Category Archives: Tier B

When Hate is not Just a ‘Virtue,’ It Makes You a Viable Candidate

The man that may become the nation’s most wackjob candidate for U.S. Senate is also the darling of Montana right-wingers.

Texas pastor and nutjob radio host David Barton, dubbed “Ted Cruz 2.0″ by Politico, when the news magazine reported this week that he was being recruited to run against TX Sen. John Cornyn, who has fallen out of favor with the TEA Party crew. Barton was brought to Montana this year as the keynote speaker for the so-called 2013 Montana “Governor’s” Prayer Breakfast. (The event is not affiliated with the state government in any way, in spite of what Judy Martz may have wished).

In case you haven’t heard of Barton, he claims that the slaughter of American Indians was justified as “a defensive war against tribes who ‘declared war on all the white guys.’ ‘We had to go in and we had to destroy Indian tribes all over until they said ‘Oh, got the point,’ Barton said, claiming that the tactics were only necessary because Indians were resisting missionaries who were trying to ‘civilize’ them.”

He also believes that demons control parts of the U.S. capitol, that schools turn kids gay, and that the Bible opposes minimum wage. He holds a slew of other hateful and wackjob things, its definitely worth reading this whole list.

So this was no mainstream event–in fact the organizers of the “Governor’s Prayer Breakfast” made a point of refusing to read a letter from Montana Governor Steve Bullock [click here for the PDF] because he said that providing health care to poor people was consistent with biblical teachings. Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich has made a similar argument for the Medicaid expansion.

Not this guy’s Bible apparently. Barton says “tolerance is a bad thing and hate is a good thing.” “We’re tolerating a lot stuff that destroys our families, that destroys our own character and we can’t tolerate that stuff. We have to get back to the point where hate is a virtue, at least certain kinds of hate.” Barton said climate change is caused not by fossil fuels, but by a curse we brought on ourselves by permitting abortion rights. Yes, because the U.S. supports allowing women to choose whether and when to have a child we “‘opened the door to the curse,’ which includes floods, tornadoes, murder and pedophilia.”

Tim Fox, now Montana’s Attorney General, served as co-chair of the event to bring Barton to Montana. Scott Mendenhall, a Republican who represented House District 77 in Jefferson County for four terms, was the events chair. The Helena IR covered the event, and controversy, at the time, but for some reason neglected to report some of Barton’s most infamous beliefs and statements.

 

Fox Blames Media for Death Threats to Reporters

This past week, shortly after an Associated Press reporter requested from the Montana Justice Department a list of every concealed weapon permit holder in Montana, the reporters and their families began receiving death threats posted on right-wing websites and in online comments.

It seems that when Tim Fox, the Attorney General, got the request from reporter to see the list of concealed weapon holders, he responded not to the reporter but instead to every county sheriff in the state, all 56 of them, informing them that he had received the request from the press regarding the weapons holders, and was hereby denying it. Fox also made sure to reveal the identity of the reporter who had submitted the request. Continue reading

If at First You Don’t Succeed

If at first you don’t succeed, claim the rules don’t apply to you.

That’s what the Montana Republican Party tried to do this week.  The party which formerly claimed to stand for fiscal responsibility had hoped to force taxpayers to cough up the cash for a recount in the state superintendent race.  In spite of the fact that their candidate had lost by too great a margin to qualify for a taxpayer funded recount, they went to court.

Sandy Welch, the GOP candidate, asked a judge to grant her an exception to the rules.  She thought fancy out-of-state lawyers could convince a judge that there were special circumstances which would justify making you and me pay for her increasingly futile pursuit her own political ambitions.

Republicans also probably wanted the recount it in the news while they try to pass new laws that restrict voting rights, like same day registration, early voting, mail voting, etc. They were hoping they could use your money to create a climate for passing voter suppression laws in Montana.

Brief grinch meme plagued Welch campaignWelch had tried to force the recount to be conducted right before the Christmas holiday–much to the dismay of county officials and their employees.  The grinch-like demand wasn’t lost on internet pranksters, prompting a brief grinch mini-meme of sorts with pics like this making the rounds.

Thankfully, the GOP failed on both accounts.  A judge said they had to live by the same rules as everyone else and must pay for the recount.

But when it came time to put up the money, Welch said she didn’t actually have it–revealing some inconsistencies with her previous statements.

First, Welch had said that the national republican party would pay for the recount, but when it came time to pay the money wasn’t there.  The national Republicans refused to comment.

The GOP wouldn’t say how much they had raised, if anything.  And instead of accepting the fact that the voters decided against the right-wing education policies the GOP was peddling, they tried to blame the Secretary of State for Welch’s loss.

There were other inconsistencies in Welch’s statements.  As the Billings Gazette reported. “Welch said [Citizens United attorney James Bopp] is the lawyer hired by the Republican National Committee to work on the case, but another attorney from his firm, Anita Woudenberg, delivered arguments Friday.”

Perhaps all this talk of national money and famous lawyers was Welch was trying to color her race with some kind of national importance.  Whatever the reason, somebody wasn’t telling the truth. Either that or intelligent life is just not found on this particular planet.

Sandy Welch, and the Ruse

The GOP is asking for a recount in the state superintendent’s race, for what appears to be part of a high-intensity push to create a climate for passing voter suppression laws in Montana.

The Associated Press reported this week that the national Republican Party gave Sandy Welch (who ran against popular dem Denise Juneau) $100,000 to pay for the recount and another $100,000 to hire GOP lawyer behind Citizens United, James Bopp to sue for a recount (one she can’t win).

Bopp is an infamous national GOP lawyer who has been called “Public enemy No. 1 for fair elections,” and has worked for dozens of extreme-right groups.  He appeared on the recent Frontline expose of dark money groups in Montana, saying he is working to eliminate or significantly loosen campaign spending limits and to eliminate donor-name-reporting requirements.

Here’s what’s odd: Welch can get a recount without her costly lawsuit, for a $100,000.  She is allowed by law to buy a recount, in essence.   But she admitted yesterday that she’s now invested $200,000, half on the fancy lawyer and lawsuit, and half on the recount cost.   In the lawsuit, she is asking to get her recount cost refunded if she wins. But that still leaves a grand total investment of $100,000.  So why the lawsuit?

Because the GOP wants it in the air, while they try to pass new laws that restrict voting rights, like same day registration, early voting, mail voting, etc

The GOP’s future, given the trends, is looking bleak.  Not just a more liberal electorate, but a wild gang of libertarian voters defecting at a rate of anywhere from 4 to 7 percent in statewide elections.   The Rs are now seeing that they must find a way to balance the scale.  So they will try to minimize votes from elderly, Indians, poor, young and other voting blocks.

To do that, they’ll need to convince the legislature that there were “irregularities.”  Part of this will involve deceiving the press and the public that the last election was fraught with problems and “fraud.” Hence the $100,000 lawyer.

As the Billings Gazette reports, Welch already alleges

numerous examples of alleged vote-counting errors across the state on Nov. 6, including ballots jamming in electronic counting machines, re-marking of ballots that were run through the machines multiple times, failure to give voters new ballots to replace spoiled ballots, and ballots that weren’t officially stamped.

The recount will allow the GOP to paw through every single ballot cast, to find examples of what they’ll call “fraud.”

Perhaps the Montana GOP is taking a cue from Florida Republicans, who admitted last week that the voting restrictions they passed after the 2008 elections were specifically designed to keep Democratic turnout low:

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal[....]

Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.

[...]A GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said black voters were a concern. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” he said.

 

Recount Charade

The Billings Gazette is reporting today that Montana GOP will put up $115,000 dollars to recount a race it has no chance of winning.

Word on the street is that the recount is a ruse to allow the GOP to continue to “investigate” the supposed problem of too many people voting in Yellowstone County.   Voter suppression will be a first order of business for the new legislature. So, the GOP will use the recount as an occasion to rant in the press about how too many people voting caused long lines and delays in vote counts in certain major cities–to argue that liberalized voting rules have caused the problem.

GOP-er Sandy Welch is down over 2,000 votes, so Sandy Welch’s chances of overturning Denise Juneau’s victory are zero to none. To my knowledge, a recount has never overturned the results of a statewide race–even when the results were much closer than the Juneau/Welch contest.

The last time a statewide races was recounted was the 2000 democratic secretary of state primary.  Linda McCulloch.  As the Missoulian reported:

McCulloch nipped fellow challenger Gail Gray, 31,634 to 31,573 in the statewide recount. Although Gray picked up 65 misplaced votes in the recount, McCulloch gained 62. McCulloch’s final tally was 61 votes ahead of Gray, down from 64 votes in the original count. The third Democratic contestant, Mike Schwinden, saw his total rise 26 votes to 28,765.

The most recent recount before this was in 1980.

It involved Initiative 84, a measure to control disposal of uranium ore tailings. The original count showed 172,796 in favor to 172,173 against. The recount put the total at 172,909 to 172,493, preserving the initiative’s passage.
 And so, you can see that a recount will not overturn the results of this race.  But overturning the result is not the reason for the recount.

Too stupid to know how to organize a get-out-the-vote effort like Democrats with technology, sophistication and smarts, Republicans in Montana (and nationally) are now complaining about the fact that “too many people were voting.” They’re calling for an end to election day registration and a shrinking of early vote options.

For a preview of how this charade will play out in Montana,  look how the Republicans are using the Allen West recount in Florida to peddle the voter fraud myth. The GOP thinks that if it’s harder to vote, they will gain an advantage.  They will use this recount charade to try to get support for rolling back early voting, same day registration, etc.

And of course American Traditions Partnership will be all for this.  ATP attorney Jim Brown is in on the ruse.  He told Sandy Welch’s campaign manager that he liked their chances of winning the recount.

People in Montana are voting in some of the highest numbers in the state’s history.  They are engaged, and the GOP doesn’t like that.  Republicans did better when more voters were apathetic, and so they want to return to those glory days.

Early voting must remain; vote by mail must increase; and same day registration must remain, because it is an important way of allowing people to vote when they have moved addresses but there’s a glitch in the system, for whatever reason, that hasn’t recorded it properly. In the past, these folks have been turned away.  Now with same day registration, they can vote.

Truth is, Republicans lost the big statewide races for three basic reasons, which are 1) they had inferior statewide candidates, 2) the Republican brand is in the toilet, thanks in large part to the Tea Party, and 3) in two races they gave away an average of 5 points to the libertarian candidate.

Had there been a third party candidate in the Juneau race, Welch would have already faded from view.  The contest is the only statewide race in which the democratic candidate, Denise Juneau, received more than 50% of the vote against a real opponent.

PP&L Corp Among American Tradition Partnership Bankrollers

Today, PBS and ProPublica have posted the contents of the American Tradition Partnership’s bank records, which include some donor records from the 2010 election cycle. A Montana judge ordered that the information be made public last week.  Among the groups funders is Pennsylvania Power & Light, or PP&L as it likes to be known in Montana (to eliminate the need to remind people where it is headquartered.)

Other ATP financial backers include:

  • TEA Party billionaire Ray Thompson, of Kalispell ($10,000)
  • John Sinrud, of Bozeman
  • Intermountain Rural Electric Association ($25,000)
  • Former TEA Party Legislator Tom Burnett (R-Bozeman)
  • Montana and Wyoming Oil Company
  • Flathead Timber, of Whitefish
  • Dan O’Neil Construction, of Billings
  • Soby Construction, of Bozeman
  • Raemaeker Insurance, of Choteau
  • Livingston developer Peter Mackenzie (various checks, thousands)
  • T. Baird Construction, Big Timber
  • developer Gateway Village LLC, Bozeman
  • Jason Theilman, Steve Daines campaign manager
  • GOP Senator Bruce Tutvedt (R-Kalispell)
  • Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill (Apple Gilroy Inc.)
  • Big Timber TEA Partier Bob Faw
  • AAON Inc.($20 k)
  • K12 Management Inc. Catholic religious private school corporation, Washington D.C. ($20k)
  • Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce PAC
  • Taxpayers for Liberty, Andrew J. O’Neill ($4k)
  • TEA Party Rep. Dan Kennedy (R-Laurel), Campaign account
  • Colorado Mine Association ($25k)

–and many others.

I haven’t had time to go through all the documents, but Cowgirl readers can do so here.  It should be most interesting to see what people find. This information is from the 2010 cycle only, not 2012.

We’ve Got a Problem

There are still thousands of ballots to count in Yellowstone County.  The fate one of Montana’s most important statewide races hangs in the balance, and several legislative contests are yet to be decided. The counting process is still going on now, as you can see from these pictures.

The pictures also show that there is cause for concern.

The first is a picture of an important sign in the Yellowstone County elections offices.  The sign clearly directs that people “DO NOT ENTER” the area where thousands of votes are still being counted. The area is sequestered so that those observing the vote counting process may see the process with out being able to tamper with the ballots.

 

Tom McGillvrayAnd these are pictures of TEA Party Republican state Rep. Tom McGillvray, of Billings.  (He’s the one in the suit. Here’s what he looks like from the front.)

The TEA Partier was caught on camera having barged right into the sequestered area in spite of regulations to protect the integrity of the counts.

 

 

Karl Rove Woke Up This Morning with a Strange Pain in His Ass…

…only to discover that the pain in his ass was due to the fact that the entire 2012 election had been shoved up it.

Rove came up empty, in Presidential and Congressional races.

Here in Montana, Denny Rehberg has been sent packing by Jon Tester, in an enormous victory, a virtual landslide.  Tester blew him out.  Libertarian candidate Dan Cox got almost seven percent, one of the biggest takes by a third party candidate since Ross Perot got in the mid-twenties in 1992.

We should all be proud of what Tester did.  The polls showed him neck and neck going into the last days, but he got his vote out and closed big.  And he overcame an absolute monsoon of negative ads lasting three months, one of the biggest smears ever recorded on Montana’s airwaves, funded by Washington DC Republicans and Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS. He dumped tens of millions into the race (and even paid a visit to Montana, to help Rehberg with strategy), all of it impugning Tester for having had the temerity to support his President.  And the beauty is, it doesn’t really look like the attack worked at all.  Tester cruised to victory.  What mattered more to voters was that Tester turns in a workday, doesn’t whine or complain, doesn’t spend his days smearing people or blaming people, but tries accomplish something.

Same for Obama, the object of vitriolic GOP hatred, who demolished the weak Mitt Romney in spectacular fashion, defeating yet another empty, negative campaign by the Republicans.  Poor Rove, whose group spent half a billion dollars and got zilch in return.   Dems have actually picked up a seat in the United States Senate, and Rove had the dubious task on FOXNews last night of trying to convince the public that while every network and news outlet was projecting Obama the winner, they were, according to Rove, doing so in error.  He had secret math, you see, that showed Romney was, in fact, still going to win.  What happened in Montana and nationally, well, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy than Karl Rove.

Dennis Rehberg, meanwhile, concludes 12 years of federal service and many more years of state government service, and the Cowgirl blog recognizes this contribution to society.  Though we rarely agree with Rehberg and have always advocated against him, anybody stepping up to run for or hold public office deserves recognition and congratulations upon the completion of a career, as do his many staffers and operatives who spent the last two years in this fight.   We wish Denny and his crew well in his future endeavors. Perhaps we will even see him try again two years from now for the Senate or even four years from now for governor, or maybe even try to take his seat back if Steve Daines vacates his newly won House seat to try to move up to Senate.

Speaking of Governor, Lee Newspapers, CNN, and NBC have called the race for Bullock, and now AP has as well.  Down three points heading into the weekend according to a Mason Dixon poll, Bullock came up strong last night.  Votes are still outstanding in Yellowstone County and also in a few key Indian countries like Glacier and Bighorn.  But Bullock is showing about a 2 point edge right now, and I don’t believe it will be eroded much by the balance of votes yet to be counted.  He will be our next Governor.  Keep the cellphone tight, Steve, for Rick Hill will be calling you shortly to congratulate you and concede the race.

Hill, like Rehberg, deserves credit for trying a comeback late in life.  He came up short, and has now probably concluded his political career, but he put in a tough effort and should be congratulated on having waged a pretty close race

Pam Bucy and Kim Gillan fought the good fight, but were up against two guys who had run for statewide office before, and so these two impressive gals started out at a disadvantage. Expect to see both of them remain in the orbit of public service.  Either or both would be excellent applicants for Bullock cabinet positions and Bucy, I believe, will be back again to run for something else.

Daines got a huge investment from the national Republican party, so that made life miserable for Gillan who could not pull in the same dough from her party and was running for an office that seems to have the word Republican posted on the door.  It was an uphill battle from the get-go.  But Bucy, a far superior candidate to her opponent, got shafted.  Our new attorney general Tim Fox has achieved his office by being bankrolled by secret money, close to a million dollars worth, the source of which has still not been determined.  Bucy had no such slush fund.  When you tally up the money, Bucy got outspent 5-1 at least.  It puts a cap on a sad chapter in Montana electoral history, in which Republicans attempted to take over the government with unlimited, secret corporate money.  Poor Pam became the object of the corporate wrath, despite an impeccable resume that made her opponent look like a bum.

In other races, Juneau, Lindeen and McCulloch all have leads right now, but Juneau’s race will be tight. She’s up half a point, with Billings and Indian country yet to be reported. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for her.

We should be proud of all these candidates.  And, I am proud of all of you, who have participated in this election by tuning in, for keeping the discussion alive and spirited, providing information, and for making Cowgirl blog the place for politics in Montana.

Corruption Defines Montana’s 2012 Elections

Montana’s 2012 elections will go down in history–but not in a good way. Rather, this cycle will be remembered for corruption, lies, deceptive ads, illegal donations, apparent illegal coordination with third-party groups, and secret corporate money.

The season was kicked off with TEA Party Republican legislator Jason Priest secretive “Montana Growth Network” buying the Supreme Court race for TEA Party judge Laurie McKinnon. Priest’s shadow group spent more on one saturation mailing then the conservative candidate he was backing had raised for her entire campaign.

McKinnon, who dog whistled at Lincoln Reagan dinners across Montana about “judicial activism,” “strict constructionist” and other conservative buzzwords, was able to defeat the leading candidate Elizabeth Best in the primary–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations reported in Montana papers across the state.   Priest’s  “Montana Growth Network” is thought to be one of the American Traditions Partnership’s many spinoffs.

Indeed no group has been more insidious than American Traditions Partnership in corrupting Montana’s elections.  ATP’s launched it’s biggest attack on Steve Bullock.  It mailed a fake newspaper to hundreds of thousands of Montanans depicting Bullock in a line-up of sex offenders.

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in Montana’s elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and this secretive right-wing group.  Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in apparent violation of the law, the Associated Press reports today.

ATP even sent mailers impersonating unions– using the unions’ logos–to attack local candidates that the unions have actually endorsed.

ATP wasn’t alone, unknown corporate groups dumped half a million dollars in illegal into Rick Hill’s campaign coffers, forcing a  judge to issue a restraining order against Hill to stop him from spending the illegal cash.  The Montana GOP claims the donation came from the Republican Governor’s Association, but shortly before the RGA sent the dough to the Montana GOP, that an entity calling itself the  ”Montana Law Foundation” sent $200,000 the the RGA. There’s only one reason that a fake Montana group would donate to the RGA instead of the Montana Republican Party and that’s to hide the donation’s source.

Tim Fox, the Montana Republican lunatic who is running for attorney general despite having never done anything other than defend drunk drivers and call for rape victims to have the rapists’ babies, got some national Republican donors to buy $700,000 of TV advertising on his behalf.  Fox Fox refused to reveal his true extremists beliefs.   Instead, he hid behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising that his corporate bosses– including the Koch brothers, the insurance industry and the cigarette companies put up to hide the truth.

Montana’s U.S. Senate race has also drawn a deluge of dark money aimed at defeating Jon Tester and replacing him with scandal-plagued extremist Dennis Rehberg.

Tonight, Montana citizens will find out whether ATP and groups like it will completely own our state and federal governments–using lies, deception, illegal activity and corporate money to install their candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, without ever revealing who their donors really are.

Some Folks Might be Heading to the Pokey in Montana

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP.

Numerous Republican candidates might have worked too closely with ATP, and could be in trouble legally if not electorally.  They might be going to the pokey (meaning the clink, the one in Deer Lodge.)

The short story is that the 2010 election, in which the Tea Party swept into control of the Montana legislature, may have featured massive illegalities.   Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in violation of the law.  The Frontline documentary reveals that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found, showing extensive communications between Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News, for example, reported today that GOP legislator Wendy Warburton appears to have been in direct communication with the group, even going so far as to send them a “signature stamp,” presumably so they could send out mailings on her behalf, using her signature.  That’s likely to be found illegal under Montana law.

Files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Joel Boniek, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees were also featured on Frontline.  Again, groups and candidates cannot coordinate on campaign communications.

Candidates might be subjecting themselves to a range of penalties, including removal from office, fines, or worse.  The question is whether there is a prosecutor out there who is willing to begin looking into this stuff.  Generally, county attorneys stay away from political stuff, leaving it to the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Worse, the ATP’s headquarters is revealed by the documentary to be nothing more than a P.O. Box at a UPS store in Washington DC, even though the group is spending tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and is the most influential source of money in Montana politics.  They were estimated to have spent well over a million bucks on just a handful of state legislative races in 2010.  They’d send mail to voters, which looked very much like electioneering material, something that is illegal if you are hiding who your donors are.

Not all ATP’s donors have been able to hide.  Investigative journalist Paul Abowd this week uncovered a document that revealed one of ATP’s largest bankrollers-a Colorado anti-union group called Coloradans for Economic Growth.

And I would say that this documentary, above all, is an outright humiliation for the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who this summer rejected a request by Montana to reconsider the Citizens United ruling in light of the ATP’s shady, unreported, anonymously funded activities in Montana.  In rejecting Montana’s plea, Kennedy offered a single paragraph describing why he (the swing vote on the court) was refusing to consider the matter. He wrote that there was nothing that led him to believe that the ATP’s activities could lead to “corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Kennedy, if he watched Frontline this week, probably wishes he could have that one back.  Because he is now revealed to be not a brilliant jurist but a stupid old man, who got duped by a bunch of bad actors.  Soon, groups like ATP will completely own our state and federal governments, using corporate money, installing candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, never revealing who the donors are.  And the Supreme Court  believes that this is all perfectly okay.