Posted: October 11, 2014 at 8:54 am by Cowgirl

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

Posted: October 11, 2014 at 8:34 am by Cowgirl

Posted: October 10, 2014 at 6:09 am by Cowgirl

End in Sight for Congressional Races

We are in the homestretch of campaign season. About a third of voters are casting their ballots this week, voters who requested to vote by mail or “absentee.” If you are a candidate with a message deliver, better do it quick. Each day you wait, there are fewer voters left to persuade.
A few public opinion poll should be published presently. These include the MSU Billings poll conducted every even year around the middle of October. Also expected are at least one poll from Public Policy Polling and/or Rasmussen Reports. This week, a firm called Gravis Marketing released a poll showing the Senate and House races tightening a small bit, but the Democrats still trailing by double digits. It was Zinke over Lewis 51-41 and Daines over Curtis 54-41. But this poll is defective because it doesn’t include the third party candidates, libertarians Roger Roots and Mike Fellows respectively.

Reports are that Amanda Curtis has raised a whopping $650,000, an impressive number and more than Daines has ever collected in a two-month period. That’s saying something. The only problem is that it isn’t clear how, or when, she plans to spend it. TV ads are a required medium for an unknown candidate, which Curtis certainly is. So let’s hope we see her on TV soon, smacking down Daines and telling it like it is. Perhaps Curtis remind voters, in any ad she airs, that roughly two out of three Montanans do not approve of the job Steve Daines is doing in Washington. As they say, nothing fails like unpopularity.

As for Ryan Zinke and John Lewis, Zinke has royally pissed off the editorial boards of the Billings Gazette and the Bozeman Chronicle, because they trashed him last week and endorsed Lewis, formally, for House. They like Lewis because he is a known quantity, whereas they pointed out that Zinke is impossible to pin down on any issue. These papers also made it clear, in the editorials in which the endorsements they announced their endorsements, that Zinke has the stink of Tea Party lunacy on him, with his support of the featured Tea Party proposal this year: forcing the federal government to sell off all public land. If that proposal were a pile of manure and Zinke were a dog, he’d have rolled in it and would need to be hosed down.
Lewis has lately aired ads criticizing Zinke for this outrageous position, and also for supporting drilling for oil in the Flathead River Basin, right on the Western slope of Glacier National Park.

I believe that this race will tighten significantly in the coming weeks, and be close in the end.

Posted: October 8, 2014 at 4:52 am by Cowgirl

National Hardcore Movement Conservatives Working to Flip the Montana Supreme Court

The race for Montana Supreme Court is critically important to all Montanans and it is very important that Justice Mike Wheat be re-elected to the Court. Wheat’s experience, qualifications, and personal integrity make him a fair and impartial judge. He has a solid reputation and has always been a proponent for continuation of Montana’s Constitutional mandate of an independent and nonpartisan judiciary. The balance of the Montana Supreme Court is at stake.

Wheat’s opponent, Lawrence VanDyke, is running a very partisan campaign. VanDyke’s campaign is being fueled by mostly out of state donors who are clearly affiliated with the Republican / Tea Party. Over 95% of Justice Mike Wheat’s reported campaign contributions have come from Montana residents. Compare that to VanDyke, who only recently returned to the state and has received the bulk of his reported political funding from out of state sources. Let’s take a further look in to VanDyke’s out of state campaign donations, which clearly show that his support is coming from the activist conservative right. Let’s take a closer look at where VanDyke’s support is coming from. Here are some of his major donors:

1. Eugene Scalia

As Mother Jones reported: “Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s son got his job through a recess appointment during George W. Bush administration. Bush nominated Eugene Scalia—a DC lawyer and Antonin’s second eldest—to be solicitor at the Labor Department in 2001. Democrats in the Senate balked. Part of the reason was Eugene’s record: He’d spent much of the 1990s fighting workplace safety rules (specifically ergonomic regulations) both in court and in articles.”

Eugene Scalia is also known for his work sabotaging Wall Street reform.

2. Miguel Estrada – (who is also another Gibson Dunn connection)

This guy was another Bush nominee for the D.C. circuit court of appeals. Although nominated, his appointment was blocked by Senate dems because he was a conservative ideologue with no experience as a judge

He also, like Lawrence Van Dyke, worked at Gibson Dunn. but more must be said about why VanDyke’s employment with this law firm keeps coming up in this race.

Remember dear readers that nearly a third of VanDyke’s money comes from people who work at this “white shoe” Wall Street and Washington, D.C. law firm.

You see, VanDyke’s former firm Gibson Dunn is notorious in Montana because they they were found guilty by a Great Falls jury of filing a frivolous lawsuit against a man who identified a painting as work by his own grandfather rather than Charlie Russell. As the Wall Street Journal reported Gibson Dunn then went on the attack against this poor man, because that meant said painting was only worth $50k or so rather than nearly a million bucks.

The court found that the firm, which employs about 800 lawyers, acted with a “high level of misconduct” and is using the courts as a “tool” in an attempt to intimidate Steve Seltzer, a Montana painter and Olaf’s grandson, who is an expert in his grandfather’s work. Gibson Dunn’s “use of the judicial system amounts to legal thuggery,” the state Supreme Court said.

Realize that I’m not talking about Gibson Dunn’s client–this is the law firm itself that was found guilty and called thugs by the Montana Supreme Court of “actual malice” against this poor Montanan. The Supreme Court ordered them to pay over $20 million in punitive damages to this guy–one of the largest penalties in history. You can read more about what thugs these guys were here.

3. Christopher Murray

This guy is was Mitt Romney’s campaign lawyer.

“From May through November 2012, Chris took a leave of absence from the firm to move to Boston, MA, where he served as Deputy General Counsel to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.”

4. Colene Lewis

Colene Lewis is the leader of the of the extremist Alliance Defense Fund, which recently decided it needed to change its name to Alliance Defending Freedom. As RH Reality Check reports in a must-read article one of the organizations major focus is to train, cultivate lawyers who will “[use] their legal careers to “reorder society” according to a “christendomic” worldview, in which there is no separation between church and state.”

Acolytes of the project say they won’t settle for “polishing brass on a sinking ship,”

“Victories in the area of pro-life, religious liberty, and family values not only have the potential to preserve individuals’ lives and enable them to hear of salvation, but also to glorify God as society is reordered bit by bit according to His design.”

That means no abortion rights, no marriage equality, and a view of the First Amendment so radical and expansive that merely asserting a religious objection to state or federal laws—be they health insurance laws, or anti-discrimination statutes—would permit individuals to be exempt.

5. Thomas H. Dupree Jr – another Gibson Dunn link

As Bloomberg News reports:

“Ted Olson, George W. Bush’s attorney in Bush v. Gore and later the U.S. solicitor general, tapped Dupree for the landmark case soon after he arrived at Gibson Dunn as a junior associate.”

Dupree later served in the Bush administration as deputy assistant attorney general.

6. William J. Kilberg – another from Gibson Dunn. And another senior Romney campaign official and right-wing Federalist Society bigwig.

“Mr. Kilberg currently serves as Co-Chair of the National Finance Committee and Chair of the Policy Committee on Labor for the Romney for President campaign.”

Now, let’s take a look at some of the few VanDyke donors who are actually residents of Montana. To be sure, VanDyke hasn’t lived here very long so he probably doesn’t know many people yet.   But just look at who he’salready affiliated   with.

1. One he does know is Errol T. Galt, National Committeeman for the Montana Republican Party, who was also a Romney campaign superdelegate.

2. TEA Party billionaire Raymond Thomas who bankrolls the national TEA Party movement.

As Mother Jones reported:

“Thompson is also active in Montana politics, where he has supported one of the tea party’s most radical candidates, Derek Skees, who’s running for a seat in the Montana house. Skees, who showed up at a Memorial Day parade this summer wearing a jacket emblazoned with a Confederate flag, and has been connected to anti-Semitic and militia activity, is a tea party purist He has advocated nullifying federal health care laws, refusing federal stimulus money, and shutting down many of the state’s school districts and giving kids vouchers to help cut the budget by letting the private sector fill the gap.”

By the way, the source of all these campaign donations is, which is worth checking out if you’re interested in learning more about the element behind Lawrence VanDyke.

On the other hand, Justice Mike Wheat has a proven record of dedication to the people of Montana. He has distinguished himself as a member of the Montana Supreme Court for nearly 5 years, and was a practicing attorney in Montana for over 30 years prior. In addition, his personal experiences of community involvement and public service add to his well-rounded background. If you value a fair and independent judiciary, I encourage you to vote to re-elect Justice Mike Wheat to the Montana Supreme Court.

Posted: October 6, 2014 at 7:15 am by Cowgirl

LEAKED DOCUMENTS: Blue Cross, Aetna, Verizon funded attack ads against Bullock

In 2012 when Steve Bullock was campaigning to become governor, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) raised large amounts of secretive corporate money, to run attack ads against Bullock, smearing him by claiming that he supported Obamacare and opposed coal (neither true).  Last week, the RGA accidentally leaked a document showing who its secretive donors are.  Very few surprises, in general. Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies and the NRA, for example.

But among the the platinum-level donors are Blue Cross Blue Shield, Verizon, and Aetna, all of whom have significant business not only in Montana, but with the state itself.

One wonders whether the executives of these companies will be repentant, or at least embarrassed, about the revelation that they funded nasty ads against Bullock.

Posted: October 4, 2014 at 8:38 am by Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill

GUEST POST: Women’s Health Matters in Race for County Commissioner

by Rep. Ellie Boldman Hill, with co-signers: Nancy Keenan, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Rep. Diane Sands, Rep. Nancy Wilson, Senator Sue Malek, Montana Senate Candidate Cynthia Wolken, Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, Councilwoman Emily Bentley, Rep. Kim Dudik, Councilwoman Marilyn Marler

When it comes to the race for Missoula’s next County Commissioner, the future of women’s health care is in danger.

Title X of the Public Health Service Act has been in effect since 1970, providing family planning services for those in need in clinics throughout the United States.  In Montana, Title X funds support 27 clinics and nearly 22,000 women and teens, many who are our neighbors living right here in Missoula County.

For those of us elected officials who advocate on the front lines of these discussions, our Title X family planning centers provide critical, high-quality, cost effective, preventive health care throughout our state.  Despite the benefit to everyday Montana women, these same centers are routinely under attack due to falsehoods and outright lies perpetrated by anti-choice lobbying interests and right-wing talk radio.

While we routinely fight this war in the Montana Capitol, we lost a battle last year, when for the first time in forty years, the Ravalli County Commissioners voted not to provide women’s health services through the federal Title X Family Planning program.  They refused federal funding in the name of a misguided notion that it would somehow overturn Roe v. Wade, at least in their County, despite the factual reality that there is a federal mandate prohibiting any Title X funding to be used for abortion services.  The Ravalli County program instead provided birth control, annual exams, pregnancy and pap tests, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition education and counseling, all on a sliding scale, to over 400 Montana men and women and now it is gone.

We currently have a race for Missoula County Commissioner that is downright dangerous for women in our community.  Democratic candidate, Cola Rowley, has earned the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana.  She is a PhD scientist and a mom of two little girls.  She understands better than anyone the life saving necessity of funding for Title X clinics.
However, her opponent, Vicky Gordon, a Republican candidate, who is running a race highly critical of services offered by the City and the County, is rabidly anti-choice.  She is one of the known individuals who protests our own Blue Mountain Family Planning Clinic on West Broadway.

In a 2012 letter to the Missoulian, Ms. Gordon stated, “each of the 56 million aborted children has a soul; each is a person with a job to do, a life to live, and an innate dignity.”

In a 2011 letter to the Missoulian, Ms. Gordon speaks of her protesting the Blue Mountain Clinic by writing, “During the 40 days of Lent, if you drive down West Broadway, you will notice committed Missoulians peacefully praying for that most basic of rights, the right to life… I hope that when you go down West Broadway during “40 Days for Life” and see those praying, you will be reminded of the unborn child whose poverty is a poverty of human rights and for whom life itself is a commodity for which many will hunger in vain.”

While we support and honor anyone’s right to their deep-seated religious views, as well as their Constitutional right to express those views, we are concerned that voters may not be wholly aware of Ms. Gordon’s political positions when it comes to the reproductive health of the women of Missoula County.  Moreover, it appears that Ms. Gordon is actively trying to hide these views from Missoula’s more mainstream voters.  In her recent answer to the Missoulian’s candidate questionnaire, when asked about her support for future Title X funding, she refuses to respond to the question and changes the subject.—/article_cb7400fe-46a3-11e4-b460-2f056e0554c6.html

As elected officials in Missoula, all who are long supporters of the Montana Reproductive Rights Coalition, we hope you will pay attention to the unique contrast of the candidates in the race for Missoula County Commissioner. For Missoula voters, a women’s right to affordable health care has always trumped partisan politics and idealogical rhetoric. We believe that Cola Rowley is the only choice for the Missoula women we represent and we urge you to offer her your vote.


Posted: October 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm by Cowgirl

The Fundamental Difference

Genuine Support

photo 1 photo 2


Moffie Funk has genuine supporters, real people who are proud to lend their names to support her campaign for the Montana legislature and appear in her mail pieces.


Fakes It

Liz Bangerter uses stock photos of actors paid to fake support for her campaign.

I guess there aren’t too many families out there who would support draining our tax dollars out of public school classrooms and siphoning them off to private sectarian schools.  Nor would most people be pleased to learn that Bangerter would block Montanans’ access to our rivers and streams. 


Posted: October 2, 2014 at 6:46 pm by Cowgirl

Former Colleague Says Voters Should be Concerned about VanDyke

The email below from a former colleague of Supreme Court Candidate Lawrence VanDyke was forward to me recently.   Mr. Black is very high up within the Montana Department of Justice and thus has unique insight.  I’ve pasted the email in its entirety below.

As you know, after a few decades in private practice, I have spent the last few years working as the Civil Bureau Chief in the Montana Department of Justice.  I have spent considerable time lately defending constitutional challenges to Montana laws, including First Amendment challenges to our election laws.  I am concerned about the potential ramifications of the upcoming election, especially with respect to the Montana Supreme Court.  You may not be closely following the race between Justice Mike Wheat and Lawrence VanDyke, so I want to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts and let you know how important it is to re-elect Justice Wheat.

Montana’s Supreme Court elections have been non-partisan for nearly 80 years, and for good reason.   A Montana Supreme Court justice has a very important job, and candidates should be judged on their own qualifications, not by whether they are Ds or Rs.  VanDyke, however,  insists on turning the Supreme Court election into a partisan race, as demonstrated by his campaign website:  At a recent candidate’s forum, VanDyke’s partisan attacks were on full display (audio link::  Listening to the forum takes a little time, but I hope you agree it is worth it.

VanDyke came back to Montana from Texas in order to work for Attorney General Tim Fox in early 2013.  Few people in Montana know much about VanDyke.  He resigned from his position in the Attorney General’s office in January 2014, and has not worked there for months (even though his website still characterizes Attorney General Tim Fox as his “boss”).   I worked with VanDyke for over a year, and had the opportunity to see him in action.  He has little experience with the Montana legal system, and showed little interest developing a working knowledge of how to practice in our courts.  It is my opinion that VanDyke lacks the maturity and work ethic we should expect of someone aspiring to be a Supreme Court justice.

In a recent Great Falls Tribune article, the Director for the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago Law School, Brian Leiter, recalled his experiences with Mr. VanDyke several years ago on the issue of a book review written by VanDyke about “intelligent design.” (link:  Professor Leiter believes Mr. VanDyke’s writing on the topic was “intellectually dishonest” and notes:  “Are his religious commitments so strong that it’s going to lead him to ignore the law when they conflict? In that book review, he ignored the science, he ignored the philosophy and he ignored the logic. That would be bad news if he does the same thing as a judge.”

I believe everyone should be free to practice their chosen religion and I admire persons of faith.  Judges, however, should only be concerned with the law.  Based upon my recent experiences with VanDyke, I share Professor Leiter’s concerns — especially with respect to Montana’s election laws.  For example, based upon freedom of religion under the First Amendment, VanDyke has told me he does not believe Montana should be able to regulate speech by religious organizations in our elections.   It would not be difficult for “dark money” interests to use religious organizations as a front to avoid regulation or disclosure.  I am concerned that VanDyke will not cast aside his personal beliefs on these sorts of issues if elected to the bench.

An article on  the recent candidates’ forum discusses the candidates’ views on First Amendment and “dark money” and partisan politics  in judicial elections (links: and ).  My conversations with VanDyke lead me to believe that he does not support many (if any) of our important election laws, including  Montana’s attempts to require disclosure of those behind “dark money” and their activities in Montana elections.

Mike Wheat is longtime Montana resident and practicing attorney.  He is a decorated combat veteran.  He obviously cares about equal justice for all.  Wheat is a distinguished jurist, and deserves to be re-elected.  I hope you agree, and will take the time to discuss this important election with your fellow attorneys, friends , and clients.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

I do not speak on behalf of the Montana Department of Justice or Attorney General.  I do not sent this email in coordination with, or even with the knowledge of, any candidate or organization.  I am simply speaking out as a Montana voter on this very important Supreme Court election.  And I would be happy to talk with you further about these matters if you’d like, just let me know.

Michael G. Black

Attorney at Law

P.O. Box 318

Clinton, MT  59825-0318



Posted: October 1, 2014 at 7:15 pm by Cowgirl

MT Republican Puts Weird and Ridiculous GOP Views of Women on Display. Again.

gallagherIn a public and recorded meeting of the Montana Public Service Commission this week, the right-wing GOP Chair of the all GOP commission reverted in his discussion to a distant time, perhaps a time when he would have been more at home.

Floundering for an analogy for an electric power project that may have carried with it some downsides, Republican Bill Gallagher asked the bewildered witness:

“You remember back when we used to buy our wives from their fathers.  If the bride had blemishes, we’d pay less…”

To be sure, in today’s TEA Party strangled version of the Republican party, Gallagher’s views make him more a stalwart than an outlier. Gallagher is many things. Capable of functioning in the modern world is not one of them.

Gallagher brought up the analogy repeatedly throughout the PSC hearing. You can hear the remarks for yourself if you go to the PSC’s website. [WARNING:  You need Windows Media Player to hear this file because the PSC's website isn't so functional in the modern world either.]

1. Click on this link for audio of the September 30, 2014 PSC hearing: D2013.10.77 NWE Hearing Part 1

2. Fast forward to 2.1.50

3. Warn anyone sitting next to you that your head is about to explode. (Safety first.)


Posted: October 1, 2014 at 7:21 am by Justin Robbins

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.