Category Archives: Governor’s Race

Livingstone Resurfaces

A small crowd of gun rights advocates came to the Capitol this weekend to protest Obama’s plans to crack down on gun violence in America.

And wouldn’t you know it, one of the speakers at the rally was Neil Livingstone, as you can see from this AP photo.  The GOP gubernatorial candidate lost in the primary in 2012 when it was revealed that he had once authored an instructional book for world business travelers which included a chapter on how to solicit a prostitute. Protect Yourself in an Uncertain World: A Comprehensive Handbook for your Personal and Business Security is available for $4.98 at Amazon. Continue reading

Bullock on National Radar

Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s election and fight for clean campaigns are garnering national attention this week, earning Montana a spot among the Huffington Post’s 25 best progressive victories of 2012.

Peter Drier writes:

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 — equating money with free speech — unleashed a flood of money from billionaires and corporations, much of it through hard-to-trace “super-PACs” and so-called “social welfare” organizations.

In the wake of that ruling, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock defended his state’s Corrupt Practices Act, which banned corporate campaign funds, all the way to the Supreme Court. The court overturned the Montana law 5 to 4, undermining the ability of states and cities to restrict corporations from trying to buy elections.

Although Bullock lost that fight, Montanans admired his populist ideals and elected him governor in November. That same day, Montana voters also supported Initiative I-166, which endorsed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, by a 74.8 percent margin.

The final shoe dropped this week on one group that tried to keep Bullock out of the governor’s office. The criminal enterprise “social welfare organization” known as American Tradition Partnership (ATP), a group that has spent millions of dollars in Montana electing (or trying to elect) GOP candidates like Bullock’s opponent Rick Hill while defiantly ignoring state campaign finance rules.

The group, laughably, tried to argue that their mailers and other advertisements spreading lies about Democratic candidates in 2010 and 2012 were not “political activity” as defined under Montana law.  Rather, ATP argued, these ads and mailers were “issue advocacy.”

Among the many shameful examples of this group’s “advocacy” for “issues” was a fake newspaper circulated widely during the Bullock-Hill contest for governor, which depicted Steve Bullock in a lineup of sex offenders.  This was ATP’s way of “advocating” for tougher sentences for sex offenders, which they claimed (falsely, of course) Bullock was opposed to.  So that gives you a flavor of the type of business this group is in.  By the way, the ATP’s headquarters is a P.O. Box at a mall in Washington, DC, a fact uncovered by the great PBS documentary that shed light on this miserable group back in October.

There are also some fifteen GOP legislators who owe their seats to the ATP (which spent enormous sums of money putting them in office) and are now in hot water because they appear to have been engaged in possible illegal coordination with the group.  One of ATP’s favorite tricks was to send out mass-produced, hand-written letters that appeared to come from a candidate’s wife, a scheme that would appear to break the firewall that is supposed to exist between third-party groups and candidates.

Ironically, these letters are now the subject of a lawsuit by Republican legislators against their former primary opponents, as reported in the Bozeman Chronicle reported.  Meanwhile, the Missoula Independent  reported that more “wife letters” from other GOP races surfaced this week.

ATP’s only staff person, Donny Ferguson, recently resigned.

What does any of this mean going forward? Most likely there will be fines, but I doubt any lawmakers will be forced to resign their seats.

 

Sports-minded and Fun

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to come out yesterday and plead with fellow Republicans to be more “circumspect” when they talk about guns.

It’s not helpful” for GOP lawmakers to be speaking publicly about some of their ideas right now, he said.  Boehner’s pleading is a little late.  In the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, several GOP lawmakers are now calling for arming teachers as a way to prevent mass shootings 

Bringing guns into schools is also a pet project of Montana Republicans.  Just last session, Republicans in the Montana legislature pushed a bill to allow guns in schools (House Bill 558).

And who could forget the fundamentalist Christian school in Montana that decided to raffle off a semi-automatic assault rifle as a school fundraiser this fall.

Stillwater Christian School obtained the assault rifle came from the NEMO rifle plant. Family members of former gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill’s running mate Jon Sonju are NEMO executives.

In addition to bidding on the assault rifle, you could also attend the schools “Stillwater Shootout” fundraising event down at the shooting range in Kalispell, MT.

School officials said they didn’t see a problem raising money with a semi-automatic assault rifle raffle. Rather, they called it “sports-minded and fun.”

This Christian private school doesn’t just work to instill these beliefs into the young minds of school children, it also gets involved in elections.  This year, school leaders sent out an email before the primary urging GOP primary voters to oppose non-TEA Party candidates.

With the hard-right wing now calling the shots, hardly surprising that GOP legislators didn’t just stop with their bill to allow guns in schools.  Montana Republicans also tried to pass new laws last session to:

Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches, banks, and government buildings. (House Bill 384)

Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)

Allow anybody to carry a concealed weapon around without a permit.  (House Bill 271)

Force employers to allow employees to bring guns to work in their cars. (House Bill 368)

Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)

And when they ran out of gun bill ideas, they tried to legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)

This is not a joke. These were real bills put forward by Republicans in the Montana legislature, unencumbered by common sense.   Republicans can’t say the public has no reason to fear their proposals when they seem to fear open debate of what they truly believe.

After Eight Years of Saying Uncle, GOP Happy to be Rid of Schweitzer

In an article in the IR this weekend reflecting on Schweitzer’s eight year reign, past and present Republican leaders said they don’t much care for Schweitzer and are anxious to see him go. Given how many times they tried getting the better of him but ended up getting burned, I can’t really blame them for having had enough of him.

Former Senate President Bob Story complained in the article that Schweitzer ruled with an “iron hand” and often belittled the legislature and did not “share credit.” Outgoing President Jim Peterson was quoted in a grudging admission that Schweitzer has “put Montana on the map,” but went on to say that he doesn’t like Schweitzer’s “divide and conquer” strategy.

What these guys are not mentioning, of course, is that they spent the full eight years of the Schweitzer administration sending awful bills to the Governor’s desk, constipating the legislative process wherever they thought it benefited their party politically,playing games to try to jam Schweitzer politically, and often killing good legislative proposals solely to prevent good policy from being achieved by Democrats. Like, for example, the 2011 bonding bill that would have created great numbers of jobs around the state by investing in much-needed infrastructure. Clearly that would have been bad news for a GOP legislature, to have new jobs created by a Democratic governor. So they used their superior numbers to scuttle it. And yet these same bozos are now complaining that Schweitzer was somehow too heavy-handed a governor. It’s laughable.

Really what you are seeing, with these weak shots across Schweitzer’s bow in the waning days of his administration, is the agony of defeat. Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a successful Democratic executive, especially one who humiliates his opposition and occasionally poaches traditional GOP territory. And humiliated they were.

Without a strong GOP leader in either chamber, they simply got routed again and again, progressively worse each session, and in 2011 stumbled over themselves so badly that they became a national joke. And yes, the Governor took the credit for himself and his party, as well he should have. Why would he give credit to a bunch of obstructionists?

With the exception of a few moderate Republican lawmakers who have a commendable approach to public service that puts citizens above political games, the GOP crew in House and Senate have mostly focused on playing petty games, pushing Tea Party lunacy, and searching for a reason to get in Schweitzer’s way. Having morphed slowly but surely, over thirty years or so, into a party that does nothing but complain about liberals, environmentalists, “big government”, “illegal immigrants”, “people getting stuff for free” and all the other supposed ills of Democratic governance, the GOP now knows no other existence except to try to paint Democrats as boogeymen and boogeywomen. They tried the same thing with Schweitzer, but it never worked.

Worse, he beat them on their own turf: managing taxpayer money, creating a vibrant business climate, developing energy, and cutting taxes. Not to mention the bag of goodies with a more traditional Democratic flavor, including new programs like full-time kindergarten for toddlers, tuition freezes, a new public health system for state workers that might eventually be expanded for private citizens, many renewable energy projects, new protections for those seeking to avoid discrimination based on their sexual orientation, and new relations with Indian country, who were excluded from government and ignored by the GOP.

And so the GOP’s whining and moaning about Schweitzer’s shortcomings are nothing more than the whimper of a defeated army. It is enjoyable, predictable, and hopefully will continue on.

And Steve Bullock will continue the fight, I am certain. Though he doesn’t necessarily have a stage act like Schweitzer’s, Bullock showed during his campaign that he can be ruthless and nasty. His campaign hit hard at Hill. They crucified him over his taking the illegal 500lk$ and also ran brutal negative ads portraying Hill’s support of a sales tax. Hill himself has complained that these ads finished him off and were unfair. All is fair in politics.

I’ve even heard it whispered that many of the low blows dealt Hill during the primary– which forced him to empty his wallet to defend himself and caused infighting among the GOP, and ultimately suppressed enthusiasm for Hill in November–were instigated by Democrats, perhaps even Bullock’s operatives. Plausible, I suppose. If it’s so, it’s good stuff. It means he plays for keeps. It’s important, because if any of my readers think the newly appointed GOP leadership in the legislature wants to work in a constructive way with the new Governor, you are suckers, I’m afraid. A few moderates will want to do business with a Bullock administration. Otherwise, the name of the GOP’s game is to try to find ways to embarrass the new Governor. The GOP will, as always, be looking to start a knife fight. Like Schweitzer, Bullock will need to bring a gun.