I had a chance to watch the hearing for the Healthy Montana Plan bill, HB 249,last night and could not help noting both few opponents showed up and the type of opposition they offered.
More than 250 Montanans stood up to support Rep. Noonan’s bill, carried on behalf of Governor Bullock, many who had driven hours and stayed for the entire 6 1/2 hour hearing. It was one of the most incredible hearings I’ve ever watched.
Among the remarkable occurrences, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) gave a letter of thanks to everyone who came to support the bill–something I’ve not heard of anyone doing before, but which delighted a few tipsters. I’m also told Rep. Jessica Karjala (D-Billings) took her seat wearing a blue Healthy Montana “#70000 Can’t Wait” t-shirt, the same kind which were worn by many supporters, who stood in line to testify for at least 2 hours of the 6 1/2 hour hearing to share their incredible stories and to speak out for Montanans in need.
There are two out-of-state groups who are spending big money to make the Montana legislature think the public is opposed to expansion, when really even the most conservative polls have Montanans supporting it by a 20 point margin. Out-of-state money can buy radio ads and post cards, but it can’t come anywhere close to real grassroots support. And so, it is not surprising that out-of-state astroturf groups weren’t able to come up with much in the way of actual people to oppose the Healthy Montana Plan in the hearing.
Here’s who Americans for Prosperity and the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability was able to convince to speak against Medicaid expansion in Montana:
President of the Helena TEA Party, Ed Argenbright. Ed regaled the legislature at length with his views on federal school funds and the “strings” they supposedly came with. He did not elaborate on what the strings were and why he was worried about them. HB 249, as you probably know, has nothing to do with school funding. Perhaps nobody told him. Apparently, Argenbright was once superintendent of public instruction 30 years ago, in the 80s.
Anti-abortion crusader Annie Bukacek, of Kalispell. Bukacek is a fundamentalist and former AFP spokesperson who was probably brought to the hearing because she has been, at least at some point, a licensed physician in the state of Montana, albeit with a religious twist. Her clinic, which has since closed down, was called “Hosanna Healthcare.” She was also investigated for federal health care fraud, but she claims it was because she prayed with patients. (So much for the TEA Party GOP’s supposed concerns about fraud and abuse in health care.)
Ms. Bukacek appears to have delivered false testimony before the Montana Legislature during the 2011 session. On January 21, 2011, Bukacek testified before the state Senate Public Health Committee in favor of SB-161, a bill to nullify federal health care laws, and cited “statistics from a 2010 Investor’s Business Daily article based on a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.”
The article and study she cited then do not even exist, actually, nor does the organization she cites. In fact, this non-existent study is one that right wing activists have been citing across America, in hearings, in articles, on websites. But it’s a big canard, according to the Center for Public Integrity. There is neither a study nor even a group called the United Nations International Health Organization.
Americans for Prosperity Paid Staffers. For some reason, perhaps because their ranks were few, AFP sent two paid staffers to oppose the same bill. One was Henry Kriegel, who a couple of years back was caught on tape admitting that AFP is primarily funded by two Kansas billionaires, the Koch brothers, as you can hear here:
Before working for AFP, Kriegel was a self-appointed Tea Party leader in Bozeman, who was once was busted by the IRS for failing to pay a fortune in income taxes (somehow he got a bankruptcy court to let him off the hook on a large portion of it) and with this qualification under his belt went on to lead the Montana chapter of Americans for Prosperity (the group that gets its money from the Kochs). From that perch, he has spoken out frequently about the need for tax reform. Yep.
LT. Col. Robert Welzel, of the Flathead (Retired). This individual is the leader of a Chuck Baldwin influenced prepper patriot group in the Flathead. Welzel also leads this Facebook group, which is full of racist posts. He’s also said some pretty terrible things himself.
Welzel says he is “sick and tired of hearing about Trayvon Martin and even more sick and tired of hearing about how white Americans are racist.” The truth, said Welzel…wait for it…is that “race does make distinctive differences between us and some of those characteristics might actually make some superior over others.”
He says he has “never personally met or personally know any racists who are Caucasian. After living in both New Orleans and in Memphis, I have met and know racist, but I regret to inform you that the only racists I have ever met have been black.”
He says voting is worthless because “2012 proved that the ballot box was totally ineffective…because a Kenyan was elected for a second term.” He calls for everyone to stop paying taxes because “honestly, the alternative is armed conflict which would be much costlier.”
Doing so [ceasing to pay taxes] starves the beast and very clearly communicates not only our resolve and our commitment, but immediately quantifies to the federal government our extreme displeasure. Is this extreme, you bet it is. But make no mistake, war would be worse. Just exactly where is your line in the sand? What abuse do you need to suffer before you’re willing to stand for freedom? Some things are worse than death, and Communism is one of them. BETTER DEAD THAN DEM!
Next was Gina Satterfield the lead singer of a local Helena band called Mabel’s Rage, whose testimony included the statement “Every child is controlled by the Obamacare of Education” and discussed her believe that this was some kind of conspiracy to indoctrinate kids to something – it wasn’t clear what.
WARNING! If you are to be a potential fan of Mabel’s Rage it is required to arrive at our shows prepared and be well equipped with straightjackets, rope and gaffers tape (no sticky residue) to restrain from out of control hand and foot tapping, dangerous dancing and grinning with infectious laughter. Armed with original songs that keep you moving to their addictive beat and lyrics that provoke free thought and tell amazing stories, this band is a jewel. From the politically charged “America (You’ve Got Change)’ to the neo-spiritually charged, “Mikey Says,” this band’s fresh, new material keeps you interested throughout.
But in spite of the fact that there were 20 supporters for every opponent, Republicans on the committee refused to do the right thing and instead made a motion for an “adverse committee report.” This “adverse committee report” means the bill is exempt from being eligible to use one of 6 silver bullets democrats had negotiated – an agreement that 6 bills could be debated on the floor after a vote of 50 legislators. If an adverse committee report is put on the bill by a GOP committee, the silver bullets don’t apply.
If you would like to contact the members of this committee who did this and ask them why, you may do so by clicking here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/64th/legwebmessage.asp or by emailing them with the addresses below.
Wittich, Art (R) Rep.Art.Wittich@mt.gov
Wagoner, Kirk (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Berglee, Seth (R) Rep.Seth.Berglee@mt.gov
Doane, Alan (R) email@example.com”
Harris, Bill (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Hess, Stephanie (R) Stephhess28@gmail.com
Mandeville, Forrest (R) Rep.Forrest.Mandeville@mt.gov
Olszewski, Albert (R) Rep.Albert.Olszewski@mt.gov
Redfield, Alan (R) email@example.com
Ricci, Vince (R) rep.Vince.Ricci@my.gov