Political Gossip, Satire, and Analysis from MT's Capital City "...an uncanny knack for sharp insider information..."--AP "...amazingly accurate inside info..."--Politico.com "...a viral sensation..."--Markos Moulitsas, Daily Kos "Among the best state-based political blogs in the nation."--Washington Post
The Montana Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by TEA Party AG Tim Fox and a TEA Party legislative candidate to block a citizen’s initiative to accept federal funding for health care for the working poor and veterans today.
In a unanimous ruling, the justices ruled that Fox’s and the TEA Partier’s attempt to invalidate Fox’s own fiscal statement and have it rewritten–an attempt to force the pro-Medicaid expansion signature gatherers to throw out thousands of signatures already gathered and start over at a later date, thereby severely restricting the amount of time they have to gather signatures.
It did not go unnoticed by the Supreme Court justices that these same obstructionists failed to voice their supposed concerns during the public comment period, thereby making their attempt to invalidate current signatures pretty obvious.
Remember also that it was Tim Fox himself who was charged with writing the fiscal statement. He didn’t voice any concerns about his own work at the time he wrote it, yet instead decided to sign on to a lawsuit filed against himself, which speaks to his lack of competence if nothing else.
TEA Party Republican legislator Fred Thomas responded by saying any justice that disagreed with him “shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court.” I guess he means all of them, including the arch conservatives on the court, since the ruling was unanimous.
More than five thousand gun-wielding, yellow flag waiving TEA Partiers and Montana militia members are descending on a small town called Bunkerville to fight the federal government.
No, its not a scene from the next Dinesh D’Souza movie flop, it’s actually happening in the town of Bunkerville, Nevada– an hour North of Las Vegas. Now, TEA Party Republican Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman) posted on his Facebook page that he plans to join them.
At issue is one man’s refusal to follow the law like his neighbors have done and stop illegally grazing on federal land. The rancher, a man named Cliven Bundy, has racked up $1.2 million in fines and unpaid grazing fees since 1993–but says he is special and needn’t follow the law like everyone else because his ancestors homesteaded in the area.
So the BLM, as is standard practice, began confiscating Bundy’s cattle to sell to pay some of the unpaid fees. This is no different than what happens to anyone who doesn’t pay their mortgage or their taxes for many years. The government or bank has the right to foreclose because the person didn’t uphold her or his end of the deal.
“That is what we do. We provide armed response,” Jim Lardy with Operation Mutual Aid said.
Lardy came from Montana to join the protesters, and he says he is not afraid to shoot, if necessary.
“They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government,” Lardy said.
He says other militia members are joining him.
“There is many more coming,” Lardy said
Here’s another Montana militia member:
“We’re all in this together,” said Rick Lovelien, 50, a militia member from Libby, Mont., with the Montana State Defense Force.
One protestor even admitted they had plans to put women and children at the front of the crowd so they would be among the first casualties if violence broke out. So these are the kinds of people that are involved.
The rancher is even urging sheriffs across the US to disarm federal law enforcement officials, Reuters reported.
An official with a group that tracks extremist and hate groups said the call by Cliven Bundy to disarm federal law enforcement with agencies like the BLM is equivalent to calling for an armed rebellion against the U.S. government.
The federal government, siting safety concerns for BLM staff and members of the public, have cancelled the cattle collection for the time being. The situation remains worrisome for many reasons. Dallas Hyland writes in Utah’s St George News that this could be the start of a growing trend:
The stand-down was necessary to prevent bloodshed, but it must be recognized that if Bundy and a multitude of his supporters, militia friends, and even family members who broke the law, are allowed to go unpunished, anarchy will follow. Other groups, emboldened by the appearance of forcing a stand-down, will only continue to gain momentum. And furthermore, law enforcement as a whole will be rendered impotent as average people with disputes with current laws begin to wonder if they too can call a militia in to force the police to leave them alone.
And even though the federal government is standing down for now, an update to the TEA Partier’s Facebook page includes an update that White has plans to postpone his trip to when the federal government returns, presumably so that he can get in on the action.
Kerry White’s opponents are democrats Christopher Burke, a West Yellowstone businessman, and CJ Monteith. The district is not dominated by Republican voters, like some in outer Gallatin County are, but contains about half dems and half repubs–so this kind of behavior will hurt White rather than help him.
[This is a guest post from the second of a series of pieces submitted by the U.S. Senate candidates. Still to come, a guest post by John Walsh. The Cowgirl Blog welcomes editorial submissions from candidates in other races and from guest writers, and any other content readers might enjoy. In addition, I'm considering a new policy. Subject to my discretion I will post Republican/conservative opinion pieces as well.]
I am running in the Democrat primary for the Montana U.S. Senate seat because facing and overcoming the current challenges to our nation’s progress on improving the lives of our citizens calls for boldness, courage, and new approaches. I have a rare background that I think makes me the right person at the right time to go to work for Montana and our nation. I know ranching and agriculture, and I know finance. As a Harvard-trained attorney, I know the law. I understand education and technology. My values are Democratic ones, and frankly, I think, American ones, and they include social and economic justice and the desire for a functional, uncorrupted political and governmental system.
Wrongs done to our citizens and wrong-headed policies drove me into the political arena. Continue reading →
A recent report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts ranks Montana elections as the 11th best in the nation under Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. The report also calls for implementation of McCulloch’s plan for online voter registration, which would make access to voting a lot easier.
Montana has ranked in the top of the nation for the past two federal election cycles. Under McCulloch’s leadership, the state has been recognized for expanding its use of electronic voter information tools, adding post-election audits, and increasing the accessibility and accuracy of military and overseas citizen ballots.
Online voter registration in the era of online banking, shopping, and everything else is a no-brainer. Twenty states already have it. But luddites (and those who don’t want more people to vote) in the Montana legislature have repeatedly blocked McCulloch’s proposal to implement online voter registration and instead continue to introduce bills to make it more difficult to vote in hopes of suppressing votes from young people, women, working families and people of color–people less likely to support Republicans.
McCulloch shows up personally to oppose every single bill to restrict voting rights, for which she is to be commended. Republicans legislators forced a referendum on the November ballot to repeal same day voter registration in Montana and restrict the amount of time available to Montanans to register and vote.
The candidacy is odd because Baker has been vocally opposed to school funding. When Baker ran unsuccessfully for city commissioner a few years back, she made her opposition to public schools the centerpiece of her campaign.
As a Great Falls City Commission candidate Baker, who campaigned against school district spending, then turned around and sought a district paycheck. Continue reading →
Creationists have been much in the news in Montana of late. Here’s the latest on Greg Gianforte, the billionaire tech mogul who apparently believes the earth is 4,300 years old. It’s also time for an update on Lawrence VanDyke, the creationist supreme court candidate who believes in “pray away the gay” conversion therapy.
A dirty plot hatched by the local conservatives to deceive voters and with TEA Party Republicans pretending to be Democrats has thickened. No less than eight TEA Party conservatives have filed for office as democrats has just come to light. Now, the possible motives and potential and level of coordination of these party-switching candidates is starting to emerge: one has already appeared as a pawn in a lawsuit filed by a right-wing extremist and TEA Party candidate who is seeking to block access to federal funds to pay for health care for the working poor and Veterans in Montana.
Take fake democrat Kathy Hollenback, who appears in TEA Party republican Matthew Monforton’s lawsuit against Republican Tim Fox. Monforton has filed a flurry of lawsuits laden with right-wing ideology and buzzwords since becoming a candidate for office. He’s suing the Attorney General because Fox certified the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative as legally sufficient and wrote a fiscal statement for the initiative which explains both the cost and the savings of the measure to accept federal funds and use available federal monies coming to Montana for health care for the working poor: ranch hands, motel clerks, construction workers, and waitresses.
Monforton recruited Hollenback to help him deceive the public into thinking he has bipartisan support his nonsense.
The other parties Monforton has recruited for his lawsuit he claims are part of an MSU group that doesn’t appear anywhere other than the pages of his twisted legal arguments.
Monforton has given his group the ridiculous sounding name “If You Like Your MSU Funding, You Can Keep It.” The supposed “group” includes Kathy Hollenback, TEA Party candidate running as a fake democrat, Ed Johnson, an MSU student running for the Legislature as a Republican; and Kyndall Miller, daughter of Ken Miller, who lost in the GOP Gubernatorial primary against Rick Hill in 2012.
Both Ed Johnson and Hollenback are running in HD66, in the heart of Bozeman.
Monforton wrote a letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle recently denigrating the elected body he himself is seeking to join as a “parliament of whores.” Rick Hill hired Bozeman Tea Party hot-head Monforton to give him legal advice. It it was Monforton’s idea to take the infamous $500,000 donation, and it was perhaps the worst legal advice in Montana political history, probably destroying Hill’s campaign.
To my knowledge, the Gallatin Republicans have’t weighed in on this deception yet, nor have they explained why Gallatin Republicans have a white supremacist on their website, Drew Turiano.
That’s because according to the report nearly 38,000 of these Montana voters, dubbed the “rising American electorate” could stay home this election year, as compared to 2012, which could mean the difference between winning or losing key races.
Drop-off from the last election cycle in 2012 – either from failure to register or failure to turn out at the polls – is a significant issue as Montana’s June 3rd primary and November election near. Unmarried women make up 24,000 of those Montana “drop-off” voters – a substantial bloc.
What we don’t want is a repeat of the 2010 elections, when only 38% of these voters voted, resulting in the nightmare that created the 2011 “bat-crap crazy” legislature.
Consider that Montanans cast 386,000 votes in the 2010 election. The report shows that combining the potential drop off (38,000) with all other Montanans who are likely to stay home (approximately 40,000 voters) could lead to a combined potential loss of nearly 80,000 ballots from across Montana not cast this year.
The key to getting these voters to the polls is to talk about pocket book issues that are relevant to them, have an active volunteer base, and of course not branding oneself as part of the anti-jobs, anti-health care, anti-science, anti-21st century, pro-racism party.
The great Shrimp Peel schism in Teton county could be viewed as a microcosm of what is happening to the Republican Party.
The Teton county GOP hosts an annual banquet, known as the Shrimp Peel, where an older crowd of mostly angry men with white mustaches and 1970′s blazers complain about President Obama, socialism, spending, taxes and so on. They do this while feasting on all-you-can-eat shrimp (unpeeled, meaning that flavor and freshness is preserved) as well as spaghetti.
This year, the Tea Party announced that it would hold its own event, because the Choteau area’s Teton County Republican Party is too liberal. Thus there is now a competing Shrimp Peel, for true conservatives.
The booby prize goes to the attendees of right-wing Shrimp Peel, which took place Friday night. Their speaker was disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich, who the TEA Partiers told the Choteau Acantha, was instigating the TEA Partiers to break off and have their own ultra-conservative peel. [Article pdf onetwo.] Perhaps that’s why the local GOP central committee took out ads referring to him as the “Shrimp Pimp.”
Wittich has been trying to be the Tea Party heavy for many years, though it’s not going well for him. He was also notified this week by the Montana election authorities that he violated state law by taking illegal contributions from the criminal enterprise known as American Tradition Partnership. His violations were so egregious that the Commissioner of Political Practices, Jon Motl, will soon be in district court recommending that Wittich be removed from the ballot in November. The violations made national news.
In the private sector, Wittich’s contributions to society include having once billed a legal client $2,300 for 20 minutes of legal work. The bill was $98.70, but Wittich tacked on a few thousand extra because the client didn’t pay on schedule.
We learned this week that the Democratic Party executive board, in a meeting earlier this month, voted to endorse John Walsh in his primary. This left John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams out in the cold, and they are crying foul.
The Party rules disfavor endorsements in the primary, for the obvious reason that party politics are ultimately about people, not boards. But the by-laws say that a “proven incumbent” can be endorsed “with a two thirds vote of the board.” It is rare, and the rule is usually only employed in primaries where there is no serious opposition at all against an incumbent. Baucus and Schweitzer received endorsements, for example, when they ran for re-election even though they had minor opponents.
However, this time things got sticky because on the same day that the Walsh endorsement was issued, the Party issued a statement in which Adams and Bohlinger were labeled as “not true Democrats.”
I can understand the value, strategically speaking, in trying to clear the field for John Walsh. Walsh is leading the primary right now according to polls, and it is not a stretch to say that many things–his major fundraising advantage among them–make him the toughest candidate to field against Daines at this time.
But I am ambivalent about this move by the Party. Bohlinger was once a Republican, yes, and voted also against choice, and he will have to answer for that in this election. But he has since switched sides and supports choice, and progressives probably should keep in mind that though he has quacked like a Republican duck for many years at Schweitzer’s side, it was deliberately for the political benefit of the Schweitzer administration. Bohlinger worked hard every two year to get Democrats elected. And yes, Adams wrote checks to a few Republicans, for various reasons which he explained in the press lately, and that will (and should) hurt him among voters. But he also gave to Democratic candidates. And again, I am not sure that the Party should be proclaiming people as Democrats or Not Democrats. We have to leave room for people to be able to change parties.
And I’ve been reading the remarks of critics on Twitter and elsewhere who point to the fact that the party is an organization that is designed to be grassroots, and I’m debating in my mind whether those arguments (even if pushed mainly by partisans of Bohlinger and Adams) should carry weight here. If and when the Party endorses someone, it is supposed to reflect the clear and unequivocal opinion of the people. Such could be said of the occasions in the past when the Party has made endorsements in the Primary. I’m not sure it can be said here.