Category Archives: Legislative Races

GOP Candidate Lobbied AGAINST Violence Against Women Act

Today I learned that a TEA Party candidate for legislature in the Billings area named Tonya Shellnut actually lobbied against the Violence Against Women Act and even penned an op-ed against the act that was published in the Daily Inter Lake.

The act was not controversial – it essentially reauthorized the federal laws that have been on the books for two decades that hold rapists and abusers accountable for their crimes and helped women start new lives.  

The main change was that it was expanded to include Indians and other women who were originally left out.  But Shellnut tried to claim that including all women in the new law was a bad thing.  It doesn’t get much worse that that.

And hard data exists to show the law is effective and has actually been a resounding success.  Since the original law was passed 20 years ago, domestic violence has gone down 67% and murders of women by intimate partners have dropped 35%.

Perhaps just as sickening as Shellnut’s actions is that she is backed by a group that calls itself the Montana Family Foundation.

Today marks that 100 year anniversary of the date women secured the right to vote.  Let’s make sure we all do and vote to keep people like this out of the state legislature.

The Fundamental Difference

Genuine Support

photo 1 photo 2


Moffie Funk has genuine supporters, real people who are proud to lend their names to support her campaign for the Montana legislature and appear in her mail pieces.


Fakes It

Liz Bangerter uses stock photos of actors paid to fake support for her campaign.

I guess there aren’t too many families out there who would support draining our tax dollars out of public school classrooms and siphoning them off to private sectarian schools.  Nor would most people be pleased to learn that Bangerter would block Montanans’ access to our rivers and streams. 


GUEST POST: Pay Attention Get Involved Make A Difference

by Carla Augustad

Because Amanda Curtis is our new Democratic Senate Candidate, everyone should have easy access to her youtube videos   I do like this one about her mail from “non partisan non taxed entities” If you have ever run for office, you know about getting lots of “educational material” from those non profits like AIPAC and the Heartland Institute

At Day 86 you can learn that House Bill 282 raised taxes for most Montanan’s while lowering them for the wealthiest amongst us(4:15),at five minutes in, you can learn about Mark Blasdel adding four pages of amendments to a 14 line Bill.

Three minutes in to day 85 Amanda destroys the heavily publicized claim that the Republicans were unable to bring tax relief to Montanan’s, and the first two and a half minutes of Day 83 describes what happened to the last Insurance Bill

You may be starting to believe that I have no intention of letting the Insurance Issue go. I know too many people that need affordable access to preventative healthcare and cannot get it.

If you care about this, the way that I do, please get behind your local candidates, but ask them what they will do first! For instance, Kim Flemming in House District 11 will not support any Medicaid expansion. The two people MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR DENYING 70,000 working Montanan’s access to affordable healthcare are Mark Blasdel and David Howard.

Please support Diane Taylor and Elli Elliot in their work to send those darkmoneylovers home to their families where they belong.

Elli made it easy to share how you can contribute to her, so her information is below.

Checks to: Elli for SD 29

P. O. Box 2326

Red Lodge, MT 59068

The donation limit is $170 per individual. Please include your occupation and employer for reporting purposes.
On ActBlue:


TEA Party Leader Leaves Door to Medicaid Expansion Open

The statements of disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich [pronounced “WIT-ick!”] reveal a major shift in TEA Party rhetoric about the Medicaid expansion in an article in the Bozeman Chronicle this weekend.

Rather than close the door completely on any kind of Medicaid expansion, as Wittich has done in the past, the former Senate GOP leader told the Bozeman Chronicle that he is “not opposed to negotiating a Medicaid expansion program” but that his version would look different than what has been proposed by Democrats.  By doing so, Wittich is signaling that conservatives have moved on from a single-minded focus on blocking health care for the working poor. This is a major shift and an interesting development in the discussion.  It shows Wittich is willing to publicly admit that conservatives may no longer simply refuse to move forward.

To be sure, in the same article Wittich was again caught lying many times about the Medicaid expansion and how it is paid for, saying he opposes how it is funded.  So he must be called out for these lies once again.  He’s entitled to his own opinion, but not his own version of the facts. 

First, Wittich tries to claim that, “Medicaid was never supposed to be an insurance program. It was meant to provide services to disabled people.”

Fact:  Medicaid provides health coverage to children, seniors, pregnant women, babies, and parents in every state. Able-bodied childless adults have been eligible for Medicaid coverage in other states for decades, thanks to the major Medicaid initiative of the George H.W. Bush administration.

This initiative, called the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) initiative or HIFA Waiver program, was created by the Bush administration in 2001 and has been used in many states to provide full basic healthcare coverage to childless non-disabled adults.

The next lie Wittich tells is that “community health centers are funded differently [than Medicaid expansion] eliminating the fear that federal government debt would force states to pay increasingly large shares of the Medicaid program.”

Fact: The federal government has never cut Medicaid support for states.

This is a lie that Wittich has used several times, and it has several times been disproven.  First, the Washington Post has explained that the federal government cutting support for Medicaid would be an “unprecedented” move, as the government has only increased its share of expenditures since the program’s inception and has never reduced them below their original percentage:

There is one time the federal government did fiddle with funding levels, in the late 2000s. That, which you can see in the [below] chart, was to increase their share of Medicaid spending during the recession.


I know that Wittich does not like being fact checked by this blog.  It’s probably why he’s attacked my blog in public speeches.  However Wittich did not dispute the facts of any of my posts, rather he tried to attack me personally by flatly proclaiming that I’m not a woman, that I’m not a Montanan and that I “don’t know anything about cows.”  Why he thinks this is beyond me.

But I do know that politicians who lie put their reputations and careers at risk when their lies are exposed. Perhaps he’s still worried that if he sticks to the facts people aren’t going to be pleased with his and Jason Priest’s actions to block health care for 70,000 working poor Montanans. Perhaps he’s worried about the thousands of Medicaid expansion ballot initiative signers who vote in this district.  Perhaps for these reasons he is now leaving the door open for Medicaid expansion, in some form or another, to move forward.

Both Wittich and Priest were senate leaders during the last session – but neither will be back in the senate.  Wittich will be running for house, while Priest faces felony partner and family member assault charges.

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

MonfortonTinFoil…TEA Party legislative candidate Matthew Monforton. Monforton has filed yet another lawsuit to get his name in the paper close down MT primaries, claiming that there is a need to keep democrats from infiltrating them. Monforton has no proof that this happened, because ballots are secret. However it has been proven already by several major papers that this year a bunch of  local Tea Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. Monforton was silent on this dirty, below-the-belt, highly dishonest stuff, and so he is certainly this week’s leading hypocrite.  Congratulations are not in order.

If you weren’t sick of the entire Monforton Melodrama already, you will be today. This individual has filed perhaps his 9th or 10th lawsuit of the election season (and really it is too tiresome to count them). It’s all getting rather ridiculous.

Monforton refuses to acknowledge two simple facts. First, that the voters of Montana rejected the wingnut faction of the GOP this primary season. This is Monforton’s own faction so that concept must undoubtedly be a difficult one for him. Second,  that if the Republican party in Montana had really wanted this, they would have put it in place a long time ago. Even yesterday, the GOP executive director Bowen Greenwood stopped short of calling the lawsuit a good idea.  Instead, he said that his “personal” opinion, and not that of the GOP, it is certainly a “strong” idea–“…but I’m not inclined to spend valuable time and resources” on it.  Ouch.

Greenwood was not smart to say even that much. Closing primaries in MT would harm Montana Republicans, not help them. A large number of independent and third party conservatives would, rather than registering as a member of any political party, simply be disinclined to participate.

But this is about Monforton’s hypocrisy, not the problems with his proposals.  By refusing to address the eight fake candidates–the TEA Partiers who filed as Democrats in a nasty plot to invade and infect the Democratic Party, Trojan Horse style–Monforton shows that his strategy is one of press release by lawsuit rather than improving elections. Especially because Monforton even recruited one of the fake “democrats” to be the plaintiff in one of his frivolous lawsuits–his lawsuit to block a Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. 

He is a hypocrite, and at this point, a most tiresome one. 

TEA Party Legislator Says it Warms His Heart to See Young People in Handcuffs

Dave Hagstrom

Rep. Dave Hagstrom (R-TEA Billings) is a real piece of work.

A TEA Party lawmaker says it warms his heart to observe young people  in handcuffs and headed to jail.

In a letter to the editor in the Billings Gazette this week, TEA Party Rep. Dave Hagstrom (R-Billings) wrote:

The other day I was driving between jobs and passed a scene similar to what I have observed before, one that always warms my heart and makes me grateful.

Out on a driveway between a home and a shed in the yard was a gathering of about six people. Two, a man and a woman, were wearing logoed shirts, bullet-proof vests and had large black belts with holstered guns. The other people were younger types, all with their hands behind their backs, I imagine in handcuffs….I suspect they were driving them to the jail.

Hagstrom is apparently no fan of young people because, as he claims:

Over the years I have experienced vandalism, property destruction and theft at the hands of young, irresponsible, lazy law breakers.

This is not the first time Hagstrom’s comments have raised eyebrows.

Hagstrom, who is a landlord in a lower-income neighborhood in Montana’s largest city, sent a letter to his tenants telling them “to accept that they don’t need ‘to live as long as they currently do, or as ‘comfortably’ as they currently do,'” the Billings Gazette reported.

The state legislator also made national news for his bizarre comments about sex and ballpoint pens on the floor of the state House of Representatives.  He later tried to lie to the press about what he said, but the comments were recorded on public video.

After the remarks, which were made during the 2013 legislative session, Hagstrom was lampooned in a segment called “The Sideshow, this week in GOP Jaw Droppers,” by Chris Matthews.  The segment shined a light the most ridiculous things actually said by Republicans across the nation:

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NEW STUDY: Montanans’ Access to Health Care Among Nation’s Worst

A new study has found that Montanans’ access to health care is among the worst in the U.S.

The July 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund found that only three states had worse access to health care than Montanans–Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska, as you can see in this chart.

The information shows that what the TEA party extremists did by refusing to accept the federal funds to cover the working poor was an especially poor decision in Montana, where the lack of access to health care is particularly bad.   You can read the whole study here.

Chart Health Care Access


Remember, the Medicaid expansion covers the working poor, people who earn “too much” to qualify for Medicaid now but don’t make enough to qualify for a price break through

The earnings ceiling for the coverage gap in Montana is $11,490 a year for a single person. If you make more than this, you could get a price break through the marketplace.

Earning $11,000 a year works out to a monthly income of $916.

  • Average rent for a (cheap, dilapidated) one-bedroom apartment in South Billings/Lockwood: $480/month. $436 left over…
  • Grocery bills: $125/month (Ramen noodles, 20 lb bag of potatoes). $311 left over…
  • Car insurance: $66/month. $245 left over…
  • Gas: $72/month (assuming 300 miles/month, or 10 miles/day to get to your job). $173 left over…
  • Clothing/Sundry items (shampoo, light bulbs, stamps): $25/month. $148 left over…
  • Entertainment: $15/month (1DVD rental on Sat night only). $133/month left over…
  • Utilities: $30/month (or a cheap cell phone). $103/month left over…
  • Savings/Debt: $50/month (making a future, or correcting the past–being responsible) $53/month left over…

That leaves about $53 to buy health insurance if nothing else goes wrong in your life–your car never breaks down, you never go to the dentist, etc.

The cheapest Bronze-level unsubsidized health insurance plan for a 40-year old in Yellowstone is $205/month – or four times more than what this person has left over for health insurance. Even on a bare bones budget without cable, an iPhone or a sports car–Montanans in the coverage gap can’t afford insurance thanks to the Montana legislature.

Remember, this single individual isn’t eligible for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace because those are only for people who make more than $11,490 per year.  So this person must pay the unsubsidized price.

Montana’s legislators need a reality check. They’ve made it so there is no path for a working poor person in Montana to do the responsible thing by getting health coverage.  This person has only one option:  pray they don’t get sick.

If your legislator doesn’t get it, she or he needs to be replaced.

Twelve MT Lawmakers Call for Rounding Up and Arresting Federal Officials

by Cowgirl

Twelve Montana lawmakers are backing a bill to arrest any federal officials who try to implement the Affordable Care Act in Montana. The state legislators voiced their support for such a scheme in a survey from Ron Paul’s “Campaign for Liberty” TEA Party, on which they indicated they will either vote for or sponsor such a bill.

And what a group of legislators they are. Gordon Vance, Nancy Ballance, Cary Smith, David Howard, Kerry White, Sarah Lazloffy, Nicholas Schwaderer, Daniel Zolnikov,  Jerry O’Neil, Art Wittich and Mike Miller are all on record backing legislation to declare the Affordable Care Act illegal and to allow police to arrest federal officials who take steps to implement it in Montana.

These TEA partiers also say they support a nonsensical and unconstitutional dogma called “nullification” that holds that states can ignore the federal health care law–and other federal laws–if they choose. Two sitting lawmakers, Rep. Jerry O’Neil (RTEA-Columbia Falls) and Rep. David Howard (RTEA-Park City), both known imbeciles, were foolish enough to admit they would actually sponsor such legislation.

David Howard

Rep. David Howard has called for a new, modern-day Civil War and dedicated his entire Facebook page to racist, bigoted, bizarre and anti-gay posts. Republicans elected him Chair of the House Human Services Committee of the Montana Legislature.  He is running this year for a four-year term in the Montana state senate.

As Time Magazine reported in 2011 after TEA Party poster boy and perennial candidate Derek Skees began pushing the concept of nullification in the 2011 Bat Crap Crazy Montana legislature,

[N]ullification also has a controversial history. It was invoked by South Carolina lawmakers seething over tariff laws in the antebellum South, and again during the civil-rights era, when states opposed to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 used the idea of interposition, nullification’s kissing cousin, as a mechanism to resist integration.

Out of over 200 candidates and legislators running for office this year, 34 loons answered the Campaign for Liberty questionnaire, as you can see here. Besides the twelve sitting legislators who back the arrest and nullification bill, an additional 18 candidates for the Montana state house committed to support it. Meanwhile six candidates went on record saying they will sponsor the legislation. Only four legislative candidates refused to answer or admitted they oppose the manhunts for federal health care officials.

Rep. Kerry White (RTEA-Bozeman) says he had hoped to join Cliven Bundy in his armed stand-of public employees in Nevada.

Rep. Kerry White (RTEA-Bozeman) says he had hoped to join Cliven Bundy in his armed stand-off against public employees in Nevada.

Every single one of these legislators and candidates should now be asked for specific explanations of why they support arresting anyone for implementing federal laws.

After all, the list of those up for arrest would be rather large.  All of the state’s navigators and certified application counselors are actually federal officials who have been given grants paid with federal dollars to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act. The biggest chunk of these officials are community health center, tribal clinic, and hospital employees. Additionally there are hundreds of insurance agents who were were certified to offer Affordable Care Act policies through the exchange using official federal funds and resources, and there are hundreds more state public employees whose work to implement the federal health care law is paid for with federal funds and required under federal statute.

Jerry O'Neil

Rep. Jerry O’Neil, RTEA- Columbia Falls says public beatings will save taxpayer money.

As of this posting, the legislators have not said whether the penalty for these hospital and health care workers would be jail time and fines or “humane whippings,” as Rep. Jerry O’Neil as previously proposed.


Funding the Fringe

Texas Fracking Brothers Fight to Force Their Religion into Montana Laws by Backing Right-Wing Legislative Candidates

by Cowgirl

Two Texas fracking billionaires who own land in Montana are again funneling hundreds of millions into right-wing causes and candidates after it was revealed that the Texans were the top donors to Montana legislative candidates last election cycle.  The brothers backed TEA Party and religious extremists with frightening beliefs.

The brothers own land in Montana, and their father is a right-wing pastor whose influence over state and federal laws they hope to spread- including the belief that rape victims should endure forced pregnancies. (Note: This extreme view is shared by none other than Steve Daines, who is on the record in favor of forcing women to bear children from rapists.   Remember last election cycle after Rick Santorum that told CNN that rape victims should suck it up and accept “the gift” that  “God has given to you”, Daines brought Santorum out to a fundraising event he had in Montana–with Santorum as the guest of honor.)

Anyway, back to the Wilks brothers scary views.  As Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation, writes of their dad who is a wingnut pastor at their church:

In his sermons, he decries “socialism” and argues that the Bible was grounded in the free market….He has suggested that the melting of the icecaps might be punishment for sin, and that President Barack Obama’s re-election may be a harbinger of the “end times.”

Besides being the largest donors to Montana legislative candidates, the Wilks brothers also gave $4 million to the parent organization of the Montana Family Foundation, a group which in turn worked to influence legislative races–including attack mailers in GOP primaries across the state. 

The MT Family Foundation is also crusading to dummy down education standards and keep discrimination against LGBT Montanans legal.  As the School Administrators of Montana have pointed out, the Montana Family Foundation claims that higher standards for reading and math are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and that the new, better standards are the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ‘dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.”  The Family Foundation and its anti-illuminati cohorts also believe that celebrating bigotry by importing stale, greasy fast food from hundreds of miles away is a good idea.  Like the Wilks brothers, Greg Gianforte is also a major bankroller of the Montana Family Foundation.

But apparently Montana’s wingnut candidates are perfectly happy to do the bidding of out-of-state billionaires. In fact, a report by’s Amanda Harrow found that “70 percent of Republican legislators and 42 percent of the legislative body as a whole received contributions from the Wilkses during the 2012 election”–as did Attorney General Tim Fox.

Fact Checking GOP Hypocrisy on Federal Funds

The Montana legislature has proven itself to be more concerned with TEA Party orthodoxy than with our well-being, health, and economy. One of the most glaring examples of this is how they rejected free medcaid money for the Medicaid expansion–in a state where 16 percent of the population is still uninsured–in a state with the lowest percentage of employer-sponsored health care in the U.S.

When Montana TEA partiers and legislators try to explain why they refused money to pay for 100% of the health care benefits for 70,000 working poor Montanans for three years and never less than 90% of this cost, they try to make it sound like we’re taking on a “long-term liability” because they claim the feds will refuse to pay what they’ve committed to. Even thought this share is mandated by federal law–and even though this has never happened with Medicaid which has been operating in Montana since 1965. They say that accepting Montana’s share of this federal money makes us “lemmings about to jump off the cliff” and demand “belt tightening” to end the “tyranny” of federal funding.

Yet there is a mind-numbing level of hypocrisy on this front. It seems that some federal dollars are tyrannical lemming bait and others are not. Montanans welcome billions in federal funds that build highways, bring c130s and f15s to Great Falls, fight fires, clean up asbestos in Libby, and of course hand out  farm subsidies for Montana legislators. But when it comes to providing affordable health coverage to our working poor neighbors, some lawmakers want to draw the line. Why? Because they believe that federal funding for health coverage is somehow different than funding for concrete slabs, cleanup crews, or wildfire fighting camps. Of course, there isn’t any difference between these federal funds and the supposed dependencies they create—except in what the money pays for, and who it helps.

When Montana obstructionists refuse to accept these federal funds, they are saying that Montanan’s federal tax dollars won’t be put to work to help Montanans but will be instead sent to other states. The money won’t be circulating in Montana’s economy at all. This is beyond hypocritical: it’s just stupid. If a state rejects federal funding, that money is reallocated to other states. That’s how it works – those funds don’t magically go pay down federal debts. In when the Republican controlled house had a bill to change how federal appropriations work, the refused to even move it out of committee, so you know this is true, and its not going to be any different.

Next time you here someone trying to make the anti-federal money argument to hurt working poor families, feel free to set them straight.