Tag Archives: Derek Skees

Montana is at the Forefront of National Fight Against Election Corruption

A Montana case is the next battle in the fight to keep elections from being for sale to the highest bidder by keeping campaign finance limits in place.

Now, a group of leading national legal non-profit advocacy groups including Free Speech for People, former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, the American Independent Business Alliance,  the American Sustainable Business Council.the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Justice at Stake and the League of Women Voters are joining Montanans in the fight to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place.

The groups joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl.  They are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a District Court ruling that struck down Montana’s political campaign contribution limits.  Earlier, a District Court disregarded both Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent to overturn Montana’s limits on contributions to state candidates, including judges, from individuals and political parties.

In Lair v. Motl, American Traditions Partnership board member Doug Lair wants campaign finance limits abolished.  Several prominent Republican office holders and candidates in Montana caught up in the infamous Meth House Scandal, in which documents belonging to the infamous American Tradition Partnership (ATP), were found in a Colorado meth house.  The documents incriminated TEA Party Senate leader Art Wittich, Mike Miller, Derek Skees, Pat Wagman, Jerry O’Neil, Bob Wagner, Dan Kennedy, Scott Mendenhall, Wendy Warburton, Ed Butcher, and Tom Burnett to name a few.  Wager, Burnett, Miller, O’Neil and Wittich are currently running for office.

Here’s how Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, explains it:  “Campaign contribution limits are justified by an interest in ensuring political equality for all, regardless of access to wealth. When political equality is jeopardized, democracy itself is at risk.”

Justice James Nelson, a former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, and on of the court’s most respected justices, said, “Candidates for political office and elections should not be for sale to the biggest spenders. The Supreme Court has decreed that money equals speech; and contribution limits help to level a playing field tipped in favor of the big spenders by Citizens United.”  I could not agree more.

The District Court overturned the Montana’s candidate contribution limits applicable to individuals and PACs, even though the limits have already been upheld by the Ninth Circuit.

In addition to the limits on candidate contributions from individuals and PACs, the lower court struck down Montana’s limits as they apply to contributions from political party committees. Montana does not limit the amount that any individual or PAC may give to political parties, but instead restricts the “aggregate” amount a candidate can receive from his or her political party.

Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t been covered by Montana news outlets, even though its the next step in a nationwide battle to protect America’s and Montana’s elections from corruption.

After all, this case comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down longstanding limits on the total amount of money wealthy individuals could contribute to federal candidates in an election cycle. As with the Citizens United ruling which now allows unlimited corporate dollars into our elections, the high court’s McCutcheon decision is unleashing further money into the political process from wealthy interests.

We’ll see if it gets more attention by Montana reporters after the op-ed by Justice Jim Nelson and Ron Fein appeared in yesterday’s Billings Gazette.

Few Surprises on Election Night

The votes are in and the favorites generally won their races last night.  Walsh, Lewis, Zinke, Daines.

Resources were mattered.  Zinke and Walsh had them, and it made the difference.  Matt Rosendale was a bit surprising given that he spent about even with Zinke, but in the end, in a crowded field full of aspiring lunatics, the moderate candidate will often win. Just ask Rick Hill or Mitt Romney.  That’s an important reality for the Tea Party to grapple with, which is that they have very primary insurgent victories for all the trouble they try to cause.  This year, oddly, it was centrists who tried to act like Tea Partiers–Rick Hill, for example–but even that didn’t work.

John Bohlinger put up a good fight but in the end, Walsh stayed the course and delivered a resounding victory, as one would expect a sitting Senator to do. Bohlinger was always facing a peculiar challenge of having to persuade voters that he is no longer a Republican, and that, plus a lack of funds or organization, probably weighed him down heavily.    Walsh will now have to amp it up.   Nate Silver is giving him only a fractional chance at winning the race.  I personally think Daines is beatable, because he is a member of Congress polling below 40%.

John Lewis gave away a surprising 40% to John Driscoll, but Lewis saved his money, kept his powder dry, and now has some good ammo to begin the shooting war with Ryan Zinke.  That will be an interesting affair.  Expect a swiftboating of Zinke, given his questionable use of funding and the strange ambiguity surrounding his military record, which even his fellow Seals are talking about.  Meanwhile, expect Zinke to try to hang Obamacare around Lewis’s neck, through the Baucus connection.  This is a campaign that will be won by the smarter, savvier operation, I believe.  Lewis is probably the Dem’s best chance in a decade to recapture this seat, although this is simply by virtue of the fact that he is a legitimate candidate. None of the nominees since 2002 has even raised real money or mounted a serious campaign.  That’s going to change now.  And remember the best thing that Democrats always have going for them: Republicans in Montana seem to be getting better and better at losing races they should win.  They are simply not good at modern political strategy.

Also, good news in Ravalli County: the two wing-nut county commissioners and a treasurer who have turned Ravalli into a statewide Tea Party farce, all incumbents, were sent packing in the GOP primary. The TEA Partier in the Bozeman County Commission race, Barb Blum, also lost in the primary contest for that open commission seat. In Lake County, TEA Partier Rory Horning failed to unseat incumbent county commissioner Bill Barron.  Bad news in Broadwater County, where a top two style non-partisan county commission election sent forward not just the popular Laura Obert but also TEA Party bigot Tim Ravndal,  who made national news for comments he made that implied support for violence against gays. Ravndal was kicked out of the Helena TEA Party and formed his own new conservative TEA Party. (If this were a Lee Newspapers blog, you’d be reading how these commission races show equal wins for TEA Partiers and main street Republicans.)

In the Public Service Commission race, Brad Johnson easily Derek Skees in the GOP primary.  He will now face Galen Hollenbaugh.  Skees is a Flathead County agitator whose base constituency is made up of skinheads and recently arrived bible-belt transplants.  These nuts once thought they had a glorious Tea Party future but it’s kind of crumbled now.  Skees has now been beaten by a guy who ran his last race for public office out of a rehab facility.

Past Hostility Toward Women’s Clinic from Local Anti-Choice Activists Uncovered

The Montana Human Rights Network has uncovered another connection between Hope Pregnancy Ministries/Clear Choice Clinic, Michelle Reimer, director of the Hope Pregnancy Ministries, purchased All Families Clinic’s former building location and kicked Susan Cahill out ten years ago. Susan Cahill then was forced to find another location for her clinic–only to have her clinic destroyed by vandalism–leaving her again unable to operate.

“We knew that Hope was more politically anti-choice then they let on. Now with the connection of the accused vandal, Zachary Klundt, to Hope and knowing that Hope’s director bought the clinic’s building out from under Susan, we think there is reason to question if Hope is engaged in a concerted effort to deny women their constitutional rights by making reproductive health care inaccessible in the Flathead Valley,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, Co-Director at MHRN, in a press release.

The Montana Human Rights Network also reported first on the organization’s Facebook page about the connections of Zachary Klundt, the man who was arrested today in connection with the break-in and vandalism of a women’s clinic in Kalispell, Montana. Nothing was stolen from the clinic, instead, “extensive damage” was found.

Zachary Klundt is the son of a woman named Twyla Klundt, who is on the board of Hope Pregnancy Ministries which is affiliated with a fake women’s clinic called Clear Choice–which is a so-called “crisis pregnancy center,” MHRN reports.

Skees works for Hope Pregnancy Ministries [screenshot] as the so-called crisis pregnancy center’s Resource Director. She is running for legislature in House District 7 in Kalispell against Frank Garner in a GOP primary. Skees is the TEA Partier in that race.

A crisis pregnancy center, in case you aren’t familiar with them yet, is basically a fake doctor’s office run by an anti-choice organization which poses as a medical clinic to get pregnant women seeking abortions or medical care in the door. Once women are inside, the staffers often then give women a Walmart pregnancy test out of the box and make them watch films with fake claims about the evils of abortion. There are all kinds of horror stories about these places, and there are several in operation in Montana. Some states have passed “truth in advertising” laws the prohibit these places from posing as medical clinics.Anyway, as the Montana Human Rights Network’s researchers report, “In 2010 white supremacist April Gaede solicited donations for Hope Pregnancy Ministries.”Even if you haven’t heard of April Gaede, you’ve probably heard of her twin daughters, Lamb and Lynx, who used to have a white power musical group called Prussian Blue. The two girls have been referred to as the “Nazi Pop Twins,” the Human Rights Network reports. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Gaede “a neo-Nazi stage mom” and includes a picture with her profile.

Gaede has posted on the white supremacist website Stormfront that she‘s given to Hope Pregnancy Ministries in the past, and that she believes giving money to that organization is a good way to “help save White babies.” I won’t link to Stormfront, nor should anyone.  As MHRN reports:

Gaede‘s posting continued by saying she has ―personally met many of these people (Ministries‘ staff). She told her peers to tell staff members that they were supporters of Stormfront, the  white supremacist website where Gaede made her request, when making a donation. She included the mailing address and website address for the Ministries.

Gaede encouraged her fellow white supremacists to send funds, because “our local population is over 95% White so they would be ―pretty much guaranteed to be helping to save White babies.”

Recall that Zachary Klundt, the man charged with four felonies in connection with the vandalism of a women’s clinic in Kalisepell is the son of a woman named Twyla Klundt, who is on the board of Hope Pregnancy Ministries.

Ronalee Skees is the wife of Derek Skees, the former TEA Party Republican legislator and nullification nutjob from the Flathead who proudly marched in a Memorial day parade wearing the confederate flag and is running this year for the Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in Montana. Skees was profiled in TIME magazine because he has  been trying to make himself into a national figure in the ultra-right wing crowd.

To be sure, this new information about the Hope Pregnancy Ministries ties may or may not inform the investigation and or the case. Only time, good investigative reporting, law enforcement investigations, and the courts will tell.

Urgent Emergency

Steve Daines and Ted Cruz at a TEA Party caucus press event.

Steve Daines and Ted Cruz at a TEA Party caucus press event.

As you all know, Montana Republicans are a nativist and xenophobic crew, who hurl “out-of-state” as a nasty insult and love to tout the number of generations back that their lineage has lived in Montana.  Many a pale chest is thumped mightily as if these men had a role in choosing the location of their births.

So we should assume that the GOP power brokers are currently holding an emergency meeting in a smoke-filled room somewhere, urgently trying to decide how to handle a shocking development within the party: Continue reading

You Can Run from the Wingnuts, But You Really Can’t Hide

Sen. Jennifer Fielder R-TEA Noxon

Sen. Jennifer Fielder R-TEA Noxon

The vice-Chair of the state Republican Party, Sen. Jennifer Fielder  promoted the gathering of an extreme anti-government group appeared as a keynote speaker at the group’s event. But when a reporter showed up, “she quickly distanced herself from [Defend Rural America leader Kirk] MacKenzie when asked about his extreme rhetoric and ideas,” which included that “neo-environmentalists” are “domestic terrorists.”  Fielder said that the group ideas weren’t what she thought they would be.

So now she knows, and there’s no longer a way to claim ignorance.

But Sen. Fielder must not be too upset about the group’s views. She’s invited yet another Defend Rural America speaker, Doyel Shamley, to present information to a legislative hearing this Wed, Jan 8. You can see that he appears under Fielder’s portion of the Environmental Quality Council agenda.

Shamley provided training and workshops for Defend Rural America’s secessionist county organizing drive in California.  He ran one of the Defend Rural America’s pilot projects, featured in this DFA white paper.

Shamley appears on the MT EQC agenda, billed as a “natural resource consultant.”  But Doyel Shamely is so much more.

Shamely is the host of a somewhat creepy conspiracy theory program which posits that politicians, lawmakers, members of the royal family, the illuminati and others have created a “New World Order” through which they attempt to control the thoughts and beliefs of everyday people–of course, there is connection to UFO’s and aliens visiting planet Earth.

His audio book, New World Order: The Battle for Your Mind and the Truth to the UFOs, is available for $10.95 at Amazon.com, but for some reason has no customer reviews.

Is there a New World Order? Are they trying to control every part of our lives? Are we treated like sheep?…Are they politicians, company directors, religious leaders, royalty, lawmakers, or all of the above and more? How old is their rule? And what secret organization do they belong to?

Perhaps more importantly, are UFOs actually visiting our planet? Have they been here for thousands of years? All this and more is constantly investigated by thousands of people around the globe and nobody more than the Hour of Our Time Show*[hosted by Shamely]…Are they trying to control our minds? Are they lying about the Alien Threat? You decide.

Indeed Fielder has decided that Montana’s lawmakers need to hear from this consultant–apparently no other natural resources speaker would do.

Yes, the truth sometimes has a way of coming out, but that hasn’t stopped Fielder from tried hide from and disassociate herself from the extremist views of these “expert consultants” she consorts with.

For example, Sen. Dick Barrett (D-Missoula) provided her with an email with information about the watershed consultant hired by TEA partiers to block a tribal water rights agreement negotiated by the state of Montana and the CSKT.  Kate Vandemoer (yes, this is the Usurpathoner) has a birther blog with some pretty extreme, marginal views–and some writings that reflect the soundness of her judgement.  But Fielder got angry and insisted that the contents of Vandemoer’s “personal” blog (whatever that might mean) were not relevant.  But in the same breath, she claimed that she had never read the blog.  I encourage you to read this informative chain of emails below the fold.

The most cursory review of Vandemoer’s very public blog (Dr Kate’s View) shows that Vandemoer uses it not only to promote her multitudinous and bizarre birther conspiracy theories, she also uses it to share her views on water and watershed politics.

In a post entitled “Watershed Politics” Vandemoer writes the following. (Apologies for the long passage but they illustrate this “expert’s” state of mind.)

the landscape of our America was shaped by our Constitution, the very blood and water of our country…Upon this hallowed ground–nothing more than a chessboard to some– a dark rain has fallen for decades…it is falling and now drenching.  I remember being in the wilderness for weeks on horseback, wondering what the black ‘goo’ was on the vegetation and the rocks…This foreign rain, and the raging torrents it produces, are attempting to capture that stream and dream known as America.  It is trying to erode our landscape, our system, in order to capture liberty and train it into a controlled system of slavery, where the course of everyone’s life is determined by a single train of thought–communism, new world orderism.  The NWO has intentionally created these devastating torrents to undermine sovereignty, liberty, and freedom…indeed I have felt that the very foundation of our country is threatened…and with increasing force.

Does the NWO think it is God, such that it can flood the world with poison rain and torrential rivers to destroy all of creation, and refashion it to its liking (and control)?

She uses the blog to share her belief that climate change is a diversionary tactic to keep the public from looking into a list of conspiracy theories: such as “weather modification by geoengineering“–Vandemoer believes the government is creating natural disasters so that it may “take over our lives.”  There’s also HAARP (a secret weapon conspiracy nuts think is used for weather modification. And don’t forget “chemtrails, and microwave pulses.”

So even if Fielder doesn’t scramble to distance herself from the conspiracies, or Vandemoer’s belief that, “the Rothschilds (translated ‘Red Shield), Rockefellers, and many other monied JKhazar Jews, who together form a cabal acting like a synagogue of Satan that is in full gear enforcing its agenda on America, including Agenda 21.”  Even if Sen. Fielder does not believe that these views call “Dr. Kate’s” judgement into question, Vandemoer’s views on water as a water consultant should give any sane person pause.

For tomorrow’s legislative meeting. Fielder has invited another extremist to town.  She’s asked Ken Ivory to the legislative committee tomorrow.  Ivory is the Utah legislator who carried a bill requiring the Federal government to cede much of its land in Utah to the state.

This guy Ivory has already appeared in Ravalli County.  Actually, he’s been touring around pushing this idea to other states at ALEC conferences too–legislative language is conveniently available now in ALEC boilerplate. Montanans will remember this idea as one of the infamous nutjob bills of the 2011 legislature, sponsored by Derek Skees.

Unfortunately for Ivory (and ALEC), Utah’s Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel had to go and point out a pile of pesky case law with regard to public lands going back to the 1870s that gives the bill “a high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” And the Salt Lake Tribune has called Ivory’s effort “tilting at windmills.” Arizona rejected it.  The bill was vetoed by TEA Party Governor Jan Brewer. In Montana, the bill didn’t even make it out of committee.

But the GOP loves to throw these kinds of pointless proposals out there, in spite of the fact that it is a complete waste of public resources to do so.  It’s political grandstanding to rally the extreme-right conservative TEA Party base and to feed their antigovernment conspiracy narrative.

Tomorrow, we’re the one’s paying for it.
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