Tag Archives: Jason Priest

The TEA Party Revolving Door is in Full Swing in Montana

man-leaving-revolving-doorWhen top campaign staff and senior congressional staffers swing in and out of the TEA Party front groups working to influence elections and congressional votes, so do inside information, strategic decisions, money and special access for the TEA Party.

Some call it a form of corruption.  Whatever you call it, the revolving door often leads to TEA Partiers and members of congress working in their own self-interest, rather than that of the people of Montana.

Here are three recent developments you need to be aware of related to the TEA Party’s revolving door in Montana.

First, the Billings Gazette has reported that Zacharay Lahn has switched from his position as Steve Daines’ State director to being the state director for Americans for Prosperity, which is bankrolled by the Koch brothers, as has been often reported.

Lahn, who was also Steve Daines’ campaign manager in 2012, replaces TEA Party state senator Joe Balyeat in the position.  Balyeat was demoted to State Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile over at the Montana Policy Institute, which had gone dark after losing some major funding sources, a man named Brent Mead was hired as director to fire the right-wing “think” tank back up again.  Mead swings in from his former position as policy director for the Montana Growth network, as is noted on the also-Koch brother’s funded Americans for Tax Reform’s website.

The Montana Growth Network, as you will recall, is embattled state Sen. Jason Priest’s group which funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to buy a supreme court seat for TEA Partier Laurie McKinnon. The group was also revealed to be behind a barrage attack mailers poured into moderate GOP legislative districts to stop the moderates from supporting the Medicaid expansion. Most recently, some of the group’s board members tried to distance themselves from that organization after it was revealed that 70% of the Montana Growth Networks funds came from only five people.  The Montana Policy Network also has ties to ALEC and is also funded by the Kochs.

The third interesting development is that the former head of American Majority in Montana is now working for the Ryan Zinke campaign.  American Majority in Montana is the state chapter of national TEA party group out of Virginia called American Majority.    As the Bozeman Chronicle reported, American Majority gets 70% of its funding from a Koch brother’s funded group.

Jeremy Carpenter was the group’s leader.  He said publicly that the group’s goal is to build up the TEA Party base by teaching people how to be candidates and put tea partiers in offices up and down the ballot from school board to statewide and federal races–doing field work for the TEA Party. Now he’s working for the Zinke campaign as a field director.

All of these groups will be working to influence elections in Montana, and perhaps most frighteningly legislative campaigns. Whether through get out the vote efforts, thinly disguised “issue ads”–attack mailers that read “tell said democrat that kids and puppies don’t deserve to be murdered” mailed out right before ballots, and by organizing right-wing campus groups to train volunteers for campaigns.

 

Political Quick Hits

Closed Primaries

At the Flathead Memo, James Conner explains why Republicans are unlikely to adopt Monforton’s closed primary resolution.  As usual, it’s a good analysis.

Freedom Fighters

At the Missoula Independent, reporter Ted McDermott has an incredible piece on a Montana militia member who organized militia types from around the U.S. to descend on Cliven Bundy’s ranch and claims to have led Bundy’s militia battles during the Nevada rancher’s standoff with the BLM.

The militia member, an Anaconda man named Ryan Payne who lives “off the grid” with his grandparents, also shares his troubling conspiracy theories.  These include his belief that slavery never took place in the U.S., and why he believes his fight was “just the first battle in the fight to reclaim America.” Here’s Freedom Fighter.

Brought to You by ALEC

Anyone who cares about politics should watch the new expose by Montana PBS, Brought to You by ALEC which sends a reporter along with Montana legislators  to a conference of the  American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC. As Cowgirl readers know, ALEC is the bane of workaday Montanans’ existence. It’s corporate America’s mainline to corrupting the lawmaking process.  At resorts in closed-door “summits” they write “model bills” and instruct GOP state legislators to force them through back home.

The PBS expose includes some telling interviews with Republican state legislators Sen. Roger Webb (R-Billings) and Rep. Dan Salomon (R-Ronan).  Roger Webb is the guy who was convicted of beating and shooting his neighbors’s pets Katie and Alli, both black labs.  Salomon is known for his outrage over the fact that Congress dared to ask a few ALEC members and donors for their views on “stand your ground” legislation, which was an ALEC boilerplate bill.  ALEC found itself facing a mass exodus of major donors after it became public that the stand your ground laws were ALEC’s doing.

Anyway, the documentary has some great moments. There’s the clip of Dan Salomon at 11:25 starting to explain how the public isn’t allowed into the ALEC tasks forces. He then catches himself midstream and says the actually doesn’t know if the public is locked out.

Then there’s the moment at 7:05 when Roger Webb admits the bulk of ALEC’s revenue comes from corporate donors with a vested interest in the legislation they’re pushing.  He says this doesn’t bother him in the least, because to him ALEC funding this is no different than businesses supporting Girl Scouts and Little League.

Screen shot 2014-06-13 at 6.19.36 AMThen there are the several shots of TEA Party leader Art Wittich lunching at the ALEC conference.  Wittich is not interviewed in the video.  Presumably he was smarter than Webb and Salomon and refused.  To be sure, the report should have included footage of Wittich refusing to be interviewed on camera.  It also should have looked more into all of the various ALEC bills introduced in Montana, instead of just focusing on one.

But overall the expose was well done.  By far the best part of the video comes toward the end, where Montana Family Foundation leader Jeff Laszloffy claims 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 reporter 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, and 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 groups legislative testimony.    The ALEC bill Laszloffy was caught on tape lying about was sponsored by Austin Knudson.  You can watch the entire expose online here. Kudos to Montana PBS reporter Anna Rau and all the PBS staff involved in this report.

 

TEA Party Justice Says Punishment for Judge Who Blamed 14-year-old for own rape too harsh

A TEA Party justice on the Montana Supreme Court says that public censure and a month suspension for  Montana judge who said a 14-year-old rape victim appeared “older than her chronological age” is too harsh a penalty.

The Montana Supreme Court last week ordered Judge G. Todd Baugh be publicly censured, as the Judicial Standards Commission had recommended.  They also gave him a 31-day suspension without pay for his misconduct.

All the justices agreed except one.  The Montana Growth Network backed justice Laurie McKinnon thought censure AND a suspension was too harsh.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled that censure wasn’t enough because:

“There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them.”

Yet Laurie McKinnon penned a dissent longer than the original ruling.  McKinnon objected to the harsher sentence the Montana Supreme Court handed down.

It was revealed last month by Michael Beckel for the Center for Public Integrity  in a story that Lee Newspapers ran statewide, McKinnon raised only $42,000 for her own campaign, but Montana Growth Network, ran by disgraced Sen. Jason Priest (R-TEA Red Lodge) and Rep. Ed Walker (R-TEA Exxon Mobil), spent over $690,000 on the race (and some attack mailers against any Republicans Priest and Walker thought might support health care for working poor using federal government funds from taxes Montanans are already paying.)

Ed Walker is running the legislative campaign effort for the Montana GOP.

Jason Priest is not running for re-election as he faces charges for parter and family member assault, although it is not known what involvement he still has in the dark money movement. His trial is set for August 12.

Former Board Members Try to Distance Themselves from Montana Growth Network

Two former Montana Growth Network board members say they left group because it “redirected its course.”

The course that group is currently on–making statewide headlines as a dark money group that raised 70 percent of its funds from only five donors.

These five donors basically bought themselves a Supreme Court seat. Continue reading

Another Email Takes Aim at TEA Party Lawmakers

A second email is making the rounds in GOP circles this week from an anonymous gmail account called “Concerned Montanans.”  Here’s the first email.

While there’s no word yet on who’s behind these, it is interesting to note that the emails appeared to be focused on the house rather than the senate. Except for Matt Rosendale,  the Senate’s likely new TEA Party leadership candidates, Fred Thomas and Jennifer Fielder, appear to be escaping the flack so far.  Jason Priest isn’t running.

“Facts are Stubborn Things!” – John Adams 

Assault on a child and wife

Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday, February 12th accusing state Sen. Jason Priest of throwing his 4-year-old daughter, shoving his estranged wife and breaking her boyfriend’s rib and then struggling with an officer who intervened in the incident…

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/state-senator-charged-with-felony-assault-in-domestic-incident/article_23826855-7dd4-5cd2-bdeb-0340b712d7ae.html#ixzz2zJQ2ACHS

Sen. Jason Priest (R-TEA Red Lodge) Yellowstone County Detention Facility mug shot.

Sen. Jason Priest (R-TEA Red Lodge) Yellowstone County Detention Facility mug shot.

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Fraud

The state political practices commissioner released findings Tuesday, April 1st, 2014  showing he concluded that Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign.

Later Tuesday Commissioner Jonathan Motl filed a civil complaint against Wittich, a Republican legislator from Bozeman, in District Court in Helena.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/commissioner-montana-senate-leader-broke-campaign-laws/article_03bef6a7-dc2f-513b-b7ba-4fb44a3d1de4.html#ixzz2zJS5V64u

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Cheat

Ken Miller violates Montana Code 45-8-216 with his Robo Calls in the 2012 primary.

The commissioner of political practices is rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller’s request to dismiss a campaign complaint, and warning his campaign to stop making automated telephone calls that are technically illegal.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/commissioner-won-t-dismiss-miller-campaign-complaint/article_905d2f72-0108-5802-9c75-05ce30d14983.html#ixzz2zJXWRNtm
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Miller and Rosendale  coordinate on a regular basis.

Wittich has held fundraisers for Rosendale in Gallatin County and elsewhere.

Be on the look-out for Dark Money coming Rosendale’s way since he can’t raise any of his own. Wittich and Priest will probably funnel it through the Montana Growth Network!

 

MR

Republican Email Circulating Takes Aim at TEA Party Legislators

An email making the rounds in Republican circles today urges GOPers to stop the TEA Party “from doing any further damage to our beloved Montana GOP.”

The email take particular issue with Art Wittich, Jason Priest, Matt Rosendale, and Tom Tuck and the Gallatin County Republican Central Committee, was forwarded on by a tipster.  It is pasted below in its entirety so you can decide what to make of it yourselves.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Concerned Montanans <montanansontheissues@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 1:38 PM
Subject: Montanans on the Issues
To: montanansontheissues@gmail.com

Dear Concerned Montana Republicans,

Please boycott the Radical Tea Party members claiming to be Republicans and any future events they may have.

To find out why please read below: 

As many of you know radical Tea Party members are attempting to take over the Montana GOP and although we would agree on many of the issues they are promoting, the Tea Party has been taken over by criminals, liars, and cheats!!!

For example, the state political practices commissioner released findings on, Tuesday, April 1st, showing that Senate Majority Leader ART WITTICH violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign. THIS IS A FELONY CRIME!! Later that same day, Commissioner Jonathan Motl filed a civil complaint against ART WITTICH.

Is this someone we want our children looking up to?

For more information on ART WITTICH’s criminal activity please see the Billings Gazette article at:http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/commissioner-montana-senate-leader-broke-campaign-laws/article_03bef6a7-dc2f-513b-b7ba-4fb44a3d1de4.html

ART WITTICH and other GOP Central Committee members, claiming to be Republicans, such as TOM TUCK, the Gallatin County Republican Central Committee’s chair, also work very closely with JASON PRIEST whom was arrested last February on suspicion of partner family member assault and resisting arrest. Priest is also is a founder of a nonprofit group called Montana Growth Network which supports U.S. HOUSE Candidate MATT ROSENDALE.​

Is this someone we want out children looking up to?

To find out more pertaining to the coordination between JASON PRIEST and ART WITTICH click below:

http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/republican-senator-jason-priest-arrested/article_8e17b3a1-d8b4-5a44-aff2-3b8ce5ba08d6.html

What is the one thing all these criminals have in common, they all rabidly support, U.S. House Candidate, MATT ROSENDALE! The Gallatin County Republican Central Committee even held a vote last February, which TOM TUCK feverishly supported, to solely support MATT ROSENDALE and his criminal cronies in the primary election.

Please help stop these criminals from doing any further damage to our beloved Montana GOP by boycotting, not only the Central Committee’s like Gallatin County, but also all future events.

 THESE CRIMINALS ARE NOT THE LEADERS WE WANT OUR CHILDREN LOOKING UP TO!

 Thank you and God Bless!

Sincerely,

Montanans on the Issues

Wittich Tells Whoppers; Trashes Mainstreet GOP Member

Art Wittich, sick and tired of serving the public.

Art Wittich, TEA Party state senator

On March 4th, Rep. Jesse O’Hara, a longtime Montana GOP pro-jobs, pro-mainstreet legislator, wrote a thoughtful piece standing up for teachers, schools, and rural healthcare, and criticized the Tea Party Extremists in his own party as a bunch of hijackers, singling out a few individuals such as Art Wittich.

In the piece, he writes:

Somewhere along the way, extremists have anointed themselves the arbiters of all things Republican. The failed leadership team of Sens. Art Wittich and Jason Priest, along with their mouthpieces, Jeff Essmann and Edward Walker, illustrated their 10-year plan to purge the party in a series of leaked emails….

….The Republican Party I began with would never gut Montana services so brutally that classrooms are crowded, schools are shuttered, roads aren’t paved, predators walk the streets, rural health care disappears and infrastructure collapses…

Predictably, Art Wittich this week responded with a vitriolic personal attack on O’Hara, belittling O’Hara for being a teacher “who leaves his beach chair only to collect his teacher’s pension and state healthcare benefits.”  Wittich also makes the sketchy and borderline-racist claim that anyone in Montana who does not have health insurance is “able but not willing to work.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 150,000 Montanans without health insurance–and 100,000 of these are employed. Another 32,000 are not actually in the labor force–that’s because they either aren’t old enough to have a job, are retired, are a stay at home parent, or disabled, or in the military. Only 13%–20,000 of the uninsured–are without work, and unless Wittich has asked every single one of those people whether or not they are willing to and looking for work, well….

Wittich also says that moderates like O’Hara joined Democrats in legislature to give Title X planning funds “to Planned Parenthood to perform abortions.”  In fact, the federal government provides money to family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood, local county clinics, and others, so that women and men who do not have health insurance can get care at reduced rates, or in some cases free, depending on their family income at the time of their visit. Title X allows these clinics to supplement birth control, breast and cervical cancer screening, testicular cancer screening for men, and other reproductive health services.

This program does not pay for abortion care. It is against federal law for the funds to be used for abortions. From the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 108-7 (2003)

(“[A]mounts provided to said [Title X] projects under such title shall not be expended for abortions, that all pregnancy counseling shall be nondirective, and that such amounts shall not be expended for any activity (including the publication or distribution of literature) that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal or candidate for public office”). See also, 42 C.F.R. § 59.5 (Title X projects must “[n]ot provide abortion as a method of family planning”).

So what O’Hara might have said, that would have been fully accurate, is that Wittich is not only an extremist, but is also a liar, and an asshole.  I will say it here.