In recent times we’ve seen Republicans fall into a circular firing squad.
When Schweitzer was meeting with the Republican leaders last session, they told him that Rick Hill had made a mess of the Work Comp system when he was in charge of it during the 1990s. Threw him under the bus. Neil Livingstone made the same point about Hill a few weeks ago, and Ken Miller has taken on Hill for having spent most of the last twenty years in Palm Desert, California, rather than Montana. And of course Corey Stapleton’s campaign has already chimed in with the insinuation that Hill has “too many Skeletons in the closet” to become Governor.
Yesterday it continued. State Senator Dave Lewis, a regular Cowgirl blog commenter, admitted that Montana’s current Pension woes, which Schweitzer is now trying to fix, are due largely to his own bill, HB 294, which he carried in 2001 on behalf of Judy Martz and her chief economic policy guru, Rick Hill. This bill, ordered by the Martz administration as a supposed long-term solution to avoiding an insolvent state pension fund, gave automatic increases (3% a year), to state workers. It assumed that the stock market would go up forever.
Lewis gave an interview in which he said that “in forty years of government, HB 294 was the worst mistake I ever made.” Some kudos to Dave Lewis for his honesty; this type of confession is rarely heard in politics.
The more important point is that Lewis’s statement closes the book on a very substantial inquiry as to the ineptitude of the Judy Martz administration. We now have a confession entered into the record, conclusive proof that the Republican administrations of the last 20 years fucked things up, and Schweitzer has had to spend seven years trying to repair the damage.
The GOP Gubernatorial primary and “The Lord of the Rings” both concern alternate realities, too many characters to follow, and talking about either of them repels members of the opposite sex.
In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” a hobbit of The Shire journeys with eight companions to defeat Mordor so they can return to Middle Earth.
In the GOP Primary, has-beens from decades past journey with their companions on a quest to regain the power that has been in the hands of the wing-nuts’ arch enemy, Brian Schweitzer, for eight years. They hope to return Montana to the era where the Dark Lords reign.
Responding to a Lee Newspapers questionnaire in today’s Helena Independent Record, the seven GOP gubernatorial candidates all said that Montana must “develop our natural resources” as a way to reduce unemployment and make our economy strong, and that “red tape” and “excessive regulations” are standing in the way of such development.
Which raises an interesting question: what resources, exactly, are we not developing? Are there oil wells known to be pregnant that have not been tapped, because of regulations? I doubt it. The amount of exploration taking place in Eastern Montana is comprehensive. Landowners often receive giant checks from oil companies just for the right to test the ground and search for oil. Any identified oil deposit whose recovery would not be hindered by some geological problem is already being drilled.
And coal? The rights to the Otter Creek coal deposit are now owned by the largest coal company in America, with designs on extracting it after paying an up front bonus of $80 million to the state of Montana. To my knowledge, the Arch company has not indicated that any rules or regulations are causing a hindrance to development. Nor have the owners of any other coal deposit, or oil field.
As is well known, Montana is developing its resources at a faster rate than at any time in the state’s history. So the question that should have been asked of these candidates is: What resources are not being developed? Where are they, precisely? Who owns them? And why are these owners not registering the same complaint as these seven buffoons running for Governor?
Perhaps the able newspaperwomen and men at the Lee company will ask these follow-up questions in the future.
A new commenter here showed up to defend Neil Livingstone. S/he said Livingstone’s sex tourism advice made him more electable because it demonstrated his business “savvy.” Then s/he made another ridiculous statement: that there were more oil rigs in North Dakota because “corporations will choose to do business in a state like North Dakota over a state like Montana due to the corporate tax issue.”
The statement is utterly false, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP candidates from repeating variations on it ad nauseum. Today, Governor Brian Schweitzer called them out on their lies. Schweitzer said ”that Republican candidates for governor, who he referred to as ‘jokers,’ are wrong to blame taxes and regulations,” for differing oil development levels in Montana and North Dakota the AP reports.
There are more oil wells North Dakota because there is more oil there to drill. According to Montana Department of Commerce Energy Production and Development Division statistics, Montana’s taxes related to oil and gas production are 40-50% lower than in North Dakota. Our state also has a faster permitting process than both North Dakota and Wyoming. Montana permits are out in 60 days on average. In Wyoming a permit takes ten months. It takes a year in North Dakota.
Anyway, there’s some serious backpedaling going on in the article.
One of Rick Hill’s biggest flubs in the piece was arguing that oil development is hindered by the high cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Montana. The current work comp system was crafted while Hill was chair of the workers compensation board. Hill used to brag about creating the system, until it got out what a disaster it was for businesses. At that point, Hill tried to scrub his involvement in the debacle from his Wikipedia page.
Right now there are more unemployed Montanans looking for work today than there were a year ago. Our unemployment rate has drifted up over the course of this year, not down.”
-Rick Hill, Montana Public Radio, 11/21/11
“If you ask the outside business groups, what they say about Montana is that we are really interested in investing in Montana, they have a great workforce, work ethic, and a lot of natural resources, there is a lot of potential in Montana. But it is an unstable political regulatory and legal environment for us to make a substantial investment.”
-Rick Hill, Hometown Helena, 6/2/11
“The governor has influence, we need to show the rest of the world we are open for business, we need to show the businesses we are not hostile compared to our neighbors.”
-Corey Stapleton, Yellowstone County Young Republican Debate, 2/9/12
“We have got to become friendly to those that create the jobs, Montana has not had a great reputation for that.”
-Ken Miller, Liberate Main Street, Billings Event, 10/31/11
“My only criticism has been to the governor. It has been that here we are that Montana has this reputation of being anti-business, anti-natural resources development, we cannot seem to get our coal developed. We are behind North Dakota and Wyoming, and the first thing is big bad business.”
-Ken Miller, Voices of Montana, Northern Broadcasting 7/14/11
A campaign video for Republican candidate for Governor Ken Miller includes footage of the Executive Director of the Republican Party talking with Miller interspersed with other prominent and community endorsers of the candidate.
Here’s the video:
It’s certainly not the first time a candidate has used someone’s image in a campaign, but placing it in with his other endorsements–in his endorsement themed video– is a bold move unless he has permission to do so.
Greenwood has not, to my knowledge, come out with a public statement in support of Miller at this time.
Others in the Miller endorsement video say they are supporting him because, “Ken is a God fearing humble man” who “takes his wisdom from Jesus Christ.” The supporters, which also include Rep. Derek Skees (R-TEA Whitefish) say Miller ”will push back on the federal government” and that he is “pious.”
One woman is supporting Miller because she was” impressed that he was dressed as Abe Lincoln on a float.”
Presumably that was one of the better reasons to endorse Ken or it wouldn’t have made it into the video.
Republican Rick Hill is trying to tell folks in Eastern Montana that he’s a “Montana native” – despite being born, raised and schooled out-of-state. The deception was attempted at a Lincoln Day Dinner where Hill and the other GOP candidates spoke last week.
There are two ways to explain Hill’s behavior here. First, Hill could be lying because he thinks that’s the only way he stands a chance against Bullock.
Governor Schweitzer hit on this recently – pointing to one of the many reasons why Bullock is a stronger candidate than the GOPers:
“They’re just going to have a real tough time beating Bullock. Not only is he a great guy, he’s got a young and beautiful family . . . been a spectacular attorney general. He’s born and bred in Montana. A lot of these cats that are running right now, they’re born someplace else, they’re interlopers. They just show up, they say, ‘It’s a small state, maybe I can go be governor of it.’…Bullock has got deep roots, he’s a smart guy. If you’ve got a $100 in your pocket, you ought to bet on Bullock. Bullock’s going to win this race.”
The only other explanation is that dishonesty and deception is so deeply ingrained in Hill’s imbecilic nature that he just can’t help himself. After all, neither Jim Lynch nor Ken Miller lied about their out-of-state roots in the Sidney Herald article reporting on their appearance. Nor is this the first time Rick Hill has been caught trying to hide the truth about his past.
He tried to scrub from his Wikipedia page the fact that he left his wife and young kids for a mermaid/cocktail waitress. When his family showed up to beg him to come home he laughed in their faces. He described this behavior in an email to Republicans as “single parenthood.” If Rick Hill will lie about his own background, no one should be surprised when he lies about jobs, schools and revenue.
When he was announced as Corey Stapleton’s runningmate yesterday, Bob Keenan took a whack at the entire Republican gubernatorial field, saying that all the other candidates “have skeletons in their closets” and thus Corey Stapleton “is the most electable.”
Whether this assertion is true or not, notice that Keenan expects the press to take care of his negative campaigning, to begin writing on the various problematic histories of each candidate simply because Keenan suggested it.
Asked at a press conference to elaborate about the “skeletons” in their opponents’ closets, Keenan declined.
“No, I won’t do that,” he told reporters. “That’s your job, and you’re good at it.”
There are several problems with what Keenan is trying to do.
First, in a big field of candidates, the media has to make some effort at fair treatment. Thus if they write about the scandalous past of one candidate, they must write about them all. So the easier thing is to just stay away from the whole enterprise.
Second, the Montana press has an aversion to covering negative stuff, especially when it concerns Republican candidates. The conservative-owned newspapers in Montana will all be gunning for the GOP nominee in November.
Witness the hilariously absurd article in the Billings Gazette, regarding Rick Hill’s efforts to scrub his bio on his Wikipedia page (scrub it of any reference to his night club incident with a barmaid, and a subsequent press conference, while he was Congressman, in which his ex-wife burned him down as an abusive spouse). The article refused to even state specifically what it was that Hill was trying to erase–describing it only as “details about Hill’s past campaigns and his 1976 divorce” but yet tried to report on the fact that he was trying to erase it.
Third, the press has an informal rule: you have to attack someone directly in order to make news. That’s probably not a bad rule. It’s a spin-off of the age-old maxim, “if you have something to say, say it to my face.” Don’t go whispering it around town. Thus is Bob Keenan a sheep and a coward, for hinting at something but refusing to come out and say it directly. He’s hoping somebody else will do it. Cowardice is not a quality we want in a leader.
I suppose that it’s not totally a bad thing that that Montana newspapers try to keep things clean. There is something to be said for a positive news environment, especially in a special place like Montana. But if you think about the way the press covers national politics, and the way that every little thing gets covered (a Tiffany’s revolving credit account, strapping the family dog to the roof of the car, failed marriages), one wonders if the Montana press’s self-censorship is really the way to go in a free and open society. Nationally, the press rarely makes a concerted effort to cover things up. Perhaps, too, should the Montana Press not be deciding what factual items about candidates are relevant. That’s for the public to decide.
And the press is not always consistent in this regard. John Morrison got skewered in the months before the primary in 2006, for an incident which occurred almost a decade earlier involving a bit of adultery. The press simply decided that they wanted to write about it because it was juicy and timely. Perhaps Democrats should be grateful that the incident was covered, because the issue surely would have been raised by Conrad Burns in the general election. Morrison had been the big money leader in the primary, but went immediately down the tubes. The stronger candidate (Jon Tester) thus ended up winning the Primary and the General election, and thus did the media’s coverage of a steamy affair help ensure a meritorious election. So maybe Democrats are quietly sitting by and hoping that Rick Hill’s several problems do not get ink until July.
It’s no secret that Keenan is pointing the finger at Rick Hill. Numerous candidates, including Ken Miller and Stapleton and the now-defunct Essmann, have all been trying to get newspapers and TV stations to cover Hill’s flaws.
But Keenan should be careful what he wishes for. Stapleton himself has a problematic past. When he first put up his own Wikipedia page, it made a reference to his having suffered a “childhood addiction,” a term that I’ve never heard before. (Presumably, this means that Stapleton was once a drug addict, probably as a teenager or young adult.) A few weeks later, after this strange reference had been reported (and ridiculed) by my blog, the reference was taken down off the Wikipedia page. But of course, it never made news.
The Miller campaign is taking the gloves off – calls themselves “country,” and their GOP rivals, “country club.” The attack is a reference to rival Rick Hill’s career as an Insurance Industry Executive and Neil Livingstone’s bid to get Libyan dictator Meammar Qaddafi to hire him for for $10 million.
Here’s the video. You can also find it on Youtube.
The list of people who have endorsed Ken Miller includes:
- Derek Skees: TEA Party Republican legislator and nullification nutjob from the Flathead who proudly marched in a Memorial day parade wearing the confederate flag. Skees is now running for State Auditor.
- Melinda Gopher: Gohper is seeking to be the Democratic nominee for Montanan’s U.S. Congressional seat. (Although she does not appear to be raising money or using the “campaign” for anything other then a platform to post…odd statements on the internet.) Her postings include attacks on Jon Tester, Max Baucus, and even the first American Indian woman elected to statewide office in the U.S., Denise Juneau.
- James Knox, TEA Party Republican legislator turned Constitution Party Blogger who has left the state and has no plans to return or run again. Knox refuses to resign, presumably so he can keep his government health care benefits. Of course, Knox voted against health care coverage for Montana citizens in the 2011 legislature.
- Dave Lewis, Republican legislator and former Budget Director (under the Gov. Racicot/Lt. Gov. Martz administration, as well as others.)