The big news today is that Max Baucus is Obama’s choice for ambassador to China.
On the one hand it’s surprising, because Max has shown signs of slowing down in recent years Continue reading
The big news today is that Max Baucus is Obama’s choice for ambassador to China.
On the one hand it’s surprising, because Max has shown signs of slowing down in recent years Continue reading
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
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.
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.
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.
Democrats in Montana’s key stateside races received over 70 percent of the Indian vote in the 2012 election, exceeding the 48-49 percent of the statewide vote they received by a wide margin.
The support likely played a major role in the senate, gubernatorial, and state superintendent races — and, conversely, in the Republicans’ failure to make any gains in statewide seats.
New figures from Montana Native Voice [PDF] show that Jon Tester won by approximately 16,000 votes–8,000 of which came from Indian country. Steve Bullock won by about 6,000 votes and received 8,000 from Indian voters. Denise Juneau won by over 2,000 more votes than her opponent and received 8,000 from Indians. Juneau is Montana’s first Indian woman to be elected to statewide office.
The numbers also show record high voter turnout in targeted democratic precincts in Indian country. Indian voter turnout in targeted districts was 61% in 2012 compared to 60% in 2008 and 52% in 2006. In contract, CNN is reporting that estimates of Montana’s 2012 statewide voter turnout was lower in 2012 lower than it was in 2008.
Strong support from Indian country could serve as a catalyst to build on Native representation and voices in key leadership roles at the state and federal level. But while some seek to build on Governor Schweitzer’s legacy of reaching out to Indian people to make sure they are acknowledged, respected, and included–conservatives are already calling tribal sovereignty “ridiculous.”
Just yesterday, a Kalispell TEA Party Republican–and featured speaker at Republican Party events–penned an editorial that said Indian sovereignty is an “anachronism ” that has “long since served its purpose.”
On the right-wing blog PolyMontana, Mark Agather wrote that he knows full well:
“many will find this viewpoint way outside of their preferred politically correct viewpoint. But, times change. So should our policies with the Indian tribes. New approaches to old ways are hard for many to fathom much less accept. However, when the emotional shrieks and inevitable name calling has diminished, such a consideration should be worthy of a rational discussion.”
Watch for something along these lines to come up in the next legislative session.
Several things are going through Rick Hill’s and Denny Rehberg’s minds today. First, he is wondering why he ignored the old adage, “pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.” Taking the $500,000 donation in circumvention of Montana law–even though the law was in a state of limbo–was a bad move. It wasn’t worth the risk, and Hill’s political instincts were clearly dulled from years on the sidelines. Taking the loot ensured weeks of awful headlines, branding him as a guy in a smoke filled room, flanked by fat cats chomping on cigars, and talking proudly of the fact they own the candidate, and handing him a briefcase packed with big bills.
Second, he must be reconsidering the pick of Sonju. Hill only won by 1000 votes in Yellowstone County which makes victory virtually impossible for a Republican. Presumably, any Billings name on the ticket would have brought in substantial votes there, but would have left Hill’s performance in the Flathead (where Sonju comes from) largely intact. Sonju got the good end of the bargain. He’s now a rising star with statewide name recognition and will run for statewide office soon, a blueprint stamped out by Steve Daines, who ran with Roy Brown in 2008. His ticket tanked, but Daines carved out his own little thing, and made it work.
The other thing that Hill is kicking himself about is that he way overestimated the likelihood of a competitive primary, and the strength of the idiots who challenged him. All of them embarrassed themselves and were never serious contenders at all. They were political neophytes on the statewide scene, and if Hill had gauged this accurately, he would have done two things: pick a Billings running mate. (Sonju was a pick designed to shore up right wing votes in the Flathead, a conservative battleground), and he could have saved his money, and refrain from spending anything in the primary. Hill believed, in error, that his past sins of marital infidelity would blow up in his face in a primary, especially one inhabited by “moral” conservatives like Essman and Miller and Stapleton. He turned out to have been wrong. None of those yahoos had the skill or finances to mount a serious challenge. But Hill blinked, and Bullock came out of the gate in June with a huge financial edge, ran a mistake-free campaign, turned out key constituencies like Indian voters, and never looked back.
As for Denny, his contemplation today should be about his choice. Why did he choose to run for Senate? The answer cannot be that he wanted to accomplish some affirmative thing for Montana, because he does not believe in that type of stuff. He believes in negative government, occupying an office for the purpose of keeping liberals, or Democrats, out of it, lest they destroy society. So all Rehberg was doing was trying to upgrade the size of his office, get a larger budget for offices and an entourage of staffers, and have people call him Senator.
Denny is also probably wondering why he ever voted for a pay raise; and why he voted to allow the federal Homeland Security office to have domain over public lands. The pay-raises produced brutal copy for negative ads by Tester and Dems, while the land grab enraged Rehberg’s own base, especially when they were reminded about it in a terrific ad funded by an environmental group, who successfully used the issue to get conservatives to flee Rehberg and vote Libertarian. Dan Cox the libertarian got a record 6.5 points.
And Rehberg is also wondering why his twenty million dollar barrage of attack ads, telling voters that Tester supports Obama 95 percent of the time, was so ineffective. After all, Karl Rove came here and told Denny that he’d take care of business and put a knife in Tester by linking him to the president. But Rehberg knows the answer to this, and its eating his guts out: Tester worked hard for constituents for six years, hammering things out for loggers, vets, hunters, the elderly, Indian peoples, women and so on. And he earned the trust of Montana citizens, which allowed them to conceptualize Tester as someone distinct from Obama. Rehberg, on the other hand, sat around for twelve years, doing nothing at all except complaining about Democrats, riding the occasional right-wing wave, and free loading on a generally conservative state electorate. A worker always beats a free loader.
As usual, Republicans are calling for the rules of a game to be changed, because Democrats play the game better and play it smarter.
Too stupid to know how to organize a get-out-the-vote effort like Democrats with technology, sophistication and smarts, Republicans in Montana (and nationally) are now complaining about the fact that “too many people were voting.
Tom McGilvray, one of the Tea Party’s top imbeciles in Montana, has decided that the sheer numbers of voters in Billings presented a serious problem for Republicans. He is already calling for an end to election day registration and a shrinking of early vote options.
This will be a first order of business for the new legislature and governor, but the GOP will use the occasion–the long lines in certain major cities–to argue that liberalized voting rules have caused the problem. The GOP thinks, perhaps mistakenly, that if it’s harder to vote, they will gain an advantage. They will use this lie to try to get support for rolling back early voting, same day registration, etc.
In fact, what needs to happen is the devotion of more resources to county election offices, sufficient manpower and equipment so that things work smoothly and efficiently on election day. People in Montana are voting in some of the highest numbers in the state’s history. They are engaged, and the GOP doesn’t like that. Republicans did better when more voters were apathetic, and so they want to return to those glory days.
Early voting must remain; vote by mail must increase; and same day registration must remain, because it is an important way of allowing people to vote when they have moved addresses but there’s a glitch in the system, for whatever reason, that hasn’t recorded it properly. In the past, these folks have been turned away. Now with same day registration, they can vote.
An additional idea is to limit the number of referenda that the Montana legislature can submit. The ballot was too long and took people too long to fill out. That’s because the GOP, unable to get past Schweitzer’s veto branding iron, bypassed the Governor with stupid ballot initiatives on things that don’t even affect our state like illegal immigration.
Truth is, Republicans lost the two big statewide races for three basic reasons, which are 1) they had inferior statewide candidates, 2) the Republican brand is in the toilet, thanks in large part to the Tea Party, and 3) they gave away an average of 5 points to the libertarian candidate. Nothing to do with voting, whether early, late or often.
And you can already see the finessing and smoothtalking starting up from GOP lawmakers. Republicans are now saying that they were “unable to work with Schweitzer,” citing as evidence his 80 vetoes of their insane bills, and saying that they “look forward” to having a “working relationship” with the new governor. Had Schweitzer signed their election bills, tens of thousands of Montanans would have waited many more hours on interminable lines to vote, and would then have been turned away. The GOP believes this would have imparted a conservative tilt to the final vote tally.
So let’s not fall for the GOP nonsense. Even Republican state senator Dave Lewis admitted in the press that the reason Schweitzer had to veto 80 GOP bills is that they were awful pieces of legislation.
Today, PBS and ProPublica have posted the contents of the American Tradition Partnership’s bank records, which include some donor records from the 2010 election cycle. A Montana judge ordered that the information be made public last week. Among the groups funders is Pennsylvania Power & Light, or PP&L as it likes to be known in Montana (to eliminate the need to remind people where it is headquartered.)
Other ATP financial backers include:
–and many others.
I haven’t had time to go through all the documents, but Cowgirl readers can do so here. It should be most interesting to see what people find. This information is from the 2010 cycle only, not 2012.
…only to discover that the pain in his ass was due to the fact that the entire 2012 election had been shoved up it.
Rove came up empty, in Presidential and Congressional races.
Here in Montana, Denny Rehberg has been sent packing by Jon Tester, in an enormous victory, a virtual landslide. Tester blew him out. Libertarian candidate Dan Cox got almost seven percent, one of the biggest takes by a third party candidate since Ross Perot got in the mid-twenties in 1992.
We should all be proud of what Tester did. The polls showed him neck and neck going into the last days, but he got his vote out and closed big. And he overcame an absolute monsoon of negative ads lasting three months, one of the biggest smears ever recorded on Montana’s airwaves, funded by Washington DC Republicans and Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS. He dumped tens of millions into the race (and even paid a visit to Montana, to help Rehberg with strategy), all of it impugning Tester for having had the temerity to support his President. And the beauty is, it doesn’t really look like the attack worked at all. Tester cruised to victory. What mattered more to voters was that Tester turns in a workday, doesn’t whine or complain, doesn’t spend his days smearing people or blaming people, but tries accomplish something.
Same for Obama, the object of vitriolic GOP hatred, who demolished the weak Mitt Romney in spectacular fashion, defeating yet another empty, negative campaign by the Republicans. Poor Rove, whose group spent half a billion dollars and got zilch in return. Dems have actually picked up a seat in the United States Senate, and Rove had the dubious task on FOXNews last night of trying to convince the public that while every network and news outlet was projecting Obama the winner, they were, according to Rove, doing so in error. He had secret math, you see, that showed Romney was, in fact, still going to win. What happened in Montana and nationally, well, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy than Karl Rove.
Dennis Rehberg, meanwhile, concludes 12 years of federal service and many more years of state government service, and the Cowgirl blog recognizes this contribution to society. Though we rarely agree with Rehberg and have always advocated against him, anybody stepping up to run for or hold public office deserves recognition and congratulations upon the completion of a career, as do his many staffers and operatives who spent the last two years in this fight. We wish Denny and his crew well in his future endeavors. Perhaps we will even see him try again two years from now for the Senate or even four years from now for governor, or maybe even try to take his seat back if Steve Daines vacates his newly won House seat to try to move up to Senate.
Speaking of Governor, Lee Newspapers, CNN, and NBC have called the race for Bullock, and now AP has as well. Down three points heading into the weekend according to a Mason Dixon poll, Bullock came up strong last night. Votes are still outstanding in Yellowstone County and also in a few key Indian countries like Glacier and Bighorn. But Bullock is showing about a 2 point edge right now, and I don’t believe it will be eroded much by the balance of votes yet to be counted. He will be our next Governor. Keep the cellphone tight, Steve, for Rick Hill will be calling you shortly to congratulate you and concede the race.
Hill, like Rehberg, deserves credit for trying a comeback late in life. He came up short, and has now probably concluded his political career, but he put in a tough effort and should be congratulated on having waged a pretty close race
Pam Bucy and Kim Gillan fought the good fight, but were up against two guys who had run for statewide office before, and so these two impressive gals started out at a disadvantage. Expect to see both of them remain in the orbit of public service. Either or both would be excellent applicants for Bullock cabinet positions and Bucy, I believe, will be back again to run for something else.
Daines got a huge investment from the national Republican party, so that made life miserable for Gillan who could not pull in the same dough from her party and was running for an office that seems to have the word Republican posted on the door. It was an uphill battle from the get-go. But Bucy, a far superior candidate to her opponent, got shafted. Our new attorney general Tim Fox has achieved his office by being bankrolled by secret money, close to a million dollars worth, the source of which has still not been determined. Bucy had no such slush fund. When you tally up the money, Bucy got outspent 5-1 at least. It puts a cap on a sad chapter in Montana electoral history, in which Republicans attempted to take over the government with unlimited, secret corporate money. Poor Pam became the object of the corporate wrath, despite an impeccable resume that made her opponent look like a bum.
In other races, Juneau, Lindeen and McCulloch all have leads right now, but Juneau’s race will be tight. She’s up half a point, with Billings and Indian country yet to be reported. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for her.
We should be proud of all these candidates. And, I am proud of all of you, who have participated in this election by tuning in, for keeping the discussion alive and spirited, providing information, and for making Cowgirl blog the place for politics in Montana.
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