Category Archives: Congress

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.

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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

 

Fact Check: Steve Daines Lies by Omission on Health Care Costs

Steve Daines is so eager to push is far right ideology that he’s taken to lying to do it.

He recently tweeted that the Affordable Care Act is “leaving 11 million Americans with higher premiums,” but left out the fact that here in Montana, insurance prices are lower than they would have been without the Affordable Care Act. 

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