Category Archives: Uncategorized

Wheat Supporters Work to Counter Out-of-State and Corporate Money in Supreme Court Race

A group of Montanans has banded together to try to counter the massive corporate and out-of-state expenditures in the supreme court race–the right-wing special interests including the National Republican party who are hoping to buy a Supreme Court race for Lawrence VanDyke.

Here’s the Montana ad to counter this money by Montanans for Liberty:

 

It’s important to spread the word about this race, because there are big differences between these candidates.

Perhaps most importantly, Mike Wheat’s experience dwarfs that of VanDyke, who is an extremist ideologue from out of state who’s beliefs are far outside the mainstream.

Wheat - VanDyke Comparisan piece

GUEST POST: Lawrence VanDyke is the Biggest Threat to Montana’s Outdoor Heritage

By Justin Robbins

The great myth of the 1% in America is that, in this land of opportunity, any one of us could get there. Our history is chock full of examples from Henry Ford to Bill Gates, from Jackie Robinson to Derek Jeter, from Clara Barton to Oprah Winfrey or from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. From whatever socio-economic, geographic, ethnic or cultural background you hail, we have an iconic American story that proves you can succeed. That idea constantly tickles the mind of every American citizen, and every other poor bastard dying to be one.

With that established, please allow me, or better still join me to take a long, hard, honest look in the mirror. If you’re anything like me, your circumstances in life are a little better than those of your parents; largely because of their efforts. You are better educated, make more money, and enjoy more luxuries (if only in entertainment options) than mom and dad. They would have it no other way. If you have children, you not only understand your parents’ priorities and sacrifices, but have dedicated yourself to ensuring the pattern continues.

Now, keep looking, and maintain the honesty of your assessment. It is incredibly unlikely you will be in the 1%. The odds are literally astronomical…there’s around a 1 in 750,000 chance you or I will be even a millionaire, let alone billionaire.

My argument here is not one of class warfare. I am neither crying foul, nor claiming status as a victim of anyone or anything. It is merely a summons to stand free of illusion and face reality; unflinching, unforgiving and unwelcoming reality…warts and all. I ask you here because it is only from a firm grounding in reality we may see the world as it is rather than as we would have it be.

For example, my preference would be a world wherein the people who seek elected office in my state would do so out of a sense of duty or service rather than of personal reward. Where education and independent thought are valued, and ignorance is not virtuous. Where conclusions are supported by evidence, and a course of action is chosen by reasoned debate, rather than revelation.

In reality, there are very wealthy, powerful elements in this country looking at the State of Montana the way…frankly, the way wealthy, powerful elements look at anything. They recognize the abundance of natural resources (be it oil, fish and game, or lakefront property), and the very limited means of the average Montanan to engage in meaningful protection or preservation of those assets. Then they see Montanans like Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat author the opinion that protects our access to our streams and rivers. They can’t have that.

They realize the important role the Montana Supreme Court plays in protecting the rights and privileges of Montana’s hunters, fisherman, hikers and rafters. How one pivotal seat can mean the difference between a public stream access, and their gated, riverside subdivision.

Enter candidate Lawrence Van Dyke…but, just barely. The Montana Constitution requires a Supreme Court candidate to have been admitted to practice law in Montana for five years prior to the election. Van Dyke was inactive in Montana from 2006 to 2013 while working in DC and Texas. Nonetheless, he is on the ballot, and has some pretty professional, expensive literature floating around the state.

While the literature trumpets dedication to the law and the interests of the people, it avoids mentioning what law and which people. As mentioned previously on this site, Van Dyke has an established set of conclusions about the world, informed in large part by a flat earth, creationist ideology, and a back pocket full of Koch. He also has a record of starting with the desired result, and then figuring out how to use the law justify it. We, the people, will not see nor hear him debate his opponent, nor even do a live interview; but he will confide to friendly crowds that he will be the voice on the Court “of right thinking people.” If you still have that mirror handy, look and see if he means you.

You see, in reality, the biggest threat to Montana’s outdoor heritage isn’t “the government” coming door to door to collect your guns. It’s the private fence around the place your dad taught you to hunt. It’s your public lands sold to the highest bidder. It’s a mine clouding up the Smith River, and a pipeline bursting in the Yellowstone River. It’s Lawrence Van Dyke.

Oil and Gas PAC Tries to Prop Up Bangerter’s Flailing Campaign with Misleading Ad

Dave Galt and his Gas and Oil Industry Political Action Committee (PAC) are running an ad on behalf of Helena Republican Liz Bangerter.  This after rumors that her own campaign appears to be struggling to stay afloat.

The ad is pretty misleading.  It appears that the Gas and Oil PAC is trying to paint Bangerter as pro-public lands given even though she opposed stream access and as pro-public school classrooms even though she voted to send our tax dollars to sectarian private schools.

Here is a transcript of the ad, which you can listen to here:

SCRIPT:

Here in the Treasure State, we shouldn’t be exporting our most valuable resource: our kids. Beneath our feet we have the means to provide thousands of high-paying jobs right here in Montana.

Liz Bangerter, candidate for House District 82, knows that natural resource jobs are the ticket to keeping our educated workforce and skilled laborers from leaving the state.

Bangerter will stand up for the generations of today and tomorrow by promoting new employment opportunities for all.

Paid for by the Montana Gas and Oil PAC. Treasurer Dave Galt. PO Box 1186 Helena, MT 59624

Bangerter faces democratic candidate and Helena teacher Moffie Funk in the November election.

 

Supreme Court Candidate Used State Position to Pursue Rightwing Activist Agenda

A very interesting development in the race for the Montana Supreme Court today.

The Great Falls Tribune has uncovered through a public records request that TEA Party candidate Lawrence VanDyke has spent his time on the public payroll chasing down rightwing cases in other states and filing briefs to support the rightwing causes in those states. Presumably he must believe that this  helps raise his profile with right-wingers in advance of his Supreme Court run.

Indeed, the public records were uncovered hot on the heels of a campaign ad VanDyke posted on his website in which he claims he will “apply the law as written” and attempts to paint himself as above political partisanship. VanDyke has apparently balked at his responsibilities as Montana’s solicitor general and instead pursued an activist agenda in other states in cases to block equality for LBGT citizens, eliminate the right to privacy for women, and repeal gun safety laws passed in other states.

But VanDyke did more than just spend your tax dollars chasing rightwing lawsuits in other states. He emailed photos of himself to one  out-of-state attorney working on the right wing cases.  He sent Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, a picture of himself that read: “semi-auto firearms are fun to hunt elk with, as the attached picture attests.”  

Apparently, he then solicited campaign contributions from at least one lawyer working on these cases as well.  As I reported here earlier, this same Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, took time out from trying to shut down women’s health clinics in Alabama, to write VanDyke a $320.00 check.

One wonders what conversations took place between VanDyke calling to say “hey I’d love to help you with your right wing cause in Alabama” and the Alabama attorney saying “hey I’d love to send you a check for your Supreme Court race.”

So VanDyke is not as he presents himself, and Montanans should be very wary of electing him to the Supreme Court.

You can read the whole article on the Great Falls Tribune website here or download a PDF of the article here. 

Wingnuts, Out-of-Staters and Wall Street Law Firms Dominate TEA Party Supreme Court Candidate Donations

Tomorrow, the latest campaign finance filings for the Montana Supreme Court race will be due, so it’s a good time to look at what TEA Party Supreme Court candidate Lawrence Van Dyke’s past finance reports reveal about him so far.

  • Over 60 percent of VanDyke’s donors (and 70 percent of his dollars) are not from Montana, with many of them from California, Texas and the D.C. area.
  • Nearly 20 percent of his donors are from a “white shoe” Wall Street and Washington, D.C. law firm, Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, LLP, making up more than a third of the money he has raised for his entire campaign to date.
  • Interestingly 18% of the dollars donated to VanDyke come from Gibson, Dunn, Crutcher LLP employees/attorneys, none of whom listed Montana as their home addresses.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP is a global law firm that works for the most powerful big banks on Wall Street, has a powerful practice in Washington, D.C. and LA and is typically on the side of very large, corporate interests on both a national and global scale.  It is the firm for whom VanDyke used to work in Washington, D.C. before he joined then TEA Party poster boy Ted Cruz of Texas as an attorney in the Texas Solicitor General’s office.

Many of his out-of-state donors appear to be affiliated with the Federalist Society.  Lawrence VanDyke has written extensively for that right-wing organization.  He even used the Federalist Society to defend his  infamous Harvard Law Review piece in favor of teaching creationism in public schools.

No surprise that MT Family Foundation and creationist “museum” bankrollers Greg and Susan Gianforte each kicked in $320 to help advance the cause of teaching Montana’s children that the Flinstones is not a cartoon as much as scientific fact. (VanDyke is also a defender of the loony and offensive “pray away the gay” conversion therapy.“)

Other donors, like Andrew Brasher, the solicitor general of Alabama, took time out from trying to shut down women’s health clinics in Alabama, to write VanDyke a $320.00 check.

You can see all of VanDyke’s donations at the Commissioner of Political Practices website or download them as a zip file here. But here is a summary:

 

$29,255               The amount VanDyke has listed as “receipts”

$1,380.28             The amount VanDyke has spent

114                         Total donors

70                           Out of State Donors

44                           Montana Donors

22                           Donors from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP (VA, CA, TX)

$5,330                   The total amount donated to VanDyke so far by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP employees/attorneys.

$8,505                   Total amount raised from people with addresses in Montana.

$20,750                 Total amount raised from people with addresses not in Montana.

 

Ire Increases Against Those Hiding from Debates

An interesting week in Montana politics.

Montana Public Radio commentator Evan Barrett published an editorial in the Standard and the Missoulian on how debates strengthen democracy. Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch wrote an editorial in the Missoulian about how ducking debates is a disservice voters. And the Bozeman Chronicle editorial board wrote that Zinke was wrong to cancel the only debate with Lewis.

And of course there was the scathing Billings Gazette editorial: Zinke Flunks Political Courage Test. This criticism is especially biting since it is directed at a man whose campaign bus is (improperly) emblazoned with the Navy Seal logo and who was busted trying to take credit for killing Osama bin Laden.

In the U.S. Senate race meanwhile, after Congressman Steve Daines backed out of a televised debate scheduled for October 4, Amanda Curtis is challenging him to answer to Montana voters in series of fourteen debates.  He has not agreed to a single one.

So it seems that the only Montanans left who don’t want the debates are Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke.  These two stale politicians, mired in the stench of the Potomac, believe that Washington politics as usual is all that matters.  Instead of speaking directly to voters, they’ll be saturating the airwaves with dark money dirty campaign ads as is the beltway norm.

 

GUEST POST: Job Creators, Myth Makers

by Bud White

One of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on the American populace is this notion of “Job Creators” being the ones we must coddle, provide every incentive imaginable and otherwise treat with kid gloves in fear they may take their creative wonders somewhere else and leave us jobless and destitute.

Well here’s a news flash: They have already taken many of the jobs somewhere else and left the country destitute. It is obvious the current strategy did not produce the desired results.

To get to the bottom of this hoax one must come to the realization that these movers and shakers are not motivated by some benevolent sense of societal obligation to give everyone a job. They are first and foremost motivated by maximizing revenues and reducing costs in their organizations as a means of increasing their own personal wealth. They don’t create jobs, they simply hire people. And only when they absolutely cannot accomplish their goals without doing so. And paying employees the least amount possible is a way of reducing costs. This is the way it works in business. It is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they, and everyone else as well, understand the true source of their wealth.

It is in this area that things have been turned upside down. Presently these titans of industry and finance believe they are the sole reason for their success and it is due to some exalted level of intelligence on their part, an unparalleled work ethic and in many cases shear entitlement.

And this message has been repeated to the point that not only do they believe it, but they got just about everyone else believing it too. This isn’t the first time this paternal explanation has been used to justify why some people deserve all the wealth and everyone else should just be happy with the paltry scraps thrown out the back of the cart. It was used to perpetuate the enslavement of a group of a people who were said to lack the intelligence or motivation to take care of themselves. Later, Social Darwinism was used to explain away the excessive levels of inequality of the first Guilded Age. And the modern day Conservative revival of the past four decades is steeped in this misdirection that all our problems are caused by undeserving lazy poor people, welfare queens, immigrants, degenerates and otherwise parasitic miscreants.

Lost in the telling of this myth is the fact most of those supposedly undeserving masses actually work and are an integral part of the process that makes it possible for those at the top to amass their obscene wealth. Without the employees the organizations that generate that wealth would not be able to function. Also it is those very same employees who go out and spend what income they can at those very same organizations, thus providing much of the source of the wealth that moves through the organization.

The problem is the hoax is so ingrained in our national psychic that the devaluation of the role of the employee is unquestionably accepted and the importance of those at the top is grossly exaggerated. Couple that with an economic collapse perpetrated by many of the most egregious abusers of this dynamic and it is no wonder the average employee is afraid to challenge the authority imposed on them.

Through all this it is important to remember similar abuses of the past were overcome and can be used as encouragement and example for action today. Slavery was abolished through an incredibly long, persistent and costly effort. The labor abuses of the Guilded Age were corrected through decades of efforts founded in the populist labor movement. Inequality, no matter the form, can be overcome. Women finally got the vote. Jim Crow laws were dismantled, although there are efforts to today to revive them in many forms.

Recently Walmart and McDonalds employees have joined in protest to demand higher pay. This is no different from the protests against unsafe work conditions by the garment workers in the streets of New York a hundred years ago. And the arrest of those McDonalds workers is much like the armed strike breakers sent to beat down mine workers. It is the same today as it was then. Unless people join together, stop blaming the victims, refuse to accept the myth and demand change, it will be business as usual. Those at the top have been the sole beneficiaries of the myth and they have no motivation to change as long as the myth continues.

Despite the fact that their level of intelligence actually isn’t that much greater than most, they are certainly not stupid, at least for the most part. There are always exceptions of course. If they perceive a sea change, they will be more willing to come to the table. Not enthusiastically perhaps and definitely not without fighting back. And if the public continues to be fooled into thinking the myth is truth, then those at the top are perfectly justified in their perception that those below them are truly less intelligent, lacking in moral standard and not deserving of a greater share.

It is time to throw aside the myth and begin the long path to correct the imbalance. It is time to recognize the value of everyone all along the economic scale, not just those at the top. And it is time to make those at the top realize the same. It won’t be the end all, but it is an essential step. Without it, any efforts to increase the share of the wealth more equitably among everyone will be all the more difficult, if not impossible.

A Book Burning in the Flathead

While Democrats were electing a new Senate candidate this weekend in Helena, right-wing conservatives in the Flathead were doing what else: burning books.

The so called “God and Country Conference” featured local and national extremists rallying against the government, promoting “confrontational evangelism” and that favorite right-wing past time, burning books.

As the Montana Human Rights Network reports, the event featured: anti-government activist Chuck Baldwin; a variety of carpetbagging pastors from out-of-state demanding more public displays of religious doctrine; a “street-protesting” hate-group preacher from California.  For reasons unknown, the festivities included a cross carrying to a so-called “Ten Commandment park dedication” and highlight of the weekend: a book burning on Sunday night;  Representatives of the Liberty Institute, which has aligned with Montana Supreme Court candidate Lawrence VanDyke in conservative Christian legal cases, were featured prominently in the events.   You can read the whole Montana Human Rights Network briefing on these activities here.