Tag Archives: Jeff Laszloffy

GOP Packs Education Committee with Homeschoolers, Crackpots, and Convicts

Sarah Laszloffy, Debra Lamm

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Ben Franklin

As bizarre as this may sound, the Montana Republicans have chosen Sarah Laszloffy (R-Laurel) to be Chair of the House Education Committee. Laszloffy is 23-years-old and a major advocate (and product) of homeschooling and promotes using your tax dollars to subsidize private sectarian religious schools. She is also an alumnus of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students of all ages come to learn how to live  “a supernatural lifestyle.” (Who says Republicans are to opposed alternative lifestyles?)

According to the school’s website, Laszloffy and her fellow students learn how to “do the Bible,” —including useful skills such as “how to cast out demons” and other practical solutions to life’s most pressing problems.  [screenshot]

Bethel’s members also purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life, although this failed when one young man at the academy fell from a 200-foot cliff and Bethel students tried for several hours to pray him back to life before calling 911. The victim, who had not actually died yet but was instead unconscious, filed a lawsuit against the students after he ended up a paraplegic.  

Laszloffy quickly removed references to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry from her Facebook profile once the Cowgirl blog made the information public two years ago, but you can see a screenshot here.

Laszloffy is the daughter of noted birther Jeff Laszloffy who is a lobbyist for the ultra-religious, ultra-right-wing group which calls itself the Montana Family Foundation.  

And if it’s not bad enough that this young ignoramus has been chosen to occupy the GOP’s top education post in the Montana state legislature, consider who her top deputy will be:  the number two Republican on the Education committee will be Debra Lamm (R-Livingston), who also worked for the Family Foundation and in fact was the group’s top lobbyist until this year.  She will be vice chair of the House Education Committee.  

Lamm’s greatest hits include her publicly held belief that improved math and reading standards are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ’dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.” She has also worked closely on education policy with the wealthy Greg Gianforte of Bozeman, who builds museums that attempt to prove that dinosaurs lived 4,000 years ago. 

Overall, however, I’d say the big winner in the Laszloffy and Lamm appointments is Chick-Fil-A.   The Family Foundation was behind the enlightened plan to import stale chicken sandwiches to Montana from Chick-Fil-A locations in other states (there are none in Montana) after it announced that it wanted to keep discrimination against LBGT people legal.

But if you thought the bizarre appointments ended there, you’d be wrong.

To be sure, the Montana GOP is a party which has long held a revered place for ignorance in its official party platform–a document which has gone so far as enshrined positions in support of birtherism and the gold standard and making being gay an imprisonable offense.

Even so, newly appointed house education committee member Rep. Matthew Monforton appears to lack faith that Republican voters can tell the difference between someone who’s truly uninformed and someone who’s just faking it to get elected on the GOP ticket.  He’s calling for closed primaries–which would prevent independents, the unaffiliated and anyone but GOP stalwarts from voting in the GOP primary.  Presumably this will help the electoral chances of the truly backward – so that they too m may be appointed to the committee that makes Montana’s education laws.

Rounding out the house education committee is convicted child abuser Gilbert Bruce Meyers of Havre.

What this means for policy isn’t clear.  In the past, Montana republicans have pushed for bills to restore corporal punishment in the classroom–and to expand the concept to all of society by allowing the option of corporal punishment for those convicted of misdemeanor and felony crimes in Montana.

 

Give Me Your Crackpots, Your Liars, Your Befuddled Faction Yearning to Drink TEA

by Cowgirl

It looks like Billings Mayor Tom Hanel got into the gene pool when the lifeguard wasn’t looking.

Lee Newspapers photo

How else to explain that Hanel cast the deciding vote to keep discrimination legal in Billings, Montana’s largest community.  By doing so, Hanel put the crackpot ideology of certifiable nutjob Jeff Laszloffy over the views of most people in Billings–people Hanel is supposed to represent.   Laszloffy is head of the “Montana Family Foundation.” He’s the guy  who led the fight to allow discrimination against LGBT Montanans.

To be sure, readers may note that I have found it necessary to call people nutjobs fairly often, since I live in a state where elected lawmakers introduce bills to declare that global warming is good and plan to demand that the federal government prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully acquired. But even amongst these world-class minds, Jeff Laszloffy still appears to have been napping in the nutpile the day the man upstairs was cracking nuts.

So let’s take a look at the man whose views Mayor Hanel valued most when it came time to make city policy. This was certainly a very poor calculation on Hanel’s part.

Hanel listened to a proven liar

Earlier this summer, Laszloffy was the subject of a documentary exposé on influence peddling in the Montana legislature. He was caught lying on camera when he claimed that there was “no connection, absolutely none” between the public school privatization bill he backed last session and the corporate front group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, which was pushing this same bill nationwide.

The PBS documentary uncovered multiple connections between Laszloffy and ALEC, including how Laszloffy’s bill to force taxpayers to subsidize sectarian religious schools is almost a word for word copy of ALEC’s bill. Laszloffy claims in the documentary that charter schools aren’t for-profit corporations, and was caught in another lie. The exposé pointed out financial and investment news reports outlining the high profitability of these private charter schools. ALEC even funded the PR campaign Laszloffy used to push these private charter schools in Montana.  And even though Laszloffy said he had nothing to do with ALEC, PBS also uncovered jointly funded surveys by ALEC and the Family Foundation–and jointly funded articles trumpeting the Family Foundation’s private school push, all of which appear in Laszloffy’s groups’ own legislative testimony.  You can watch the entire expose online here.

Hanel listened to a birther

Laszloffy went live from Birtherstan in 2011, when he actually supported the infamous birther bill, Bob Wagner’s House Bill 205 which would have required all candidates to produce birth certificates–especially a certain black candidate. Laszloffy testified:

We’ve gone over 200 years without this being a problem and it just became a problem in the last election cycle. And I think the circumstances surrounding this are frankly bizarre. There is question as to whether the president was born in the United States, we all know that…The president could fix this by simply releasing his birth certificate and that would get us past this little road bump.

Hanel listened to a certified crackpot

Yep, the mayor of Billings chose to listen to a man who sent his daughter to a school which claims it can teach how to bring people back from the dead.

Hanel listened to a man who celebrates discrimination 

Laszloffy also organized a small group in celebrating their hatred of gay people by throwing a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  The day was marked by bringing gay-haters together to teach their kids that discrimination against others is something to celebrate–preferably with stale fast food from 1000 miles away.  Just the kind of person you want to be playing a key role in making city policy right?

Hanel listened to a man who led the fight to allow religious boarding schools to operate without regulation despite terrible allegations of child abuse.

Laszloffy lead the fight to allow religious boarding schools in Montana like Pinehaven Ranch to remain unregulated. These religious schools, which have no licenses, no accreditation and employ teachers who are not certified,  are now dealing with allegations that staff used violence to discipline students. And yet the Montana GOP has voted, under Laszloffy’s direction, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it  on the Anderson Cooper 360 show.  Rep. Ellie Hill’s HB 236 would have addressed the problem. Laszloffy lobbied hard against Hill’s bill, convincing the GOP majority to let these kids suffer free from protection.

So yeah, this is pretty bad policy making, and its pretty ridiculous that Billings Mayor Tom Hanel went so wrong by listening to this guy instead of his own constituents.  He should be replaced at the earliest opportunity since he has demonstrated such poor judgement.

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.

 

Sasquatch Hunters in Tin Foil Hats Shouldn’t Set Education Standards

Fundamentalists Organize to Dummy Down Education Standards

The Montana Family Foundation, the group of imbeciles that thought celebrating bigotry by importing stale fast food from Idaho was a good idea, now has a new crusade.

Continue reading

Ken Miller Resurfaces with Crusade Against Education Standards

Ken Miller and Bowen Greenwood

Ken Miller and Bowen Greenwood

Ken Miller has foisted himself into the public spotlight again, prompting speculation about whether he’s mulling another statewide run in 2014 or whether he’s trying to provide cover for some of Steve Daines’ wackier views.

Against a backdrop of Tea Party calls to abolish the Department of Education and eliminate the teaching of science from public schools, the former Republican candidate for governor is now on the stump for a new jihad – prohibiting Montana schools from adopting education standards relevant to the current century.

Reducing educational quality is no doubt a good strategy for hardline Republicans, as anyone facing a crowded GOP primary will need to separate himself from the pro-business wing of the party (otherwise known as RINOs).

In an email sent out this week (below), Miller invites his supporters to join his crusade against education standards, promising free pizza today (Wed) to anyone who shows up. Obstructing educational quality is a top priority of TEA Party front-group Americans for Prosperity, who presumably want to keep the masses uneducated in hopes this will help TEA Party Republicans keep their elected offices.   TEA Partiers around the country are working overtime to spread the word against these standards, which 45 states have already adopted. Continue reading

Laszloffy’s Losses Part 2

by Cowgirl

The Montana Family Foundation’s Jeff Laszloffy suffered a slew of losses this session, but perhaps none was felt so bitterly as his failure to get a parental consent legislative referendum on the ballot for 2014. The Family Foundation’s legislative referenda work was the organization’s major cash cow last election cycle.  Since Laszloffy failed to get the measure on the ballot for 2014, the Family Foundation’s ability to impact elections has now evaporated.

Cowgirl readers will recall that Governor Steve Bullock allowed Laszloffy’s unconstitutional bill to become law solely so that the bill can be struck down in Montana’s courts. As John Adams at The Lowdown reports, the move allows women to immediately challenge the measure in court long before an identical referenda passed by the legislature gets to the ballot in 2014.

Sure, Laszloffy knew that the measure was unconstitutional–everyone knew it. But Lazloffy’s purpose in pushing it was electoral, not policy-driven.

You see, last election cycle Laszloffy raised some $300,000–purportedly for the parental notification legislative referenda which was sent to the ballot by the 2011 legislature.    Montana Family Foundation’s Incidental Ballot Committee Reports in 2012 show they were able to raise and spend $320,000 in 2012.

In a typical year, the Family Foundation raises about $20,000 for electoral work.  But because of the LR, LR-120, they were able to raise more than 15 times that amount. You can see the reports below.

$18,000 May 8-May 24

$3,000 May 25-June 18

$2,000 June 19-July 3

$6,000 July 4 -Aug 3 

$29,000 Aug 4-Sept 3

$191,000 spent Sept 15-Oct 15

$3,000 spent Oct 16-Oct 25

$68,000 spent Oct 26-Nov 19

For one thing, this is money that could be used to supplant Family Foundation funds that had been going toward Laszloffy’s salary.  What’s also interesting is that the campaign finance reports for Laszloffy’s ballot committee  shows that some of the money he raised was leveraged to actually help the GOP’s top targeted legislative races–not just the ballot initiative.

Here’s a screenshot from his “incidental ballot committee’s” campaign report.  It reports the expenditure Lazsoffy made for a mailer that was about the ballot measure on one side, and a top tier targeted GOP race on the other.   This means that all of the polling and research Laszloffy did for these mailings was supporting the GOP’s legislative candidates too.

MT Fam Foundation hide campaign work as ballot

Thanks to Cowgirl tipsters for pointing out these fundraising anomalies. Reader tips are the essence of this blog. Send tips to mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com

Family Foundation Says “God Governs the Affairs of Men”…but had trouble passing bills

by Cowgirl

The leader of the religious right group called the Montana Family Foundation proclaimed in a recent podcast that “God still today actively governs in the affairs of men.”

If it was the will of God that Jeff Laszloffy introduced such right-wing bills this session— as opposed to the will of the people the legislature is elected to represent — how does Laszloffy explain the fact that so many of his bills failed?  Especially when the session was overwhelmingly dominated by members of the Republican Party.

Here’s a sampling of bills Laszloffy was backing which failed to pass.

Clayton Fiscus’s bill to require the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in all Montana schools failed.

Kris Hansen’s private sectarian school voucher bill HB 357

Mary Caferro’s bill to legalize religious ponzi insurance schemes, which was vetoed by both Schweitzer and Bullock. SB 181

Cary Smith’s anti-science sex-education bill. HB 239

 Krayton Kerns bill to take away the right to death with dignity. HB 505

But it wasn’t just that his pro-active bills failed, bills that he had hoped to defeat were passed and became law.

Tom Facey’s bill to remove from the books Montana’s law that made being gay an imprisonable felony.  SB 107

And Laszloffy had tried to defeat Llew Jones’s SB 175, which made major investments in public schools.

To be sure, Laszloffy did get his way on one very prominent national issue.  He allowed religious boarding schools in Montana like Pinehaven Ranch to remain unregulated. These religious schools, which have no licenses, no accreditation and employ teachers who are not certified,  are now dealing with allegations that staff used violence to discipline students. And yet the Montana GOP has voted, on a party line, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it  on the Anderson Cooper 360 show.  Ellie Hill’s HB 236 would have addressed the problem. Laszloffy lobbied hard against Hill’s bill.

Before you start questioning God and his plan in light of this new information, make quick review of Laszloffy’s failed agenda–and how out-of-touch these bills make their sponsors appear. Sure enough, Laszloffy will prove to be the answer to the prayers of local Democrats next fall.

 

GOP Wants No Regulation of Controversial Boarding Schools

by Cowgirl

A religious boarding school in northern Montana named Pinehaven Ranch has no license, no accreditation and employs teachers who are not certified, and is now dealing with allegations that the staff used violence to discipline students.

And yet the Montana GOP has voted, on a party line, to allow such schools to continue to go unregulated. CNN ran a big story about it tonight on the Anderson Cooper 360 show, with interviews with Montana legislators Jenny Eck and Krayton Kerns. Eck is a progressive democrat and Kerns, chairman of the Montana house judiciary, is one of the loudest and proudest Tea Partiers in America. Eck made an emotional appeal to the committee on which she sits, and which Kerns chairs, during a hearing on HB 236, a bill which would make homes for troubled kids like Pineheaven Ranch subject to the same regulation as other youth homes. As in, the state government would be allowed to get involved when school children at private religious schools are allegedly being abused. Religious schools, under current state law, are exempt from regulation.

Kerns, meanwhile, did not disappoint. He said, in an interview with CNN’s Gary Tuchman who paid a visit to the Montana legislature, that not only should schools like Pinehaven not be subject to any state education laws, but that all laws and regulations for all schools, public or otherwise, should be abolished.

The injustice was clearly on Eck’s mind in the committee when she pointed out to the committee that Kerns that allowed the headmaster of the school 20 minutes for his testimony against the bill, but gave opponents of the bill only a few seconds a piece.

And so, the general narrative that has been circulating in the media is that all is well at the Capitol and that “this Session is so much better than last session,” is not true at all. When it comes to the House Judiciary committee, the Montana legislature is still making national news for its awfulness. Perhaps now our own Montana press will get the true picture. HB 236 is sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula).  Here’s the video:

Wingnuts Throw Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day

The Great Falls Tribune is reporting this week on a group of imbeciles from Laurel, Montana who are celebrating their hatred of gay people with by throwing a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.  Jeff Laszloffy, head of the Montana Family Foundation will bring the gay-haters together this week to teach their kids that discrimination against others is something to celebrate.

You must read the full press release to appreciate it . Here it is:

BILLINGS TO HOST MONTANA’S VERSION OF CHICK-FIL-A APPRECIATION DAY

Billings, MT – August 29, 2012 – Come and show your support for traditional family values!  Chick-fil-A chicken will be available for one day only in Billings’ westend on Saturday, September 8th.  This special event, called Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day 2.0, is sponsored by the Montana Family Foundation.  The famous fried chicken sold at more than 1600 locations nationwide will be available to the first 1000 people that come through the one-day only drive-thru lane.  A giant inflatable black and white cow will mark the location at 328 So. Shiloh Road in Billings. This fund-raising event will be held from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is open to the public for a suggested donation of $20 per person.

The day of appreciation will include the tasty Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets, coleslaw and chocolate chip cookies, not to mention a college intern dressed up in Chick-fil-A’s signature black and white Holstein cow costume for the kids and families in attendance.  Local churches are encouraged to come join the Montana Family Foundation for Montana’s own version of Chick-fil-A appreciation day.

Jeff Laszloffy, President/CEO, said, “The Montana Family Foundation is associated with Focus on the Family and CitizenLink and works in the Legislature and the courts to strengthen and defend Biblical Family Values”

 

In response, Kim Abbott of the Montana Human Rights Network said, “While people are buying chicken sandwiches in support of discrimination, we’ll be continuing to talk to Montanans about the importance of fairness for all families.”  Amen.

Baloney

The leader of a local right-wing group claims in a podcast that gay people are not the targets of violence and that actual cases of anti-gay violence don’t exist.

Pointing to one case of a young adult in Missoula who made up the story of being attacked because he was gay, Montana birther Jeff Laszloffy tells us (clip) “these false claims are becoming all too frequent because actual cases don’t exist”:

The notion that it does comes from repeated claims by groups like the Montana Human Rights Network. The reason this latest case  got so much publicity was that the promoters of anti-gay discrimination ordinances thought that they finally had an actual case that they could point to. (clip)

Laszloffy, head of the far-right Montana Family Foundation, wants us to believe that non-profit organizations are ginning up fake claims of anti-gay violence in Missoula to to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in Helena.

He points to two other cases of anti-gay violence in Montana that he says were made up.

Though Laszloffy declines to cite his sources, presumably he means the 2001 case of the Carroll College student who,

was hit in the head with a bottle, knocked unconscious and further beaten, according to a report filed by the student with school administrators. The words “Die Fag” were written on his body, and the student later required surgery because of the cuts on his eye.

The 2001 Helena IR report on this case is pasted below the fold.

He claims that police believed that a lesbian couple in Missoula actually set their own house on fire. The couple was forced to escape through a window with their infant son.

Laszloffy presents no evidence to back up his statement that these people committed crimes by making false reports to police.   Instead, he says we should be suspicious of them because they left the state after the attacks.   However, as the Helena IR reports, the Carroll student left because he feared for his safety, “fearing for his safety, he withdrew from Carroll and returned to his Spokane-area home.” And in the case of the Missoula couple, the prosecutor, a Missoula County Attorney, found no evidence to back up the claims of those who said that they had made up their story.

Laszloffy doesn’t think we understand that people move away after becoming a hate crime victim because they want to distance themselves from that terrible experience. Who wants to be known mostly as a public reminder of fear and the existence of bigots?  They move away because they don’t want to be reminded every day of what happened to them and to avoid having to encounter the perpetrators.

Here’s where his remarks really go south. Laszloffy says that the Helena non-discrimination ordinance is not to protect people who are gay but rather to “put churches and those who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds at risk for  harassment.”   He says that, “The gay community is now pushing those in the faith community not only to accept what they see as sin, but to participate in it as well.”

Back in Montana on Planet Earth, people who are gay can be denied housing and employment, fired, or kicked out of establishments — all because of their sexual orientation.  Religion is a protected class by both bias-crime laws and non-discrimination laws in Montana.  This means laws already protect people from being discriminated against because of  their faith.   And if a religious person was attacked in a bias-based crime, the assailant would receive a sentence enhancement.

To find out more about Helena’s non-discrimination ordinance and how you can help, visit the Montana Human Rights Network website here.