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 followthemoney.org, 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.