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
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
For those who believe that last year’s TEA Party Republican Legislature has inflicted enough trauma on Montana, consider that what happened in this week’s primary election spells a looming disaster for the next session. Out-of-state corporate groups worked in the primaries to push the already Bat Crap Crazy Montana legislature further rightward and over the cliff.
Mailers by third party, out-of-state, and corporate-funded groups succeeded in several races in getting more conservative candidates elected in GOP Primaries across the state. Their work was also designed to force a further rightward shift in the votes of all legislators in the next session. That’s because legislators who don’t currently vote hard right on every single bill now know that if they don’t toe the line next time, they are likely to face the same kind of attack ads and mailers we saw this year.
The attack mailers had an impact on several high profile races–putting in right-wingers over moderates in Laurel, Stevensville, Sidney, Polson, the Flathead, and who knows where else. Not only do these groups refuse to disclose how much their spending and who they are spending it on, they also refuse to disclose their donors. If their supporters were individual Montana citizens they would have nothing to hide and could just file as a Political Action Committee. But they don’t. They claim that their attack ads are “educational” rather than “electioneering” so that they don’t have to report who’s bankrolling them. Besides their ridiculous names, here’s what is known about the groups pushing the Montana Legislature further into the abyss.
“Taxpayers for Liberty”
An outside ultraconservative group calling itself “Taxpayers for Liberty” (linked to American Tradition Partnership) sent out mailers like those pasted below against Republican Rep. Carmine Mowbray and Republican Sen. Bruce Tutvedt. The group sent one mailer with a Washington DC return address. Another had the return address of the Helena UPS store. So, it’s unlikely a Montana group. There’s no record of “Taxpayers for Liberty” in the Montana Secretary of State’s database or with the Commissioner of Political Practices either. The group does not disclose its donors so the involvement of corporate or Koch brothers money can’t be ruled out. Even though they didn’t succeed in ousting Tutvedt, they still succeeded in sending a message that anyone who doesn’t vote hardline Bat Crap can expect the same treatment in 2014, thus resulting in a further right leaning legislature in January.
“Montana Family Foundation”
The massive amount of secret, corporate and out-of-state money at work in the Montana primaries allowed the groups that had worked in these races in the past to be more effective. Thanks to corporate money, special interest lobbying groups working in conservative races like the so-called Montana Family Foundation didn’t have to get involved in every primary this year. They could be more targeted, and more deadly. In fact, after a Montana judge that struck down the law requiring accuracy in campaign ads, the Montana Family Foundation called the court decision “a good thing”and a victory, the Flathead Beacon reported.
The group put out radio ads mailers claiming that Republican legislators Carmine Mowbray and Bruce Tutvedt:
“voted to allow fifth graders to be taught different sexual positions and variations and to allow “kindergarten students to be taught sexual detail without parental consent,”
Click here to listen to the radio ad: MTF1201_Tutvedt
To be sure, Montana Family Foundation lobbyist Jeff Laszloffy insisted he’d already planned to put the attacks out before the accuracy requirement was struck. Mowbray and Tutvedt both immediately denounced the attacks as the lies they are. (Which is somewhat ironic since they remained silent when their own party used the exact same attacks against Democrats in 2010–even after they were proven false.) The GOP has since removed the the press release on the sex ed attacks from their website.
You can tell the Family Foundation attack ads are designed to scare Republicans into making outrageous votes by looking at the groups “C-2″–a statement PACs are required to file with the Commissioner of Political Practices. The [PDF] form reads so explicitly it is a veritable ”kill list” of Republicans who didn’t vote how lobbyist Laszloffy ordered. If you don’t vote like we tell you, this form says, you’re next.
Laszloffy attacked Tutvedt and Mowbray by distorting their voting records, but why he targeted Republican candidate Tami Christensen in Sidney is a puzzle. How Laszloffy came to the conclusion that she doesn’t meet his creepy purity test is unclear, since out of hundreds of legislative candidates, only one bothered to fill out Laszoffy’s questionnaire. One wonders if it was just because she’s a woman. Several local Republicans spoke out against the Family Foundation’s actions, including the Mayor and former State Legislator Sen. Donald Steinbeisser.
“American Traditions Partnership”
The American Tradition Partnership put out a press release this week claiming “ATP Sweeps State Legislative Elections,” and that they had won 12 of the 14 races in which they spent massive amounts of corporate money. Odd that they would put out this release after claiming in a Montana court that what they do is “issue education” rather than electioneering. The group boasted of radio ads and mailers.
The quotes from their release were particularly outrageous, given that ATP is funded by large out-of-state and multi-national corporations:
“This isn’t just a victory for ATP-Montana, it’s a victory for all ratepayers, property owners and businesspeople across the Treasure State,” said Doug Lair, State Coordinator for ATP-Montana. “Whether it’s against foreign corporations coming after our property rights or Gang Green’s hand-picked politicians bilking us through our utility bills, ATP-Montana will continue to fight for working people.”
“ATP is going to make sure there are consequences for regulation-happy politicians who want to use mom-and-pop business owners and employers as nothing more than punching bags and ATM machines,” added Lair, “and we won’t be shut up or shut down.”
ATP also threatened to buy the November elections, and threatened Steve Bullock in particular, saying that
“a pro-resource development agenda is sure to weigh heavily in the legislative elections in November, and particularly as party nominees Rick Hill and Steve Bullock face off in the race for governor.”
In legislative races, ATP sent out mailers like this one supporting Dee Brown in the Republican primary for the Whitefish/Columbia Falls State Senate Seat, SD 2. Previously they favored TEA Party poster boy Rep. Derek Skees in the HD4 general. This is the group that sued Montana to allow inaccurate campaign ads, keep election donations secret, and turn back MT’s 100 year old ban on corporate funding of elections. Attorney General Steve Bullock is defending Montana against the out-of-state group.
This demagoguing flier was mailed with heavy saturation in Whitefish, Columbia Falls, and who knows where else:
“Montana Growth Network”
This group worked in the Supreme Court race, but since Montana TEA Party Republican legislator Jason Priest is the groups treasurer I’m including it here. The Supreme Court race is non-partisan but the Helena IR reported that
“the Montana Growth Network, spent $19,000 with Richmond, Va.-based Desumo Strategies, which on its website lists as its one goal “Putting Republicans like you in office, at every level.”
By spending more on one saturation mailing then the conservative candidate they were backing had raised for her entire campaign, this corporate front group took the first step to buying the Supreme Court seat. Laurie McKinnon, who dog whistled at Lincoln Reagan dinners across Montana about “judicial activism,” “strict constructionist” and other conservative buzzwords was pushed past front-runner Elizabeth Best–in spite of reports of alleged Judicial Code of Ethics violations reported in Montana papers across the state. The allegations involve a fundraising letter sent out on McKinnon’s behalf, paid for by Laurie McKinnon’s campaign, from a sitting conservative Judge, Nels Swandal.
On Swandal’s political views, the Billings Gazette reported that:
State District Judge Nels Swandal, who’s running for an open seat on the Montana Supreme Court, sent some clear signals Saturday to Republicans that he is the more conservative candidate in the race, saying he didn’t have or want the endorsement of a prominent labor or conservation group.
Swandal, speaking at a forum at the Republican Party Platform Convention in Billings, said some of the questions posed by the Montana AFL-CIO to candidates “are among the most un-American ideas I’ve ever seen,” and that he wouldn’t seek endorsement of the Montana Conservation Voters “because of their assault on private property.”
With groups like this pushing Montana further into nutjob territory, it’s easy to see why leaders like Steve Bullock, Brian Schweitzer and citizens from all over the state are fighting so hard to restore accuracy, transparency, and citizen input into Montana elections. What remains of the right to vote when the only messages most people get on issues of public policy are those put forward by large businesses, out-of-staters, and those with huge amounts of disposable cash?