Category Archives: Congress

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.]  

Gentlemen,

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.

image

Zinke Has a Media Problem

zinkeputin (1)by Cowgirl

I’ve noticed over the last few months that Ryan Zinke appears to be getting many bad headlines, indicating that he is perhaps a poor tactician whose campaign is not very good at dealing with the press and may also have rubbed the press the wrong way.

 

House Candidates Won’t Debate in Billings after Zinke Backs Out is the most recent headline in the Billings Gazette.  This article reports that Zinke was was scheduled to debate John Lewis but then decided to cut and run.  Worse, his spokesperson tried claiming in the Gazette article that it was in fact Lewis who pulled out of the debate, but when pressed by the reporter, isn’t able to substantiate the claim.

 

A recent Bozeman chronicle headline declared that Zinke Getting Most of His Money From Out-of-State.  Before that it was Zinke Denies SuperPAC Coordination and Why Does Zinke Have Campaign Signs in California? and Zinke has received $116,000 from Employees of Florida Insurance Company Execs.  These are news headlines, mind you, not editorial headlines.  They are positively awful, and we have seen them over and over.  And they are headlines that are appearing in what are essentiallly Republican run newspapers, such as the Missoulian, Helena IR and Billings Gazette. I have rarely seen such a string of bad stories.  But the press, for whatever reason, seems to really dislike this guy.

 

Why do they dislike him so?  Is it because Zinke was so brazen about breaking federal law with his PAC activity, a PAC he controlled up until two weeks before he announced his campaign, after which the PAC immediately spent money “independently” on his behalf?  Or is his the fact that he has hewn to a tired, Tea Party, cookie cutter “Obama is destroying America” type of campaign, which the press probably finds tiresome and empty?  Or is that his “national energy plan” calls for nothing except status quo, staying the course with oil and coal? Or that he has redacted and refuses to release to the press certain key parts of his military record?

 

This is all good news for John Lewis, as is the fact that the Zinke campaign is currently out of cash.

ANALYSIS: What Lee Newspapers Missed in Zinke’s Military Records

by Cowgirl

Like many of you I’ve been wondering why GOP congressional candidate Ryan Zinke would release only some of his military service record information and not other parts.

Zinke chose to give some of his reconds to Lee Newspapers, who he may have presumed would have no idea how to read them and probably think all the redacted stuff is “super secret squirrel” stuff and so ask no further questions.  It is not.  It also leaves one to wonder whether Zinke’s actual military records jive with the story he’s put out in the media or whether they do not.

If someone from Lee had known how to read these documents, and thought to compare Zinke’s released records to other such documents from other military personnel, they might have noted a few interesting things.  Thankfully, a Cowgirl tipster, a former intelligence analyst with the Army who worked with the type of folks Zinke claims to be, has pointed some interesting items out for us here.

Of special interest among the Missoulian-posted Zinke docs is the form DD-214. (That’s what is known as Zinke’s military separation document.)  And the first thing we must note on the on the DD-214 is that Zinke was a shore officer for four years:

Ask anyone in the Navy and they will tell you shore duty is where they send the idiots to keep them away from the people who actually do what needs to be done. Not to mention tours in Kosovo (long after the real action ended in the Balkans) and CJSOTF-AP [Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP) is a "white," or unclassified, special operations task force that is always organized around the headquarters of 5th Special Forces Group or 10th Special Forces Group], who did nothing. Also, every officer gets a bronze star as part and parcel of their deployment so they can get ahead. “Highly decorated” is ridiculous. Though surviving BUDS [Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training] does get him some points in my book.

Back to the form which Zinke has released, the DD-214: First, there is apparently nothing in it, other than has social security number, that he needed to redact. I’m told that this is the document that goes to a service member’s future employers, so it does not contain state secrets.

He redacted some ending statement in the remarks section, which apparently is noteworthy because that is probably where the military would have included some comment or code about his end of service.

But it seems that what reporters have really failed to notice and ask about is why Zinke has redacted information from his “separation authority” section.  This section would have included a code which would tell us why he is leaving the military. You don’t hide that code unless you are trying to hide the reason why you got out.

For example, in the Army the code “AR 635-200, Chapter 4,” means simply “completion of service, no big deal.” Zinke, my source explains:

had an honorable discharge, which is good, but that does not eliminate him having some code to a Navy regulation about some malfeasance causing him to leave. He retired after 22 years, but by then I think you needed at least 25 years to have the full retirement benies. Also he retired after 22 years as an O-5. Not unheard of, but with his background and evals he should have been an O-6 (captain) unless someone in the Navy chain knew what a douchebag he was. Or if he refused it, which is also possible and would gather him some points in my book again. I doubt it though, if he is running for Congress he would have played the officer games.

Regardless, it certainly appears that by hiding his “separation authority code,” it means that there is some other chapter than simple “completion of service” that Zinke went out of the military under–something which Zinke does not want us to see.

Lee Newspapers should have asked about it.  Perhaps they will now. It’s also interesting (and somewhat telling) that Zinke didn’t think some military-savvy reader would be able to figure out what’s been hidden from the public in these partial records.

So now, we shall see if Lee Newspapers will simply ask Zinke what his separation authority code was and why he redacted it.  They also need to ask whether Zinke has actually set foot in Iraq, as John Walsh has done, or not.  After all, they were certainly eager to write about Walsh’s omission of quotation marks from a college paper.

What You Will Not Read in the Lee Newspapers Story about the House Race Fundraising Numbers

If you read the Lee Newspapers story on who has raised how much in the race for Montana’s only congressional seat, you’ll find that Zinke, who had a hotly contested primary, raised $1.6 million for his entire campaign and has $97,000 in the bank.  But the Missoulian just reported that Zinke also has $83,000 in campaign debts, which leaves him with about $14,000 to spend.  To be sure, this includes $68k that he loaned his own campaign, which he isn’t obligated to pay back, but that’s a lot of money to just give up when his path to victory is anything but clear.

You’ll also read that John Lewis has raised $1.03 million for his entire campaign and that he has about $623,000 remaining in his campaign account.

While there always seem to be a few people talking around the water cooler who think it is important to simply look who has raised the most money, don’t buy it. The more important number to pay attention to is the cash on hand amount–because this shows a candidate’s ability to move voters over to her or his camp.

But what you won’t find in the Lee story is the anything about one of Zinke’s major fundraising apparatuses – the SOFA super-PAC he founded and which from his campaign has benefitted heavily. 

For some reason, the Lee Newspapers chose not to report anything from the super-PAC’s FEC report, which showed the Special Operations for Ryan Zinke America PAC had:

Beginning Cash On Hand $261,304

Ending Cash On Hand$103,535

Net Contributions $461,107

Net Operating Expenditures $496,377

Like Zinke, the SOFA-PAC spent more than it took in and has only about $100,000 left.  Because this PAC has been such a key part of the race so far, it’s unfortunate that no mention of it was made in the Lee story.

GOP Honchos: Zinke is Slinky on Abortion

zinkeslinkyIt has not been a good week for Ryan Zinke, the former state legislator from Whitefish who is running for Congress.  He is in the midst of a nasty GOP primary and his fellow Republicans are ganging up on him and making life very tough.

It’s good drama, and it could bode well for Jon Lewis if he beats out Jon Driscoll, as I expect he should, for the Democratic primary in the House race.

This week, Zinke was (predictably) criticized by right-wingers, heavily, for having made several votes in favor of women’s medical privacy in his time as state senator. His votes would actually reduce the need for abortion, by improving access to birth control and prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place, but facts don’t matter to his opponents, who would probably outlaw birth control altogether. (He also made many anti-choice votes.)  The state newspapers had two separate articles over the weekend describing Zinke’s mixed abortion position and now, today, a third one has been published.

Yesterday’s piece reported that the Three Amigos–Rick Hill, Ken Miller and John Brenden, all former GOP state chairs–are slamming Zinke for being pro-choice and for having voted on occasion in favor of the environment. They say he is not a true conservative but rather (gasp) a moderate.  Thus in their view Zinke does not pass the conservative purity test that we have often seen applied in GOP primaries.

zinkeputin (1)

To review, Zinke is in a race right now against Corey Stapleton, Matt Rosendale and Elsie Arntzen among a few others. These are all current or former state legislators.

Arntzen is said to have extraordinary personal wealth at her disposal, but if she does she clearly hasn’t spent much of it. She’s not really that visible, nor has she done or said anything to separate herself from the pack or establish a brand.

Stapleton and Rosendale each have put a fair amount of resources into the race although only one of them–Rosendale–seems to be speaking the language of the Republican base.  He has an ad on TV, in case you haven’t seen it, in which he shoots a drone down with a rifle. And, Rosendale tends to come across as a lunatic, some kind of cross between a white supremacist and an inmate at a maximum security prison.

 

Zinke’s TV ad, meanwhile, shows him walking in a field and talking about his grandmother (and he tweeted several times this week about his grandmother) but does not position him in any way on the GOP spectrum, and does not provide the viewer any memorable visual like Rosendale does.  And the narrator says Zinke is the right kind of conservative, which is a dangerous thing to say in this climate of rabid TEA Partiers when there is no elaboration. The implication of the TV ad is that Zinke is an old fashioned conservative, but that drone doesn’t fly these days among the Tea Party.  I believe it could be a misstep for Zinke to have spent so much money on so bland an ad, because he should have foreseen the concerted attacks on his conservative cred, and done something more along the lines of Rosendale–something to boldly brand himself as a wingnut is needed to win the GOP primary.

Zinke has misfired before with the statewide GOP electorate, notably in 2012 when he joined up with Neil Livingstone as his lieutenant governor candidate. That campaign was never much more than a whisper.

The strange part is that Zinke is rumored to have shot and killed dozens of Iraqi soldiers in the 1990s in the first Gulf War.  I would have thought that shooting and killing foreigners would earn an automatic victory in a gun-crazed GOP primary nowadays.  Isn’t that what every Tea Party voter dreams of? And yet Zinke seems like he might be stalled, floundering.

Then again, without any polling data it is tough to say who is leading this race.  Public Policy Polling or Rasmussen will no doubt soon publish some data and maybe then we’ll know where it all stands.

If I had to guess I’d say it’s now a three way heat between Zinke, Rosendale and Stapleton.  Stapleton is running statewide for the third time; Rosendale has spent a boatload on his TV ad; and Zinke has a strong following the Flathead but the attacks against him are probably wearing him down.

For some unknown and odd reason, Zinke and Artzen, though opponents, have the same campaign treasurer.

arntzenkuney zinkekuney

One hilarious item in the Zinke coverage is that the top anti-choice activist in Montana, the president of the state’s Right To Life chapter, Greg Trude, is supporting Zinke.

Trude was asked how he can support a candidate who has taken pro-choice votes. Trude said Zinke has a 100% pro-life rating from his organization. The reporter asked to see the organization’s official candidate ratings. Trude said he doesn’t have any on paper, but that he keeps all candidates’ scores “in his head.”

April Fools

Unfortunately, these April Fool’s Day political quick hits are all too real.

TEA Party “Operation DINO” Plot Uncovered in Multiple States

A Maryland reporter revealed this week on Huffington Post that a far-right activist plot to deceive voters is not limited to Montana but is also at work in Mississippi and Maryland. Read Jonathan Hutson’s article here. 

Candidate Brags About Showing Up at Carbon County Event Advertised with Racist Flyer

When the Carbon County Republicans mailed out the invitation to attend the local Republicans’ annual “Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner” they included treatise which claims that it is the Republican Party which fights racism and that the TEA Party movement is not indeed packed with racists–but also that President Obama is being allowed to “get away with giving the American people the finger” because: “He is black.”

So how can Obama get away with giving the American people the finger?” this letter to local Republicans reads, “The answer. He is black.” And this:

…deceived Americans embraced the progressives’ young, handsome, articulate, and so-called moderate black presidential candidate as a symbol of their liberation from accusations of being a racist nation.

You can download the garbage mailer here.   The  author of some of the worst material in the flyer is the group’s featured speaker, but that didn’t stop one GOP-er from bragging about being the only candidate to attend.   See for yourself:

Elsie Arntzen