Category: Judicial

Posted: September 29, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Barry Beach Tries for Clemency, Again

Barry Beach, serving a 100 year prison sentence with no possibility of parole, has applied to the Montana Board of Pardons for clemency.  If he gets what he wants then the Board will recommend to Governor Bullock that Beach be made eligible for release, having now served 30 years in prison for a 1983 crime he says he did not commit. Bullock could then accept or reject the recommendation.

An all-star lineup of politicians has written letters on Beach’s behalf including Conrad Burns, John Tester, Brian Schweitzer and John Bohlinger.  Bullock’s duty as Attorney General was to argue in support of Beach’s conviction, but that doesn’t preclude him from now allowing Beach to be paroled.  But this is all assuming that the Board gives Beach a favorable ruling.  If the Board turns Beach down then it’s the end of the line for Barry.  He will live out the rest of his life in prison unless he lives to the age of 118.

In 2011, a district Judge in Lewistown ordered Beach released after a hearing was held in which new doubt about his conviction was raised.  Six months later the Supreme Court overturned the order and sent him back to jail.  Beach took advantage of his freedom and started his own business, and otherwise lived out his brief respite without incident.

The doubts surrounding Beach’s conviction are well known to anyone who has followed the sizable amount of journalism on the case.   The short story is that his conviction was based entirely on a confession, which he says was coerced by the policemen who had him in custody.  There was no forensic evidence of any kind that tied Beach to the crime.

The Missoula Independent did a very thorough write-up a few years ago, which I encourage you to read.  To summarize, in 1983 Beach was convicted of the murder of Kim Nees, a high school classmate.  Beach was 17 at the time of the murder.  There were many fingerprints and footprints found at the crime scene, which was a muddy river bank where Kim Nees’s body was found face down in shallow water not far from her truck.   None of these prints matched Beach.  There were eyewitnesses who told police investigators that they had seen a gang of women in the truck with Nees shortly before she was murdered.

Beach was arrested in Louisiana three years later, for a misdemeanor.   While in custody, the police took his confession to four murders, three local murders and the Nees murder, which they learned about after calling up to Poplar Montana to ask local police about Beach.  The three local Louisiana murders which Beach confessed to were later determined to have nothing to do with him because he hadn’t even been in the state at the time of their occurrence.

Beach has always claimed that his confession to the Nees murder, in which he admits to beating Nees with a wrench for rebuffing his sexual overtures, was coerced with deprivation, intimidation, threats of torture and the electric chair, and many deceptive promises made to him by the four officers who were present when they took the confession.   The confession was taken in a notoriously corrupt Louisiana sheriff’s office. There was a tape recording of Beach’s confessions including his confession to the Kim Nees murder, but it vanished, as did all of the physical evidence collected at the crime scene, including items such as cigarette butts with unidentified fingerprints on them.

And then there was the prosecutor, the future Governor Marc Racicot who tried the case. In his opening statement to the jury, Racicot announced that he would soon be showing the jury a single pubic hair that had been discovered on the sweater of the victim and which had similarities to Beach’s hair.  But Racicot never produced any such piece of evidence.  Worse, he referenced the hair a second time, in his closing statement.

Racicot also called to the stand one of the the Louisiana cops who took Beach’s confession, an officer named Jay Via.  Via testified that Beach’s Louisiana attorney was in the interrogation room when Beach confessed. But Beach’s attorney, upon hearing this (he was in Louisiana during the trial), denied it vehemently in a sworn affidavit, essentially accusing Racicot and Via of perpetrating a blatant lie into evidence.

Three local girls (two of whom had immediate relatives who were working in the Poplar police department at the time of the murder, including one who broke into the evidence room during the trial) were among the initial suspects, in part because they were known to hold a strong animus against the victim.  In the years since, a number of locals in Poplar have come forward to say that they have heard first hand admissions of guilt by at least two of these women.  These locals testified at the 2011 hearing that led to the release of Beach by district judge E. Wayne Phillips who presides in Lewistown.

Judge Phillips, you will appreciate, used to work for Tea Party wingnut Art Wittich  when Wittich was counsel to GOP governor Stan Stevens.  So Phillips is no bleeding heart, apparently, and might even be a Tea Partier.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has stated that Beach should remain in prison for the next 70 years because he confessed and was convicted, and thus is guilty.  This has been the line out of the AG’s office since the early 2000s.

Nobody will ever know what took place on the night that Kim Nees was murdered, nor has Beach proved his innocence despite what his advocates might say.  Innocence cannot be proven here, I suppose, unless one of the other suspects admits under oath or on video tape to having committed the murder.

But given the history of this case and the facts surrounding the trial, it’s hard to imagine that the Board of Pardons would not at least make a recommendation to the Governor that Beach’s sentence be restructured so that he can apply for parole.  We should all be concerned with a case in which a 17 year old kid gets sent away for life with no possibility of parole, in which an a prosecutor with political ambitions presents lies to a jury to substantiate his case, in which a questionable confession is the sole piece of evidence, and in which much evidence was destroyed or simply disappeared.

This is Beach’s third try at clemency.  The first time he represented himself.  On his second try he was represented by pro bono attorneys from Centurion Ministries, an outfit which has freed over 100 wrongly convicted individuals, usually on DNA evidence but sometimes on false confessions.  That was in 2006, and he sought a full pardon and a declaration of innocence.  He lost.  This time, he is simply seeking a commutation of his sentence to time served.   We will see how he does.

Even if he had been proved guilty with overwhelming evidence, I might still support an opportunity for parole after 30 years of prison given his age at the time of the crime.  In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court no longer allows life without parole to be meted out to a minor, even in cases in which guilt is overwhelmingly obvious.  But with the amount of doubt surrounding his conviction, justice probably requires Beach to be free now.

Fox apparently disagrees.  I’d be interested to know how Racicot feels.  All Racicot has ever said to the press is that he has “no doubt that Barry Beach is guilty as charged.”   That was in 2007.  He has not specifically ever addressed the size of the sentence, and whether it might be a tad too heavy given the case history.  My guess is that we won’t hear from Racicot on this issue.  Because he probably knows, in his heart, that parole eligibility would be proper; and yet to express support for it would be to admit that he has doubts in his head about what he did in the courtroom in 1983.

Posted: August 28, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Billings Judge Tries Various Apologies; Demonstrations Planned

A few more points on the Billings verdict.

First, Judge Baugh today apologized for saying that a fourteen year old statutory rape victim was “older than her chronological age” and “was as much in control of the situation” as her 54-year-old assailant.  He stands by the sentence (30 days in prison), which is less a slap on the wrist than a high five. And said he will soon be issuing an addendum to bis decision, an explanation of why he ruled as he did.

It did take him two tries to apologize.  His first was a non-apology apology–saying,  ”It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”  He was then forced to issue a second apology later the same day.

There has been much speculation as to Baugh’s politics.  I’ve been contacted by numerous Billings persons who say he is very conservative, a chummy old boy in the Yellowstone county club of crusty old right-wingers.   Baugh has also run unopposed three times since 1984, and is up for election again in 2014.  He is originally from Texas and, for all of you NFL bluffs, is the son of hall-of-fame quarterback Sammy Baugh of the Washington professional football team some refer to as the Pigskins.

As for the ruling, realize that the sentence was for a violation of the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement.  The original sentence was for no jail time whatsoever–just treatment.

You see, amid the original prosecution for statutory rape, Cherice Moralez, the 14-year-old victim, killed herself.   According to today’s press, the prosecution felt that they would not be able to get a conviction without her live testimony.   They made Rambold a deal–go to treatment for three years, but sign a confession first.  Rambold went to treatment but violated the terms (for example, he failed to report to his counselor that he had sex with another adult), and these violations, minor though they were, effectively re-empowered prosecutors, who held a signed confession of his crimes, to get the judge to issue a stiffer sentence commensurate with the original crime.

But, Judge Baugh decided that 30 days in prison is enough.  One question which I raised yesterday is whether the race or ethnic origin of the victim, who appears to be a Latina girl, played a factor in the lenient sentence.  That was speculation on my part, but it remains an open question, which will likely not be answered.  Neither the context of the 30 day sentence, the original “no jail time” sentence, nor the girl’s ethnicity was reported by the initial Gazette “30 days” story, which was a big mistake.

Demonstrations are being planned by women’s groups in Billings for tomorrow, and petitions are being circulated for the judge’s removal.  The judge, technically, could be recalled, impeached, or disciplined within the court system.

Posted: November 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

Corruption Defines Montana’s 2012 Elections

Montana’s 2012 elections will go down in history–but not in a good way. Rather, this cycle will be remembered for corruption, lies, deceptive ads, illegal donations, apparent illegal coordination with third-party groups, and secret corporate money.

The season was kicked off with TEA Party Republican legislator Jason Priest secretive “Montana Growth Network” buying the Supreme Court race for TEA Party judge Laurie McKinnon. Priest’s shadow group spent more on one saturation mailing then the conservative candidate he was backing had raised for her entire campaign.

McKinnon, who dog whistled at Lincoln Reagan dinners across Montana about “judicial activism,” “strict constructionist” and other conservative buzzwords, was able to defeat the leading candidate Elizabeth Best in the primary–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations reported in Montana papers across the state.   Priest’s  ”Montana Growth Network” is thought to be one of the American Traditions Partnership’s many spinoffs.

Indeed no group has been more insidious than American Traditions Partnership in corrupting Montana’s elections.  ATP’s launched it’s biggest attack on Steve Bullock.  It mailed a fake newspaper to hundreds of thousands of Montanans depicting Bullock in a line-up of sex offenders.

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in Montana’s elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and this secretive right-wing group.  Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in apparent violation of the law, the Associated Press reports today.

ATP even sent mailers impersonating unions– using the unions’ logos–to attack local candidates that the unions have actually endorsed.

ATP wasn’t alone, unknown corporate groups dumped half a million dollars in illegal into Rick Hill’s campaign coffers, forcing a  judge to issue a restraining order against Hill to stop him from spending the illegal cash.  The Montana GOP claims the donation came from the Republican Governor’s Association, but shortly before the RGA sent the dough to the Montana GOP, that an entity calling itself the  ”Montana Law Foundation” sent $200,000 the the RGA. There’s only one reason that a fake Montana group would donate to the RGA instead of the Montana Republican Party and that’s to hide the donation’s source.

Tim Fox, the Montana Republican lunatic who is running for attorney general despite having never done anything other than defend drunk drivers and call for rape victims to have the rapists’ babies, got some national Republican donors to buy $700,000 of TV advertising on his behalf.  Fox Fox refused to reveal his true extremists beliefs.   Instead, he hid behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising that his corporate bosses– including the Koch brothers, the insurance industry and the cigarette companies put up to hide the truth.

Montana’s U.S. Senate race has also drawn a deluge of dark money aimed at defeating Jon Tester and replacing him with scandal-plagued extremist Dennis Rehberg.

Tonight, Montana citizens will find out whether ATP and groups like it will completely own our state and federal governments–using lies, deception, illegal activity and corporate money to install their candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, without ever revealing who their donors really are.

Posted: October 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Watch FRONTLINE Expose: Big Sky Big Money Online Here

Tonight, the PBS investigative series FRONTLINE takes a look at the out-of-state groups working to buy our local elections.

The show looks into the files on 23 right-wing Montana candidates were found in a meth house in Colorado in a box labeled “Montana $ bomb.” The files contained information about how the American Tradition Partnership is manipulating Montana campaigns and elections.

Here’s the video:

Watch Big Sky, Big Money on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Posted: October 3, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Federal Judge Strikes Down All Montana Donation Limits

Leaving an entire state with mouths agape, a right-wing federal judge in Montana today ruled that all campaign contribution limits for political candidates are—unconstitutional.

Like every other state in America, Montana sets rules on how much cash you can give to a campaign. A Gubernatorial campaign may take $630 from an individual, Attorney General candidates $310, state legislators $160, and so on down the line.

But Judge Charles Lovell, a Reagan appointee who hails from a family of right-wing operatives (more on that later), has decided that these laws–which have been on our books (and every other state’s books, and the federal government’s books) for most of our history–violate the First Amendment.

This has nothing to do, mind you, with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision protecting corporate money in politics.  This is about limits on individual donations.  Because of this ruling, the Koch brothers may now write a personal check for an unlimited quantity to any Montana candidate of their choice.

The basis of the Judge’s ruling?  “Campaign contribution limits prevent candidates from amassing campaign resources,” he wrote.

Huh? Yes, Your Honor, that’s the point of having such laws.  They limit the amount of resources that a candidate can amass, a byproduct of restricting the amount of resources that one individual (like the Koch brothers or George Soros) may give a candidate, which prevents the buying of influence.

This is a truly bizarre ruling, and I am sorry to say this, but I believe that Judge Lovell must either be drunk, demented, stupid or simply corrupt.  My guess is the latter.  Lovell knows that if you get rid of contribution limits, you give an edge to the GOP, because the GOP has more wealthy donors than Democrats.  For this reason, I believe, Lovell has waited until the day that voting has begun (overseas ballots started coming in this week), so that by the time a higher federal court can overturn this idiotic ruling, it will be so late in the game that it will be moot.

And the most insidious part is that the judge issued the order, and said in the order that he would not issue an actual written decision until some future date.  So he provided no reasoning at all except for the single quote I provided above.  You see, he was in a huge rush to protect everybody’s First Amendment rights.

So for now, Montana apparently has no campaign donation limits at all.  With the stroke of a pen, a federal judge has invalidated them.  Intelligent Discontenthas a post up on the ruling that you’ll want to read too.  UPDATE: James Conner at the Flathead Memo also has a post up entitled “Let’s not let Judge Lovell’s campaign contributions crisis go to waste.

This follows on the heels of other right-wing lunacy from the federal Montana bench. A while back, a federal judge was caught sending racist emails to his friends about Obama.

In the instant case, by the way, the Judge’s son, Lance Lovell is also a lawyer, spends much of his time getting his name in the newspaper by bringing suit against the Democratic Governor, Brian Schweitzer.  So using the courts for purposes of advancing Republican Politics is all in the family with the Lovells.

Posted: June 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Analysis: Corporate Money in the 2012 Primary

For those who believe that last year’s TEA Party Republican Legislature has inflicted enough trauma on Montana, consider that what happened in this week’s primary election spells a looming disaster for the next session.  Out-of-state corporate groups worked in the primaries to push the already Bat Crap Crazy Montana legislature further rightward and over the cliff.

Mailers by third party, out-of-state, and corporate-funded groups succeeded in several races in getting more conservative candidates elected in GOP Primaries across the state.  Their work was also designed to force a further rightward shift in the votes of all legislators in the next session.  That’s because legislators who don’t currently vote hard right on every single bill now know that if they don’t toe the line next time, they are likely to face the same kind of attack ads and mailers we saw this year.

The attack mailers had an impact on several high profile races–putting in right-wingers over moderates in Laurel, Stevensville, Sidney, Polson, the Flathead, and who knows where else.   Not only do these groups refuse to disclose how much their spending and who they are spending it on, they also refuse to disclose their donors.  If their supporters were individual Montana citizens they would have nothing to hide and could just file as a Political Action Committee.  But they don’t. They claim that their attack ads are “educational” rather than “electioneering” so that they don’t have to report who’s bankrolling them. Besides their ridiculous names, here’s what is known about the groups pushing the Montana Legislature further into the abyss.

 

“Taxpayers for Liberty”

An outside ultraconservative group calling itself “Taxpayers for Liberty” (linked to American Tradition Partnership) sent out mailers like those pasted below against Republican Rep. Carmine Mowbray and Republican Sen. Bruce Tutvedt.  The group sent one mailer with a Washington DC return address.  Another had the return address of the Helena UPS store.  So, it’s unlikely a Montana group.  There’s no record of “Taxpayers for Liberty” in the Montana Secretary of State’s database or with the Commissioner of Political Practices either.  The group does not disclose its donors so the involvement of corporate or Koch brothers money can’t be ruled out. Even though they didn’t succeed in ousting Tutvedt, they still succeeded in sending a message that anyone who doesn’t vote hardline Bat Crap can expect the same treatment in 2014, thus resulting in a further right leaning legislature in January.

 


“Montana Family Foundation”

The massive amount of secret, corporate and out-of-state money at work in the Montana primaries allowed the groups that had worked in these races in the past to be more effective.  Thanks to corporate money, special interest lobbying groups working in conservative races like the so-called Montana Family Foundation didn’t have to get involved in every primary this year.  They could be more targeted, and more deadly.  In fact, after a Montana judge that struck down the law requiring accuracy in campaign ads, the Montana Family Foundation called the court decision “a good thing”and a victory, the Flathead Beacon reported.

The group put out radio ads mailers claiming that Republican legislators Carmine Mowbray and Bruce Tutvedt:

“voted to allow fifth graders to be taught different sexual positions and variations and to allow “kindergarten students to be taught sexual detail without parental consent,”

Click here to listen to the radio ad: MTF1201_Tutvedt

To be sure, Montana Family Foundation lobbyist Jeff Laszloffy insisted he’d already planned to put the attacks out before the accuracy requirement was struck.  Mowbray and Tutvedt both immediately denounced the attacks as the lies they are.  (Which is somewhat ironic since they remained silent when their own party used the exact same attacks against Democrats in 2010–even after they were proven false.)  The GOP has since removed the the press release on the sex ed attacks from their website.

You can tell the Family Foundation attack ads are designed to scare Republicans into making outrageous votes by looking at the groups “C-2″–a statement PACs are required to file with the Commissioner of Political Practices.  The [PDF] form reads so explicitly it is a veritable ”kill list” of Republicans who didn’t vote how lobbyist Laszloffy ordered.   If you don’t vote like we tell you, this form says, you’re next.

Laszloffy attacked Tutvedt and Mowbray by distorting their voting records, but why he targeted Republican candidate Tami Christensen in Sidney is a puzzle.  How Laszloffy came to the conclusion that she doesn’t meet his creepy purity test is unclear, since out of hundreds of legislative candidates, only one bothered to fill out Laszoffy’s questionnaire.  One wonders if it was just because she’s a woman.  Several local Republicans spoke out against the Family Foundation’s actions, including the Mayor and former State Legislator Sen. Donald Steinbeisser.

 


“American Traditions Partnership”

The American Tradition Partnership put out a press release this week claiming “ATP Sweeps State Legislative Elections,” and that they had won 12 of the 14 races in which they spent massive amounts of corporate money.   Odd that they would put out this release after claiming in a Montana court that what they do is “issue education” rather than electioneering. The group boasted of radio ads and mailers.

The quotes from their release were particularly outrageous, given that ATP is funded by large out-of-state and multi-national corporations:

“This isn’t just a victory for ATP-Montana, it’s a victory for all ratepayers, property owners and businesspeople across the Treasure State,” said Doug Lair, State Coordinator for ATP-Montana. “Whether it’s against foreign corporations coming after our property rights or Gang Green’s hand-picked politicians bilking us through our utility bills, ATP-Montana will continue to fight for working people.”

and

“ATP is going to make sure there are consequences for regulation-happy politicians who want to use mom-and-pop business owners and employers as nothing more than punching bags and ATM machines,” added Lair, “and we won’t be shut up or shut down.”

ATP also threatened to buy the November elections, and threatened Steve Bullock in particular, saying that

“a pro-resource development agenda is sure to weigh heavily in the legislative elections in November, and particularly as party nominees Rick Hill and Steve Bullock face off in the race for governor.”

In legislative races, ATP sent out mailers like this one supporting Dee Brown in the Republican primary for the Whitefish/Columbia Falls State Senate Seat, SD 2. Previously they favored TEA Party poster boy Rep. Derek Skees in the HD4 general.  This is the group that sued Montana to allow inaccurate campaign ads, keep election donations secret, and turn back MT’s 100 year old ban on corporate funding of elections. Attorney General Steve Bullock is defending Montana against the out-of-state group.

This demagoguing flier was mailed with heavy saturation in Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and who knows where else:

 

“Montana Growth Network”

This group worked in the Supreme Court race,  but since Montana TEA Party Republican legislator Jason Priest is the groups treasurer I’m including it here. The Supreme Court race is non-partisan but the Helena IR reported that

“the Montana Growth Network, spent $19,000 with Richmond, Va.-based Desumo Strategies, which on its website lists as its one goal “Putting Republicans like you in office, at every level.”

By spending more on one saturation mailing then the conservative candidate they were backing had raised for her entire campaign, this corporate front group took the first step to buying the Supreme Court seat.  Laurie McKinnon, who dog whistled at Lincoln Reagan dinners across Montana about “judicial activism,” “strict constructionist” and other conservative buzzwords was pushed past front-runner Elizabeth Best–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations reported in Montana papers across the state.  The allegations involve a fundraising letter sent out on McKinnon’s behalf,  paid for by Laurie McKinnon’s campaign, from a sitting conservative Judge, Nels Swandal.

On Swandal’s political views, the Billings Gazette reported that:

State District Judge Nels Swandal, who’s running for an open seat on the Montana Supreme Court, sent some clear signals Saturday to Republicans that he is the more conservative candidate in the race, saying he didn’t have or want the endorsement of a prominent labor or conservation group.

Swandal, speaking at a forum at the Republican Party Platform Convention in Billings, said some of the questions posed by the Montana AFL-CIO to candidates “are among the most un-American ideas I’ve ever seen,” and that he wouldn’t seek endorsement of the Montana Conservation Voters “because of their assault on private property.”

With groups like this pushing Montana further into nutjob territory, it’s easy to see why leaders like Steve Bullock, Brian Schweitzer and citizens from all over the state are fighting so hard to restore accuracy, transparency, and citizen input into Montana elections.  What remains of the right to vote when the only messages most people get on issues of public policy are those put forward by large businesses, out-of-staters, and those with huge amounts of disposable cash?

Posted: June 6, 2012 at 7:29 am

A Look at the Primary Election Results

Congratulations are in order to Kim Gillan and Pam Bucy who have won their respective primaries for Congress and Attorney General.

But that’s not the only good news.

Republicans have nominated Brad Johnson for Secretary of State. Johnson has battled alcoholism for many years, has had a few DUIs, and has been in and out of rehab recently (in 2008, he even campaigned from a rehab facility toward the end of the SOS race last time). Notably, in the article reporting on his announcement for office, he was unable to state a single reason why the current SOS, Linda McCulloch, should be replaced. Not a good start. He also says that he currently works as a “consultant”, although it is unclear who, if anyone, is paying him for his consultations. The nomination of such a weak candidate is good news for Democrats and for all those who don’t believe in the voter suppression tactics frequently championed by Republicans.

In the legislative races, congratulations to Helena’s Jenny Eck, who defeated two primary opponents for the open seat left when Mike Menahan decided not to run.  Here are a few other interesting legislative results:


Incumbents Taken Out

Incumbents are difficult to defeat and are rarely taken out.  It’s a lot easier when that incumbent becomes a laughing stock on national television. DUI promoter Alan Hale was taken out by primary opponent Kirk Wagoner 863 to 813.  Birther Bob Wagner was defeated by Ray Shaw in Madison County 1040-991.


Crackpots Advance

In Park City, nutjob TEA Party hatemonger David Howard somehow surpassed his two primary challengers by a wide margin.

In Sanders County, TEA Partier Jennifer Fielder (here’s her flyer) defeated the saner Rick Seeman. Feilder seems to have focused her campaign on the fact that her opposent was at one time employed by the government.   GOPers have also nominated the legislature’s largest recipient of government funds, TEA Partier Janna Taylor, over Republican Carmine Mowbray for Senate District 6.


More Good News for Democrats

Brad Johnson isn’t the only good news for Dems.   In the Laurel House races, supernatural scholar Sarah Laszloffy defeated main streat Republican Debra Bonogofsky, giving an edge to Democratic candidate Sean Whiting for that seat.


Corporate Money Wins

A secret list of corporations succeeded in electing State Senate TEA Party candidate Dee Brown over Republican Bill Beck in the Flathead. The corporations behind the so-called American Traditions Partnership are fighting Montana’s clean election laws in the U.S. Supreme Court.  Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is defending Montana against ATP in that case.  Meanwhile, another corporate front group with secret donors has purchased the Montana Supreme Court race for $41,000.  TEA Party Republican Jason Priest’s shadow group succeeded in advancing right-winger Laurie McKinnon over Elizabeth Best.

I’m interesting in hearing your thoughts on the primaries and your takes on other races I didn’t get to here.  Please consider this a primary election open forum.

Posted: May 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm

The Jesus Factor

Montana GOP Executive Director Bowen GreenwoodBowen Greenwood, the head of the Montana GOP, emailed party faithful that he will be running as a write-in candidate for clerk of the Supreme Court this fall.

In the email, Greenwood wrote:

I am  first and foremost a follower and friend of a guy named Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing else even comes close.

Aware that his missive would be picked up and transmitted around, Greenwood clearly is keen on sending a message to the holy rollers in his party that he is One Of Them.

As this relates to the governor’s race, it’s been previously assumed that Greenwood is not a Rick Hill supporter, because of Hill’s lack of right-wing bona fides, Greenwood’s appearance in a Ken Miller video, and Greenwood’s support of Rick Santorum. I would say the email supports the notion that Greenwood likes the Miller candidacy.

And recently Miller has become more direct, himself, about highlighting his own status as “A Christian,” on his website and in debates.

Greenwood might also be worried about a religious insurrection within his party, and wants to appear to be a religious nut so that he can keep his job when the wheels come off in November. Right now the Montana GOP is run mostly by Helena insiders, but is staring at the real possibility of twelve straight years of Democratic control of the Governor’s office and 16 straight years controlling the Attorney General’s office and Land Board. If this comes true in November, there will be a Republican Revolution, but not the kind that the GOP enjoys celebrating, unless you happen to be one of the ecstatic rioting Tea Partiers holding the pitchfork that is hoisting the asses of Greenwood and Will Deschamp, the Party Chairman).

And there is another more subtle thing going on here.

Right-wingers have been led into a self-reinforcing delusion, ever since McCain lost to Obama, that if a moderate Republican candidate loses an election it’s because the candidate made the mistake of trying to appeal to independent voters. Be a true right-wing conservative and you will always win, say Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to their daily audiences of twenty million foaming, gullible ignoramuses.

This thinking allows right-wing leaders and shouters to have their cake and eat it. They can say “I told you so” if and when candidates like Mitt Romney or Rick Hill get defeated. And the purveyors of this Theory of Conservative Purity themselves become more relevant in the off-season. Their followers, meanwhile, can take solace in the fact that arch conservatism is The Way, and that Republicans can only lose elections for failing to follow The Way. This is exactly the bed that has been made for Mitt Romney, by Santorum and Gingrich, Beck and Limbaugh. When Romney loses, they’ll say its because a false conservative, not a true one, was nominated.

For a Party activist like Greenwood, this delusion has a more practical application: it sets up a good position from which to dump on a GOP candidate who loses.

It’s an easy out. For when Rick Hill loses (and he will be the nominee, and will lose to Bullock), Greenwood will signal to the base of his party, “I told you so.” This, even though Ken Miller would himself strand no real chance of winning a general election. But how could this be disproven if Miller never gets the nomination? It can’t, and that’s the beauty of it.

The entire Greenwood email is pasted below the fold.

 

Continue reading

Posted: April 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Political Quick Hits: Jesus Cebull Edition

Republicans Compare Judge Who Sent Racist Email to Jesus

Have you noticed the letters to the editor from Republicans popping up to defend Judge Cebull by comparing him to Jesus?  Cebull is the judge who sent the racist emails about Obama’s mother and bestiality.  Perhaps these Republicans should read this Billings Outpost report on how minorities in Montana themselves actually view his remarks.

 

Montana on Maddow

Last night, Rachel Maddow viewers got to relive one of the Montana Legislature’s most satisfying moments   Here’s the video.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

 Today’s Must Read Political Blogpost

The latest must-read post is up at the Flathead Memo. It looks like incumbent state Sen. Bruce Tutvedt (R-Flathead) has some reasons to be worried about his primary opposition.

Posted: April 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm

The TEA Party Doesn’t Represent Helena

Montanans have a strong candidate in the race to take back the seat held by TEA Party nutjob Liz Bangerter.    

Long-time Helena leader Kelsen Young (pictured) says she’s running for office because she believes “we need more strong, independent and progressive voices at the State Legislature.”  So true.

Bangerter is a Republican first-term legislator campaigning for re-election to Helena’s House District 80.  She was elected to represent a liberal district by pretending to be a moderate. Then, she turned out to be one of the most conservative GOPers out there.   Bangerter voted for Derek Skees’ unconstitutional scheme to create an eleven person panel to nullify federal laws and voted to allow hunting with silencers.   Worse, she actually sponsored the bill to legalize insurance company discrimination against women.

It turns out that Bangerter actually serves on ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force.  For those of you not familiar with ALEC, here’s the deal.  Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators like Bangerter exact changes to the law they want passed.

What kind of bills?  Often these are changes to the laws that will make the corporations more money.  They are also often bills that the GOP will introduce only to attack Democrats in the next election, based on their votes.  The pre-drafted ALEC bills are all wrapped up with neat little talking points and press releases so the legislator doesn’t actually need any brain cells.

Besides legislators like Bangerter, only corporations have full membership standing in ALEC. Corporations sit on all ALEC task forces–like the one Bangerter is on.  The corporations vote with legislators to approve “model” bills–the only difference is that the corporations get veto power over any legislator ideas.

And so, Bangerter is one of the last people we need making Montana laws.  Thankfully, with a top quality candidate like Kelsen in the race, it looks like Bangerter’s is one more seat that the Republicans won’t be keeping.

To find out more about Kelsen, visit her website.  Kelsen grew up in Havre and Helena and has spent the last 15 years working to end domestic and sexual violence. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, which is a statewide non-profit.