It’s been another wacky year if TEA Party nutjob antics. From voting to keep prison sentences for being gay to a slew of racist remarks and terrible ideas, Montana elected officials, TEA Party activists, and candidates brought the crackpot craziness to mainstream politics in an embarrassing way.
A complaint was filed by a government watchdog organization against James Bopp, the architect of Citizens United yesterday. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington filed a whistleblowers complaint against Bopp and his organization, the “James Madison Center for Free Speech.” The complaint alleges he diverted nearly all of the funds from the non-profit to his own law firm in violation of prohibitions against using charitable organizations for private inurement and private benefit.
As the Wall Street Journal reports,
As a result, JMCFS and the Bopp Law Firm now owe the IRS more than $6.2 million in back taxes. Further, by repeatedly signing and submitting to the IRS inaccurate tax forms, Mr. Bopp may have made false statements in violation of federal criminal law.
James Bopp was one of the original lawyers for Citizens United, the legal challenge led to the landmark 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said corporations are people and can spend money to influence elections.
Besides deregulating the nation’s campaign finances, Bopp has been up to no good in Montana too.
In 2010, the Helena IR reported that the Bopp’s firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jennifer Olsen and the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party faction is suing the state to invalidate Montana transparency laws and political reporting requirements. Olson was the Chair the Billings GOP Republican Party who was caught posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon in February. She did not seek re-election after the post became public.
And in 2012, the Billings Gazette reported, Bopp and his firm were listed as lead counsel for the failed recount effort of Republican Office of Public Instruction candidate Sandy Welch.
Says She’s Been Thinking About Resigning for Months to “Spend More Time With Boyfriend”
The Billings Gazette is reporting today that the Chair of Montana’s largest GOP county group won’t seek re-election and is instead “looking forward to spending some time with my wonderful boyfriend.”
Jennifer Olsen, the Billings GOP Chair, was caught posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon in February.
Olsen at first refused to comment on the post. She kept mum while allowing the GOP to release an idiotic statement on her behalf, defending her on grounds that “none of Olsen’s 1,000 or so Facebook friends have corroborated” that they ever received the posting, and that the possibility thus exists that Olsen “may have been hacked.”
Later, Olsen issued a garbled statement accusing the Montanafesto blog author (a woman with an impeccable reputation who posted a screenshot of Olsen’s Facebook page which clearly showed that Olsen posted the photo) of faking the screenshot.
But the shoe finally dropped for Olsen when a young conservative who was friends with the Chair on Facebook came forward and told reporters at the Billings Outpost that he received Olsen’s racist Facebook post in his news feed. He even took a screenshot of the incident.
Olsen told the Gazette that she will “remain a politically active Republican.”Tweet
A young conservative says he was friends with the Chair of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, Jennifer Olsen, on Facebook, and that he received Olsen’s racist Facebook post in his news feed. He even took a screenshot of the incident.
Russ Hart, who is a student, also says that he sent Olsen a message questioning her about the offensive photo (showing an animal trap with a watermelon as bait, and entitled as an “Obama trap”), asking her “are you kidding me?” and that Olsen responded “I just couldn’t resist, LOL.”
He has presented the evidence to Adrian Jawort of the Billings Outpost. Jawort was the first print reporter to break the story. It ran in the Billings Outpost, Montana’s leading independent weekly, several days before the Gazette ran a piece online and in the Saturday paper.
The lastest development was revealed today in The Outpost print edition which is (UPDATE) now online. Good Job, Adrian. Outpost editor David Crisp also has some good commentary on the whole debacle on the Billings Blog.
This would suggest that Olsen, head of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, is full of crap (as we have all suspected she is) when she makes her vague allegation that the photo might have been posted to her account without her authority.
It was Hart who sent the screenshot of the whole incident to Nicole French who runs the Montanafesto blog, who published it two weeks ago but, like a good ethical journalist, refused to reveal her source even as she was taking incoming fire, from many Republicans including Olsen. Now the source (Hart) is talking publicly. French thus appears to be vindicated. Olsen had accused her of “fabricating” the screenshot.
The Yellowstone County GOP, meanwhile, has claimed that it will not take action against Olsen until it has “completed an investigation” of the matter. But you will excuse me for chortling at the image of an “investigation” mounted by a bunch of Tea Partiers walking around wearing sidearms.
No one should defend Jennifer Olsen, the Billngs GOP Chair, for posting a photo of a device designed to trap president Obama by luring him with a watermelon. But I suppose you could make a case that there could be some amount of leniency due, some forgiveness, based on the reality that people sometimes post things and re-tweet things, or forward things, without much thought. In an instant, they’ve made a grave mistake that will haunt them forever, perhaps more than they deserve (though they do derve to be held accountable) for doing or saying something without fully thinking it through.
But Olsen’s response has been disappointing, and does not reccomend her any reappraisal.
It would have been easy enough to just remove the item and state that she realized it was in bad taste. Her silence and refusal to even offer an opinion on whether the photo is racist could be taken as a greater indication that she’s a racist than the post itself. People make mistakes, forward things that they see or things that have come to them, sometimes without thinking. Or, perhaps more to the point in this case, sometimes they are not smart enough or sophisticated enough to even realize, in the moment of action, that the item is inappropriate or distasteful. We don’t really know what was in her mind as she posted the photo. Certainly she does not appear to be an intelligent, educated or sophistcated person.
But now Olsen is compounding her problems by keeping mum while allowing the GOP to release an idiotic statement on her behalf, defending her on grounds that “none of Olsen’s 1,000 or so Facebook friends have corroborated” that they ever received the posting, and that the possibility thus exists that Olsen “may have been hacked.”
Meanwhile, Olsen herself has not said that she was hacked. Rather, she issued a garbled statement accusing Nicole French (the Montanafesto blog author with an impeccable reputation who posted a screenshot of Olsen’s Facebook page which clearly showed that Olsen posted the photo) of “making up stories about me because we’ve had a falling out.” She further says that Ms. French’s “posting this about me is all fabricated,” whatever that means.
This response appears to be a “non-denial denial,” as the Watergate journalists Woodward and Bernstein might have described it. Olsen can’t decide on an alibi. She is being vague about whether her defense is that she was hacked or whether somebody, Nicole French or some other person, created some sort of fake image. And Olsen, ou will notice, stops short of making either of these allegations. She instead parses words and remains factually vague in her outrage, so that she can appear to be some sort of victim, without specifying precisely what malfeasance has been visited upon her.
Which is another way of admitting that she posted the photo.
At any rate, this is a lesson for everyone. If you do something like this, just admit you were wrong, apologize, and move on to act better in the future.Tweet
The Yellowstone County Republican Party is claiming that a racist Facebook post from the Chair of the Yellowstone County Republican Party may be the work of hackers. In a statement issued to the Billings Gazette today the Republican Vice Chair John Quandt wrote:
It is widely known that hacking is used to apply fraudulent posts in social media frequently. This alleged posting has not been corroborated by any of the over 1,000 friends following the chairwoman’s personal Facebook at the time or any other witnesses. Ms. Olsen has never demonstrated this of her character to anyone on the board or in public to our knowledge. We believe that asking Ms. Olsen to step down as Chairwoman at this time would be premature, unnecessary, and unwarranted. As the matter progresses we will adjust our approach as necessary in a proper and justified manner which portrays the key values of our local Republican party.
Meanwhile the state Republican party said that “racially insensitive conversation is offensive” however, “officials will not interfere with what should be a county committee issue.”Tweet
Seems not everyone was thrilled to have a racist Facebook post from the Chair of the Yellowstone County Republican Party exposed to public view.
The Cowgirl blog has received some hate-mail from angry GOP-ers in response to this Cowgirl post. The post featured a screenshot of a Facebook item posted by the county chair Jennifer Olsen of a watermelon/animal trap for a black person.
Jan Tessier sent me this:
You are a racist bitch. Please drink yourself to death. Or better yet—Just leave the planet.
And here’s Wade Briggs:
You’re a douchebag. Who could possibly be proud of you? Including yourself. Barf, barf, barf!
Meanwhile, the list of those speaking out against the Republican leader’s acts continues to grow. Olsen has not apologized nor been asked to step down.
One of Montana’s leading Tea Party figures has posted a photo for a device she says can lure the President. Here it is–a Tea Party animal trap for a black person.
Here’s Olsen’s post, courtesy of the Montanafesto blog.
Jennifer Olsen is the leader of Montana’s largest TEA Party faction, the Yellowstone County Republican party in Billings. She also leads the Yellowstone County Montana Shrugged TEA Party.Tweet
Here are the most viewed blog posts of 2011 from the Montana Cowgirl Blog:
Look no further for proof that the actions of the current legislature are making Montana a national joke than this video. (Once again, Montana newspaper editors missed out on a great story.) You really must watch as Anderson Cooper schools TEA Party Lawmaker Bob Wagner (R-Harrison) on his birther bill for a look at how our TEA Party legislators represent Montana to the rest of America.
And a note to the rest of the nation, this legislator is but one of many who have proposed outrageous, unconstitutional, extreme and pointless legislation in Montana. If you’ve found this story, you’ve only scratched the surface.
The leader of the Billings Montana Shrugged TEA Party and a TEA Party Republican state lawmaker were been caught posting remarks online that imply support for shooting their political opponents.
The incident came on the heels of another Montana TEA Party scandal. TEA Party leader Tim Ravndal was forced to resign after his comments about lynching gay people Matthew Shepard style were reported on blogs and in the state and national media. The latest exchange, which was captured today via screenshot after it caught the sharp eye of Billings politico Kayla Corcoran, can be viewed here.
Finally, the top post of 2011. For your reading pleasure, recall some of the major pieces of legislation that were put forward by the Tea Party Republicans who are now in control of the legislature. This is not a joke. These are real bills, and they represented the priorities of the Montana legislature.
Montanans saw sweeping victories for progressives from across the state today. And while it is yet to be seen whether this will translate into a wave of momentum for the Dems next year, one thing is known. The TEA Party legislature proved itself guilty of a major overreach during the last session. In turn, TEA Party Republicans were soundly rejected by voters.
Nowhere did the phenomena manifest itself more dramatically than in the Flathead, where the TEA Party candidates backed by Chuck Denowh, John Sinrud and the Realtors, Ricky Lynn Blake and a slate of developers and self-funded shadow PACs spent big bucks on attacking their opponents–and were all defeated.
Congratulations to John Muhlfeld, John Anderson, Richard Hildner and Frank Sweeney and the large numbers of voters who turned out to defeat a well-funded crew of special interest nutjobs. The victories weren’t limited to Whitefish either. The only openly self proclaimed Tea Party candidate in the Flathead County elections, Erik Jerde, garnered a soul-crushing 34 votes out of 1275 cast in Kalispell. Those whom supported Tea Party poster boy Derek Skees in 2010 also all lost…Askew, Vail and Wise. Tea Party candidates lost in the Flathead Valley Community College Trustees election as well as the municipal elections.
In Great Falls, a woman who refused all donations beat the leader of the Cascade County TEA Party, Cyndi Baker. As the Great Falls Tribune reports, the TEA Partier had the most campaign signs of any candidate and the second largest campaign war chest. Baker blamed her defeat on teachers, despite losing by a margin of 84-16.
In Helena, the conservative candidate was defeated by Matt Elsaesser, who was re-elected by a wide margin, and newcomer Katherine Haque-Hausrath. Progressives also had major victories in Missoula including Caitlin Copple, Cynthia Wolken, Alex Taft, and others, as D. Gregory Smith at From Eternity to Here writes.
Billings also had a big win against the TEA Party, where the Billings “Montana Shrugged” TEA Party leader Jennifer Olsen was easily routed by Ken Crouch. Progressives Brent Cromley and Becky Bird also won handily. Denis Pitman, the conservative minister of Fuji Spa fame, is still in (proving the power of incumbency). However, Pitman’s opponent probably succeeded in halting his higher political ambitions now that voters know he checks his family man-of-God morality at the door once profits are on the table, and for that, we can be thankful.
UPDATE: In Bozeman, progressive Cyndy Andrus defeated Bill Fiedler by a whopping 4,289 votes to 2,209 votes. Fiedler was a member of the developers’ crew–he’s a member of the board of directors of the Southwest Montana Building Industry Association.
So, even though TEA Party Republicans won a legislative majority in 2010, they made a mistake in interpreting their one-time wins as a go-ahead to let voters know their true beliefs and goals. So it appears that focusing on nutjob bills over jobs was indeed a bad idea. They paid for it in the off-year elections. The progressives also won because they fielded some terrific candidates–people who actually cared about their community and its people more than getting a platform on which to scream TEA Party platitudes and shut down government. They worked very, very hard on the doors, raised money to get their message out, and voters responded well.
Congratulations to the winners! Here’s to a repeat of this in 2012.Tweet