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.
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.
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.
When top campaign staff and senior congressional staffers swing in and out of the TEA Party front groups working to influence elections and congressional votes, so do inside information, strategic decisions, money and special access for the TEA Party.
Some call it a form of corruption. Whatever you call it, the revolving door often leads to TEA Partiers and members of congress working in their own self-interest, rather than that of the people of Montana.
Here are three recent developments you need to be aware of related to the TEA Party’s revolving door in Montana.
First, the Billings Gazette has reported that Zacharay Lahn has switched from his position as Steve Daines’ State director to being the state director for Americans for Prosperity, which is bankrolled by the Koch brothers, as has been often reported.
Lahn, who was also Steve Daines’ campaign manager in 2012, replaces TEA Party state senator Joe Balyeat in the position. Balyeat was demoted to State Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity.
The third interesting development is that the former head of American Majority in Montana is now working for the Ryan Zinke campaign. American Majority in Montana is the state chapter of national TEA party group out of Virginia called American Majority. As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, American Majority gets 70% of its funding from a Koch brother’s funded group.
Jeremy Carpenter was the group’s leader. He said publicly that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base by teaching people how to be candidates and put tea partiers in offices up and down the ballot from school board to statewide and federal races–doing field work for the TEA Party. Now he’s working for the Zinke campaign as a field director.
All of these groups will be working to influence elections in Montana, and perhaps most frighteningly legislative campaigns. Whether through get out the vote efforts, thinly disguised “issue ads”–attack mailers that read “tell said democrat that kids and puppies don’t deserve to be murdered” mailed out right before ballots, and by organizing right-wing campus groups to train volunteers for campaigns.
Steve Daines is an embarrassment. He’s bad for the state.
Steve Daines has a new radio ad on the air, in which Daines portrays himself as the protector of the timber industry, keeping timber mills and loggers safe from “fringe environmentalists” and “extreme environmental groups.” A narrator also describes Daines as “ranked as one of the most effective congressmen” although she doesn’t cite any study or group that made this dubious determination.
Daines has simply dusted off a twenty-year-old playbook for these ads: Environmentalists are shutting down the state and costing us jobs, and we must fight against their lawsuits and the federal regulations that they have persuaded Obama to enact. Montanans could all be rich from natural resource development if the environmentalists would simply get out of the way.
There’s one problem with the radio ad: In the sixty seconds of narration and sound bites from Daines, timber owners and loggers, nobody cites a single item, a single tangible thing, that environmentalists have recently done to effect the loss of jobs or the decline of the timber industry. The script is simply Daines and his supporters talking about how he has “stood up” to “environmental radicals.”
Now, if the discussion were about coal or fossil fuels, Daines could at least claim credit for voting against, or opposing publicly, whatever is currently being advocated for in DC by the environmental community, such as EPA regulations, carbon limits, and so and and so forth. Those are not radical ideas or proposals, but they at least are real.
Daines has instead decided to create a nebulous boogeyman, “the fringe environmentalists,” and claim himself as working hard to vanquish it insofar as it is trying to destroy the timber industry.
There is a reason that Daines can’t point to anything to substantiate his claim, not a single timber sale that has been blocked or federal law that has Obama has signed that have negatively affected the timber business: because there really aren’t any. The cold fact is that the timber industry–in fact the entire wood products industry–in Montana has been devastated in recent years by one thing, and one thing only: the bursting of the housing bubble. The market for the product crashed, and has not returned nearly to where it was.
But that doesn’t really matter now, because Daines has discovered, likely through polling and other market research, that if you tell persuadable voters that timber jobs have been lost due to the activities of “fringe environmentalists,” they are ignorant and misinformed enough to believe it. Which is enough for Daines. That’s Steve Daines’s brand of leadership. Enjoy it.
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.
…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. Tweet
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,’” theBillings Gazettereported.
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:
It looks like Billings Mayor Tom Hanel got into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn’t looking.
Lee Newspapers photo
How else to explain that Hanel cast the deciding vote to keep discrimination legal in Billings, Montana’s largest community. By doing so, Hanel put the crackpot ideology of certifiable nutjob Jeff Laszloffy over the views of most people in Billings–people Hanel is supposed to represent. Laszloffy is head of the “Montana Family Foundation.” He’s the guy who led the fight to allow discrimination against LGBT Montanans.
So let’s take a look at the man whose views Mayor Hanel valued most when it came time to make city policy. This was certainly a very poor calculation on Hanel’s part.
Hanel listened to a proven liar
Earlier this summer, Laszloffy was the subject of a documentary exposé on influence peddling in the Montana legislature. He was caught lying on camera when he claimed that there was “no connection, absolutely none” between the public school privatization bill he backed last session and the corporate front group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, which was pushing this same bill nationwide.
The PBS documentary uncovered multiple connections between Laszloffy and ALEC, including how Laszloffy’s bill to force taxpayers to subsidize sectarian religious schools is almost a word for word copy of ALEC’s bill. Laszloffy claims in the documentary that charter schools aren’t for-profit corporations, and was caught in another lie. The exposé pointed out financial and investment news reports outlining the high profitability of these private charter schools. ALEC even funded the PR campaign Laszloffy used to push these private charter schools in Montana. And even though Laszloffy said he had nothing to do with ALEC, PBS also uncovered jointly funded surveys by ALEC and the Family Foundation–and jointly funded articles trumpeting the Family Foundation’s private school push, all of which appear in Laszloffy’s groups’ own legislative testimony. You can watch the entire expose online here.
Hanel listened to a birther
Laszloffy went live from Birtherstan in 2011, when he actually supported the infamous birther bill, Bob Wagner’s House Bill 205 which would have required all candidates to produce birth certificates–especially a certain black candidate. Laszloffy testified:
We’ve gone over 200 years without this being a problem and it just became a problem in the last election cycle. And I think the circumstances surrounding this are frankly bizarre. There is question as to whether the president was born in the United States, we all know that…The president could fix this by simply releasing his birth certificate and that would get us past this little road bump.
Hanel listened to a man who celebrates discrimination
Laszloffy also organized a small group in celebrating their hatred of gay people by throwing a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. The day was marked by bringing gay-haters together to teach their kids that discrimination against others is something to celebrate–preferably with stale fast food from 1000 miles away. Just the kind of person you want to be playing a key role in making city policy right?
Hanel listened to a man who led the fight to allow religious boarding schools to operate without regulation despite terrible allegations of child abuse.
Laszloffy lead the fight to allow religious boarding schools in Montana like Pinehaven Ranch to remain unregulated. These religious schools, which have no licenses, no accreditation and employ teachers who are not certified, are now dealing with allegations that staff used violence to discipline students. And yet the Montana GOP has voted, under Laszloffy’s direction, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it on the Anderson Cooper 360 show. Rep. Ellie Hill’s HB 236 would have addressed the problem. Laszloffy lobbied hard against Hill’s bill, convincing the GOP majority to let these kids suffer free from protection.
So yeah, this is pretty bad policy making, and its pretty ridiculous that Billings Mayor Tom Hanel went so wrong by listening to this guy instead of his own constituents. He should be replaced at the earliest opportunity since he has demonstrated such poor judgement.Tweet
When Ted Nugent spewed racial slurs and said that women who didn’t support hunting should be “fixed” or “replaced” by their husbands, he wasn’t put on the first bus out of Big Horn County, Wyoming–he was made a deputy sheriff.
The Casper-Star Tribuneoffered the embarrassing excuse that they were not able to ask Sen. Enzi whether he agreed with using racial slurs for Japanese Americans and that women who don’t like hunting should be neutered or divorced–because he left the event “before the tea party ended.” I guess we’re expected to believe that they didn’t know how to find any of Enzi’s statewide offices. (Although to be fair, perhaps the internet hasn’t yet arrived in the Equality State Wyoming.) There has also been no word on why none of the other candidates were asked if they agreed with this kind of thing.
At this point, we can no longer call Wyoming “the Equality State” without the heavy use of air quotes. But perhaps in Montana we might adopt a new slogan: “At least we’re not Wyoming.” I hope our neighbors to the south will forgive us this. We’re used to being at the bottom of the TEA Party imbecile pile.Tweet
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.
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.
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.
[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-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.
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.