Tag Archives: Jon Sonju

Kalispell Legislator Files Political Action Committee with D.C. Address

Montana state Sen. Jon Sonju (R-Kalispell) has filed paperwork for a federal political action committee.

The PAC is called “Montana Solutions,” but the address and bank account for the committee are in Washington D.C.

In fact the PAC has the same address as a lobbying firm called “Crossroads Strategies.” Clients of Crossroads strategies include the company formerly known as Phillip Morris, several pharmaceutical companies, some telecommunications companies, private schools, and the NRA, among others.

News About Federal Races

 The news this week is that Corey Stapleton is jumping ship to the US House race after receiving word from Steve Daines, or a Daines team member, that Daines will be running for Senate.  Stapleton had declared his status as a Senate candidate earlier in the year.

Stapleton has raised an impressive amount of money so far, $230,000, but has squandered most of it.  The newspaper today reports that he only has $80,000 left, which he will transfer to his new campaign.  What he’s spent $150,000 on is anybody’s guess.

The better news is that there might be as many as a dozen GOP candidates in the primary for House, clawing at each other, accusing each other of of not being “conservative enough,” and generally tearing each other down to the point that none will have any money or credibility by the time one of them is nominated in June of 2014.  Such a scenario will reflect what happened to Rick Hill in 2012, who was left limp and broke after emerging from a bruising primary in which, ironically enough, Stapleton opened fire at him with negative campaign ads.

Stapleton his now citing his work with the Martz administration, in canceling a computer project, as an event in his professional life that qualifies him to be congressman.  Not exactly a big-picture type of theme for a candidacy.  His Wikipedia pages have also been interesting. 

But Stapleton will be strong in Billings, having run many campaigns there.  Sonju and Zinke and Scott Reichner will fight for the Flathead Valley vote, Champ Edmunds will fight for wherever he is from (near Area 51, perhaps), if anybody there even knows who he is or that he even exists.  Brad Johnson, who ran his last race for statewide office while housed in an alcohol rehab facility, says he, too, might be running for the house.

Jon Lewis, Max Baucus’s chief aide, is now the only candidate on the Dem side, and we will see whether his Max Baucus pedigree brings him money.

Stapleton, by the way, said  that he wants to be in Congress to stop Obamacare, prevent the raising of the debt ceiling, and effectuate other such obstructionism.  And, he said that he would like to be a congressman, especially on the Syria issue, because he would have access to the intelligence briefings from the Pentagon.  God help us all.

No word yet about John Walsh or John Bohlinger, and their plans to run for the U.S. Senate against the presumptive candidate Daines.

 

2014 Field Shaping Up

Now that Schweitzer will be on the homestead and not the hustings, what will the field of candidates look like in 2014, for either Senate or House, assuming Steve Daines runs for Senate?  Anyone looking for a ticket to DC needs to get in the the game soon, to start raising money and organizing.

There are many names being floated on the Dem side.  Many have statewide name recognition.  Denise Juneau is in the second term of her stint as the popular state schools chief in Montana.   If Juneau were the nominee, she’d be the first native American nominee for federal office since Bill Yellowtail in the 1990s (unless you count Schweitzer, who was adopted by at least one tribe, but I don’t think that counts).

John Bohlinger, Schweitzer’s Lt. Governor, is quoted today in the Billings Gazette as saying that he, too, might be interested in filling the vacancy left by his old boss.  Though he is sprightly for 77, Bohlinger could nevertheless campaign with great authority on issues such as Medicare and Social Security.   He could also, in theory, run as either an Independent, Dem or Republican, which makes for great blogging.

There is Franke Wilmer, a state legislator from Bozeman who ran for Congress in 2012.  She is a professor of political science at MSU, and very active in politics and knowledgeable on public policy.   John Lewis, Max Baucus’s senior aide, has also been mentioned.  Would his boss hand over to Lewis a piece of his giant campaign-cash nest-egg to help his right hand man?  Stephanie Schriock, who is the president of Emily’s list and a Butte native, has been mentioned.  Schriock could raise significant money, making her a very strong horse, perhaps as good as any we have–even despite the fact that she’s been gone from Montana while, and lives in the one place that you don’t want to live when you are considering running for office in Montana–Washington, DC.    Stephanie knows campaigning and fundraising, the two things usually missing when candidates make weak showings. Kim Gillan, a former state Senator from Billings, has valuable experience running against Daines in 2012.

There’s been talk of John Walsh, the current Lt. Governor and former national guard commander.  Walsh would make an interesting candidate.  Democrats with military backgrounds always present problem for Republicans, who like to warmonger but don’t like to serve, or who like to complain about deficits but also like to create wars while cutting taxes.  It’s hard to imagine why Walsh, who as LG makes a good salary and gets to work with Steve Bullock would want to do the DC thing. Walsh told Chuck Johnson that he hadn’t really thought about it at all, but did not deny interest.

Lee Newspapers is reporting that Amanda Curtis, a tough, smart young legislator from Butte, America, is taking a look at the house seat. Her name has also come up for the senate.   Curtis took transparency and making the legislature work for people to a new level –she made daily youtube videos during her first legislative session this winter, and they were phenomenal. She is a natural–a Wendy Davis type in MT– and we will hear more from her.

Kendall Van Dyk, unfortunately, has said he will not run for statewide office in 2014.  Given his record of winning tough races (he ousted Roy Brown from his senate seat in Billings), that’s a loss for us.  Monica Lindeen, the state auditor, likewise said this week that she does not want to go to DC.

On the GOP side, we have Ryan Zinke and Jon Sonju and Corey Stapleton.  Zinke’s career looked bright for a while, but it took a slight hit after he chose to run on the ticket with Neil Livingstone, whose gubernatorial campaign did not go so well (he was revealed to have authored a manual for business travelers about how to pick up hookers).   But Zinke has a powerhouse resume because he is not only a navy seal but was actually a member of Seal Team Six, in the decade before that outfit went in to get Bin Laden.  And he is rumored to have “shot many Arabs” during the Gulf War, a fact that will no doubt appeal to conservative voters in Montana.

Jon Sonju was Rick Hill’s running mate, so in theory, he has the same credential to run for Congress as Steve Daines did. Daines had been Roy Brown’s running mate in 2008.  Actually, Sonju got significantly more votes in 2012 than Daines did in ‘08.   The Sonju name is big in the Flathead Valley, where Sonju Industries, the family business, has long had a major presence.

Stapleton, who stepped up and took hard shots at Rick Hill during the gubernatorial primary but then came up short on election day, is a former naval officer and raised a decent amount of money in his race for Governor but lacked Hill’s name recognition.  This would be his third run for statewide office.  He ran for auditor once, too.

Speaking of Rick Hill, he too might run, I’m hearing his name from a few sources.  He would have to overcome the bad taste that he left in voters’ mouths when he took an illegal campaign contribution of $500,000, only to be ordered by the court to give it back.  That case is still being litigated, not a good thing for an aspiring US Senate candidate.  Court is not a good place to campaign from.  The only place worse is rehab.

Then, a trio rounding out the field of possibles, we have GOP legislators Scott Reichner of Big Fork, and Champ Edmunds of Missoula, and……drumroll please…..Krayton Kerns, the chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee and the biggest wingnut this side of the Mississippi.  Kerns has written that our society will soon collapse, because of the Obama presidency, and that we will all soon be without power, food or fuel and will have to take to the woods to survive.

 

Schweitzer Takes a Pass on Senate

Brian Schweitzer surprised the state of Montana today when he announced that he would not be running for Senate.  It’s surprising because he was such a heavy favorite.  But it’s unsurprising too, because he has long maligned the US Senate as a do-nothing institution that he wants no part of. Others, too, have observed that the Senate is not a good fit for him.

And so thus concludes, for now, a tremendous political career in Montana, in which Schweitzer moved mounds of earth, changing the political landscape.  He showed conclusively that a Democrat, and not a Republican, can be trusted to get things done.  The record is well known–record budget surpluses, renewable energy development, economic development, protection of public lands, and all the things that the GOP whined about for two decades but never solved.   And, we will miss Schweitzer’s no-bullshit gamesmanship in which he engaged with his opponents and reduced them, usually, to rubble.  I’ve never witnessed a politician who so relishes mixing it up with his opponents. It made for some of the best political theater the state has ever seen. I would imagine that the members of the Montana press, with maybe a few exceptions, are not very happy about the news.  

Also, Schweitzer helped turn the state Republicans into a joke. The Democrats have never been stronger. That’s saying something, especially when you consider that in 2004 the GOP was amid a 23 year imperial rule, and that Montana is very red.

Steve Daines will now run for the Senate. Expect an announcement soon. Whether he will attract serious opposition is an important question.  But he will vacate a House seat, and so we should expect many candidates from both parties to run for that seat, rather than against Daines for Senate.   The GOP House primary should be entertaining.  Look for the usual suspects, like Stapleton, Sonju, Hill, Zinke, Livingstone, Edmunds, Reichner, and probably many more.   On the Democratic side, it could be Juneau, Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, Lindeen, McCulloch, Wilmer, and so on.

And on it goes.

 

Sports-minded and Fun

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was forced to come out yesterday and plead with fellow Republicans to be more “circumspect” when they talk about guns.

It’s not helpful” for GOP lawmakers to be speaking publicly about some of their ideas right now, he said.  Boehner’s pleading is a little late.  In the wake of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, several GOP lawmakers are now calling for arming teachers as a way to prevent mass shootings 

Bringing guns into schools is also a pet project of Montana Republicans.  Just last session, Republicans in the Montana legislature pushed a bill to allow guns in schools (House Bill 558).

And who could forget the fundamentalist Christian school in Montana that decided to raffle off a semi-automatic assault rifle as a school fundraiser this fall.

Stillwater Christian School obtained the assault rifle came from the NEMO rifle plant. Family members of former gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill’s running mate Jon Sonju are NEMO executives.

In addition to bidding on the assault rifle, you could also attend the schools “Stillwater Shootout” fundraising event down at the shooting range in Kalispell, MT.

School officials said they didn’t see a problem raising money with a semi-automatic assault rifle raffle. Rather, they called it “sports-minded and fun.”

This Christian private school doesn’t just work to instill these beliefs into the young minds of school children, it also gets involved in elections.  This year, school leaders sent out an email before the primary urging GOP primary voters to oppose non-TEA Party candidates.

With the hard-right wing now calling the shots, hardly surprising that GOP legislators didn’t just stop with their bill to allow guns in schools.  Montana Republicans also tried to pass new laws last session to:

Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches, banks, and government buildings. (House Bill 384)

Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)

Allow anybody to carry a concealed weapon around without a permit.  (House Bill 271)

Force employers to allow employees to bring guns to work in their cars. (House Bill 368)

Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)

And when they ran out of gun bill ideas, they tried to legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)

This is not a joke. These were real bills put forward by Republicans in the Montana legislature, unencumbered by common sense.   Republicans can’t say the public has no reason to fear their proposals when they seem to fear open debate of what they truly believe.