Category Archives: Montana GOP

Little Threat from GOP

ShippPlease, don’t be alarmed. Though he might not look it, this individual is quite harmless. He’s Chris Shipp, the executive director of the Republican Party.

Shipp has been running the Montana GOP for about six months now. I say “harmless” because while the job of a Party director is to make effective criticism of the incumbent democratic Governor and other Democrats, Shipp has decided to resort to an impotent line of attack against Bullock.

Shipp, in case you haven’t noticed, does little other than spend the day tweeting about Bullock being a “hypocrite about dark money.”

What Shipp tries to argue is that Bullock is somehow not a good governor because while he has worked hard on legislation to require stricter reporting of money in campaigns, Bullock is also the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) which has a history, like its counterpart the RGA, of raising and spending corporate dough, some of which is not reported.  Dark money means funds whose source is not disclosed.  Shipp believes that this makes Bullock a hypocrite.

There are a few problems with Shipp’s ongoing screed.  First, Bullock has pledged that while he is chairman, the DGA will not spend any dark money at all.  Thus Bullock is planning on taking the organization in a new direction.  I would note that not a single Republican governor has suggested any similar path for the RGA.  Big money is a part of the political system, and all politicians benefit from it at some point.  The question is, which politicians are trying to change the system, and which are standing in the way?

Second, since when is the Montana Republican party suddenly so concerned about dark money?  Is Shipp seriously, and with a straight face, complaining that Bullock is not working hard enough to reform campaign finance, when the GOP is an inveterate hoarder and gulper of every drop of corporate, unregulated dollar it can find?  That party is nothing but a collection of corporate lobbyists and their money, who cycle in and out with such regularity that it’s often not even possible to distinguish between lobbyists, candidates, politicians and staff.  Virtually all conservative dollars in Montana now funnel through secret PACs.  Meanwhile, half a dozen state officials (Scott Sales, Mike Miller, Art Wittich, Rick Hill among them) were either found guilty of, or pled guilty to, or might soon be held guilty of, taking large chunks of unlimited, unregulated corporate funding in one form or another for their campaigns.

What’s hilarious is that Shipp is not really accusing Bullock of fighting or resisting the influence of money in politics.  He is saying that Bullock and the democrats are “really as bad as us.”  Not only is this not remotely true, it is a bizarre and stupid way to criticize anyone.

Finally, and perhaps best of all, it should be observed that Shipp seems to believe that tweeting incessantly this same tired message, every day, has some sort of effect on voters.  In fact, this strategy is rather feckless, reaching a few hundred people who follow Montana politics on twitter but accomplishing little else.  Likely, however, Shipp has convinced his boss Will Deschamps, who might not know how to use a computer given that he is 65 years old and a Republican, that spending the day trolling on social media amounts to a day’s work.

So as I said, he is quite harmless.


Ohio GOP Governor Blasts MT TEA Partiers’ Ridiculous Stance on Medicaid Expansion

John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune has once again obtained some very interesting video from a closed-door Republican meeting.

In the video,  TEA Party Republican Scott Sales appears to have attempted some chest thumping in front of the press after Adams discovered the meeting.  He launched into an attack on the visiting Republican governor, who was the leading proponent of expanding medicaid in Ohio, only to get immediately and somewhat embarrassingly schooled.

You can click here to watch the raw video John Adams recorded from the meeting Montana GOP legislators had with GOP Governor John Kasich yesterday. 

Sales launches his attack with:

You recently approved Medicaid expansion – if you have this extra money at the state level why not use state dollars instead of federal dollars?  By your own admission you are reenforcing this idea that you want someone else to do the heavy lift. You could have said no to federal dollars. You as the governor–and we as the legislature–we can say no to all the federal dollars.  And quite frankly under section [unintelligible] of the constitution, you know as well as I do that the federal government is way out of bounds in a lot of areas where it has no authority. I’d be singing your praises and probably support you for president if you had cut the apron strings and said no to federal dollars  – especially since you had a surplus and not enabling this thing to go on and on and frankly, I find you to be somewhat hypocritical.

Sales apparently was referring to the TEA Party GOP-ers scheme they say they are concocting, which, I kid you not, would turn away the money available to pay for Medicaid expansion in Montana, and ask Montanans to spend more state money to cover a small fraction of those actually eligible for Medicaid expansion.

Kasich, apparently realizing straight off that he was dealing with .22 caliber minds in a .357 magnum world, quickly shot down this TEA Partier:

There’s no money in Washington, it’s my money. I brought my money back to Ohio. And what did we do with it? We treat the mentally ill.  We treat the drug addicted.  And we help the working poor stop going to emergency rooms and forcing me to pay for their medical bills because they go there sicker.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever read Matthew 25, but I’d commend it to you- the end of it. It’s about do you feed the homeless and do you clothe the poor. I’m a believer that it is in the conservative tradition to make sure we help people get on their feet so they then are not dependent…

Now do I think that it is appropriate for the federal government to in some ways  be a partner and provide some resources to and help solve problems in the states?  I do.

Kasich continued by pointing out that:

Ronald Reagan expanded medicaid.  I don’t know if you know that or no,t but he expanded medicaid and he’s the patron saint of all the conservatives I know.

Kasich did not add the other GOP president who expanded Medicaid, George Bush senior, so I’ll do it here.   Bush’s Medicaid expansion initiative, which he called the Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) initiative or HIFA Waiver program, was created in 2001 to allow states to cover able-bodied adults.  It’s something that the majority of states now do, but Montana is far behind in this area.

Kasich then asked Rep. Sales “how fast has your Medicaid program grown in Montana?”

Sales tried to shrug off the question and said “I don’t know.”

But Kasich again pushed back, “No you’re asking me so I’m asking you – how fast has it grown in Montana.”

Sales started to make excuses for his cluelessness like “Oh, well I’m not on appropriations”

“So you don’t know…” Kasich shot back.

When I came into office state share medicaid grew at 9% my first budget it grew at 3% and we didn’t cut anybody off and we didn’t reduce any benefits. Now what we’ve been able to do is keep the promises we made to the mentally ill.

Kasich is highlighting the mentally ill because one of the best ways to help address the problem Montanans face with untreated mental illness is Medicaid expansion. In fact, in Montana, 42% of uninsured adults with mental health conditions would be eligible for coverage when Bullock’s Healthy Montana Plan, which uses a private contract to provide health coverage for working poor Montanans, passes.

Kasich continued by pointing out that:

Turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis–when people can lose their lives becauses they get no help–that makes no sense to me. So I read in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday about the doctor in MT who is treating all these people after a guy froze to death. I read that and I thought – we gotta help those people…

I’ve been in all these places – and if I thought expanding medicaid would keep us from being able to have a balanced budget or from having fiscal responsibility or was going to create dependence, I wouldn’t be for it.  In my state, its working…

Your position is based on strict ideology its not based on the practicalities of what happens in the street.

I can’t tell from the video if TEA Partier Art Wittich, public enemy number one of working poor Montanans, is in the closed-door meeting.  He may have been busy dealing with his upcoming jury trial in the political practices case against him, where he faces removal from office. 


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

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



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