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
Several things are going through Rick Hill’s and Denny Rehberg’s minds today. First, he is wondering why he ignored the old adage, “pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.” Taking the $500,000 donation in circumvention of Montana law–even though the law was in a state of limbo–was a bad move. It wasn’t worth the risk, and Hill’s political instincts were clearly dulled from years on the sidelines. Taking the loot ensured weeks of awful headlines, branding him as a guy in a smoke filled room, flanked by fat cats chomping on cigars, and talking proudly of the fact they own the candidate, and handing him a briefcase packed with big bills.
Second, he must be reconsidering the pick of Sonju. Hill only won by 1000 votes in Yellowstone County which makes victory virtually impossible for a Republican. Presumably, any Billings name on the ticket would have brought in substantial votes there, but would have left Hill’s performance in the Flathead (where Sonju comes from) largely intact. Sonju got the good end of the bargain. He’s now a rising star with statewide name recognition and will run for statewide office soon, a blueprint stamped out by Steve Daines, who ran with Roy Brown in 2008. His ticket tanked, but Daines carved out his own little thing, and made it work.
The other thing that Hill is kicking himself about is that he way overestimated the likelihood of a competitive primary, and the strength of the idiots who challenged him. All of them embarrassed themselves and were never serious contenders at all. They were political neophytes on the statewide scene, and if Hill had gauged this accurately, he would have done two things: pick a Billings running mate. (Sonju was a pick designed to shore up right wing votes in the Flathead, a conservative battleground), and he could have saved his money, and refrain from spending anything in the primary. Hill believed, in error, that his past sins of marital infidelity would blow up in his face in a primary, especially one inhabited by “moral” conservatives like Essman and Miller and Stapleton. He turned out to have been wrong. None of those yahoos had the skill or finances to mount a serious challenge. But Hill blinked, and Bullock came out of the gate in June with a huge financial edge, ran a mistake-free campaign, turned out key constituencies like Indian voters, and never looked back.
As for Denny, his contemplation today should be about his choice. Why did he choose to run for Senate? The answer cannot be that he wanted to accomplish some affirmative thing for Montana, because he does not believe in that type of stuff. He believes in negative government, occupying an office for the purpose of keeping liberals, or Democrats, out of it, lest they destroy society. So all Rehberg was doing was trying to upgrade the size of his office, get a larger budget for offices and an entourage of staffers, and have people call him Senator.
Denny is also probably wondering why he ever voted for a pay raise; and why he voted to allow the federal Homeland Security office to have domain over public lands. The pay-raises produced brutal copy for negative ads by Tester and Dems, while the land grab enraged Rehberg’s own base, especially when they were reminded about it in a terrific ad funded by an environmental group, who successfully used the issue to get conservatives to flee Rehberg and vote Libertarian. Dan Cox the libertarian got a record 6.5 points.
And Rehberg is also wondering why his twenty million dollar barrage of attack ads, telling voters that Tester supports Obama 95 percent of the time, was so ineffective. After all, Karl Rove came here and told Denny that he’d take care of business and put a knife in Tester by linking him to the president. But Rehberg knows the answer to this, and its eating his guts out: Tester worked hard for constituents for six years, hammering things out for loggers, vets, hunters, the elderly, Indian peoples, women and so on. And he earned the trust of Montana citizens, which allowed them to conceptualize Tester as someone distinct from Obama. Rehberg, on the other hand, sat around for twelve years, doing nothing at all except complaining about Democrats, riding the occasional right-wing wave, and free loading on a generally conservative state electorate. A worker always beats a free loader.
The Democratic party has already pointed out that Hill led the effort to create a new 4% sales tax. He supported the privatization of Social Security, voted against increasing the minimum wage, and backed special tax breaks for big corporations. As head of the workers compensation board, he set up the most expensive worker’s compensation system in the U.S.
Democrats aren’t the only people with concerns about Hill’s abysmal record. Here’s how members of Hill’s own party explained why Hill would make a terrible Governor.
Corey Stapleton first pointed out in a campaign ad (which was later backed up by the Associated Press) that Rick Hill not only made a king’s ransom renting office space to the Montana state government in the 1990s and 2000s, but that his wife Betti used her job in Governor Judy Martz’s office to steer business his way. Thus did Rick and Betti Hill become very wealthy people. Stapleton also pointed out the sales tax Hill proposed.
Ken Miller raised concerns about how much time Rick Hill spends in California, saying “perhaps Congressman Hill should have spent more time enjoying what Montana has to offer,” instead.
Neil Livingstone said Hill failed with Montana’s work comp system, “I think a lot of the problems that we have today we can attribute to Rick and his tenure there […] he really didn’t get his arms around the problem. Today there are 19 people working in the State Fund that make more than the governor […] and they give each other big bonuses of several hundred thousand dollars a year”
Bob Fanning expressed concerns at a GOP forum about Hill’s support in Congress for the de-regulation of banks and the management of the U.S. economy:
“Mr. Hill, during your tenure in the 106th congress, I pointed out that there were four (4) sectional charges placed underneath the American economy that blew it up. Number one (1), The Community Reinvestment Act and the expansion of Fannie Mae between 1993-2001. Number two (2), the continued de-regulation of credit default swaps, which are the instruments that blew up the economy. Number three (3), the repeal of the Glass-Stegal Act, which ultimately turned our banks into securitization mills and blew up the economy. And, number four (4), the Commodity Modernization Act. With three million people out of their homes, and 14 million people out of their jobs, do you feel any reason that you should be held to account for our financial crisis because your votes were all yea [in favor of these measures]?”
Now that the primary is over Montanans will start to look deeper in to Rick Hill’s background. Given what’s known already, its unlikely they’ll like what they see.
The Associated Press is reporting that Rick Hill not only made a king’s ransom renting office space to the Montana state government in the 1990s and 2000s, but that his wife Betti used her job in Governor Judy Martz’s office to steer business his way. Thus did Rick and Betti Hill become very wealthy people.
E-mails from Betti Hill, obtained by the AP, show that she was using the influence of the Governor’s office to arrange meetings for Rick with high-level players in state government who dole out state rental contracts. It stinks to high heaven.
Betti and Rick put pressure on the Martz administration to kill a plan to construct a new building. Martz put the new building project in her budget. But shortly after Rick and Betti met with Lt. Governor Karl Ohs and several cabinet officials to complain about it, it got yanked from Martz’s budget. Why did Rick and Betti want to kill the project? Because a new building in Helena would have brought down the price of rent in the Helena market, and landlords, naturally, do not like that. Oops.
By the sound of it, Betti Hill was large and in charge, busting out her Helena GOP street cred, ordering people throughout state government (even the Lt. Governor) not to do anything that might compromise Rick’s business, and even going to bat for other landlords, including a “party leader” who owned a building and needed a favor. As a result, the Hills’ business stayed sweet and they kept raking in taxpayer dough, more than a million bucks worth.
Hill also appears to have used his job as Congressman and his perch as State Fund chair to get similar sweet treatment, since these jobs overlapped with his sweetheart deals. While sitting in these posts, ranting the GOP’s favorite rant about “less spending” and “less government,” he was guzzling down taxpayer money that should have saved rather than spent. Montana taxpayers got bilked because the rent was too damn high.
Betti’s conduct might well be a violation of the ethics law, which says that a state worker may not use state facilities for a personal or business interest.
At any rate, the Hills are clearly no model of fiscal restraint. Betti clearly interpreted her job in Martz’s office as nothing more than a nice opportunity to rake in some serious scratch for her and her hubby, so that they could fly first class to their posh Palm Springs crib.
These e-mails vindicate Corey Stapleton, Hill’s GOP primary opponent, who accused Hill of getting cake deals and special treatment from state government for his mega-landlord business.
But will any of this affect the outcome of Tuesday’s GOP primary? I doubt it. Sure, it is in the newspaper, but most right-wing voters do not read the newspaper. Glenn Beck is unlikely to cover this story.
Stapleton and Miller and Livingstone should have done their homework, hit the pavement, and moved this damaging story a month ago. It might have been a game changer. But they were all either too lazy or too stupid (or both, probably) to bother. Coming out on the Friday before the election, this story will have very little effect on Tuesday’s election.
However, these revelations will be center stage during the long general election battle ahead. Rick Hill is now CORRUPT LANDLORD, INSURANCE EXECUTIVE, CONGRESSMAN, LOBBYIST (and let’s not forget ADULTERER). Geez, if that isn’t a resume for success in politics, I don’t know what is. These are just about the five worst things an American political candidate can possibly be. Plus, Dems will be able to run TV ads against Hill that will simply repeat the accusations made against Hill by all of his GOP opponents. That’s a rare opportunity in a general election, and it’s a very effective play.
In the email, Greenwood wrote:
I am first and foremost a follower and friend of a guy named Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing else even comes close.
Aware that his missive would be picked up and transmitted around, Greenwood clearly is keen on sending a message to the holy rollers in his party that he is One Of Them.
As this relates to the governor’s race, it’s been previously assumed that Greenwood is not a Rick Hill supporter, because of Hill’s lack of right-wing bona fides, Greenwood’s appearance in a Ken Miller video, and Greenwood’s support of Rick Santorum. I would say the email supports the notion that Greenwood likes the Miller candidacy.
And recently Miller has become more direct, himself, about highlighting his own status as “A Christian,” on his website and in debates.
Greenwood might also be worried about a religious insurrection within his party, and wants to appear to be a religious nut so that he can keep his job when the wheels come off in November. Right now the Montana GOP is run mostly by Helena insiders, but is staring at the real possibility of twelve straight years of Democratic control of the Governor’s office and 16 straight years controlling the Attorney General’s office and Land Board. If this comes true in November, there will be a Republican Revolution, but not the kind that the GOP enjoys celebrating, unless you happen to be one of the ecstatic rioting Tea Partiers holding the pitchfork that is hoisting the asses of Greenwood and Will Deschamp, the Party Chairman).
And there is another more subtle thing going on here.
Right-wingers have been led into a self-reinforcing delusion, ever since McCain lost to Obama, that if a moderate Republican candidate loses an election it’s because the candidate made the mistake of trying to appeal to independent voters. Be a true right-wing conservative and you will always win, say Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to their daily audiences of twenty million foaming, gullible ignoramuses.
This thinking allows right-wing leaders and shouters to have their cake and eat it. They can say “I told you so” if and when candidates like Mitt Romney or Rick Hill get defeated. And the purveyors of this Theory of Conservative Purity themselves become more relevant in the off-season. Their followers, meanwhile, can take solace in the fact that arch conservatism is The Way, and that Republicans can only lose elections for failing to follow The Way. This is exactly the bed that has been made for Mitt Romney, by Santorum and Gingrich, Beck and Limbaugh. When Romney loses, they’ll say its because a false conservative, not a true one, was nominated.
For a Party activist like Greenwood, this delusion has a more practical application: it sets up a good position from which to dump on a GOP candidate who loses.
It’s an easy out. For when Rick Hill loses (and he will be the nominee, and will lose to Bullock), Greenwood will signal to the base of his party, “I told you so.” This, even though Ken Miller would himself strand no real chance of winning a general election. But how could this be disproven if Miller never gets the nomination? It can’t, and that’s the beauty of it.
The entire Greenwood email is pasted below the fold.
I was forwarded a juicy e-mail late last night from a tipster, but didn’t have time to blog about it and I woke up to find that Pogie at Intelligent Discontent had scooped me. Check his post out. The e-mail contains a 30 second TV spot, by Montana Conservative Families, contrasting Rick Hill and Ken Miller on…..family values.
Miller is shown with his family, described as a Jesus-loving devoted husband, a “John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere” type of guy, if you will.
We are then shown Rick Hill’s mug, and are told that he is an adulterer. A photo of a cocktail waitress, in revealing dress, is then shown, the face blurred out, along with headlines from when Rick Hill’s first wife went public with his infidelity during his the 1998 Congressional campaign (said infidelity having been consummated with a cocktail waitress).
The narrator tells an abbreviated story of how Hill was stepping out on his wife at “a motel bar,” which we know to be none other than the world famous Sip ‘N Dip lounge in Great Falls (soon to have its own reality show, by the way.)
One might conclude, as Pogie does, that Ken Miller is behind this ad, though there is nothing in the ad to confirm this. What we do know is that the apparent ring leader of Montana Conservative Families, a woman named Nancy Davis, has sent several emails out in the past, some bashing moderate Republicans and specifically Rick Hill for not having “social conservative values.”
Ken Miller has recently attacked Hill directly in public, in a very personal way–making fun of Hill for spending most of his time in Palm Springs, California at his second home–but has never alluded to his extramarital past. Only the Stapleton campaign has crossed that line, with Bob Keenan, Stapleton’s number two, suggesting that Hill’s “skeletons” would ultimately take him down.
The timing of this video is also interesting if you consider the simliarities to what occurred in the Democratic Primary in 2006 between John Morrison and Jon Tester.
A month or so before election day during the Tester-Morrison face-off, Lee Newspapers had a big front-page expose about Morrison’s extramarital affair. He had a relationship with a woman many years earlier, but when he became State Auditor, his office ended up investigating her new husband for securities fraud. This raised a question about whether Morrison should have recused himself from the investigation.
But before the story hit the paper in 2006, an effective whisper campaign was conducted against Morrison, with letters and e-mails making the rounds among Democrats, giving the story a certain ripeness. We will see if this Ken Miller-Rick Hill business follows the same trajectory.
Judge Rules Against Head of Local Anti-Gay Movement
A district judge has ruled against Robert Dellwo, the leader of the opposition to the Helena non-discrimination ordinance. Dellwo is the head of the unaccredited Helena Christian School, which is affiliated with East Helena’s Canyon Ferry Baptist Church. Apparently the school borrowed money to build a subdivision but didn’t pay it back. At one time, the church proposed that 800 new homes be built in an area already struggling with water shortages. The school wanted to build the subdivision on the site of an old cyanide mine, which also raised concerns about contaminated soil.
What the church and Christian school will do with their own subdivision is unknown. Montanans tend to be wary of religious colonies after the Church Universal and Triumphant started one outside Yellowstone Park. CUT was the bunch who believed that the world was going to end of a nuclear holocaust at a particular hour and minute on April 23, 1990. They built a massive underground bomb shelter up near Gardiner, MT and stocked it to the rafters with illegally purchased semi-automatic weapons, in preparation for The End (as reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feb. 27, 1995; Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 14, 1995).
Dellwo is appealing the ruling.
Today’s Must Read Political Blog Posts
Montanafesto and Intelligent Discontent have today’s must-read posts. Both look at the allegations of corrupt campaign finance practices by GOP Gubernatorial hopeful Ken Miller. The Montanafesto piece is a hilarious look at the contrast between how the Republican portrays himself, and reality. Intelligent Discontent writes about the accusations flying from the other candidates, who have their own troubles.
Three Days Left
The Flathead Democrats are making news for their fun and innovative fundraising. KCFW Missoula TV news and HXLH Helena both covered the eBay auction of the framed Schweitzer VETO memorabilia set–a reminder of the infamous 2011 legislative session. The auction ends Friday April 27.
Former state senator and Republican Party Chair Ken Miller on Monday overwhelmingly won the Lewistown TEA Party straw poll following the most recent candidate debate. It’s a sign that the tide may be turning against former Congressman Rick Hill among base voters where he had previously appeared to be on course for an easy win.
Miller took first place in the informal post debate survey with 49 percent. Stapleton placed a distant second with the votes of 15 percent of participants. Former Congressman Rick Hill took third with 12 percent.
The remaining votes came it at 11 percent for Livingstone, seven percent for Jim Lynch, and three percent each for Bob Fanning and Jim O’Hara.
The survey comes less than three weeks before mail ballots go out.