Happy New Year readers and tipsters. Here’s a recap of the top ten Cowgirl Blog posts from 2014.
10. TEA Party Leader Jason Priest Arrested. Cowgirl Blog was the first to report this story. Priest was an important figure because he is the rebel leader in the civil war within the Republican Party and runs a dark money group called Montana Growth Network, which was revealed to be behind a major effort to defeat moderate Republicans and even take over the Montana Supreme Court. Priest also used his dark money group to lead the charge against Medicaid coverage for the working poor last session. He served as Chair of the Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Safety Committee and as vice-Chair of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services during the 2013 legislature. Some of his considerable wealth has come from auctioning off the medical debt of people who can’t afford health care. An interesting letter to the editor was published in the Billings Gazette during the 2011 legislative session which asks about the potential conflict of interest incurred by state Senator Jason Priest. Priest sponsored a bill that could reap financial benefits for the medical debt collection industry he comes from and lead the effort to block tens of thousands of working poor Montanans from getting health coverage through Medicaid–even though the federal government would pick up most of the tab.
9. Dems Make Amanda Curtis U.S. Senate Candidate The enthusiasm generated by Amanda Curtis’ candidacy for U.S. senate shows what a bright future Curtis has in Montana politics – and made this one of the year’s most-read posts.
8. House Republicans Off to a Bad Start with Illegal Secret Meeting First, Republicans were busted by reporters holding a secret caucus in the basement of a Helena hotel. Now, they’ve proposed a new rule that would bar members of the public from the house floor entirely. Taking such extreme measures to keep the public out of the lawmaking process is a disturbing trend that does not bode well for the 2015 session.
7. Corporation Seeks to Bypass Politicians and Just Buy a Montana Law In 2014, a national corporation has decided to get around the corporate campaign donation and dark money group process and just buy the laws directly. Charter Communications tried, and failed to use paid signature gatherers to get its own personal ballot initiative on the ballot to force Montanans to pay its taxes. Montanans were outraged and Charter failed to gather enough signatures to get their scheme on the ballot.
6. Daines Caught Pretending to Support Meals on Wheels While Voting to End the Program Congressman Daines’ hypocrisy reached new heights last year when posted a staged Meals on Wheels photo op on Facebook to imply he supports the program. In reality, Daines voted to cut anti-hunger programs that would have left mostly children, seniors and veterans without food.
5. For the Record: New GOP Legislator Has a Record for Assaulting a Minor If you google Republican legislator Gilbert Bruce Meyers (R-Box Elder) some disturbing information comes up. The GOP legislator was convicted of assault on a minor for abusing his own children, which is a felony, and sentenced to four years in prison. Meyers appears on the Correctional Offender website known as Conweb. You can see his profile here.
4. Questions Emerge About Potential Conflict of Interest Between Mailergate and Silicon Valley Start-up In a bizarre development in the Montana Supreme Court race, Stanford “researchers,” along with a researcher at Dartmouth College, sent 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides instructing Montana voters to make a partisan decision on the non-partisan MT Supreme Court race. The mailers became a national scandal. The New York Times even reported on the the story, citing the Cowgirl Blog in the article.
3. GOP Packs Education Committee with Homeschoolers, Crackpots, and Convicts Now that the large-scale assault on public education is beginning to be exposed by the Montana press, the make up of the House Education committee is particularly troubling. Just this year, Montana PBS captured Montana Family Foundation leader Jeff Laszloffy claiming on camera –over and over again–that there was “no connection, absolutely none” between his public school privatization campaign and bill last session and ALEC.
The PBS expose then shows how Laszloffy’s bill is almost a word for word copy of the ALEC model bill. When Laszloffy tries to claim that charter schools aren’t for-profit corporations, the piece shows financial and investment reports showing the high profitability of these private charter schools. The documentary also exposes how ALEC funded the PR campaign Laszloffy used to push these private charter schools in Montana–and many other connections between ALEC and the Montana Family Foundation.
These connections include jointly funded surveys by ALEC and the Family Foundation and articles trumpeting the Family Foundation private school push, all of which appear in Laszloffy’s group’s legislative testimony. The ALEC bill Laszloffy was caught on tape lying about was sponsored by none other than Speaker Austin Knudson. You can watch the entire expose online here.
2. TEA Party-Militia Plot Unearthed in Bozeman When the 2014 election season began, the Cowgirl Blog uncovered a nasty plot afoot in Gallatin county and elsewhere, hatched by the local conservatives. It was dirty, below-the-belt, highly dishonest stuff. Embarrassed at the fact that they have become a national joke, the right-wing of the conservative movement resorted to an attempt to invade and infect the Democratic Party, Trojan Horse style, and take it over. Eight local Tea Partiers filed paperwork to run as Democrats for local legislative races. The Bozeman Chronicle and the Great Falls Tribune both looked into the plot and found additional candidates and shadiness.
1. GOP Legislature Releases Mandatory Dress Code, Modesty Standard for Women At this point, most of America has heard of this latest embarrassing behavior from the far-right wing of the Montana GOP. The New York Times reported this story too, which also the cited the Cowgirl Blog.