Posted: April 9, 2014 at 7:22 am

“Shrimp Pimp” Art Wittich Complains about Cowgirl Blog at TEA Party Shrimp Peel

Disgraced Tea Partier and Art Wittich [pronounced "WIT-ick"] used the opening moments of his speech to Teton County TEA party Republicans to take a swipe at this blog.

The state senator, dubbed “Shrimp Pimp” by local republicans for goading TEA Partiers into hijacking the GOP’s popular local fundraiser, did not dispute the facts of any of my posts, rather he tried to attack me personally by flatly proclaiming that I’m not a woman, that I’m not Montana and that I “don’t know anything about cows.”  Why he thinks this is unclear, but probably based in sexism. People like Wittich think women can’t have good political blogs apparently.  Whatevs.

You can see the video here – Wittich’s anti-Cowgirl blog rant is one minute in.

It’s not surprising that this is the kind of line Wittich would take.  His problem is a very simple one:  He can’t complain about the merits of what I’ve written because everything that has been said about him has been backed up with facts.  I challenge the state Senator to find one thing I’ve written about him on this blog that isn’t true.

I shudder to think what Wittich will do when he finds out that his actions against the people of Montana and members of his own party are not just discussed on the blogs, but also on Facebook and Twitter, on television and in the newspapers, around dinner tables, at coffee shops, high school sporting events, at diner counters, and around water coolers across the state.

Posted: April 8, 2014 at 11:17 pm

We’ve Met the Enemy and It is Science and Knowledge

Creationists have been much in the news in Montana of late. Here’s the latest on Greg Gianforte, the billionaire tech mogul who apparently believes the earth is 4,300 years old.  It’s also time for an update on Lawrence VanDyke, the creationist supreme court candidate who believes in “pray away the gay” conversion therapy.

Continue reading

Posted: April 8, 2014 at 7:25 am

TEA Partiers Running as Dems Become Active in Right-Wing Causes

A dirty plot hatched by the local conservatives to deceive voters and with TEA Party Republicans pretending to be Democrats has thickened.  No less than eight TEA Party conservatives have filed for office as democrats has just come to light. Now, the possible motives and potential and level of coordination of these party-switching candidates is starting to emerge: one has already appeared as a pawn in a lawsuit filed by a right-wing extremist and TEA Party candidate who is seeking to block access to federal funds to pay for health care for the working poor and Veterans in Montana.

Take fake democrat Kathy Hollenback, who appears in TEA Party republican Matthew Monforton’s lawsuit against Republican Tim Fox. Monforton has filed a flurry of lawsuits laden with right-wing ideology and buzzwords since becoming a candidate for office. He’s suing the Attorney General because Fox certified the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative as legally sufficient and wrote a fiscal statement for the initiative which explains both the cost and the savings of the measure to accept federal funds and use available federal monies coming to Montana for health care for the working poor: ranch hands, motel clerks, construction workers, and waitresses.

Monforton recruited Hollenback  to help him deceive the public into thinking he has bipartisan support his nonsense.

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Hollenback’s husband is David Ponte who formerly ran for legislature on the GOP ticket in 2010.  Ponte is a tea party winger who is precinct chair of the Gallatin Republican Party.  Ponte has filed numerous complaints against democrats and mainstream Republicans whom the TEA Partiers dislike.

The other parties Monforton has recruited for his lawsuit he claims are part of an MSU group that doesn’t appear anywhere other than the pages of his twisted legal arguments.

Monforton has given his group the ridiculous sounding name “If You Like Your MSU Funding, You Can Keep It.”  The supposed “group” includes Kathy Hollenback, TEA Party candidate running as a fake democrat, Ed Johnson, an MSU student running for the Legislature as a Republican; and Kyndall Miller, daughter of Ken Miller, who lost in the GOP Gubernatorial primary against Rick Hill in 2012.

Both Ed Johnson and Hollenback are running in HD66, in the heart of Bozeman.

Monforton wrote a letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle recently denigrating the elected body he himself is seeking to join as a “parliament of whores.” Rick Hill hired Bozeman Tea Party hot-head Monforton to give him legal advice. It it was Monforton’s idea to take the infamous $500,000 donation, and it was perhaps the worst legal advice in Montana political history, probably destroying Hill’s campaign.

To my knowledge, the Gallatin Republicans have’t weighed in on this deception yet, nor have they explained why Gallatin Republicans have a white supremacist on their website, Drew Turiano.

 

Posted: April 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Analysis: Unmarried Women, Youth, People of Color Key to 2014 Electoral Success in MT

A new analysis of likely Montana voters found that unmarried women, people of color, and young people hold the key to electoral success in 2014, according to the Voter Participation Center and pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners.

That’s because according to the report nearly 38,000 of these Montana voters, dubbed the “rising American electorate” could stay home this election year, as compared to 2012, which could mean the difference between winning or losing key races.

Drop-off from the last election cycle in 2012 – either from failure to register or failure to turn out at the polls – is a significant issue as Montana’s June 3rd primary and November election near. Unmarried women make up 24,000 of those Montana “drop-off” voters – a substantial bloc.

What we don’t want is a repeat of the 2010 elections, when only 38% of these voters voted, resulting in the nightmare that created the 2011 “bat-crap crazy” legislature.

Consider that Montanans cast 386,000 votes in the 2010 election. The report shows that combining the potential drop off (38,000) with all other Montanans who are likely to stay home (approximately 40,000 voters) could lead to a combined potential loss of nearly 80,000 ballots from across Montana not cast this year.

The key to getting these voters to the polls is to talk about pocket book issues that are relevant to them, have an active volunteer base, and of course not branding oneself as part of the anti-jobs, anti-health care, anti-science, anti-21st century, pro-racism party.

Posted: April 7, 2014 at 6:23 am

Choice of Flavors of Republican Shrimp: Angry or Angrier

The great Shrimp Peel schism in Teton county could be viewed as a microcosm of what is happening to the Republican Party.

The Teton county GOP hosts an annual banquet, known as the Shrimp Peel, where an older crowd of mostly angry men with white mustaches and 1970′s blazers complain about President Obama, socialism, spending, taxes and so on.  They do this while feasting on all-you-can-eat shrimp (unpeeled, meaning that flavor and freshness is preserved) as well as spaghetti.

This year, the Tea Party announced that it would hold its own event, because the Choteau area’s Teton County Republican Party is too liberal.  Thus there is now a competing Shrimp Peel, for true conservatives.

The main Peel (the “establishment” Shrimp Peel, if you will), will go down on May 2.  Patrons will be treated to a keynote speech by the top GOP celebrity in Montana, congressman Steve Daines.

The booby prize goes to the attendees of right-wing Shrimp Peel, which took place Friday night.   Their speaker was disgraced Tea Partier Art Wittich, who the TEA Partiers told the Choteau Acantha, was instigating the TEA Partiers to break off and have their own ultra-conservative peel. [Article pdf one two.]  Perhaps that’s why the local GOP central committee took out ads referring to him as the “Shrimp Pimp.”

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Local GOPers are not pleased about Essmann and Wittich meddling in their local affairs, and have been saying as much in the local papers. 

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Ads for the phony peel are below:

PhonyPeel PhonyPeel1

Wittich has been trying to be the Tea Party heavy for many years, though it’s not going well for him.   He was also notified this week by the Montana election authorities that he violated state law by taking illegal contributions from the criminal enterprise known as American Tradition Partnership.  His violations were so egregious that the Commissioner of Political Practices, Jon Motl, will soon be in district court recommending that Wittich be removed from the ballot in November.  The violations made national news. 

In the private sector, Wittich’s contributions to society include having once billed a legal client $2,300 for 20 minutes of legal work. The bill was $98.70, but Wittich tacked on a few thousand extra because the client didn’t pay on schedule.

Bon appetite, Choteau.

Posted: April 3, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Dem Party Makes Surprising Endorsement in Primary

We learned this week that the Democratic Party executive board, in a meeting earlier this month, voted to endorse John Walsh in his primary.  This left John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams out in the cold, and they are crying foul.

The Party rules disfavor endorsements in the primary, for the obvious reason that party politics are ultimately about people, not boards.  But the by-laws say that a “proven incumbent” can be endorsed “with a two thirds vote of the board.”  It is rare, and the rule is usually only employed in primaries where there is no serious opposition at all against an incumbent.   Baucus and Schweitzer received endorsements, for example, when they ran for re-election even though they had minor opponents.

However, this time things got sticky because on the same day that the Walsh endorsement was issued, the Party issued a statement in which Adams and Bohlinger were labeled as “not true Democrats.”

I can understand the value, strategically speaking, in trying to clear the field for John Walsh.  Walsh is leading the primary right now according to polls, and it is not a stretch to say that many things–his major fundraising advantage among them–make him the toughest candidate to field against Daines at this time.

But I am ambivalent about this move by the Party.  Bohlinger was once a Republican, yes, and voted also against choice, and he will have to answer for that in this election.   But he has since switched sides and supports choice, and progressives probably should keep in mind that though he has quacked like a Republican duck for many years at Schweitzer’s side, it was deliberately for the political benefit of the Schweitzer administration. Bohlinger worked hard every two year  to get Democrats elected.  And yes, Adams wrote checks to a few Republicans, for various reasons which he explained in the press lately, and that will (and should) hurt him among voters.  But he also gave to Democratic candidates.  And again, I am not sure that the Party should be proclaiming people as Democrats or Not Democrats.  We have to leave room for people to be able to change parties.

And I’ve been reading the remarks of critics on Twitter and elsewhere who point to the fact that the party is an organization that is designed to be grassroots, and I’m debating in my mind whether those arguments (even if pushed mainly by partisans of Bohlinger and Adams) should carry weight here.   If and when the Party endorses someone, it is supposed to reflect the clear and unequivocal opinion of the people.  Such could be said of the occasions in the past when the Party has made endorsements in the Primary.  I’m not sure it can be said here.

The Flathead Memo also has a post up on this that is worth reading.

 

 

Posted: April 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Gianforte Weighs In On Montana Tech Rumpus

Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 9.42.29 PMIt was revealed last week that Greg Gianforte, the billionaire tech mogul from Bozeman who apparently believes that the earth is 4,300 years old, has been invited to speak at Montana Tech’s graduation. This touched off a stir,  with stories in Montana and national press.  Students and teachers at Montana Tech are organizing a boycott.

Gianforte’s wife was also invited to give the speech with him, in a kind of duet.  But she has her own problems–she’s a big player in the “christian shop-owners must have a right to discriminate against LGBT people” movement.  She recently testified against Bozeman’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance, and Gianforte bankrolls the non-discrimination ordinance opposition.  His wife is chair of the pro-discrimination bunch’s board of directors.

To smooth things out, Gianforte today wrote a piece of his own, in the Montana Standard, defending himself.   Strangely, he makes no mention of his “young earth” theories, nor about whether such beliefs should disqualify a person from speaking at a geology school.

Rather, he addresses discrimination (without specifically mentioning his wife or the fact that she’s the chair of the board of the organization fighting to keep discrimination legal, which Gianforte bankrolls), and claims that he opposes it.  He also says that the best way to deal with it is to give people a good education so that they be raised to know right from wrong.  He then goes on to list all of his educational philanthropy–all the money he has given in the pursuit of better educational opportunities for young people.

Therefore, if I hear him correctly, Gianforte believes that his wife needs to be sent back to school, and be taught that discriminating against LGBT people is wrong.  Perhaps Gianforte can set up a scholarship for her, with the money he demands back from the Montana Family Foundation.

 

Posted: April 1, 2014 at 9:24 pm

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to…

It’s always an arduous process to narrow down the selection to just one GOP hypocrite, so this week there are two big winners: Hobby Lobby, and the MT GOP Young Guns.

Hobby Lobby was a no-brainer.  They’re the big handicrafts box store which sued to stop the Affordable Care Act from guaranteeing that evil, immoral contraception was covered by insurance policies. Meanwhile, at the same time, the companies own retirement plan had more than $73 million invested in birth control companies.

Yes, for being for birth control when it benefited them, but being against it when it benefited their own female employees, Hobby Lobby = hypocrisy exemplified. Molly Redden of Mother Jones has the story.  Birth control is something that 85% of women use at some point in their lives, yet TEA partiers want to exclude it from being counted as basic preventive medicine.

But no mention of hypocrites would be complete without a look at the Twitterverse infestation that calls itself the “GOP Young Guns.”

These bright minds spent the day tweeting inanities in hopes of persuading young females to become GOPers by telling them that there is gender pay gap or sexism in the world, then immediately going on to criticize Lilly Ledbetter for her looks.

 So, for trying to claim sexism doesn’t exist, then attacked the nation’s leading equal pay advocate for what she looked like, the Montana GOP Young Guns are this week’s co-winners.

Who could have predicted that their handful of tweets claiming that the GOP supports women fell on deaf ears. I guess they thought that claiming sexism didn’t exist was the next best they could do.  For more deep thoughts from this bunch, click here.

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Posted: April 1, 2014 at 7:42 am

April Fools

Unfortunately, these April Fool’s Day political quick hits are all too real.

TEA Party “Operation DINO” Plot Uncovered in Multiple States

A Maryland reporter revealed this week on Huffington Post that a far-right activist plot to deceive voters is not limited to Montana but is also at work in Mississippi and Maryland. Read Jonathan Hutson’s article here. 

Candidate Brags About Showing Up at Carbon County Event Advertised with Racist Flyer

When the Carbon County Republicans mailed out the invitation to attend the local Republicans’ annual “Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner” they included treatise which claims that it is the Republican Party which fights racism and that the TEA Party movement is not indeed packed with racists–but also that President Obama is being allowed to “get away with giving the American people the finger” because: “He is black.”

So how can Obama get away with giving the American people the finger?” this letter to local Republicans reads, “The answer. He is black.” And this:

…deceived Americans embraced the progressives’ young, handsome, articulate, and so-called moderate black presidential candidate as a symbol of their liberation from accusations of being a racist nation.

You can download the garbage mailer here.   The  author of some of the worst material in the flyer is the group’s featured speaker, but that didn’t stop one GOP-er from bragging about being the only candidate to attend.   See for yourself:

Elsie Arntzen

 

Posted: March 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm

Medicaid Expansion Story Misses the Boat

A recent Public Radio story about a ballot measure to use federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor left out some important information which left readers with an inaccurate view of what’s really going on.

Republicans are trying to claim that a ballot initiative to make some working poor Montanans eligible for Medicaid will cost more than it actually will cost, but the story misses some important points that show why the GOP’s claims are quite hollow.

The public radio story purports to compare estimates from the Governor’s office and Montana legislature on the cost and savings associated with expanding Medicaid to the working poor. However, the story leaves out the most important points – why the estimates are different, and why the opponents are saying what they’re saying.

Here’s what you need to know:

Republicans say that Montana can’t use savings generated from the extra federal funds coming to all states through the Affordable Care Act to fund the state’s share of the Medicaid expansion.

It’s unfortunate that the Public Radio story fails to mention an important fact related to any story about Medicaid expansion: that Affordable Care Act originally did not make expanding Medicaid optional. The health care reform bill extended Medicaid eligibility in all states–and paid for 100% of the cost of benefits for the first three years and most of the cost thereafter.

The new health care law also says the federal government would pick up more of the tab for states that had already expanded coverage to some people. Many states had already expanded coverage for some adults–even Montana had already expanded coverage for children in 2008.

Later of course, the Supreme Court said states could decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage or not, but it did not strike the part of the bill related to expansion that gave states extra federal funding to cover kids. The Affordable Care Act sent this extra money to states because it intended for them to expand medicaid coverage, so this is the obvious pot of money to use now.  MTPR should have included this fundamental piece of information.

Now let’s talk about the complainer-in-chief that MTPR interviews for this story. The man is Fred Thomas, who has had a long career in the insurance industry.

This is an important point because the insurance industry is currently seeking additional concessions, favorable rules, and lenient regulations from Congress and the administration. Unless you live under a rock, you know that insurance companies are screaming like little babies about any and all things related to the Affordable Care Act. It’s a kabuki theater of posturing and criticism designed soften the feds to give in to the industry’s latest demands (and increase their profit margins), and it sheds some light on why Mr. Thomas is trying to manufacture a controversy.

While I don’t expect MTPR to note that Fred Thomas was also the architect of energy deregulation, and therefore known to have little concern for public assets,  I’ll note it here as we all know how poorly that turned out.

Finally, it is simply ludicrous to refer to the legislative fiscal division as “the nonpartisan office responsible for analyzing the state budget.”

Perhaps the concept of separation of powers between the branches of government is new to TEA Party legislators, but most people know that the executive branch reports to the Governor, and the legislative branch reports to the legislative leadership:  Jeff Essmann and Art Wittich. In addition to not being non-partisan, the legislative staff are also not responsible for creating fiscal notes. That duty is assigned by law to the Office of Budget and Program Planning. And since Montanans did not elect a Republican as Governor, that office does not answer to them, and the GOPers are obviously not happy.

Public radio usually does such great work and I doubt they’ll be pleased to learn that Fred Thomas is trying to make them his pawn. So I’m hopeful that these facts will not be omitted in future coverage.