Posted: December 5, 2014 at 10:50 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women

GOP also decrees:  Don’t get caught in fleece, jersey, or open-toed sandals

The TEA Party House Republican leadership of the 2015 legislature has issued a new edict, the first of its kind that I have seen.

Because they love freedom and personal liberty, they’ve issued a formal mandatory dress code for anyone who seeks to be allowed into the House floor.  Besides demanding “business formal” dress, the new decree calls on women to mind their necklines and skirt lengths.   House GOP leadership are empowered to police the new edict.

This important policy is written in all capital letters, of course, because what else would you  expect from world-class leaders.

Since this new dress code is not particularly clear, the Cowgirl Blog has provided a handy guide below.   After all, the dress code is not just for legislators but also for “LEGISLATIVE STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA, INTERNS AND AIDES” who  “MUST ALSO ABIDE BY THIS POLICY IF ON THE FLOOR WHILE THE BODIES ARE GAVELED INTO SESSION.”

Once you see what’s in the dress code, it’s clear it is targeted at women–and probably reporters.  After all, reporters are really the only people who can access the house floor besides the legislators’ own staff–and a handful of high school “pages.”  Last session, reporters were required for the first time to get special permission or “passes” to be on the House Floor at all.  Then the next thing we know, the senate president is looking into evicting the Associated Press from its capital office. Now this. But let’s get right to the dress code. There are eight rules in the edict, however, rule #6 was not released and we must presume it is being kept secret for some reason.

UPDATE:  GOP Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen is now  blaming his staffer for the dresscode, as you can see in the Bozeman Chronicle article that just came out.

First,  women are ordered to be “SENSITIVE TO SKIRT LENGTHS AND NECKLINES.”

(No similar guidance was provided to men to be mindful of tight or sagging pants and hideously short eagle-carrying-an-assault-rifle-in-its-beak neckties.)

The dress code also bans leggings. The legging ban may be a dig at the young women of Skyview High School who are fighting a dress code policy that unfairly targets young women in Billings.

So leggings are out, as are open toed sandals.  However, under this dress code concealed carry holsters under beige suits with bolo ties would definitely be okay –at least once the legislature passes the obligatory “concealed carry for everyone” bill the TEA Party introduces every year. 


Next, I see that “FLEECE AND JERSEY (SWEATSHIRT) MATERIAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED “BUSINESS FORMAL.”  Somebody needs to tell the dudes that wrote this that jersey and sweatshirt material are two entirely different things, but alas until then the rule stands.  Jersey tops like this are banned:

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While this polyester number as shown on former TEA Party Sen. Joe Balyeat is just dandy:



It also appears that men and women are required to wear suits, or suit jackets at all times or, for women  “a suit-like dress” may be worn, whatever that is.  Unfortunately, that means some of the clothing worn by GOP lawmakers in their own official legislative photos does not meet the new code.

This attire on GOP Rep. Christie Clark is now banned:

christy clark 2

Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau)

Also banned would be any reporter who showed up to help inform the public dressed like this – as cardigans have been nixed:


While this garb (the closest thing I could find that might resemble the item supposedly known as a “suit-like dress,” and which ceased to be made 30 years ago) would be allowed:


suit-like dress


The dress code also specifies that “JEANS OR DENIM MATERIAL, INCLUDING COLORED DENIM, IS NOT ALLOWED.”  Which means the apparel worn by TEA Party Rep. Nancy Ballance would be banned:

Nancy Ballance


No mention is made of Colonel Sanders ties, but this must be an oversight and I expect further guidance on this Montana Legislature wardrobe staple soon (shown on former TEA Party Rep. Alan Hale).


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But it when it comes to requiring respectful behavior, there are some who would say this dress code appears to be geared more toward cracking down on women than on respectful behavior from men.

(I mean, it certainly would make everyone happier if men were more sensitive about the length of athletic shorts worn at the house/senate basketball game and if all Looney Tunes and Tasmanian devil ties were burned – but the dress code makes no mention of these.)

Instead of forcing backward modesty standards on women, here are some guidelines that the 64th Legislature would do better to adopt:

1. Legislators shall not refer to women as livestock, farm equipment, or household pets – and when debating a bill on breast cancer prevention, shall not berate their colleagues for supporting the “boob bill.”

2. Legislators shall take a breathalyzer test before they are allowed a vote, since they seem to think drug tests should be mandated on poor families.

3. High school pages shall be allowed to learn about the legislative process and not relegated to fetching 57 ice-cream sandwiches a day while being ogled creepily.

4. Legislators shall stop trying trying to hide their actions and true plans from the public and the press.

Bozeman Chronicle reporter Troy Carter tweeted a reaction from House minority whip Rep. Jenny Eck (D-Helena) this morning.  Eck said dems had nothing to do with the dress code.

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Posted: December 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Stormtroopers Move up a Notch

Republican operatives are moving up in the world, now that the GOP has had a good year. It’s a colorful bunch.

Randy Vogel, Denny Rehberg’s long time aide, will be Ryan Zinke’s state director.  Vogel was last discussed on this blog when he was being prosecuted for poaching an elk out of season. He was acquitted.  Also, several sources tell me that Vogel’s nickname when he was on the police force was “Thumper” for the way he treated detainees. And we know Zinke will be well protected, because Vogel once punched out a critic of Rehberg at a bar where Vogel and Denny were drinking.

Bowen Greenwood, meanwhile, fresh off of his big electoral victories, has been snatched up by the Montana Family Foundation.  That’s a good fit, for several reasons.  First, Greenwood is a very religious person.  While other GOP operatives tweet often about politics, Bowen tweets mostly about Jesus as well as his own religious writings.  Second, the Family Foundation will have outsized influence in the 2015 legislature, with alumni luminaries such as Lazsloffy and Lamm heading up committees.

But lest you think Greenwood to be a total square, see this video of him letting his hair down to Baby Got Back.  Perhaps he was celebrating his Family Foundation appointment:

Moving on, Chris Shipp, a young up-and-coming right-wing brown shirt, will be taking over for Bowen.  Shipp, 25, spent his time at Carroll College and UM Law as a Rob Natelson disciple.  Natelson is the wingnut extraordinaire law professor who has argued the legal basis for the pro-slavery doctrine of Nullification, which holds that states may selectively ignore federal law.

And the State Fund, which administers our state’s workers comp system and often screws workers, has shown its true political colors by hiring Ethan Heverly, the campaign manager for Matt Rosendale (the frightening uber-right candidate who lost in the primary), as government affairs director.  Heverly was also a member of the “McCain Youth.”  That’s an excellent fit, as the State Fund’s latest promotional campaign is modeled on a slogan that the Nazis employed at the entrance to concentration camps.

Posted: December 4, 2014 at 8:26 am by Cowgirl

GOP Makes Rules to Deny Public Access to Legislature, Consolidate Power with TEA Party Leaders

Yesterday, apparently outside of the scrutiny of the Montana press, TEA Partiers in the Montana House passed a series of rules consolidating power with hard right leaders and stamping out any dying embers of even the pretense of cooperation with moderate or the minority.

First, apparently miffed by their inability to hold secret caucus meetings in hotel basements without public scrutiny, the GOP leadership sought to create what TEA Party Rep. Art Wittich called a “refuge” to talk with other legislators without the public present. (Wittich faces removal from office for his role in the meth house scandal.)

They passed a rule actually rule banning the public from the house floor 24 hours a day – 7 says a week. In the past the public was not allowed on the house floor two hours before and after a floor session, but at all other hours were able to come to speak with legislators.

TEA Party house Majority Leader Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) led the fight against democratic Rep Tom Woods’ (D-Bozeman) attempt to amend the GOP rule to restrict lobbyists but retain access for citizens.

The house rules committee also demoted all minority vice chairs in the house to “ranking members” – eliminating even a presence of bipartisan cooperation. The move ads to a recent outbreak of TEA Party chest thumping to say “WE are in charge.”

Essmann said the demotions were justified because this is how the historically inept and most unpopular institution in America, the US Congress does it.

But the worst rule change of the day came from TEA Party Majority Whip Rep. Greg Hertz (R-Polson) who introduced a rule change to further consolidate more power in one man, TEA Party of the speaker of the House, Rep Austin Knudson (R-Culbertson).

The new rule makes it virtually impossible for the legislature as a whole to vote to override the decision of the speaker’s to send bills to appropriations to be  killed.  In th east, a majority vote (51 legislators) could overturn the speaker’s decision to send bills to appropriations.  The GOPers on the committee voted to change the threshold to 3/5 The GOP frequently uses the appropriation committee as a way to put bills through further hurdles and kill the bill.

The rules changes were resisted at every opportunity by House Minority Leader Rep. Chuck Hunter (D-Helena), Rep. Kim Dudik (D-Missoula), Rep. Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman) and Rep. Tom Woods (D-Bozeman). The new public access restrictions and power consolidation rules will next move to the full house of representatives who are expected to adopt them on the first day of the 2015 legislature.

Posted: December 3, 2014 at 10:08 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Legislature Looks at Options for a State Government Shutdown

The GOP-controlled Montana Legislature appears to be studying its options to shutdown the state’s government.

Materials posted on the legislative website from an interim committee called the Legislative Council include a report on state government shutdowns entitled “Shutdown Showdowns” from the National Council of State Legislators, which is non-partisan–along with the usual “studies” to try to justify increasing legislators’ own pay and perks.  The NCSL report has since been removed, but you can see it online here.  [screenshot]

As readers here know, when Steve Daines and his fellow Republicans in Congress shut down the government last year, the GOP’s approval rating plummeted to a record low. Montana’s economy also took a $45 million dollar hit from the shutdown of our national parks, according to Moody’s Analytics, 10/21/13 and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, 9/17/13.

Apparently that hasn’t dampened the MTGOP’s enthusiasm for shutdowns.

The Chair of the Legislative Council is Jeff Essmann.


Posted: December 3, 2014 at 7:52 am by Cowgirl

2016 and the Montana Governor’s Race

A poll was published earlier this week by the Gravis Marketing firm showing Ryan Zinke and Tim Fox edging out Steve Bullock in 2016.  This poll is not to be trusted.

Gravis marketing is like a broken clock that shows the correct time twice a day.  It was a laughable organization for its conservative bias for a number of years up until 2016, when it’s conservative bias enabled it to be accurate because the electorate ended up being more conservative than anyone had envisioned.  That, and also consider that the poll last week did not include a Libertarian in the survey.

No doubt Republicans will be emboldened by this automated push-button phone poll, but take it to the bank: a real pollster’s numbers will look nothing like what Gravis has produced.

On a related subject, I’ve now conversed with several reporters as well as sources high up in Montana democratic politics, who all say that Greg Gianforte is going to take a pass in 2016 and will not be running for governor, although nobody seems to be able to point to a reason.  We can all look forward to hearing more about this.

Posted: December 1, 2014 at 8:05 am by Cowgirl

GOP Chair Calls Special Meeting to Deal with Tea Party

An urgent meeting has been called by the Chairman of the Montana Republican Party. The date is January 10th.

The assembled Republicans will vote on whether to join a federal lawsuit filed a few months ago by a group of Tea Party nuts against the State of Montana, arguing that our primary election system is unconstitutional. The original official plaintiffs are from Ravalli County but the ringleader and lawyer for the group is none other than Matthew Monforton, the Tea Party hot-head from Bozeman who wants to wage war against GOP moderates.

Monforton say that Montana’s primary elections, in which any voter is allowed by law to choose either the Republican or Democratic ballot, violates the constitutional “right of association” under which political groups may decide whom to include and exclude. This bunch think our system is too inclusive, for it allows non-purists to vote in the GOP primary.

If these idiots win, then Montanans will be forced to list their party affiliation when they register to vote, or else be forbidden from voting in the primary.   Sounds crazy, right?  It is.  Montana’s open primary has existed for 100 years and was founded on the notion  that the voter deserves as many choices as possible, and that parties should not control politics.

Could a federal judge just junk our setup?  Well, it has happened before.  A similar challenge by right-wing activists was won in Idaho recently and Idaho’s open primary–identical to Montana’s–was stuck down.

At any rate, the most delicious aspect of this controversy (from a blogging perspective, at least) is the special GOP meeting called for January 10 by the GOP chairman Will Deschamp, who is panicking.   At this assembly, those in attendance will vote on whether the Party should join the lawsuit (thus trying to close down the primary) or stay out of it. This is no small thing.  If the state GOP refuses to support the lawsuit, it could harm the suit or even defeat it. If the GOP joins the suit, it could help it succeed.

The problem is this: The Montana GOP already voted on this issue, this summer.

At the annual convention a few months back, the Republicans voted in favor of closing down the primary so that only registered Republicans can vote in it.  The resolution is now enshrined in the Montana Republican party’s formal platform, just like other crazy things which have been or are still there such as buying back the National Parks from the US government or imprisoning LBGT people.  As you know, GOP conventions are heavily attended by lunatics, who set crazy policy positions that often embarrass the GOP.  Usually, however, the party is able to allow the lunatics to have their fun, because there’s never any realistic chance for the fringe policies to be enacted.

But this time it’s different.  The GOP has to act in one way or another. Monforton has called the GOP’s bluff.

The problem, as chairman Will Deschamps clearly understands, is that a huge portion of Montana voters, and indeed a huge portion of GOP members, will be furious if they are forced to become members of a party as a precondition for voting.  These voters, in turn, would blame the GOP.   So Deschamps find himself in the humiliating pickle of being forced to call a meeting, and to stack the meeting with moderate delegates, so that he can try to reverse a plank in the Republican platform that was ratified only several months ago at a convention that followed age-old rules of order.

Monforton, who will be in the state legislature come January, has already taken a shot at Deschamp for calling this meeting.  “It’s nothing more than an attempt by Deschamps to have a do-over in order to stab rank and file members in the back and get his own cronies to reverse the vote,” he told the AP last week.

Monforton’s gang, of course, has a very clear motive in bringing this suit: make the GOP more conservative by eliminating moderate voters from primaries.  This is exactly what would happen if primaries were party-member only affairs.  Imagine if the only voters who could participate in a GOP primary were Tea Partiers.  What do you think such a party would be like? Nominees would be loons like Matt Rosedale, not Ryan Zinke; not Rick Hill, but Klansmen like Drew Turiano.  Rick Santorum, not Romney, would have won the primary in Montana.

It should be great fun to observe this meeting in January.  Surely the press will be invited.


Posted: November 25, 2014 at 10:24 pm by Cowgirl

GOP Packs Education Committee with Homeschoolers, Crackpots, and Convicts

Sarah Laszloffy, Debra Lamm

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin

As bizarre as this may sound, the Montana Republicans have chosen Sarah Laszloffy (R-Laurel) to be Chair of the House Education Committee. Laszloffy is 23-years-old and a major advocate (and product) of homeschooling and promotes using your tax dollars to subsidize private sectarian religious schools. She is also an alumnus of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students of all ages come to learn how to live  “a supernatural lifestyle.” (Who says Republicans are to opposed alternative lifestyles?)

According to the school’s website, Laszloffy and her fellow students learn how to “do the Bible,” —including useful skills such as “how to cast out demons” and other practical solutions to life’s most pressing problems.  [screenshot]

Bethel’s members also purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life, although this failed when one young man at the academy fell from a 200-foot cliff and Bethel students tried for several hours to pray him back to life before calling 911. The victim, who had not actually died yet but was instead unconscious, filed a lawsuit against the students after he ended up a paraplegic.  

Laszloffy quickly removed references to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry from her Facebook profile once the Cowgirl blog made the information public two years ago, but you can see a screenshot here.

Laszloffy is the daughter of noted birther Jeff Laszloffy who is a lobbyist for the ultra-religious, ultra-right-wing group which calls itself the Montana Family Foundation.  

And if it’s not bad enough that this young ignoramus has been chosen to occupy the GOP’s top education post in the Montana state legislature, consider who her top deputy will be:  the number two Republican on the Education committee will be Debra Lamm (R-Livingston), who also worked for the Family Foundation and in fact was the group’s top lobbyist until this year.  She will be vice chair of the House Education Committee.  

Lamm’s greatest hits include her publicly held belief that improved math and reading standards are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ’dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.” She has also worked closely on education policy with the wealthy Greg Gianforte of Bozeman, who builds museums that attempt to prove that dinosaurs lived 4,000 years ago. 

Overall, however, I’d say the big winner in the Laszloffy and Lamm appointments is Chick-Fil-A.   The Family Foundation was behind the enlightened plan to import stale chicken sandwiches to Montana from Chick-Fil-A locations in other states (there are none in Montana) after it announced that it wanted to keep discrimination against LBGT people legal.

But if you thought the bizarre appointments ended there, you’d be wrong.

To be sure, the Montana GOP is a party which has long held a revered place for ignorance in its official party platform–a document which has gone so far as enshrined positions in support of birtherism and the gold standard and making being gay an imprisonable offense.

Even so, newly appointed house education committee member Rep. Matthew Monforton appears to lack faith that Republican voters can tell the difference between someone who’s truly uninformed and someone who’s just faking it to get elected on the GOP ticket.  He’s calling for closed primaries–which would prevent independents, the unaffiliated and anyone but GOP stalwarts from voting in the GOP primary.  Presumably this will help the electoral chances of the truly backward – so that they too m may be appointed to the committee that makes Montana’s education laws.

Rounding out the house education committee is convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers of Havre.

What this means for policy isn’t clear.  In the past, Montana republicans have pushed for bills to restore corporal punishment in the classroom–and to expand the concept to all of society by allowing the option of corporal punishment for those convicted of misdemeanor and felony crimes in Montana.


Posted: November 24, 2014 at 7:16 pm by Cowgirl

Barrett’s Senate Presidency Is No Victory for Women

In the quiet time before the legislature, let me address an issue that has recently bubbled up.

A few commenters have suggested that I did not adequately herald the arrival of a woman into the office of Senate president.  Debbie Barrett was two weeks ago chosen to fill this post, making her the first woman in Montana to take the job.

Barrett has served in a GOP leadership role before.  Indeed last session, former Senate President Jeff Essmann put out a press release (screenshot) touting state Sen. Debby Barrett as being the first woman to serve as first “Speaker Pro Tem” of the Montana Senate.

But alas, it turned out the legislative branch’s own website shows that the first woman served as Speaker Pro Tem in Montana 20 years ago – when a woman named Marian Hanson held the post.  So Essmann had to issue  an embarrassing correction.   In it, Essmann called Barrett, who has a zero percent voting record with Montana’s leading women’s issue advocates, “a trailblazer for women legislators everywhere.”

If by trailblazer, Essmann means following trails that lead back to a cave in the dark ages for a mandatory transvaginal ultrasound, then Debby Barrett certainly deserves the highest honor.

So achieving the milestone is a victory for Barrett, yes.  But it is not anything close to a victory for women because she is a backward, angry conservative and the antithesis of a feminist. She has a history of voting against women’s rights and issues, including reproductive autonomy, the right not to be discriminated against by insurance companies, the right to safely enter a medical clinic, the right to medically accurate sex education, education, help for seniors and food for hungry kids, and many other issues important to feminists.

And I am sorry to inform my conservative readers, but Barrett’s selection is to a large extent tokenism, carried out by a party that is almost exclusively white guys who are perennially humiliated in the way they talk about women, how they vote on issues important to women, and the way that their party fails to include women in public service.   I would encourage you, for example, to count up the number of women statewide candidates from both parties in the last decade.  It is shocking, but the GOP’s total–including every primary and every general election for Governor, AG, Securities and Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of State and Superintendent of Schools–can be counted on less than one hand, whereas dozens of women candidacies (and incumbents such as Angela McClean) have been successful on the democratic side.  And the proportion of female legislators with an R after their names is equally dismal.

Barrett’s selection is akin to the appointment of Michael Steele, the African American, by the Republicans to be RNC chairman, or the touting by the party of other black people like Ben Carson or Allen West.  These are public showings put on by the Republicans, on the theory that a minstrel show can suffice to address concerns that the party is racist.

Such motivation is, not if not fully, then largely behind the election of Ms. Barrett.  After years of crusty men giving speeches during the legislature about women’s issues, bleating that birth control is for sluts, that women are like cattle or that pregnancy should not be covered by health insurance, something drastic needed to be done by the GOP.  And Barrett was the answer.  But she is not a champion for women, and I will be proven right again and again once the session starts.


Posted: November 20, 2014 at 7:02 am by Cowgirl

Whitefish Anti-Racist Battle Featured on Rachel Maddow

The town of Whitefish’s battle against white supremacy was feature on Rachel Maddow last night.    The Flathead Beacon first reported the story. But if you go to the Beacon’s site, beware the comments section, which has been taken over by racists’ sickening ravings that make it obvious why the people of Whitefish don’t want Richard Spencer’s white supremacy group in their town.

Here’s last night’s Maddow Show – the segment on Montana is first up.

Maddow also skewers the local private Big Mountain Club.  That’s because after white supremacist leader Richard Spencer got in a fight with a former McCain advisor on the chair lift, the club decided they could only keep one member – and chose the racist.

The effort to condemn a white supremacy group operating out of Whitefish through the city resolution process is being organized by Love Lives Here, a Flathead Valley affiliate of the Montana Human Rights Network.  To help, you can donate to the Montana Human Rights Network online here. 


**UPDATE-  There are two entities- Big Mountain Ski Club-which is not involved in this in anyway and is a local community ski swap- and “Big Mountain Club” which is the entity Spencer is a member of.

Please help spread the word so that this great local group can stop responding to angry emails about Richard Spencer!


UPDATE: As of this morning, the online petition drive us up and running.  You’ll be able to find it and sign here from the Love Lives Here Facebook page:

Posted: November 19, 2014 at 7:28 am by Cowgirl

Montana Republicans Step Up Attack on Party Moderates

Chuck Johnson reported yesterday that the Flathead Republican Party has publicly censured veteran Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell for not being enough of a right-wing TEA Partier and for daring to actually support water rights for the one Montana tribe which still lacks a water compact.

Today, Senate Republicans are expected to announce their committee assignments.  Cowgirl tipsters report that Republicans will stack certain committees with more republicans than merited by the make up of the house and senate (so that some committees are not representative of the proportion of Ds and Rs in the Senate) as a way of thwarting the efforts of moderates to properly represent the views of the people in their districts.

There are also rumors that GOP leadership is pulling more experienced and knowledgable people from committees they’ve served on in the past if right-wingers fear they they will not toe the TEA Party line. The senate may also cut the entire number of members on the senate’s most important committee Finance and Claims.  Whether this is a move to make sure no moderates have a voice on that committee or as a way to punish moderates for past votes I can’t say.   These contortions may help right-wing leadership more easily force its will on GOP lawmakers, but they also ensure the voters of many districts will not have the representation they deserve.

None of these games serve the people of Montana well.

We’ll see if this holds true when the senate assignments are announced today.  House assignments are rumored to be much worse.