Category: Senate

Posted: April 3, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Dem Party Makes Surprising Endorsement in Primary

We learned this week that the Democratic Party executive board, in a meeting earlier this month, voted to endorse John Walsh in his primary.  This left John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams out in the cold, and they are crying foul.

The Party rules disfavor endorsements in the primary, for the obvious reason that party politics are ultimately about people, not boards.  But the by-laws say that a “proven incumbent” can be endorsed “with a two thirds vote of the board.”  It is rare, and the rule is usually only employed in primaries where there is no serious opposition at all against an incumbent.   Baucus and Schweitzer received endorsements, for example, when they ran for re-election even though they had minor opponents.

However, this time things got sticky because on the same day that the Walsh endorsement was issued, the Party issued a statement in which Adams and Bohlinger were labeled as “not true Democrats.”

I can understand the value, strategically speaking, in trying to clear the field for John Walsh.  Walsh is leading the primary right now according to polls, and it is not a stretch to say that many things–his major fundraising advantage among them–make him the toughest candidate to field against Daines at this time.

But I am ambivalent about this move by the Party.  Bohlinger was once a Republican, yes, and voted also against choice, and he will have to answer for that in this election.   But he has since switched sides and supports choice, and progressives probably should keep in mind that though he has quacked like a Republican duck for many years at Schweitzer’s side, it was deliberately for the political benefit of the Schweitzer administration. Bohlinger worked hard every two year  to get Democrats elected.  And yes, Adams wrote checks to a few Republicans, for various reasons which he explained in the press lately, and that will (and should) hurt him among voters.  But he also gave to Democratic candidates.  And again, I am not sure that the Party should be proclaiming people as Democrats or Not Democrats.  We have to leave room for people to be able to change parties.

And I’ve been reading the remarks of critics on Twitter and elsewhere who point to the fact that the party is an organization that is designed to be grassroots, and I’m debating in my mind whether those arguments (even if pushed mainly by partisans of Bohlinger and Adams) should carry weight here.   If and when the Party endorses someone, it is supposed to reflect the clear and unequivocal opinion of the people.  Such could be said of the occasions in the past when the Party has made endorsements in the Primary.  I’m not sure it can be said here.

The Flathead Memo also has a post up on this that is worth reading.



Posted: March 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Guest Opinion: Montana Tradition at Risk

 by John Bohlinger

Former Lt. Governor John Bohlinger is a candidate to be the Montana Democratic Party nominee for US Senate.

Montanans’ most fundamental right is at risk:  the right to choose who we want to represent us in free and open primary elections.

In an unprecedented political maneuver, our highest elected officials selected a candidate for the United States Senate, a decision made for Montanans in Washington, DC.

Historically, elected officials have trusted Montana voters to choose who we want on the ballot. Political parties and their elected officials have held fast to the tradition of not endorsing candidates in the primaries.

Last November 5th, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called me and told me to drop out of the senate race, because they had already chosen their candidate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee didn’t want a primary. I refused, and life since then has been a long, cold winter in politics, in which I learned the dark side of power and money in politics.

The insiders broke the non-endorsement tradition, and our party’s endorsed candidate is now the US Senator — without any input from Montana voters. Is this what we want? I don’t think so. I believe every Montanan has a right to a voice and a vote in their own elections.

Our Constitutional freedoms have slowly been eroded away, and this latest threat is a blatant attack on the very foundation of our freedom — the democratic right to choose who shall represent us in our republic.  Every election, whether a primary or general is about choice!

It is a basic tenet of our democracy that government originates with the people and is founded upon their will. Somehow, we are being told that now, it originates from a few powerful people and is founded on their self-interest.

In Montana traditions matter.  I invite you to stand with me this spring and tell the power brokers in Washington, DC that we can make our own decisions. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Freedom, Democracy and Justice are American principles.

Does Montana’s senate seat belong to Harry Reid? Is it for sale?

I say no. Win or lose, I believe the people of Montana have a right to choose and elect our own officials:  one vote at a time.


Posted: March 5, 2014 at 6:25 am

Fact Check: Steve Daines Lies by Omission on Health Care Costs

Steve Daines is so eager to push is far right ideology that he’s taken to lying to do it.

He recently tweeted that the Affordable Care Act is “leaving 11 million Americans with higher premiums,” but left out the fact that here in Montana, insurance prices are lower than they would have been without the Affordable Care Act. 

Continue reading

Posted: January 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm

New Report Targets “TEA Stained” Daines

Steve Daines and Ted Cruz 2
That’s Steve Daines in the background with the…giddy look on his face.

TEA party congressman Steve Daines is the target of a new, yearlong campaign to expose the influence the TEA Party has over Members of Congress.

As on opening salvo, Americans United for Change will release an extensive report tomorrow that looks at the voting records of members of congress from swing districts entitled ‘TEA Stained’, which you, dear readers, can check out now here:

‘TEA Stained’ analyzes the 2013 voting records of 47 politically vulnerable House Republicans, including Montana’s sole representative in Congress, Daines, to find out just how gangrenous their TEA Party loyalty has become.

When they looked at all the votes nationally,  Americans United for Change found that swing district Republicans vote with the TEA Party on average 81 percent of the time.  Yet Daines went above and beyond the call of TEA Party duty, voting for their counterproductive garbage 88 percent of the time.

We’re talking about votes on issues of top priority to groups like Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks–votes to slash food assistance, to shut down the government, to block hurricane relief for Sandy victims,  and to privatize Medicare.

Steve Daines, imbecileNow that this is out there, its going to be a lot easier to explain to your sister-in-law that Steve Daines votes with the TEA Party 88% of the time.  This startling fact is likely to become part of the national dialogue, especially with the help of paid ads/polling/grassroots activity from Montanans holding Daines accountable for putting a handful of ideological extremists, imbeciles, and exploitive out-of-state billionaires ahead of our economy and the middle class.

Daines and crew gutted help for the unemployed, obstructed efforts to raise the minimum wage, and standing in the way of comprehensive immigration reform.  But given the mountain of national and in-district polling showing the percentage of people identifying themselves as TEA Party consistently falls in the high teens to low twenties at best, and that voters disapproval of the TEA Party consistently ranges from the high forties to near sixties, his votes are going to have some consequences. His approval rating will take a hot when people find out what this crackpot has been up to.

Steve DainesAnyway, this project got started in the wake of the two-week, TEA Party orchestrated government shutdown, Americans United for Change President Brad Woodhouse explained. Republicans realized at that point started to realize how unpopular the TEA Party’s crazy agenda really was, and they started trying to pretend they weren’t part of it.  That’s become Daines’ specialty: remaining on the down low.

Says Woodhouse, “Voters deserve better. Whether they embrace the Tea Party ideology or despise it or fall anywhere in between, they have a right to know where their elected representatives fall on the TEA Party spectrum – not where they say they fall, but how they actually vote. That is what the TEA Party Scorecard provides. What it proves, unfortunately for non-extremists who are represented by Republicans, is that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party in American politics today.”


Posted: December 28, 2013 at 6:09 pm

The Swiftboating Begins

This is the tiring thing that politics has become.

Yesterday, we learn that John Walsh was cited in 2010 with an incredibly minor infraction while he was Commander of the Montana National Guard. He used his government email account to do work related to his membership in the National Guard Association of the United States. This is a national non-profit composed of Guard members, which lobbies on their behalf and on behalf of the National Guard generally. This, an audit committee found, amounts to “using government resource for private gain.” How this amounts to “private gain” when the Association does work on behalf of the Montana Guard does not make sense to me. Anyway, Walsh was not punished or penalized because it was a minor incident. Continue reading

Posted: December 23, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Choices for Everyone

The John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams campaigns are naturally pushing hard on Steve Bullock not to appoint John Walsh, the lieutenant Governor, to the US Senate to fill the vacancy left by Max Baucus. Continue reading

Posted: December 19, 2013 at 8:46 am

Baucus to China

The big news today is that Max Baucus is Obama’s choice for ambassador to China.

On the one hand it’s surprising, because Max has shown signs of slowing down in recent years Continue reading

Posted: December 17, 2013 at 7:32 am

Kalispell Legislator Files Political Action Committee with D.C. Address

Montana state Sen. Jon Sonju (R-Kalispell) has filed paperwork for a federal political action committee.

The PAC is called “Montana Solutions,” but the address and bank account for the committee are in Washington D.C.

In fact the PAC has the same address as a lobbying firm called “Crossroads Strategies.” Clients of Crossroads strategies include the company formerly known as Phillip Morris, several pharmaceutical companies, some telecommunications companies, private schools, and the NRA, among others.

Posted: December 3, 2013 at 7:19 am

Willfully Ignorant

Steve Daines, imbecileAlthough accepting federal funds to extend health coverage to the working poor would help small businesses, TEA Party Congressman Steve Daines has refused to hear the truth–even when told to him by business owners at a recent listening session.
Continue reading

Posted: November 13, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Two Facts Republicans Are Hoping You Never Find Out

You can’t pick up a rock these days without encountering a misinformed mob of RWNJs repeating Fox News anger points about the Affordable Care Act. The main themes lately are cancelled junk plans and bad information about prices. 

First, we go to the right-wing media frenzy around the “cancelled insurance plan” story arc.   What Republicans are hoping that nobody tells you is this.  Before the reforms were passed, insurance companies had been turning away about 20% of people who wanted to be insured.    These were people who had pre-existing conditions, people who were considered good customers until they got sick and the bills came in, or people that the insurance companies thought would be likely to have higher cost health care needs.

So when you read in the NY Times that hundreds of thousands of people in the individual market are receiving cancellation notices– from insurance companies who had been selling plans that actually provide very little coverage mind you–remember this. The individual market is made up of 19 million people.  So if hundreds of thousands lose a junk plan now, that’s about 5% of the market – not 20% who were refused, kicked, off, or denied before.   Besides, new consumer protections mean that losing a bad plan no longer can means you can’t get health care.  Insurers can no longer refuse to cover 20% of Americans.  They can no longer refuse people who hadn’t had insurance in a while, and they can no longer kick you out if you get sick.

Then there’s the specter of the crazy astronomical rate increases, or “rate shock.”  The facts don’t support this one either.  You see, here in Montana, we got better rates. Prices are lower now than they were before the new health care law.

For the first time, we’re getting some competition in the market.  Before the ACA, one insurance company controlled most of the market share:  Blue Cross Blue Shield.  Now, there are three companies, and this exchange “marketplace” competition has resulted in competitive prices.    There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, because companies can no longer turn people away to increase profits, they’re competing over price instead instead of what they call “risk selection”–cherry-picking the people a company bets are least likely to get sick.

Besides, in most states in the U.S. the past, there were false price standards due to the practice of male vs. female quoting, discriminatory prices based on whether you were a woman or a man, which is now illegal.  Many states allowed companies to change lower prices for some (men) and increase them for others (women) so people had a false sense of what insurance actually cost.

Of course, we all know that the reason some of these myths are so pervasive is that the president has basically sat back and let the opposition frame the entire discussion about the Affordable Care Act.  Doing so was a grave mistake.  In politics, it doesn’t work to play “correct the record” after the fact by digging into the minutia of a complicated policy to “educate” people over to your point of view – and Obama isn’t even doing that much.

The myths won’t go away until the President stops letting everyone else define the debate.  The truth won’t start to spread until people start telling their friends about the $25/month health plans they got–and of course, until the website starts working more consistently.