Category Archives: Montana GOP

GOP Stormtroopers Move up a Notch

Republican operatives are moving up in the world, now that the GOP has had a good year. It’s a colorful bunch.

Randy Vogel, Denny Rehberg’s long time aide, will be Ryan Zinke’s state director.  Vogel was last discussed on this blog when he was being prosecuted for poaching an elk out of season. He was acquitted.  Also, several sources tell me that Vogel’s nickname when he was on the police force was “Thumper” for the way he treated detainees. And we know Zinke will be well protected, because Vogel once punched out a critic of Rehberg at a bar where Vogel and Denny were drinking.

Bowen Greenwood, meanwhile, fresh off of his big electoral victories, has been snatched up by the Montana Family Foundation.  That’s a good fit, for several reasons.  First, Greenwood is a very religious person.  While other GOP operatives tweet often about politics, Bowen tweets mostly about Jesus as well as his own religious writings.  Second, the Family Foundation will have outsized influence in the 2015 legislature, with alumni luminaries such as Lazsloffy and Lamm heading up committees.

But lest you think Greenwood to be a total square, see this video of him letting his hair down to Baby Got Back.  Perhaps he was celebrating his Family Foundation appointment:

Moving on, Chris Shipp, a young up-and-coming right-wing brown shirt, will be taking over for Bowen.  Shipp, 25, spent his time at Carroll College and UM Law as a Rob Natelson disciple.  Natelson is the wingnut extraordinaire law professor who has argued the legal basis for the pro-slavery doctrine of Nullification, which holds that states may selectively ignore federal law.

And the State Fund, which administers our state’s workers comp system and often screws workers, has shown its true political colors by hiring Ethan Heverly, the campaign manager for Matt Rosendale (the frightening uber-right candidate who lost in the primary), as government affairs director.  Heverly was also a member of the “McCain Youth.”  That’s an excellent fit, as the State Fund’s latest promotional campaign is modeled on a slogan that the Nazis employed at the entrance to concentration camps.

GOP Chair Calls Special Meeting to Deal with Tea Party

An urgent meeting has been called by the Chairman of the Montana Republican Party. The date is January 10th.

The assembled Republicans will vote on whether to join a federal lawsuit filed a few months ago by a group of Tea Party nuts against the State of Montana, arguing that our primary election system is unconstitutional. The original official plaintiffs are from Ravalli County but the ringleader and lawyer for the group is none other than Matthew Monforton, the Tea Party hot-head from Bozeman who wants to wage war against GOP moderates.

Monforton say that Montana’s primary elections, in which any voter is allowed by law to choose either the Republican or Democratic ballot, violates the constitutional “right of association” under which political groups may decide whom to include and exclude. This bunch think our system is too inclusive, for it allows non-purists to vote in the GOP primary.

If these idiots win, then Montanans will be forced to list their party affiliation when they register to vote, or else be forbidden from voting in the primary.   Sounds crazy, right?  It is.  Montana’s open primary has existed for 100 years and was founded on the notion  that the voter deserves as many choices as possible, and that parties should not control politics.

Could a federal judge just junk our setup?  Well, it has happened before.  A similar challenge by right-wing activists was won in Idaho recently and Idaho’s open primary–identical to Montana’s–was stuck down.

At any rate, the most delicious aspect of this controversy (from a blogging perspective, at least) is the special GOP meeting called for January 10 by the GOP chairman Will Deschamp, who is panicking.   At this assembly, those in attendance will vote on whether the Party should join the lawsuit (thus trying to close down the primary) or stay out of it. This is no small thing.  If the state GOP refuses to support the lawsuit, it could harm the suit or even defeat it. If the GOP joins the suit, it could help it succeed.

The problem is this: The Montana GOP already voted on this issue, this summer.

At the annual convention a few months back, the Republicans voted in favor of closing down the primary so that only registered Republicans can vote in it.  The resolution is now enshrined in the Montana Republican party’s formal platform, just like other crazy things which have been or are still there such as buying back the National Parks from the US government or imprisoning LBGT people.  As you know, GOP conventions are heavily attended by lunatics, who set crazy policy positions that often embarrass the GOP.  Usually, however, the party is able to allow the lunatics to have their fun, because there’s never any realistic chance for the fringe policies to be enacted.

But this time it’s different.  The GOP has to act in one way or another. Monforton has called the GOP’s bluff.

The problem, as chairman Will Deschamps clearly understands, is that a huge portion of Montana voters, and indeed a huge portion of GOP members, will be furious if they are forced to become members of a party as a precondition for voting.  These voters, in turn, would blame the GOP.   So Deschamps find himself in the humiliating pickle of being forced to call a meeting, and to stack the meeting with moderate delegates, so that he can try to reverse a plank in the Republican platform that was ratified only several months ago at a convention that followed age-old rules of order.

Monforton, who will be in the state legislature come January, has already taken a shot at Deschamp for calling this meeting.  “It’s nothing more than an attempt by Deschamps to have a do-over in order to stab rank and file members in the back and get his own cronies to reverse the vote,” he told the AP last week.

Monforton’s gang, of course, has a very clear motive in bringing this suit: make the GOP more conservative by eliminating moderate voters from primaries.  This is exactly what would happen if primaries were party-member only affairs.  Imagine if the only voters who could participate in a GOP primary were Tea Partiers.  What do you think such a party would be like? Nominees would be loons like Matt Rosedale, not Ryan Zinke; not Rick Hill, but Klansmen like Drew Turiano.  Rick Santorum, not Romney, would have won the primary in Montana.

It should be great fun to observe this meeting in January.  Surely the press will be invited.

 

House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting

Republican state representatives got busted yesterday for holding an illegal, secret meeting.  John Adams of the Tribune broke the story after he and Shane Castle of the Helena Vigilante were tipped off about it.  It happened in the basement of a Helena hotel.  State law requires that all such meetings to be conducted openly, and that the public receive advance notice.  These rules form the most important set of laws in Montana,  the public access or “right to know” laws, enshrined in the Constitution and the Montana Code, requiring that Government be conducted in the open.

At this meeting, a questionnaire [pdf] was handed out to all of attendees, asking those in attendance to state their position on some hot-button issues such as whether they agree with the TEA Party proposal to annex federal lands away from the U.S. Government.

Republicans furiously to tried to claim to the reporters who crashed the meeting that it was not technically a caucus meeting.  But the questionnaire was labeled:

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.08.18 AM

…and thus it was illegal.

Keith Regier, the newly elected house majority leader, distributed this  questionnaire to fellow house members and ran the meeting.  It ended not long after the reporters showed up.

Not a good start for House Republicans, with the legislative session still a month and a half away.  And the last thing on earth that the GOP wants is for every member to have to put in writing whether they support or oppose various TEA Party schemes.

Perhaps the questionnaires were to be used as a kind of conservative purity test.  Such loyalty oathsalliance tests, and party purges have often surfaced among Montana Republicans, who are somewhat obsessed with such things.

Or, given that the survey asked about what they call the “TPL” proposal (transfer of public lands) perhaps Republicans want to determine if they have the votes to do pull it off.  Previously, GOP moderates tried to distance themselves from this stupid and childish idea, especially after the idea got a nearly unanimous endorsement at the recent GOP platform convention.  Moderates backpedalled when it was revealed the transfer would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

Other questions on the survey included how much money they would like to leave unallocated at the end of the session and what “the priority should be” with regard to the ending fund balance. Each legislator was also asked to try to identify his (or her, but they are mostly men) top priority bill, and what their “thoughts were” about some of Governor Bullock’s priorities which Regier listed, such as the CSKT water compact, Medicaid expansion, campaign dark money,  and preschool.

And here’s an interesting question: are the completed questionnaires (presumably some have already been collected by Regier and stashed by him somewhere) public documents, by law,  which the press and citizens have a right to view?  I sure hope so :)

MT Republican Puts Weird and Ridiculous GOP Views of Women on Display. Again.

gallagherIn a public and recorded meeting of the Montana Public Service Commission this week, the right-wing GOP Chair of the all GOP commission reverted in his discussion to a distant time, perhaps a time when he would have been more at home.

Floundering for an analogy for an electric power project that may have carried with it some downsides, Republican Bill Gallagher asked the bewildered witness:

“You remember back when we used to buy our wives from their fathers.  If the bride had blemishes, we’d pay less…”

To be sure, in today’s TEA Party strangled version of the Republican party, Gallagher’s views make him more a stalwart than an outlier. Gallagher is many things. Capable of functioning in the modern world is not one of them.

Gallagher brought up the analogy repeatedly throughout the PSC hearing. You can hear the remarks for yourself if you go to the PSC’s website. [WARNING:  You need Windows Media Player to hear this file because the PSC’s website isn’t so functional in the modern world either.]

1. Click on this link for audio of the September 30, 2014 PSC hearing: D2013.10.77 NWE Hearing Part 1

2. Fast forward to 2.1.50

3. Warn anyone sitting next to you that your head is about to explode. (Safety first.)

 

Montana GOP Reveals Health Care Reform Alternative, and It is a Doozy

Montana Republicans are touring the state to say that they’ve finally found the alterative to the Affordable Care Act they’ve been searching for:  legalizing religious insurance ponzi schemes.

Republicans are hosting seminars on the scheme across the state, the latest was in the Flathead, as you can see from this flyer. Former state insurance commissioner John Morrison took legal action and shut down such schemes as fraud in 2007, but now  Republicans are hoping to resurrect the effort to legalize the insurance ponzi schemes as an alternative to allowing Montanans to buy insurance through the exchange or to expanding Medicaid to the working poor.

Here’s how this works: To join the ponzi scheme you must must pledge your devout Christian faith (and even get a reference from a minister).  You must not to drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a “traditional” marriage.  Pre-existing conditions make you ineligible to participate at all, although one does get the benefit of a “prayer chain.”

The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance rehabilitation–or preventive care like PAP tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.

Usually, bill-sharing plan members contribute a predetermined amount each month. When they have a medical bill, they receive monetary help from fellow members. All of the programs are careful to bury in the fine print that they not promising to pay bills, only “facilitating a voluntary sharing.” Some of these schemes even publish your medical problems in a newsletter to “share” your bill with the community in case anyone wants to chip in–so much for medical privacy.

The MT case in which insurance commissioner John Morrison shut down the scam was initiated after a Montana pastor submitted his bills for treatment of a heart condition and a company called Medi-Share refused to pay for them. The pastor had signed a contract with a scheme called Medi-Share for coverage of his medical expenses, but the company continued to maintain that they had no duty to pay claims.

The last couple of sessions saw a couple of bills to legalize religious the ponzi schemes including SB 181, which were vetoed by both Schweitzer and Bullock.

Meanwhile Art Wittch has tried to plagiarize  Scott Walker’s failed planfrom Wisconsin, which has already failed in that state, been widely panned by the states own legislative counsel and the states largest papers.  They say Walker cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions more than if they had gone with the actual medicaid expansion and that besides costing state taxpayers hundreds of millions more the Walker plan “left the state worse off.”

To be sure, these are positive developments in that Republicans have realized that they have lost the battle of whether reform and coverage should go forward, the battle is now over what kind of coverage and reform that should be.  So this is, for now, a victory for the people of Montana, even though these ludicrous ideas for costly failed boondoggles and insurance ponzi schemes from other states must not go forward.

 

GUEST POST: It Gets Worse

IF THE FOLLOWING MAKES SENSE TO YOU, YOU MAY BE A REPUBLICAN.
 
From the Bylaws of the Republican State Central Committee


The state Republican Party of Montana supports a closed primary voting system in Montana.  This is because the Party asserts that the State of Montana’s use of an open primary system to determine the Party’s nominees for the general election violates the Party’s first Amendment rights to associate as the present voting system allows substantial numbers of voters associate with other political parties to cross over to, to participate in, and impact the outcome of the selection of this Party’s nominees.  Montana law does not presently require a Montana voter to declare a party affiliation to register or vote in primary or general elections.  In the event that Montana law is changed to allow for closed primary elections to be held in the State, the following closed Republican Party Primary Rule will immediately to into effect and be controlling: “Only persons who have registered as a Republican prior to the Primary Election will be allowed to vote on a Montana Republican party ballot in that Primary Election.”  
 


(This verbatim quote is found on page 7 of Case 6:14-cv-00058-CCL to be heard by Federal District Judge Lovell

A Verified Complaint for Injunctive Relief and Declaratory Relief. 

Carole Mackin is the Website Administrator for the People’s Power League in Helena 

http://www.peoplespowerleague.info

 

 

GUEST POST: So Republicans Want to Be Exclusive

If the Montana Republicans win their Federal lawsuit to close Montana’s Open Primary, they will gain the freedom of association and the right to exclude the rest of us. Consider just what that will mean for Montana.

First, Montanans will lose the Primary Election structure that presently assures a secret ballot for every voter. In order to guarantee that the Republican’s have the freedom of association, every voter at the primary will have to declare a party affiliation. What’s worse, Independent voters will be barred from voting.

Second, we will lose the Open Primary that Montanans enacted by Initiative in 1912. This initiative was designed to end the stranglehold that the Copper Kings held over Montana elections. Because of their foresight, Montana has enjoyed over 100 years of fair and honest elections.

Third, voters will lose the right to privacy, guaranteed by the Montana Constitution. Frankly, the political party that we choose to support is no one’s business but our own.

Every voter should think about this. The Republicans want to trash our cherished civil rights in Federal Court where the lawyers for both sides will be Republicans. There will be no public debate, no vote of the Legislature. And why? Just so the GOP can control its membership.

Carole Mackin is the Website Administrator for the People’s Power League in Helena
http://www.peoplespowerleague.info

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. 

NEW REPORT: 100 Plus GOPers on Record Opposing Citizens United, Including Many Montanans

As the U.S. Senate gets ready to vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and allow for overall campaign spending limits, a new report shows it isn’t just democrats who oppose Citizens United.  There is increasing Republican support across the country for such an amendment–including support from several Montana Republicans.

The new report was released by Free Speech For People, a national campaign at the forefront of the amendment movement.  The group has also joined with Montanans in the court battle to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place. The organization and its allies joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl. 

The report issued today highlights more than 100 Republican elected officials joined Dems across the country by going on record calling on Congress to pass an amendment bill and send it to the states for ratification.

The list of the Montana Repubs–including some state legislators–can be seen in the report, entitled “Across the Aisle,” which is available online here. [pdf]  The Montanans are listed on pages 7, 10, 12, and 13.

Also listed are Republicans from other states who filed Amicus briefs with Gov. Bullock in his U.S. Supreme Court fight to keep corruption out of Montana elections (page 18.)

The release of the report is timed to correspond with today’s (Sept 8) Senate vote on the Democracy For All Amendment (S.J. Res. 19), which would allow for overall campaign spending limits and would end the big money dominance of our elections. Fifty US Senators are already on record in support of the amendment.