Category Archives: Congress

Zinke Votes to Derail Amtrak

zinkeslinkyMontana Congressman Ryan Zinke has voted for a measure to gut passenger rail in the United States and kill the Empire Builder, which stretches across Montana’s rural hi-line.  It is worth noting that Zinke was the only Republican Representative along the Empire Builder’s route to vote for killing the transportation system.  Even North Dakota’s Republican Representative saw the stupidity of Amendment No. 6 sponsored by Representative McCormick of California, that would have “Eliminated all Federal assistance for Amtrak” and voted it down. It failed 147-272.

Zinke was one of only a minority of radical TEA Partiers to vote for the Amendment. He apparently has stopped even trying to pretend and just votes how the the TEA Party groups like the DC-based Club for Growth and FreedomWorks tell him to vote, not based on what’s good for Montana.

When Zinke realized how upset Montanans were with his vote, he then claimed that he was not trying to kill this part of Montana’s economy.  Backpedalling furiously, he said he was merely firing a “warning shot” at it and is now laughably telling the press he supports the industry.  No sane individual would consider voting against something a form of “support.”


Political Quick Hits

Knudsen Taken to Task for Claiming Medicaid Expansion Eligible Montanans Don’t Work

The Missoula Independent’s Dan Brooks explains Austin Knudsen’s “Sickening Stance” on Medicaid expansion.  It’s a must read.


More Disrespect for Working People

Two recent news stories paint a telling contrast between Ryan Zinke and Jon Tester.

In Jon Tester’s first days in the Senate in 2007, he stopped by and said hi to the maintenance staff, appreciated their hard work, and even got his hands dirty.

In Ryan Zinke’s first days in the Congress, he called the maintenance staff “a larger problem.”

These workers don’t just hang pictures. They move desks, fix broken chairs, and make sure the building isn’t falling apart. They keep government office spaces running. This isn’t just about Zinke’s assault on hardworking federal employees (which is bad enough), it’s about disrespecting people whose jobs are “beneath” his and calling them “bureaucracy.”

Perhaps he should let the maintenance workers hang the pictures, and take an hour or two to hire a Montanan in his DC office – which is stacked with out-of-staters and questionable hires.


Conflicts of Interest

Two Helena city commissioners appear to have put their personal interests as lobbyists over the people of Helena.  Matt Elsaesser voted against a resolution in support of Medicaid expansion citing the need to lobby right-wing lobbyists as part of his personal careers.  Mayor Jim Smith, who is also a lobbyist when not serving on the city commission, laughably cited a supposed “political risk” to the city if Helena supported Medicaid expansion.  Helena is not well served when its elected commissioners put their personal lobbying jobs and ridiculous amorphous theories over citizens.

GUEST POST: Preserve the Power of the Vote

by Jackie Gysler

While 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Montana women’s right to vote, few Montanans can compete with $10,000 to $425,000 campaign donations.

Only 28% of Ryan Zinke’s donations and 33% of Steve Daine’s donations come from Montanans compared to over 70% of John Lewis’s and Amanda Curtis’s funds. Zinke’s recent fundraiser cost $10,000/couple with John Boehner who leads the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever, with only a 10% approval rating. Steve Daines collected $425,000 from a Wall Street billionaire and vulture capitalists. Corporate fundraisers are the newest fad in Washington, D.C., thanks to fewer anti-corruption rules.

Your vote is extremely important!

In 2012, the conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justices, many whom were nominated with a religious promise to strike down a woman’s right to vote on her own reproduction, struck down Montana’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, diminishing the right to vote of all Americans.

As a result, in 2012, 75% of Montanans voted for a referendum directing Montana’s two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Congressman to create a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to stop unlimited corporate money from buying elections. In September 2014, Republican U.S. Senators blocked this bill.

Can you afford to buy politicians?

Preserve the power of the vote! Get your community to vote for math teacher Amanda Curtis to be Montana’s first female US Senator, and instead of the most unpopular U.S. Congress ever, vote John Lewis starting October 6th at your county courthouse!

Let me know if you see this in newspapers or can help get it into your local newspaper.

Jackie Gysler
Bigfork/Wolf Point
jigysler (at)

Two Strikes and You’re Out: Zinke still struggling to spell “2nd Amendment”

It has unfortunately come to the Cowgirl Blog’s attention that the Ryan Zinke campaign has, for the second time in several weeks, misspelled the word “amendment” in its campaign material when referring to the Second Amendment.

In September, Zinke spelled it “Amendmant“, on a banner at an official campaign booth.

zinke spelling error

I blogged about it then, and given that Mr. Zinke is a long-time reader of (and commenter on) my blog, we know that his campaign got the word. But their second attempt didn’t go much better.  They’ve misspelled it again, this time in a widely circulated campaign mailer, and the mailer is below. The new spelling is “Amendement,” with an extra “e”.

I suppose the the campaign deserves credit for trying hard, and improving.  And we all make mistakes of course.

But there is a serious problem in America, namely that the Republican Party is the Party of Stupid.  Think Bush, Palin, and don’t forget the idiot Dan Quayle, who also spelled something–the word “potato”–with an extra “e”, costing him his political career.

With this latest spelling struggle, the Zinke campaign is not giving us any confidence that they are going out of their way to try combat this image.  And realize that this mailer was not only generated by the campaign, but was also in all likelihood professionally designed and printed by a Republican direct mail firm (there’s no such thing in politics as a neutral consulting firm; they are either Ds or Rs).

I say two strikes and you’re out.  If you are running for Congress and you talk ceaselessly about the second amendment, you must be able to spell it, or you are disqualified.


GUEST POST: Open letter to (alphabetically)  Curtis, Daines, Lewis, Zinke

by Mark Van Loon of Hamilton,  MT

For over 100 years, the Montana law that kept corporate money out of politics has made our elections more fair and more truly Montanan.  The U.S. Supreme Court decision in “Citizen’s United” overturned this MT law.  Even arguing in front of the Supreme Court, the MT law, supported by an overwhelming majority of Montanans, was disallowed.

The only way to overturn the “Citizen’s United” decision is through a Constitutional Amendment – an arduous process.  There is currently a strong grass roots movement throughout the United States to introduce and pass this Constitutional Amendment.

As a representative of the people of Montana, would you not only support this Constitutional Amendment but also take a leadership role in getting it passed? Please make your response in a public forum – a press release to major news outlets or a press conference – and explain why or why not.

Hint:  Just saying the Supreme Court has decided this issue so you won’t respond is ducking the question.  Montana voters have a right to know where you stand on this vital issue.



Mark Van Loon

Hamilton  MT



GUEST POST:  A letter the US Senators of Montana

[This is a guest post by David M. Jordan who is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy and lives on Georgetown Lake.]  


I question the appropriateness of Ryan Zinke using his military background as the basis for a political campaign. I believe his actions denigrate all who have served in the US military, worn the uniform with pride, and do not expect acclaim for our deeds; that his actions could be conceived as being condoned by the US Navy as being in violation of US Navy Uniform Regulations, which prohibit the wearing of the uniform or any part of it for political aims, seems to have not occurred to Mr. Zinke.

We who have been retired from the US Navy long enough to realize that most people get tired of hearing about it real quick, have many medals and decorations among our souvenirs have had experiences that we might sometimes reluctantly share if someone asks. We can put some things on a resume and some things we can’t. None of us can hang up a sign with our stars or chevrons and a gentleman really never brags. We care for our families and our way of life as we always have.

Mr. Zinke, on the other hand, has really not been a civilian long enough understand that he is selling his uniform and insignia to espouse a political agenda and that act is disrespecting everyone else who has worn that uniform.

I now spend my life in the National Forests. I am writing this letter in a cabin with a Forest Service property lease that is across the lake from our past [Montana] governor’s home. I work at a ski area that is on Forest Service land up the road. My family is comfortable.   Mr. Zinke is selling out the life I fought for and he is trying to make it look like I agree with him.

I am a retired Master Chief Petty Officer. I am very proud of my service but am a little embarrassed when someone thanks me for it. I love my uniform and it would be nice to wear it to a job interview. I can’t really share most of my sea stories because most people think I’m boasting or lying. Many of my friends are Honorably Discharged, not retired, and wear things on their VFW  and American Legion hats. The rules for active duty, reserve and retired persons are different. These rules and reasons for them are spelled out in US Navy Uniform Regulations. Google it.

I don’t expect you to attack a hero. A well-intentioned query to the CNO or Chief of Naval Special Warfare could be interesting.   I did not make Rear Admiral because I was not that perfect. I made it as far I did with the help of people above me and the sweat of my shipmates. Most of us don’t make it to the top but we are all honorable.

Mr. Zinke has not had the courage to publicly embrace his Tea Party friends and giga–buck backers. He does not advertise his plan to destroy our way of life and cash in on Montana’s wealth of natural resources.

The military life is nothing if not politics. It is not noted as an incubator for statesmen. (Colin Powell is an exception, but he made 4 Star General.)

Thank YOU for your service and sacrifice for our country,

David M. Jordan MCPO(SW) USN,ret.

Ps. To Senator Walsh, Sir, I have seen strong men ask for help in the most unbelievable ways. War is hell. Welcome home.


Steve Daines and the Environmental Boogeyman

Steve Daines is an embarrassment.

Steve Daines is an embarrassment. He’s bad for the state.

Steve Daines has a new radio ad on the air, in which Daines portrays himself as the protector of the timber industry, keeping timber mills and loggers safe from “fringe environmentalists” and “extreme environmental groups.”  A narrator also describes Daines as “ranked as one of the most effective congressmen” although she doesn’t cite any study or group that made this dubious determination.

 Listen to this idiotic advertisement, or read the transcript, here.

Daines has simply dusted off a twenty-year-old playbook for these ads:  Environmentalists are shutting down the state and costing us jobs, and we must fight against their lawsuits and the federal regulations that they have persuaded Obama to enact.  Montanans could all be rich from natural resource development if the environmentalists would simply get out of the way.

There’s one problem with the radio ad: In the sixty seconds of narration and sound bites from Daines, timber owners and loggers, nobody cites a single item, a single tangible thing, that environmentalists have recently done to effect the loss of jobs or the decline of the timber industry.  The script is simply Daines and his supporters talking about how he has “stood up” to “environmental radicals.”

Now, if the discussion were about coal or fossil fuels, Daines could at least claim credit for voting against, or opposing publicly, whatever is currently being advocated for in DC by the environmental community, such as EPA regulations, carbon limits, and so and and so forth.  Those are not radical ideas or proposals, but they at least are real.

Daines has instead decided to create a nebulous boogeyman, “the fringe environmentalists,” and claim himself as working hard to vanquish it insofar as it is trying to destroy the timber industry.

There is a reason that Daines can’t point to anything to substantiate his claim, not a single timber sale that has been blocked or federal law that has Obama has signed that have negatively affected the timber business: because there really aren’t any.  The cold fact is that the timber industry–in fact the entire wood products industry–in Montana has been devastated in recent years by one thing, and one thing only: the bursting of the housing bubble.  The market for the product crashed, and has not returned nearly to where it was.

But that doesn’t really matter now, because Daines has discovered, likely through polling and other market research, that if you tell persuadable voters that timber jobs have been lost due to the activities of “fringe environmentalists,” they are ignorant and misinformed enough to believe it.  Which is enough for Daines.  That’s Steve Daines’s brand of leadership.  Enjoy it.

NEW REPORT: 100 Plus GOPers on Record Opposing Citizens United, Including Many Montanans

As the U.S. Senate gets ready to vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and allow for overall campaign spending limits, a new report shows it isn’t just democrats who oppose Citizens United.  There is increasing Republican support across the country for such an amendment–including support from several Montana Republicans.

The new report was released by Free Speech For People, a national campaign at the forefront of the amendment movement.  The group has also joined with Montanans in the court battle to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place. The organization and its allies joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl. 

The report issued today highlights more than 100 Republican elected officials joined Dems across the country by going on record calling on Congress to pass an amendment bill and send it to the states for ratification.

The list of the Montana Repubs–including some state legislators–can be seen in the report, entitled “Across the Aisle,” which is available online here. [pdf]  The Montanans are listed on pages 7, 10, 12, and 13.

Also listed are Republicans from other states who filed Amicus briefs with Gov. Bullock in his U.S. Supreme Court fight to keep corruption out of Montana elections (page 18.)

The release of the report is timed to correspond with today’s (Sept 8) Senate vote on the Democracy For All Amendment (S.J. Res. 19), which would allow for overall campaign spending limits and would end the big money dominance of our elections. Fifty US Senators are already on record in support of the amendment.

Zinke Tries Taking Credit for Bin Laden Raid

The Bozeman Chronicle is reporting that Ryan Zinke recently sent out a fundraising email in which he implied that he was partially responsible for the Bin Laden mission’s success. That’s probably not the smartest move for a campaign that is already mired in gaffes and missteps.

Zinke was once involved in the Navy Seals but it was a decade or more before the Bin Laden raid.  Zinke served as a Navy Seal in Gulf War 1, in the early 1990s. The problem for Zinke, aside from the fact that he had nothing to do with the Bin Laden raid, is that he once attacked President Obama for “politicizing the Bin Laden raid by trying take credit for it.”  So this latest stunt might haunt him for the next two months.

It gets better. The Chronicle also reports that an earlier fundraising email from Zinke warned that a “leftist infiltration is going to take over the country because of the apathy of patriots.”  That is some hard core stuff.  What’s strange is that Zinke ran as a moderate in the primary and is now apparently running as a right winger in the general.  An unusual strategy to say the least.

Finally, it was also reported in the same article that Zinke was in 2012 formally warned by the Navy about using official military logos for political purposes, but that Zinke has ignored the warning and has put a giant Navy Seal emblem on the outside of his campaign bus.

The emblem is actually perfect for a Montana Republican, as it features an eagle holding both a gun and a pitchfork.



Billings Gazette Makes a Surprise Endorsement

Over the weekend I mentioned how glaringly deficient the Zinke campaign is when it comes to basic campaign strategy, such as dealing with the press, dealing with negative issues, sparring with the Lewis campaign through the daily news cycle, and so on.

Today, it got much worse for Zinke. The Billings Gazette–which announced last year that it would no longer be endorsing candidates for office–effectively endorsed John Lewis via a negative editorial about Zinke.

It’s as bad an editorial as a candidate will ever get, accusing him of essentially being a dishonest person with no political courage at all. It’s about as bad as the editorials that were written about Walsh after his plagiarism was revealed.

A nasty, nasty opinion piece by entire editorial board of the largest paper in Montana. It’s not easy to garner such hatred, especially when one is a Republican.

Here it is.