Category: Montana GOP

Posted: April 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

TEA Party Land Takeover Will Cost You Big $$$

TEA Party congressional candidate Matt Rosendale and a militia-affiliated TEA Partier state senator have glommed onto a likely unconstitutional land grab idea pushed by out-of-staters that is a financial black hole for Montanans and a nightmare for Montana’s economy and environment.

Here’s why the plot copied from Utah by Jennifer Fielder, the TEA Party state senator who is vice-Chair of the Montana GOP, and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Yosemite Sam) is so poorly conceived and is more about pushing state sovereignty anti-government uprising ideology.   It’s certainly not about jobs or fiscal responsibility.

Our federal public lands are what make Montana so great. The TEA Party land grab targets the Rocky Mountain Front, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Beartooths, the Bitterroot-Selway, the national forests and scenic areas surrounding our national parks including Going to the Sun Road, and all of our national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. These are the places where we go to ride horses, hike, hunt, fish, ski, bike or just relax outside with our pets, friends and families.  These public lands don’t belong only to the 2015 Montana legislature and the special interests who would sell them off– they belong to all Americans for generations to come. Rosendale and Fielder say they will exempt National parks, reservations , and national monuments, but not the lands mentioned above.

Perhaps most obviously, the TEA Party land grab would limit public access to public lands. If this TEA Party and grab succeeds many of these lands could be sold or developed, strip mined, strip malls. Whatever. Montanans can expect to encounter a whole lot of “No Trespassing” signs.

What’s more, the Fielder/Rosendale attack on our public lands could cost also Montana taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Consider what’s happening in Utah, the state which recently passed the dubious law which the MT TEA-bunch is modeling their land grab scheme after.  The Utah legislature’s own lawyers have said that the land grab bill will only trigger a costly and ultimately futile legal battle because it has a “high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” The litigation costs to taxpayers will likely run into the millions of dollars.

And that’s just the litigation to defend this unconstitutional nonsense. That’s not even including the cost to manage the federal lands, which Montana taxpayers would now have to assume.

In Utah, the federal government spends between $200 and $300 million per year managing public lands (including fire fighting)–Utah has about 35 million acres of federal land.

In Idaho, the federal government spends more than $300 million per year in managing public lands–Idaho has about 33 million acres of federal land.  These numbers also include the costs of fighting wildland fires.

If you’re wondering what the federal management costs in Montana are, consider that we have about 27 million acres of federal lands.

Compare that with the fact that the state of Montana can barely manage to fully fund its own state parks budget because legislators refuse to appropriate the needed funds.  The state of Montana spends a measly $600,000 in state funds to manage our state parks.  That means that’s the only state money the legislature would allocate to manage our state parks public lands–that doesn’t come from hunting and fishing licenses or federal funds anyway.  If Montana did gain control over federal public lands, Montana taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing federal lands too–to the tune of a couple hundred million.

Some right-wingers may say “well let’s just clearcut log federal land to pay these costs.”  In fact, the  Idaho Department of Lands came up with an estimate that the state could raise $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts from federal land.

But one cost not figured into Idaho’s estimate would actually negate any anticipated revenue gains.  That’s what are called “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” or PILT funds.  These payments make up for former timber revenues and compensating for the fact that counties can’t tax federal land–they amount to $58 million in Idaho.  If the lands weren’t federal, local governments would lose those funds. The situation is the same in Montana–and other states.  (Also, earth to the pro-logging crowd It’s not environmental protections that dictate how much logging is done –its demand for timber in the free market economy.)

That’s why TEA Party Republican Jan Brewer, who is Arizona’s Governor vetoed a land grab bill in her state because it would have overstressed the state’s budget and land management abilities. As the Salt Lake Tribune commented,

“[t]hat’s a much more logical view than the pipe dream held by Utah lawmakers, that the seizure of public lands would be a fiscal bonanza for the state.”

The Rosendale/Feilder TEA Party assault on our public lands is also bad for business.  Nearly eleven million visitors come to Montana each year, spending $3.7 billion dollars and supporting 13,000 jobs–largely to enjoy our public lands.  Just as important, our public lands are the single greatest reason why many people and businesses chose to locate and invest in Montana.  An increasing number of studies show that rural counties in the West with protected public landscapes see better economic and job growth than counties lacking protected landscapes. To the contrary, Feilder’s and Rosendale’s TEA Party agenda is to sell off and exploit – not protect and promote – our great places to fish, hunt, and recreate.

The Rosendale/Fielder plan will create enormous regulatory quagmire for grazing, drilling, and mining interests who now hold or are seeking permits and leases on our federally-managed public lands. This uncertainty will deter, not encourage, appropriate mineral, agriculture and energy development.  No business wants to come here and embroil itself in endless morass of risks and unknowns. This seems like an obvious point, but the TEA Partiers don’t seem to get it.

Finally, Fielder and Rosendale claim this is about “returning” federal lands to the state – the state never owned these lands in the first place, the federal government took them from Native Americans.  So if they are to be “returned” to anyone, it should be the tribes.

After all, just because an idea is ludicrous never stopped imbeciles in the TEA Party from forcing Republicans to swear oaths to support it.   Check out this TEA Party video of a GOP primary candidate forum co-hosted by the Flathead County Republican Women and the NW MT TEA Party Patriots.

The TEA Partiers asked only three questions.

Would the candidates support denying tribal sovereignty and water rights to the First Montanans?  (By blocking this, Republicans are costing the state of Montana yet more untold millions in legal fees through years of litigation.)

Would they reject federal funds to pay for 100% of the health are costs for 70,000 working poor and Veterans in Montana?  Montana loses $1.8 million every day that these funds are refused.

And would they support this unconstitutional TEA Party land grab to tank Montana’s economy, which would also cost the state millions.

The candidates answered as the forum organizers demanded – even though the TEA partiers’ ideological positions are the opposite of fiscally responsible.


Posted: April 17, 2014 at 6:58 am

Montana Lawmaker Says He Will Join Armed Rebellion in Nevada

More than five thousand gun-wielding, yellow flag waiving TEA Partiers and Montana militia members are descending on a small town called Bunkerville to fight the federal government.

Kerry White headshot
TEA Party Republican Rep. Kerry White of Bozeman, MT

No, its not a scene from the next Dinesh D’Souza movie flop, it’s actually happening in the town of Bunkerville, Nevada– an hour North of Las Vegas.   Now, TEA Party Republican Rep. Kerry White (R-Bozeman) posted on his Facebook page that he plans to join them.

White, who is the brother of Gallatin County Commissioner Steve White, has considered running for Governor on the GOP ticket in the past.  It’s not known whether he’s still considering that office. Here’s his Facebook post:


At issue is one man’s refusal to follow the law like his neighbors have done and stop illegally grazing on federal land.  The rancher, a man named Cliven Bundy, has racked up $1.2 million in fines and unpaid grazing fees since 1993–but says he is special and needn’t follow the law like everyone else because his ancestors homesteaded in the area.

So the BLM, as is standard practice, began confiscating Bundy’s cattle to sell to pay some of the unpaid fees. This is no different than what happens to anyone who doesn’t pay their mortgage or their taxes for many years.  The government or bank has the right to foreclose because the person didn’t uphold her or his end of the deal.

As BBC News reported, many of these protesters are armed and have threatened to use deadly force to stop the government from doing its job.  A Montana militia member told reporters:

“That is what we do. We provide armed response,” Jim Lardy with Operation Mutual Aid said.

Lardy came from Montana to join the protesters, and he says he is not afraid to shoot, if necessary.

“They have guns. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government,” Lardy said.

He says other militia members are joining him.

“There is many more coming,” Lardy said

Here’s another Montana militia member:

“We’re all in this together,” said Rick Lovelien, 50, a militia member from Libby, Mont., with the Montana State Defense Force.

One protestor even admitted they had plans to put women and children at the front of the crowd so they would be among the first casualties if violence broke out.  So these are the kinds of people that are involved.

The rancher is even urging sheriffs across the US to disarm federal law enforcement officials, Reuters reported.

An official with a group that tracks extremist and hate groups said the call by Cliven Bundy to disarm federal law enforcement with agencies like the BLM is equivalent to calling for an armed rebellion against the U.S. government.

The federal government, siting safety concerns for BLM staff and members of the public, have cancelled the cattle collection for the time being.  The situation remains worrisome for many reasons.  Dallas Hyland writes in Utah’s St George News that this could be the start of a growing trend:

The stand-down was necessary to prevent bloodshed, but it must be recognized that if Bundy and a multitude of his supporters, militia friends, and even family members who broke the law, are allowed to go unpunished, anarchy will follow. Other groups, emboldened by the appearance of forcing a stand-down, will only continue to gain momentum. And furthermore, law enforcement as a whole will be rendered impotent as average people with disputes with current laws begin to wonder if they too can call a militia in to force the police to leave them alone.

And even though the federal government is standing down for now, an update to the TEA Partier’s Facebook page includes an update that White has plans to postpone his trip to when the federal government returns, presumably so that he can get in on the action.

Kerry White Facebook page


Kerry White’s opponents are democrats Christopher Burke, a West Yellowstone businessman, and CJ Monteith.  The district is not dominated by Republican voters, like some in outer Gallatin County are, but contains about half dems and half repubs–so this kind of behavior will hurt White rather than help him.

Posted: April 9, 2014 at 7:22 am

“Shrimp Pimp” Art Wittich Complains about Cowgirl Blog at TEA Party Shrimp Peel

Disgraced Tea Partier and Art Wittich [pronounced "WIT-ick"] used the opening moments of his speech to Teton County TEA party Republicans to take a swipe at this blog.

The state senator, dubbed “Shrimp Pimp” by local republicans for goading TEA Partiers into hijacking the GOP’s popular local fundraiser, 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 Montana and that I “don’t know anything about cows.”  Why he thinks this is unclear, but probably based in sexism. People like Wittich think women can’t have good political blogs apparently.  Whatevs.

You can see the video here – Wittich’s anti-Cowgirl blog rant is one minute in.

It’s not surprising that this is the kind of line Wittich would take.  His problem is a very simple one:  He can’t complain about the merits of what I’ve written because everything that has been said about him has been backed up with facts.  I challenge the state Senator to find one thing I’ve written about him on this blog that isn’t true.

I shudder to think what Wittich will do when he finds out that his actions against the people of Montana and members of his own party are not just discussed on the blogs, but also on Facebook and Twitter, on television and in the newspapers, around dinner tables, at coffee shops, high school sporting events, at diner counters, and around water coolers across the state.

Posted: April 7, 2014 at 6:23 am

Choice of Flavors of Republican Shrimp: Angry or Angrier

The great Shrimp Peel schism in Teton county could be viewed as a microcosm of what is happening to the Republican Party.

The Teton county GOP hosts an annual banquet, known as the Shrimp Peel, where an older crowd of mostly angry men with white mustaches and 1970′s blazers complain about President Obama, socialism, spending, taxes and so on.  They do this while feasting on all-you-can-eat shrimp (unpeeled, meaning that flavor and freshness is preserved) as well as spaghetti.

This year, the Tea Party announced that it would hold its own event, because the Choteau area’s Teton County Republican Party is too liberal.  Thus there is now a competing Shrimp Peel, for true conservatives.

The main Peel (the “establishment” Shrimp Peel, if you will), will go down on May 2.  Patrons will be treated to a keynote speech by the top GOP celebrity in Montana, congressman Steve Daines.

The booby prize goes to the attendees of right-wing Shrimp Peel, which took place Friday night.   Their speaker was disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich, who the TEA Partiers told the Choteau Acantha, was instigating the TEA Partiers to break off and have their own ultra-conservative peel. [Article pdf one two.]  Perhaps that’s why the local GOP central committee took out ads referring to him as the “Shrimp Pimp.”


Local GOPers are not pleased about Essmann and Wittich meddling in their local affairs, and have been saying as much in the local papers. 


Ads for the phony peel are below:

PhonyPeel PhonyPeel1

Wittich has been trying to be the Tea Party heavy for many years, though it’s not going well for him.   He was also notified this week by the Montana election authorities that he violated state law by taking illegal contributions from the criminal enterprise known as American Tradition Partnership.  His violations were so egregious that the Commissioner of Political Practices, Jon Motl, will soon be in district court recommending that Wittich be removed from the ballot in November.  The violations made national news. 

In the private sector, Wittich’s contributions to society include having once billed a legal client $2,300 for 20 minutes of legal work. The bill was $98.70, but Wittich tacked on a few thousand extra because the client didn’t pay on schedule.

Bon appetite, Choteau.

Posted: April 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Gianforte Weighs In On Montana Tech Rumpus

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 9.42.29 PMIt was revealed last week that Greg Gianforte, the billionaire tech mogul from Bozeman who apparently believes that the earth is 4,300 years old, has been invited to speak at Montana Tech’s graduation. This touched off a stir,  with stories in Montana and national press.  Students and teachers at Montana Tech are organizing a boycott.

Gianforte’s wife was also invited to give the speech with him, in a kind of duet.  But she has her own problems–she’s a big player in the “christian shop-owners must have a right to discriminate against LGBT people” movement.  She recently testified against Bozeman’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance, and Gianforte bankrolls the non-discrimination ordinance opposition.  His wife is chair of the pro-discrimination bunch’s board of directors.

To smooth things out, Gianforte today wrote a piece of his own, in the Montana Standard, defending himself.   Strangely, he makes no mention of his “young earth” theories, nor about whether such beliefs should disqualify a person from speaking at a geology school.

Rather, he addresses discrimination (without specifically mentioning his wife or the fact that she’s the chair of the board of the organization fighting to keep discrimination legal, which Gianforte bankrolls), and claims that he opposes it.  He also says that the best way to deal with it is to give people a good education so that they be raised to know right from wrong.  He then goes on to list all of his educational philanthropy–all the money he has given in the pursuit of better educational opportunities for young people.

Therefore, if I hear him correctly, Gianforte believes that his wife needs to be sent back to school, and be taught that discriminating against LGBT people is wrong.  Perhaps Gianforte can set up a scholarship for her, with the money he demands back from the Montana Family Foundation.


Posted: April 1, 2014 at 9:24 pm

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to…

It’s always an arduous process to narrow down the selection to just one GOP hypocrite, so this week there are two big winners: Hobby Lobby, and the MT GOP Young Guns.

Hobby Lobby was a no-brainer.  They’re the big handicrafts box store which sued to stop the Affordable Care Act from guaranteeing that evil, immoral contraception was covered by insurance policies. Meanwhile, at the same time, the companies own retirement plan had more than $73 million invested in birth control companies.

Yes, for being for birth control when it benefited them, but being against it when it benefited their own female employees, Hobby Lobby = hypocrisy exemplified. Molly Redden of Mother Jones has the story.  Birth control is something that 85% of women use at some point in their lives, yet TEA partiers want to exclude it from being counted as basic preventive medicine.

But no mention of hypocrites would be complete without a look at the Twitterverse infestation that calls itself the “GOP Young Guns.”

These bright minds spent the day tweeting inanities in hopes of persuading young females to become GOPers by telling them that there is gender pay gap or sexism in the world, then immediately going on to criticize Lilly Ledbetter for her looks.

 So, for trying to claim sexism doesn’t exist, then attacked the nation’s leading equal pay advocate for what she looked like, the Montana GOP Young Guns are this week’s co-winners.

Who could have predicted that their handful of tweets claiming that the GOP supports women fell on deaf ears. I guess they thought that claiming sexism didn’t exist was the next best they could do.  For more deep thoughts from this bunch, click here.

photo (3)

Posted: March 28, 2014 at 7:06 am

The Assman Copieth

Essmann Embarrasses MontanaMore interesting doings in Teton County this week.  Jeff Essmann has paid to have an op-ed placed in the Choteau Acantha which bears some surprising resemblances Art Wittich’s recent op-ed in the Great Falls Tribune.

Sen. President Jeff Essmann, aka the Assman, (a moniker that refers not to his physical situation but to the smell of his foul legislation and outright lies, which resemble ass) is either copying Wittich outright, or we’ve just discovered that it is really Wittich who is the man behind the TEA Party curtain, pulling the doomsday-prepper-procured strings.

Essmann’s piece has the same structure as Wittichs.  Both pieces start out in the first paragraphs by saying essentially someone called me an extremist but really I’m not.

Here’s Wittich:

So why am I called an extremist? Well, I had the audacity to lead 75 percent of the Senate Republican caucus in opposing the backroom political wheeling by O’Hara and his cross-over Republicans dealing with the Democrats, on things like:

Here’s Essmann:

So what did I do to deserve being called an extremist by Llew?  Well I, along with 80% of the Republican caucus had the audacity to oppose the backroom political wheeling and dealing he engaged in with the Democrats.

This kind of thing is similar throughout the piece.  Essmann also copies Wittich’s lies, almost word for word.  I wrote about Wittich’s lies and attack on Jesse O’Hara here. Sen. Dick Barrett wrote about the factual problems with Wittich’s hit piece here.

Here’s Wittich:

Appropriating taxpayer money to organizations such as Planned Parenthood to perform abortions.

Here’s Essmann:

Sen. Jones supports measures that allow taxpayer money to flow to organizations, such as Planned Parenthood. that perform abortions.


Passing a $125 million taxpayer-funded bailout of the state employee pension system, making taxpayers (and our children) again guarantee O’Hara and his friends’ retirement, instead of their own.


Sen. Jones supported a $125 million taxpayer funded bailout of the state employee pension system…taking taxpayers like you and me out of the business of guaranteeing anyone’s retirement but our own.

Essmann, after copying Wittich’s opening and Wittich’s lies, also copies his end:


The bottom line is that O’Hara and his fellow crossovers had the opportunity to work with their Republican colleagues to support the reform principles that we campaigned on.  Instead, O’Hara chose to support the liberal policies of our spendthrift governor and Democratic legislators.


The bottom line is that Senator Jones and his “Responsible Republicans” had the opportunity to work with their Republican colleagues to support the principles that we campaigned on. Instead, Llew chose to support the liberal policies of our spendthrift governor and Democrat legislators.

Here’s Page 1 and Page 2 of Essmann’s attack piece.

Here’s Wittich’s attack piece.

To be sure there is one difference between the two pieces–Wittich didn’t have to pay to get his published. Essmann’s piece appears labeled as a paid advertisement.

Posted: March 18, 2014 at 6:08 am

A Line in the Sand

Montana Republicans have clarified a very important piece of party doctrine this week about which there had formerly been much confusion.  Yellowstone County Republicans turned away a congressional candidate from attending their annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, clearing up once and for all what kind of behavior they consider to be racist and what they do not.

Here’s what you need to know:

When a person who is a candidate on the GOP ticket, who has no chance of being elected, makes national news for calling for another “Operation Wetback” and saying that only white people should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S., Montana Republicans will speak out against you in the press and bar you from their chicken dinner.

However, when an elected Republican official, donor, activist or leader in Montana makes a joke about how blacks like watermelon; or makes an Obama effigy on Halloween out of a pumpkin in blackface; or brings a bullet-ridden outhouse labeled “Obama Library” to the state convention’ or sells bumper stickers that say “Don’t Re-Nigg in 2012“; or calls the President a Kenyan; or wears a confederate flag, or says that the south was right during the civil war; or is a Klansman running for Congress; or is a federal judge who sends a racist email; or produces a documentary about how Obama’s secret plan is to start a race war; or distributes racist flyers about Indians; or is a county official who uses the n-word in his work emails; or choose Black History Month to send a racist flyer advertising the GOP Lincoln Day Dinner; or is a U.S. Senator and says “It’s a hell of a challenge” when asked by a constituent, “Senator Burns, how can you live back there in D.C., with all them n-words?”–this kind of thing is considered perfectly acceptable.  No criticism or denouncement is rendered and your presence is welcome.

Posted: March 14, 2014 at 7:16 am

Wittich Tells Whoppers; Trashes Mainstreet GOP Member

Art Wittich, sick and tired of serving the public.
Art Wittich, TEA Party state senator

On March 4th, Rep. Jesse O’Hara, a longtime Montana GOP pro-jobs, pro-mainstreet legislator, wrote a thoughtful piece standing up for teachers, schools, and rural healthcare, and criticized the Tea Party Extremists in his own party as a bunch of hijackers, singling out a few individuals such as Art Wittich.

In the piece, he writes:

Somewhere along the way, extremists have anointed themselves the arbiters of all things Republican. The failed leadership team of Sens. Art Wittich and Jason Priest, along with their mouthpieces, Jeff Essmann and Edward Walker, illustrated their 10-year plan to purge the party in a series of leaked emails….

….The Republican Party I began with would never gut Montana services so brutally that classrooms are crowded, schools are shuttered, roads aren’t paved, predators walk the streets, rural health care disappears and infrastructure collapses…

Predictably, Art Wittich this week responded with a vitriolic personal attack on O’Hara, belittling O’Hara for being a teacher “who leaves his beach chair only to collect his teacher’s pension and state healthcare benefits.”  Wittich also makes the sketchy and borderline-racist claim that anyone in Montana who does not have health insurance is “able but not willing to work.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 150,000 Montanans without health insurance–and 100,000 of these are employed. Another 32,000 are not actually in the labor force–that’s because they either aren’t old enough to have a job, are retired, are a stay at home parent, or disabled, or in the military. Only 13%–20,000 of the uninsured–are without work, and unless Wittich has asked every single one of those people whether or not they are willing to and looking for work, well….

Wittich also says that moderates like O’Hara joined Democrats in legislature to give Title X planning funds “to Planned Parenthood to perform abortions.”  In fact, the federal government provides money to family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood, local county clinics, and others, so that women and men who do not have health insurance can get care at reduced rates, or in some cases free, depending on their family income at the time of their visit. Title X allows these clinics to supplement birth control, breast and cervical cancer screening, testicular cancer screening for men, and other reproductive health services.

This program does not pay for abortion care. It is against federal law for the funds to be used for abortions. From the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 108-7 (2003)

(“[A]mounts provided to said [Title X] projects under such title shall not be expended for abortions, that all pregnancy counseling shall be nondirective, and that such amounts shall not be expended for any activity (including the publication or distribution of literature) that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal or candidate for public office”). See also, 42 C.F.R. § 59.5 (Title X projects must “[n]ot provide abortion as a method of family planning”).

So what O’Hara might have said, that would have been fully accurate, is that Wittich is not only an extremist, but is also a liar, and an asshole.  I will say it here.

Posted: March 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm

They’ve Done This Before

This isn’t the first time TEA Partiers have sought to undermine Montana elections and deceive Montana voters.  What’s happening in Bozeman and Sanders County also happened in Ravalli County in 2012, the Missoulian reported at the time.   (It’s one more special distinction Ravalli doesn’t need.)

TEA Party Republicans have proven they have no qualms about lying to voters or the press.   It’s all part of a greater Republican strategy to suppress the vote. Here’s how it works.

Montana has two top nationally targeted races this year–for House and U.S. Senate–and taking back the MT legislature has never been more important–you could make the case its more important than Congress since that body does not seem to be able to get much done.  With so much money being spent in Montana, there will be very few undecided voters.  This means the election will be decided by who is best able to turn out voters for their candidates. Voter turnout is of course where local central committees, legislative races, and those working with local candidates are invaluable.

By causing confusion about which candidates are fake Dems which are not, the TEA party is hoping some Democrats won’t vote in the precinct level races at all–or vote for the wrong candidate.  The confusion will force local Dems to spend more resources—resources they could have used to help elect legislative candidates and democrats in the federal races in the fall.

When I wrote about this before, I said we should expect to see the Republicans repeat this trick in again, in other races, and here we are. It’s unlikely these are the only races, nor will this be the last time these tricks are played on Montanans.