Tag Archives: Havre Daily News

Some Folks Might be Heading to the Pokey in Montana

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP.

Numerous Republican candidates might have worked too closely with ATP, and could be in trouble legally if not electorally.  They might be going to the pokey (meaning the clink, the one in Deer Lodge.)

The short story is that the 2010 election, in which the Tea Party swept into control of the Montana legislature, may have featured massive illegalities.   Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in violation of the law.  The Frontline documentary reveals that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found, showing extensive communications between Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News, for example, reported today that GOP legislator Wendy Warburton appears to have been in direct communication with the group, even going so far as to send them a “signature stamp,” presumably so they could send out mailings on her behalf, using her signature.  That’s likely to be found illegal under Montana law.

Files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Joel Boniek, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees were also featured on Frontline.  Again, groups and candidates cannot coordinate on campaign communications.

Candidates might be subjecting themselves to a range of penalties, including removal from office, fines, or worse.  The question is whether there is a prosecutor out there who is willing to begin looking into this stuff.  Generally, county attorneys stay away from political stuff, leaving it to the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Worse, the ATP’s headquarters is revealed by the documentary to be nothing more than a P.O. Box at a UPS store in Washington DC, even though the group is spending tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and is the most influential source of money in Montana politics.  They were estimated to have spent well over a million bucks on just a handful of state legislative races in 2010.  They’d send mail to voters, which looked very much like electioneering material, something that is illegal if you are hiding who your donors are.

Not all ATP’s donors have been able to hide.  Investigative journalist Paul Abowd this week uncovered a document that revealed one of ATP’s largest bankrollers-a Colorado anti-union group called Coloradans for Economic Growth.

And I would say that this documentary, above all, is an outright humiliation for the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who this summer rejected a request by Montana to reconsider the Citizens United ruling in light of the ATP’s shady, unreported, anonymously funded activities in Montana.  In rejecting Montana’s plea, Kennedy offered a single paragraph describing why he (the swing vote on the court) was refusing to consider the matter. He wrote that there was nothing that led him to believe that the ATP’s activities could lead to “corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Kennedy, if he watched Frontline this week, probably wishes he could have that one back.  Because he is now revealed to be not a brilliant jurist but a stupid old man, who got duped by a bunch of bad actors.  Soon, groups like ATP will completely own our state and federal governments, using corporate money, installing candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, never revealing who the donors are.  And the Supreme Court  believes that this is all perfectly okay.


A Havre Hooray for Chick-Fil-A

Who says Republicans don’t know how to bring business to Montana?

The Republicans on the Havre city council have joined together and sent the following letter to the CEO of the Chick-Fil-A company, asking him to consider opening a franchise in Havre.

 August 7,2012 

Mr. Dan Cathy

Chief Executive Officer


5200 Buffington Road

Atlanta, GA 30349


Dear Mr. Cathy,


Greetings from the elected leaders of the City of Havre Montana. We would like to extend an invitation to you to explore the possibility of opening your first Montana restaurant in our great city. Havre is a friendly place with many hardworking citizens, which would be a perfect fit for your company and its Operators.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards and thank you for your time,


Brian Barrows                      Rick Dow

Councilman                         Councilman

Andrew Brekke                     Robert Kaftan

Council President                       Councilman


The letter has an amusing tone, sort of like a 9-year-old writing to Santa Claus.

With this type of opportunity presenting itself, it is clear that Chick-Fil-A made a very shrewd business decision in opposing gay marriage.  For with pockets of faithful conservative Republicans in small towns like Havre, long deprived of anti-gay-marriage fast food, Chick-Fil-A has many new opportunities.  See? Bigotry pays.

The letter also prompted a bit of local controversy.  As the Havre Daily News reports, Democrats refused to sign the letter.  And there were further protests and complaints amid dozens of comments logged underneath the article on the Daily News website.  One Havre citizen is outraged that Arby’s or Taco Bell are not also being courted, because those places are better than Chick-Fil-A.  Another Havreite disagrees, saying that he moved to Havre from Florida and Chick-Fil-A is the thing he misses most.

One council member said “We lost Wendy’s. That was an impact on our local economy so I want to bring something back in. ”  (The Wendy’s franchise was actually closed down for a food safety infraction, not by the local health department but by its own corporate parent, which found the Havre store had ran afoul of its own internal food safety standards, including using expired food products.)

In other Montana Chick-Fil-A news, TEA Party Republican David Howard has revealed that he went all the way to Texas to show his support for an anti-gay fast food chain.  The other thing he revealed? He’s an even poorer fit to represent Montanans in the legislature than we thought.

Montana legislator David Howard R-Park City at a Texas Chick fil A


GOP Whining Violates Code of the West

The Havre Daily news has written a must-read, in-depth story about the national (and negative) media attention that the Repubs in the Montana legislature have brought upon themselves and our state, with their various nutty bills on secession, nullification, allowing guns in school, hunting with silencers, birth certificate requirements for candidates, returning the state to the gold standard, encouraging global warming, and so on and so forth.

(On Thursday the GOP voted to keep “sodomy” an imprisonable offense, by the way).

But apparently a bunch of GOP legislators believe that this national embarrassment was caused not by themselves, but by “the media”. They feel they did nothing wrong, but have been unfairly represented in the reporting.  Wendy Warburton, for example says the media is “sensationalizing” the story while “ignoring important bills.” Warburton even trashed her own hometown newspaper by saying that it was “being political” for even doing a story on how she, herself, has helped bring national ridicule.  In response, Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos says:

“Now, Republicans can whine that the coverage is unfair because not everything they do is crazy, but that would be like a death row inmate whining that his punishment is unfair because he didn’t spend all his time killing someone.”

I believe “The Code of the West” says something about taking responsibility for your actions rather than blaming everyone else for a mess you create. But to show how absurd the GOP’s reasoning is, the Havre Daily story even has Bob Wagner complaining about how the media is to blame.

That’s especially hilarious because Wagner booked himself an interview on CNN to promote his new policy he is advocating, that not only must a candidate for office in Montana produce a birth certificate, he or she must also prove that both parents were born in America. His leader, senate president Jim Peterson, also booked himself a national spot, on Fox News, to promote his bill to “adopt the The Code of the West as the official ‘Code of Montana.'”)

Rowlie Hutton, another nutjob, says in the article that “these bills are all good for our future” and says it “must have been a slow news day” for them to get national coverage.

Also complaining in the article is Carl Graham (occasional contributor here), head of the conservative Montana Policy Institute. Graham offers up this gem, blaming Schweitzer for the negative attention that the legislature is getting. He says it’s all the fault of the liberal elites back east, portraying Montanans as “ignorant rubes” and that:

“Our governor, by the way, only reinforces that stereotype when he does his ‘aw shucks, that dog won’t hunt’ and ‘there’s critters need’n brand’n’ routine for Bill Maher and his other friends in the national media who look at us as their cultural inferiors….(These stories) are merely cases of the cultural and media elite playing to their mostly urban and liberal fan base by pulling out an old stereotype of rural states like Montana.”

So to be clear, it is not the GOP who are to blame; it is the way Schweitzer speaks that is causing the problem.

Graham, it could be argued, is not as far to the right as some of the wingnuts who have created the mess for the GOP. But he’s feeling the sting of what has transpired. He, and others in the “mainstream” GOP (if there is such a thing), have been dragooned into a swamp of humiliation by the Tea Party takeover of 2010.

And you know what? Too bad, so sad. The Code of the West also says “you ride with outlaws, you hang with them.”

If the Repubs wanna be divorced from the lunatic ravings of their fringe, they need to act on it, just like they said Obama should have “denounced” Jeremiah Wright and all that stuff. Otherwise they are riding with the outlaws, and they are a part of the shenanigans and will (and should) be held to answer for them.

Havre Republicans Prove Rest of Us Wrong

The Republican legislative delegation from Havre, while speaking with the public and the Havre Daily News over the legislative break, took the opportunity to clear their good names and prove wrong the Montanans across the state who have called their work “frivolous and unconstitutional bills that do nothing to create jobs.”

First, new GOP-TEA Representative Kris Hansen doesn’t let evidence get in the way of obvious truth when she publicly proclaimed that:

She said she gets hundreds, even thousands of e-mails each week attacking her for her votes and actions in Helena. She might get three or four telling her she is doing a good job.

Hanson was also quick to offer the proof that Republicans are fixing the economy and creating jobs, and took her opportunity in the spotlight to focus on what surely is one of the best bills of the session, a bill brought by her fellow Havre Republican, Wendy Warburton.

“I expect there area some of you out there who think we’re doing nothing for business since we got to Helena, and that’s not the truth, ” she said.

One of her examples was a bill that will allow landlords to not put carbon monoxide detectors in some of their units.

The Cowgirl Blog had earlier highlighted the bill here. The fine folks at Intelligent Discontent have already pointed out that the GOP has been unfairly picked on by the media, as Hansen, Warburton, and Hutton explain so clearly in their interview. Thank you Havre Republicans for clearing up the situation for the rest of us on the excellent work with which the GOP-controlled legislature is engaged.