two jobs get an official vote of the full house and senate on the first day of the session too.

Majority and Minority Leaders and Whips

Both the senate and the house each get a majority leader and a minority leader whose jobs it will be to serve as spokespeople for their parties during floor sessions (making objections, asking questions, etc).  Each caucus will also have whip positions who are supposed to “whip” their caucuses into voting together. Only the caucuses vote for these positions, not the full house and senate.

The house and the senate operate independently even if they are controlled by the same party – and the chambers do not always agree.  Typically near the end of the session it is the President and Speaker that complete the final budget negotiations with the Governor, this is why these roles are so important and why it is important that rational individuals and moderate Republicans are in these posts.

Each chamber functions under its own rules that are adopted by the bodies on the first day of session.  While many of the rules are the same in each body there are some significant differences.  There are also partisan differences in each body.  Not only has the house traditionally been more partisan and fractious than the senate, but word on the street is that the Senate’s moderating power will be greater this time because some of the most right-wing senators have moved over to the house.

These changes, plus the natural differences and division between the two bodies traditionally, provide use some clues about how the fault lines of the 2015 session will reveal themselves.

Additionally, it is important to remember that the GOP does not have a veto-proof majority and so will need to work with Governor Bullock in order to accomplish anything.

Committee Membership Selection

In the House, the Speaker appoints all committee’s membership and determines who is to chair each.  This gives the Speaker of the House a lot of power – power which has often been used to appoint imbeciles as chairs of key house committees.

There are several rumors circulating about who will run for leadership in the House.  For the R’s, Austin Knudson,  Steve Fitzpatrick and Ron Ehli are both said to be running for something. For the D’s Chuck Hunter, Pat Noonan, Bryce Bennett, Ellie Hill.

In the senate, those rumored to be running include Debby Barrett, Scott Sales, Mark Blasdel, Fred Thomas (architect of two of the worst MT laws –  deregulation and term limits),  and Jennifer Fielder (who has militia ties) are both said to be seeking some position.  This is frightening.  The GOP lacks women in both houses, and we will likely see some tokenism in play here to make it seem otherwise.  For the dems Jon Sesso is among the names being discussed for Minority Leader.

GUEST POST: Your Vote Counts

By Mary Ann Dunwell

Mary Ann Dunwell is Representative-elect to Montana House District 84. She was the progressive democratic candidate and will propose progressive democratic policies to help every Montanan enjoy equal opportunity to succeed. She welcomes your questions or comments at 461-5358

The tight race for Montana House District 84 underscores why it’s so important we exercise our right to vote, our fundamental freedom in a democracy. So many people sacrificed so much for this right, especially veterans who we honor on Veterans Day and every day. By the end of election night, I was up by a mere 20 votes. With provisional ballots counted late this afternoon, we won by 23 votes. I am honored, humbled and don’t take this slim lead for granted. I will represent all Montanans.

This is a win for the young mom I spoke with who was fired from her minimum wage job because she couldn’t get a sitter for her sick child; for the woman with tears in her eyes who asked if I would fight for low income people; for the young couple earning minimum wage struggling to support their family; for the young adults who want to go to college but can’t stomach sky-high loans; for the four-year-old whose young mom can’t qualify for Head Start or afford pre-K; for the woman working a $300-a-week job with no health insurance and living in pain; for the mom whose daughter committed suicide, the sister whose brother took his life, and the mom who struggles to find mental health care for a child. It’s a win for so many others whose voices haven’t been heard.

Thank you to our many supporters who stepped up with me and invested their time, energy and money in our grassroots campaign. You gave up something in exchange for something much greater in which we can all believe – equal opportunity for all Montanans. For those who were not able to vote, I encourage you to please register and vote the next time. Thank you to those who voted this time. Your vote will resonate at the Capitol. Your vote will make sure the people’s voice is heard in the people’s house.

Your vote counts.

Pick Your Heads Up, Democrats

I’ve seen commentary from Democrats on this blog and on Twitter in the days since the election, declaring the Montana election results to be some sort of abject and tragic failure on the part of Democratic candidates, the party, and so on.

That is simply not true.  We did as well as could have been expected.  All of the post mortem commentary leaves one thing out: Democrats in Montana essentially won every race that was winnable. The federal contests never revealed themselves, in pre-election polling dating back 12 months, to be winnable races.  Even though she ran a good race and fought the good fight and generated some buzz, Amanda Curtis never had anything but a highly remote  statistical chance at becoming senator, a miracle required.  It was almost the same for John Lewis.  In a big Democratic year and with a full year or two to campaign, things might have been different. But Amanda was always behind by at least 15 points and Lewis 10, and even if she had lit some type of rare fire and started to tear down Steve Daines, he would have unleashed another three or four million dollars against her, as would the Republican party.  Daines and Zinke were solid Republican candidates in a Republican year in a Republican state. What Lewis and Curtis were each looking for was a monumental upset.  It is not a failure that they did not achieve one.  This was an impossible year for Democrats to send a person to Washington.  It’s just that simple.

The same can be said about our local races–we won what was winnable and we are one of only five states in America where democrats gained legislative seats.  That’s a pretty impressive thing in my view.  And the most important winnable race of all, we won big–the Supreme Court.

So that’s the first point.   The second point is that I would caution people to be careful about simply accepting all of the theories being pushed out there about why Democrats lost.   Because the main and most simple theory is most certainly the correct one:  Montana will not send a Democrat to Washington in a year in which we have a democratic (not to mention black) president at 28% in the polls, in a midterm year, who is fairly inept at articulating what he stands for or believes.

For those who believe that the Democrats should unabashedly come out against the Keystone pipeline, or unabashedly for a pro-immigration position, I have news for you: such positions are extremely unpopular in states like Montana, and very polarizing too. The greenlighting of the Keystone pipeline, for example, is supported by 85% of Montana voters.  Coming out strongly against it, and shouting it from the mountaintop, provides no electoral benefit.

Nationally, I’m not sure that the analysis is much different.  The election was a platform for voters to make an anti-Obama statement, and there’s not much a democrat can do when that’s what an election is about.


For the Record: New GOP Legislator Has a Record for Assaulting a Minor

If you google new Republican legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers (R-Box Elder) some disturbing information comes up.

The GOP legislator was convicted of assault on a minor for abusing his own children, which is a felony, and sentenced to four years in prison. Meyers appears on the Correctional Offender website known as Conweb.  You can see his profile here. 

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Meyers’ sentence included that he was not allowed to live in Broadwater County, where his children lived, because they were afraid of him and afraid to ride their bikes around the small town they lived in for fear of running into him or that he would find them on their way to and from school.

Convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers with Steve Daines

Convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers with Steve Daines

For some reason, there is no mention of this public information in today’s Havre Daily News puff piece on the new Republican legislator, nor could I find evidence that they reported the information when voters needed it – before the election.

It’s unfortunate that the Democratic party did not inform voters of Meyers’ criminal background during the campaign.  Meyers challenged Rep. Clarena Brockie (D-Harlem) who has served the district well for the past two years and is the dean of student affairs at Aaniiih Nakoda College.

Convicted child abuser and GOP legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers (center) with fellow GOP legislator Kris Hansen (right)

Convicted child abuser and GOP legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers (center) with fellow GOP legislator Kris Hansen (right) and new legislator Rep. Stephanie Hess, also of Havre.  This is the party of family values. 

Meyers was appointed director of Indian Affairs under former Republican Governor Judy Martz, but resigned suddenly after only a few months on the job “for personal and family reasons.”  Martz earned national derision herself for saying at a public speaking even that her husband never beat her but “then again she never gave him a reason to.”

Convicted child abuser and Republican legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers with Ryan Zinke

Convicted child abuser and Republican legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers with Ryan Zinke

Convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers and the Hill County GOP with fellow GOP legislator Kris Hansen

Convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers and the Hill County GOP with fellow GOP legislator Kris Hansen (R-Havre).  Family values Republicans all.




Worst Political Ads of 2014

Here’s a treat for everyone in need of a good laugh to get rid of some post-election stress.

The Cowgirl Blog has scoured the web in search of the worst campaign ads of the 2014 cycle.  Here they are.

1. For reasons unknown beyond a cracked noggin, this Iowa candidate for U.S. Senate stops in the middle of his ad, turns to the camera, and says:

“If you’re the socio-path and sexual predator who murdered my sister Lynette, and you come to my front door to do harm to my girls, I’m going to use my Glock to blow your balls off.”

Ignore the dial testing graphics.

2. This newspaper ad, which appeared in the Lewistown News Argus, pretty much sums up the Montana GOP’s world view and campaign strategy:
butcher ad

3. The National College Republicans put out a series of ads like this, since I guess they don’t believe women have been insulted enough yet.

4. This ad, produced by an (unsuccessful) Republican candidate for the Mississippi state house named Chris McDaniel, features a series of non sequiturs.  It starts with a Lincoln impersonation voice-over, then some very bad actors engage in a forced promotion of some nutjob’s book, then someone says they “had a dream about that.” Then some very strange singers sing a very strange song.

5. This ad by Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton commits one of the biggest sins in PR – using your own air time to spread your opponents attacks on you.  Then there’s an awkward part where he says his opponent says he hates puppies, then admits that it actually did take him a while to like his girlfriend’s puppy, then he tries to say he was “just joking.” And that’s the entire ad.

Election Analysis

Now that it’s all over but the shoutin’, Democrats should feel okay about last night’s results. The one big, competitive and crucial race that mattered most, we won big. Mike Wheat destroyed Lawrence VanDyke to retain his supreme court seat.

Despite all of our pre-election optimism, no polling prior to the election at any point, ever indicated that the two federal races were winnable. They showed consistent double-digit leads for the Republicans. This speaks to the courage and backbone of the candidates and staffers who took on Daines and Zinke- we can be proud of them all.

Daines and Zinke ran smart races (not the intellectual content, but the strategy) and did what they needed to do. Amanda Curtis and John Lewis ran into an anti-Obama buzzsaw, and there was little they could do at all to scale the cliff that lay before them. Candidates of a lesser caliber would have fared much worse. Both have very bright political futures.
And for anyone who thinks John Walsh would have fared any better had his plagiarism not been uncovered–he might have put up better numbers but he still would have been beaten and probably pretty badly. Realize that Obama in Montana has lower numbers than he did in any of the other states in which important senate races were lost. This was not a night for a Montana democrat to win a ticket to Washington DC.
I was shocked at how badly Wheat beat VanDyke, but it goes to show you that Montana voters have a good nose and can sniff things out, and smell when something is not right.

We lost some good men and women last night: Franke Wilmer and Greg Jergeson, incumbents who lost state senate races will be missed. these were targeted Senate races that ended up not even being close. Jergeson eschewed help from the party, refusing to allow canvassers to go door-to-door, and this was a mistake that we can learn from and apply to future races. Wilmer struggled likely because Bozeman is Daines country and he got his people out. Ultimately, however, the tide was simply too strong against us to make more than small gains, much like in 2010.


In the state house, however, Dems picked up two seats, and the senate remains the same as last session. This is a small victory which deserves a big celebration in this climate.  It also means a net gain of one additional pro-Medicaid expansion vote in the house.


Also two big Helena races went our way. Mary-Anne Dunwell beat Steve Gibson and Moffie Funk beat Liz Bangerter, both rep seats. Bangerter is an angry right-winger who now understands that Helenans have no tolerance for posturing.
Two close shaves, by the way in Missoula. Diane Sands, of Missoula, was in the fight of her life last night in what had been thought to be a safe seat. It looks like she will win by a dozen or so votes. And Gary Marbut, the NRA lunatic, barely lost by a handful of votes, but again in a seat that was supposed to be safe. I think we can all cheer the fact that RWNJ Gerry O’Neil is no longer a member of Montana’s lawmaking body, thanks to Zac Perry.


Another major victory is the defeat of the Teapublican ballot measure to restrict voting rights. It lost big, and rightly so.
One dark spot last night, not of Obama’s making, is in Big Horn County- home of the Crow Reservation, where Daines and Curtis battled to a draw. That’s a serious problem for Democrats and we need to repair it. We also need to be mindful of the number of TEA party candidates who are directly in the pocket of the Montana Family Foundation- notorious anti education but jobs. They elected another of their lobbyists Debra Lamm, but thankfully Tonya Shellnut lost to Mary McNally.

Montana Legislature Looks Similar to 2013, Dems Make Small Gains

During the 2013 session the House had 61 Republican and 39 Democratic members, and the Senate had 29 Republican and and 21 Democratic members.

As of my bleary morning preliminary count, it looks like the House is 59 R and 41 D and the Senate is 29 R, 21 D.

Lots of very close races, some could be headed to recount.  I’ll have more later, and will recheck these numbers but for now I must say:


(And many others – Zac Perry, Mary McNally, Janet Ellis, Virginia Court, Moffie Funk, Kim Dudik, Chris Pope, Casey Schreiner- full analysis later today.)

So proud of you!