Tag Archives: Jim Peterson

Montana Ranks 3rd Nationally in TEA Party Members Per Capita

A new report ranks Montana third nationally in tea party membership as a percentage of the state’s population.

Wyoming ranked number two and Alaska had the highest percentage of TEA Partiers.  Still, the report from Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights showed MT TEA Party membership was much lower than what local groups have claimed, but its not like this bunch’s other claims have had much credibility either. Continue reading

Dark Money, Dim Bulbs

by Cowgirl

Dark money and its corrupting influence is the biggest problem in American politics today, but according to one TEA Party legislator, the real problem is blogging.

Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) held forth in a committee hearing Friday with concerns about Governor Bullock’s bill to clean up political contributions.  She was concerned that the problem wasn’t massive amounts of unregulated, unreported money buying Montana politicians–but rather, the blogs. Said Warburton:

 “they’re exerting great, great power and in fact the internet is becoming much more of a forum than paper. You know what I mean as far as what we’re really talking about in terms of political power and things here.

I’ll bring up specific examples. The Montana Cowgirl online anonymous blog exerts influence. I’ve had my local newspaper call me in response to things they’ve said.”

Here’s the video:


Warburton is talking about the call she got from the Havre Daily News after this blog mentioned that her name appeared in a brilliant piece of national investigative journalism.  PBS show Frontline‘s piece aired nationwide and revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in MT elections.

In a full-hour exposé of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP, Frontline revealed that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found in a meth house, showing extensive communications between Warburton and other Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

The short story is that the 2010 election, in which the Tea Party swept into control of the Montana legislature, may have featured massive illegalities.   Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in violation of the law.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News reported that Warburton appears to have been in direct communication with the group, even going so far as to send them a “signature stamp,” presumably so they could send out mailings on her behalf, using her signature.  That’s likely to be found illegal under Montana law.

So basically what we have here is Warburton having a fit because a reporter called her when her name popped up in a national dark money exposé.  That she is trying to seek retaliation against a blog because of this is hilarious.

She doesn’t realize that the fault here is hers–and that her actions are exactly the type of things members of her own party are working with Governor Bullock to try to prevent.  I shudder to think what Warburton will do when she finds out that the dark money expose she’s angry about was not just discussed on the blogs, but also on Facebook and Twitter, around dinner tables, at coffee shops, and around water coolers across the state.

The bill is SB 375 sponsored by GOP Sen. Jim Peterson.


Senate Votes For Bullock’s Healthcare Proposal; GOP moderates break ranks

by Cowgirl

The  Montana Senate today voted to move forward with a bill by Sen. Dave Wanzenried (SB 395) to reform and expand the Medicaid program in Montana to working poor people–people whose employers don’t provide health benefits or don’t pay enough for people to afford to buy it on their own.  The expansion program is called Access Health Montana.

Now the more conservative House must approve it as well.

Republicans have been hesitant to support the idea until now, even though it would mean billions of federal dollars for Montana.  This is not surprising.   Using government spending to create jobs (one of the Democrats’ strongest arguments for this proposal) is something that Republicans are claiming they fundamentally oppose,  (though not when it comes to highway funding or farm subsidies apparently). So a few moderates joined in with the Dems, and the bill passed.

That hasn’t stopped many GOP legislators on the right wing from doing what they do best–spread misinformation.

During debate, for example, Sen. Art Wittich revealed that he has a most embarrassing lack of understanding of the bill–or perhaps he just decided to openly lie about it.

Wittich claimed there was “no cap” to the Medicaid expansion –that it would be infinitely costly for the state.  That’s false.  Eligibility is capped at 138% of the Federal Poverty Level – that means it’s limited to people who make less that that amount, about $15,000 for a single person.

He also made the ludicrous statement that instead being benefited by a Medicaid expansion, the uninsured should simply “use welfare” to buy health insurance.  That’s not possible.  Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF)–what Wittich calls “welfare”– is only for people with kids.  It’s also temporary (hence the name).   Families can only get the benefits for a limited time.  There is no possibility of it being used for a purchase of health insurance.

Unlike TANF, Access Health Montana (the Medicaid Expansion plan that the Senate voted up) is not limited to people with kids.

Thankfully, a few GOP Senators looked into the facts of the matter, rather than relying on  Wittich’s fibs.  Llew Jones, Taylor Brown, Bruce Tutvedt, Ed Buttrey, and Jim Peterson are all Republicans who voted for the bill.  All Democrats voted yes.

These Republicans made a smart choice.  Access Health Montana is the only way to keep federal healthcare dollars in Montana now that Obamacare is the law of the land.  If Montana doesn’t expand Medicaid, our federal tax dollars will go to the other states that do–instead of being spent here in Montana to boost our own economy.

That would translate to a $700 million annual loss to Montana’s future Gross Domestic Product. This probably doesn’t mean much to TEA Party dunces, but the GOPers with basic economic sense get that the expansion of Medicaid would add an additional 1.7% to Montana’s GDP for the next eight years.  For context, understand that a 1.7% addition would roughly double the expected GDP growth rates for the next several years in this state.

The Medicaid expansion also helps states deal with some of the things Republicans say they don’t like about Obamacare.

For example, it protects small local hospitals and rural health care centers from federal cuts.  Keeping the doors open to Montana’s rural hospitals means keeping jobs in their districts from being eliminated, and allowing rural Montanans access to medical care for which they would otherwise have to drive many hours.

It would also protect Montana employers from what the GOP calls “Obamacare penalties” – tax increases.  The Affordable Care Act levies a tax on any company that employs 50 or more workers that does not provide workers with health insurance.   This tax is alleviated or eliminated for many employers if these same workers can now get Medicaid.   A recent private-sector report by Jackson Hewitt estimated that Montana companies will face an additional $10-15 million in tax penalties without the Medicaid expansion for this very reason.

Finally, Repubs who bothered to inform themselves about Bullock’s proposal know that Montana can do a trial run of the idea.  For three years while the federal government is paying for 100% of the cost of benefits, Montana can opt-in to the expansion and see how things work.  When the state is asked to start picking up a meager portion of the cost (the most states can be asked to pay is 10% and even then not until 2020),  Montana has the legal authority to roll back the extension to the way things are now.

For these reasons, I expect that once Republicans have a chance to think about it this will pass the state House, with perhaps a few minor edits to increase the emphasis on reform. Certainly it doesn’t hurt that the GOP’s major electoral engine, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, has endorsed the idea too.

And don’t forget that an earlier version of Bullock’s proposal, HB 590, by Rep. Chuck Hunter has already received a majority of more than 50 votes on a (procedural) vote in the house.  This latest version with its increased emphasis on reforming Medicaid and room for GOP input will be able to pick up more votes.

Moderate GOP Breaks Away from Loons on Dark Money

Right wing blaming anonymous blogs for GOP’s problems

by Cowgirl

Kudos to GOP senators President Jim Peterson and Senator Bruce Tutvedt, for thumbing their noses at their neanderthal GOP compatriots in the Senate and supporting (and actually carrying) Steve Bullock’s bill, SB 375, to reform campaign finance.  Peterson and Tutdvedt  held leadership posts once in the GOP, but were bounced by the new ruling right-wing junta.

Bullock’s bill imposes a very simple requirement, something you would think everybody could agree on: it requires campaign funding sources to be disclosed.  If there is an ad on TV or radio, or a glossy mailer that arrives at a voters house, or a yard sign or leaflet, Montana law has always required that the voter be able to inquire as to who, exactly, is paying for the mass-produced item.

But the Supreme Court struck aspects of our law down (in Citizens United) and so Bullock and Peterson are trying to rewrite the statute to meet with the Supreme Court’s idiotic conclusion of law.  At another time, Bullock was actually arguing the case in the Supreme Court.

Art Wittich, Jason Priest and others are leading the right-wing charge against the bill.

Hilariously, one of the GOP’s main arguments against this bill is….ready for this…..that Democrats are winning elections because of anonymous blogs, and this bill does nothing to regulate them. From the Helena IR today, reporting on Priest’s floor testimony on the bill:

State Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge warned fellow Republicans that the measure won’t affect anonymous blogs, a venue he argued where Democrats hold an advantage.

Priest went on to say that the democratic party uses blogs to “motivate voters,” presumably in a way that the GOP blogs fail to do.  “Vote for this bill, and keep on losing elections,” Priest warned his fellow party members.

This same point is being made today, in a series of tweets, by party operative and former state GOP communications director Chris Shipp.

The bigger conflict, as we all know, is between conservative and moderate Republicans.  Moderates are furious that right-wing groups, acting as a conservative Mujahideen, took it upon themselves to enforce conservative purity in recent elections.  In 2010 and 2012 they spent big money to oust GOP moderate candidates in state legislative primaries. This division is a giant disaster for the GOP and has fractured the party possibly beyond repair.  So it makes sense that they are blaming their problems on an anonymous blog. That’s what the GOP does best–blame someone else when it fucks up.

For the record, this blog is my own free speech, done on my uncompensated free time, and with the help of many tipsters who let me know about juicy stuff taking place in Montana politics.  Mostly it is about googling, emailing and writing, things that many Republicans seem to struggle with as if these tasks require some advanced degree in science.

I get a few thousand readers on a good day (although I did get 14,000 on a single day last month!).  It is true that this blog has become influential, but only because it prints facts and opinion that state newspapers, and in some cases democrats in general, choose not to bother putting out there.  And don’t forget other blogs such as Flathead Memo, From Eternity to HereIntelligent Discontent and the many of the blogs listed on the right of your screen on this page, who also do the same, important type of work.

More to the point, Jason Priest and other Tea Partiers should try to take this occasion to become more introverted and ponder an important question: why are typical Republican thinkers and writers in Montana incapable of producing a blog worth reading?

Leaked Emails Show Civil War in Montana GOP

The big news today, if it is news at all, is that Republicans in Montana are at war with each other.

Some juicy emails [PDF] were published by the Great Falls Tribune Wednesday, showing the machinations of rightwing Republicans such as Jeff Essmann and Art Wittich as they try to vanquish the moderates, led by ousted Senate President Jim Peterson.  Presumably, these missives were leaked by one of the moderate legislators in the scrum, who thought it would be good to publicize the schism.

There are some hilarious exchanges, and the article in the Trib, by John Adams, is required reading for anyone interested in Montana Politics.   It’s fun to observe the various leaders, or aspiring leaders, openly agitating against the opponent faction.

But it is also quite disturbing.    For the emails reveal that the objective of Tea Party Republicanism is to control all branches of Government, with absolute power, in its entirety.   Here is an excerpt from a September 2012 e-mail by Essmann to his ultra-conservative cohorts (the subject line of the email is “Agenda Control”) about how a redistricting of legislative seats will make the ultimate goal achievable:

Jon Bennion was able to draw a map with 63 safe Republican seats.  If we can implement the long term strategy we will be in a position to actually elect a majority of conservatives in both bodies, adopt conservative legislation and have a court that will uphold it.


And here is one from Art Wittich, describing efforts to get rid of moderates in GOP primaries:


We must help the purge along. Hopefully, a new phoenix will rise from the ashes.

Sadly, these writings and many of the other emails that were disclosed to the Tribune reveal an almost jihadist mentality at work.  The right wing of the GOP views itself as an historic movement seeking a distant, ultimate triumph in which the opposition will be vanquished and the right-wing view of the world will be imposed,  imposed upon all Montanans even if a majority of the voters don’t want it.

How can this type of thinking possibly be the basis for a successful political movement?  It can’t, which is why Republicans are currently circling down the toilet nationally.  America has a two-party system and regardless of what party you are in, to be taken seriously and help the greater good you must work with the opposition, and accept the fact that your opponents are not enemies, but simply a counterbalance representing the viewpoints of many.