Yesterday on the floor of the Montana House of Representatives, TEA Party Republican Randy Pinnocci gave a speech in favor of his bill to prohibit the United Nations from the “use of technology for controlling human activity…and the indoctrination of children for global citizenship.” (Which 41 Republicans voted for.) Pinnoci said the goal of his bill was: “to prevent us from being told what to do by an outside entity.” “What I believe is that if we have a good idea in Montana we should implement it on our own,” he continued.
But two new and separate pieces of investigative journalism in the Bozeman Chronicle and the Flathead Beacon, and documents obtained by Cowgirl tipsters, show that outside entities are indeed telling the Montana legislature what to do, even writing boilerplate bills introduced in Montana and providing direct instruction to legislative bill drafters.
A Florida right-wing group called the Foundation for Government Accountability is instructing Montana legislators and legislative staffers on how to write our laws, and TEA Party lawmakers are attempting to pass boilerplate legislation provided by the same organization. But that’s not the only disturbing evidence of the extent outside forces are pulling the strings at the Montana Legislature.
First, we turn to the office of TEA Party Senator Jennifer Fielder. Fielder alone has requested dozens of different bills to address the same scheme – which republicans call TPL for “takeover of public lands.” The Utah-based American Lands Council has been pushing the idea at at ALEC conferences. It is an ALEC boilerplate bill, and it would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.
It has now come to light that the individual that has been serving as Jennifer Fielder’s staffer and legislative aide (granting him full floor privileges amongst other things) was at the same time being employed by the American Lands Council as their registered lobbyist. Montanans deserve to know what the deal is here including the serious ethical questions raised regarding her own staffer being paid by the American Lands Council.
And here is a shot of this guy’s Facebook page where the lobbyist publicly posts his position as a Senate Aide.
And finally here you can view a picture with him wearing his official Montana state legislature name badge which grants him unrestricted access to the Senate Floor and GOP leadership.
Boilerplate and Behind the Scenes Instruction
Yesterday, the Bozeman Chronicle reported that as many as 1/3 of the bills written by legislative staff come at the request of or under the instruction of outside groups rather than from Montana elected officials.
The group behind this is the Florida-Based “Foundation for Government Accountability” or the FGA. The group is active in several states – usually working to kill Medicaid expansion as they did in Wyoming and Tennessee. They also worked to kill Medicaid expansion in Maine, where they conducted a biased “poll”. A similar push-poll was also in conducted recently in Montana and is expected to be released soon.
Below is a screenshot of that FGA-AFP Facebook AD.
You can see the Florida group’s Montana attack site here: http://dontexpandmt.com/ Here is their Facebook timeline: https://www.
But it doesn’t stop there.
The FGA is also behind Fred Thomas’s Senate Bill 206 - one of the worst bills of the 2015 session which would take assistance buying food from thousands of hungry seniors, people with disabilities, and kids. As the Bozeman Chronicle reported:
State Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, a longtime legislator, introduced a bill last month to create limits on food stamp assistance in Montana.
Thomas told the Associated Press that he drafted the bill after hearing from store cashiers that food stamps are being used to buy energy drinks, frozen pizza and other items.
According to emails obtained by the Chronicle, the bill was written in large part by the Foundation for Government Accountability in Florida. A copy of the group’s boilerplate bills was provided to drafters.
It’s not just Thomas who is pimping Foundation for Government Accountability boilerplate bad ideas- check out Sen. Cary Smith (TEA -Billings) who is carrying SB 148, an ALEC boilerplate bill also procured from him by the same Foundation for Government Accountability, as you can see here. That bill aims to strip tens of thousands of the poorest Montanans from Medicaid or food stamps – even though they are still eligible. As the Flathead Beacon reported:
portions of a bill introduced in the Montana Legislature, SB 148, which aims to prevent welfare fraud, are taken nearly verbatim from a piece of model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council,
This is likely the tip of the iceberg and I expect more such evidence of who’s really calling the shots at the Montana Legislature to come to light. The Great Falls Tribune and the Flathead Beacon have already reported on the series of fake “town hall meetings” that backfired on Americans for Prosperity recently.
With this latest revelation, Montanans will respond to the bills these right-wing legislators and out-of-state groups are attempting to foist on us with even greater skepticism. Because while Fred Thomas embarrassingly tries to spin this insider influence for out-of-state special interests as a good thing, I doubt most Montanans would agree.