Tag Archives: Linda McCulloch

Top Ten Good Ideas Both Parties Can Support in the 2015 Legislature

The 2015 legislative session begins Monday, January 5th. Instead of looking backward at memorable events of the past year, let’s look forward with the Cowgirl Blog’s countdown of ten good ideas that members of both parties can support this year.

They are:

  1. Create an 80 MPH speed limit at various places on the interstate, where it’s straight and clear. Nothing wrong with this idea if it’s done right. Automobile technology has moved ahead leaps and bounds, and driving 80 or 85 is not what it use to be. And while it’s true that there might be a few more casualties, that same argument (that an increase in speed equals more fatalities) could just as easily be used to defend setting the speed limit at 55. In other words, Montanans are tend to be in favor of trading a small amount of safety for  a lot of freedom. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just the way of the West. One such proposal LC0768 is sponsored by Rep. Mike Miller (R-Helmville).
  2. Reform the Board of Pardons and Parole. Last week saw Gov. Steve Bullock give the boot to Mike McKee, who wanted to be reappointed as Chair of the BOPP even though his legacy is that he made sure that people were locked up and that the key was thrown away. Earlier this year Bullock publicly stated his desire to commute Barry Beach’s sentence so that he could be eligible for parole. McKee stacked the ­person panel hearing Beach’s case with hearings officers that were anti-Beach, thus assuring that Bullock would not get a chance to issue clemency. Conservatives and liberals can both agree that the Constitution grants the power of clemency to the governor and in such cases he should be able to exercise it without the interference of an unpaid bureaucrat. And after all, in the very unlikely scenario that something goes wrong and Beach misbehaves while out on the street, it would be entirely on Bullock, politically speaking. So the GOP has no reason not to work with the governor here.  Rep. Margie MacDonald (D-Billings),  Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and others have already been looking at some common sense reforms.
  3. Infrastructure – including for eastern Montana oil-boom towns like those in the Bakken. There are road, bridge, sewer and building projects that Montana needs right now, and interest rates are super-low. Let’s bond for them. Obviously, the GOP will try to tease down the amount that we devote toward these projects but it would be reckless to try to kill all of them, and if Bullock can budget for them and still keep a healthy ending balance, then all or most of what Bullock is proposing can be agreed upon for funding.  Rep. Jeff Wellborn (R-Dillon) is sponsoring this fix.

  4. Health care for the working poor and veterans. Governor Bullock has come up with an alternative to medicaid expansion. Everyone can get behind it.  It will cover tens of thousands of struggling Montanans with basic health insurance without growing the Medicaid rolls or expanding Obamacare.  Veterans and working poor Montanans are trapped in a coverage gap right now, and have no medical insurance nor can they afford it. The federal government is offering billions of dollars of federal funds that will end up going to other states rather than Montana if we deny it. It’s our money, and we’d be stupid not to bring it home to Montana. Bullock’s solution would satisfy the GOP’s pals in the insurance industry by allowing the program to be privately administered by insurance companies for a small percentage, and be far less costly than the private option proposed by Republicans in other states. It would also satisfy the medical community because it increases provider rates for Montana doctors. Republicans in other states have supported such alternatives, and are expected to do so here. And, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, a rock-ribbed-Republican group,  has endorsed the Governor’s plan. A Chamber of Commerce poll of 800 Montanans found that Montanans support for covering the working poor leads by a 20% margin.
  5. Another health care measure would be to end surprise medical bills. Patients lying on the operating table are often not told that the doctor about to perform all or part of their surgery isn’t actually in their insurance plan’s provider network. The patient finds out about it when she receives a surprise bill, a few months later, for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars that the insurance company doesn’t cover.  Rep. Kathleen Williams (D-Bozeman) is sponsoring a law to prohibit this outrageous health industry scam.  It would require that patients be notified up front if the care they are scheduled to receive is covered, so that they may exercise the option to go elsewhere.  And this measure reduces costs throughout the system because if the scammed patient ends up simply not paying the bill because they can’t afford it, the rest of us end up covering it.
  6. Support the Salish-Kootenai Water Compact.  Every federally recognized tribe in Montana has a negotiated water water rights agreement with the state and federal government except one –  the CSKT – and while extreme right-wing legislators, as well as birthers and outright racists have worked to block such an agreement for the tribe in the past, the compact has now been endorsed by Republican AG Tim Fox and even the TEA Party blog PolyMontana.com.
  7. Online voter registration. Half of American states now allow voters to register on the internet, using a drivers license and/or Social Security number.  Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch wants to bring it to Montana, as do all of the county election clerks who are overworked during election season. Nobody can point to a single reason why printing out a form and mailing it in is any more secure than filling out an online form and submitting it electronically.  And unlike many Democratic and Republican election bills, which are often designed to mathematically one party or the other, online nline registration systems can be found in conservative, liberal and battleground states. So it’s a good measure. And conservative Republican Geraldline Custer (R-Forsyth) is sponsoring  the bill, HB 48.

  8. Confirm Jonathan Motl as Commissioner of political practices. The 2013 session saw a bipartisan effort to reform money in politics and provide greater transparency in political donations.  Since then, it has been left to Motl to actually try to enforce the law and by all accounts he has breathed life into an otherwise dormant agency.   He has prosecuted all comers, Ds and Rs. And he’s also been quick to dismiss petty and frivolous complaints that waste everyone’s time.  Moderate Republicans are likely to support him because Motl has prosecuted the criminal money enterprises run by the Tea Party, aimed at bouncing moderate Republicans from office.   The only real loser in a Motl confirmation would be Tea Party leader Art Wittich, whom Motl has taken to court for massive violations of campaign finance law.  A district judge in Helena, Judge Sherlock, issued a decision in which he mocked Wittich’s motion to dismiss the case.  If Motl wins, Wittich could be removed from office.
  9. A ban on e-cigarette sales to kids.  Montana Attorney General Tim Fox says he’s considering it.  Montana has seen bipartisan support for regulating tobacco use – regulating e-cig use by minors will find broad support as well.
  10. Support the microbrewers and microdistillers. A number of bills could address these businesses, and we should get behind whatever legislation helps them and oppose the bills that seek to curtail them. Democrats and Republicans both have an interest in doing everything and anything possible to combat the farce that is much of Montana liquor license law. In a city such as Missoula or Bozeman, a liquor license for a restaurant costs over a million bucks. Neither political party can be very enthusiastic about such laws. In Portland or Seattle, it costs a few thousand at most.

 

Evidence of Past Deceptive Practices from Mailergate Profs Uncovered

Today, the Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that one of the three “researchers” involved in mailergate has a history of shady, deceptive, and unethical “research” practices.  The article noted:

…a previous study co-authored by Mr. Dropp, who is an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth, in which more than 1,000 email requests were sent to Texas legislators in 2010. The emails appeared to come from Texas citizens, but were actually sent by the researchers to measure the legislators’ response rates.

“It crosses an ethical line to create fictitious people and use government resources for people who don’t exist,” Mr. Krosnick said. “There’s a habit here of lying to people.”

You can read the whole article here.  I’ve downloaded the PDF on Dropp’s fake email experiment here in case he takes it down: dropp_peskowitz_jop

Of course, we still don’t have answers on whether the “research” from this debacle is for Stanford and Dartmouth – or for CrowdPAC – or both.  Stanford isn’t saying.   Instead, as Mike Dennison reported, a Stanford spokesperson would say only that,” Any connection between CrowdPac and the project that produced the Montana mailer is part of the school’s internal investigation of the project.”

We also still don’t know if Stanford is a shareholder or holds any position in CrowdPAC, which raises additional ethics questions the school has yet to address.  I’ve previously outlined the ethical questions raised by the silicon valley start-up’s connection to mailergate here. 

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said yesterday “she believes this is the first time in Montana history that a campaign mailer has been retracted,” MTPR reported. 

Two city councilors from Montana’s capital city, Andres Haladay and Katherine Haque-Hausrath last night sent a letter to Dartmouth President Philip Hanlon condemning the fake voter guides:

Montanans take the non-partisan nature of our judicial elections very seriously.  In fact, Commissioner Haladay recently defended a portion of Montana’s Judicial Code of Ethics that prohibits candidates from seeking, accepting and using partisan endorsements.  The Federal District Court of Montana, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and United States Supreme Court all recognized that allowing such partisan identifiers in the midst of an ongoing election would be disruptive to the entire process.

We believe these fliers clearly violate the spirit of Montana’s election laws, and likely violate the substance of our laws.

 

Questions Emerge About Potential Conflict of Interest Between Mailergate and Silicon Valley Start-up

Other Oddities Come to Light

mailergateThere are a few interesting developments today in the evolving mailergate scandal in which Stanford “researchers,” along with a researcher at Dartmouth College, sent 100,000 fake “voter guides” into Montana, with the look and feel of official state voter guides. You can see the fake voter guides at the Flathead Memo here.

First, it appears that one of the Stanford professors has a for-profit side venture called CrowdPAC https://www.crowdpac.com/about   This obviously raises questions about about a potential conflict of interest between mailergate and Assistant Professor Adam Bonica’s for-profit silicon valley startup company.

Bonica co-founded CrowdPAC with a former aid to British Prime Minister David Cameron named Steve Hilton. CrowdPAC is funded by blue chip venture capital funds and appears to have both republicans and democrats involved in various capacities.

So one new question that has emerged is whether Bonica was using the fake voter guide experiment he sent in Montana, in which he wanted to test how his partisan scores drive voter turnout and behavior, not for academia but for his for-profit venture-capital backed side venture, CrowdPAC.

We also need to know if Stanford is a shareholder or holds any position in CrowdPAC.  This is surprisingly common–in fact sources close to the industry say Stanford loves to brag about its role in creating Silicon Valley companies like CISCO Systems and Google.

Here’s what CrowdPAC does and how they make money doing it.

Bonica’s company sells data complied with algorithms for quantitative measurement of political ideology.   Bonica built a model for CrowdPAC that uses algorithms based on political contributions, consumer data, and Twitter and social media “scraping” technologies to unlock all of this.  Want to find a list of candidates who support cyanide strip mining or oppose GMOs?  Supposedly CrowdPAC will sell it to you.  It’s like Moneyball for political candidates or groups, with a little bit of Kickstarter thrown in.

CrowdPAC plans to make money in three ways:

1-Selling consulting services, presumably to SuperPACs like CrossRoads GPS.

2-Taking a percentage of donations it solicits.  For example, it finds me a list of candidates who oppose trapping, and then gives me a confidence rating that they will actually vote as if they really are a friend of animals.  And for this service, CrowdPAC will take a piece of the donations that I spend with those candidates–all through their own CrowdPAC online portal.  Think Kickstarter for politics.

3-Selling ads on their sites.

If the research were for Bonica’s for-profit company, that would explain why it didn’t go through Stanford’s Independent Review Board.  Stanford has confirmed “…the study did not follow Stanford’s protocols that would have required a review by the Standford IRB.”

Whether this is being done to line the pockets of a silicon valley start-up or to publish academic research, is unethical to make Montanans guinea pigs and meddle in our Supreme Court race. The Western Association of Political science featured a post that condemned the experiment.

Political scientists told Talking Points Memo in a report released Monday morning that the “study” was:

“malpractice” and “improper and unethical” because, by introducing the ideological position of non-partisan candidates, the flyers could — intentionally or not — influence the results of the elections.

“It’s basically political science malpractice. That’s what I’d call it,” Jennifer Lawless, professor of government at American University in Washington, D.C., told TPM. …there is a difference between trying to have generalizable results and playing electoral god.”…Jeffrey Tulis, associate professor of government at the University of Texas-Austin, told TPM in an email after being alerted to the study: “My initial reaction is that this quasi-experiment is improper and unethical.”

Thanks to Granite State Progress, Dartmouth College now says it too will launch an internal investigation into the fake mailers after local New Hampshire media began reporting on the scandal. 

MTguineapigfightersAs James Conner at the Flathead Memo writes however, internal investigations will not be enough here.  Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl are both launching investigations into the fake mailers. Sen. Jon Tester sent scathing letters to the presidents of both colleges and has called for an investigation into federal mail laws that might be in play here.

There are still too many unanswered questions.  I’ll add a couple to the questions on Conner’s list.

Why was Adam Bonica in Montana earlier this year trying to sell his for-profit services through CrowdPAC at a FollowtheMoney.org conference in May of 2014?

Why did the site montanans4justice.com, which until yesterday had posted a graphic nearly identical to the fake voter guide mailers, suddenly scrub that graphic from the site?

The only the difference was that the Montanans4Justice graphic and the fake voter guides is that Montanans4Justice used little pictures of the candidates heads showing how close or how far a candidate’s head was to Obama.  But as soon as the mailergate story broke, the graphic on Montanans4Justice was obliterated from that site.

As the Flathead Memo reported, the anti-Wheat site “Montanans4justice was registered on 3 September 2014 by an anonymous party.”  And even though the graphic was removed as of this posting, it still contains references to the exact same partisanship metrics used by the mailers and the supposed “experiment” –CrowdPAC’s DIME method, as well as criticism for Wheat and praise for VanDyke.  [this time I got screenshots, see below.]  CrowdPAC launched the same day. 

If you’re new to this scandal, you can read the list of problems I have  with this here.  There is more good information on the Flathead Memo, as always.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 6.42.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 6.41.15 PM

 

New Ad for LR-126

The committee that is fighting against LR-126 (the Tea Party ballot measure to repeal election day registration) has put out a new video. You can watch it here. Featured are Montana voters, including a military veteran and native American, as well as the Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

LR 126 is an odious measure, and all you need to know about it is that very few Republicans have the courage to support it publicly right now.  In case you haven’t noticed, Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke have run for cover and will not even say where they stand.

They both do support it, we know, because it is designed to suppress democratic turnout.  Statistics show that people who register on voting day tend to be more Democrat than Republican. In 2013, all of the Republicans in the legislature voted to send this measure to the ballot, while all of the Democrats voted against it.

If you think you are registered and you go to vote on election day, only to find out that there was a clerical error and your registration was never processed, election day registration is the only chance you have. That’s why both Democrats and Republicans supported the law creating the system in 2006.

Unfortunately, Republicans were later advised by their leaders in Washington that they should reverse course and work to abolish it, because it might result in voters voting who are not Republicans.  Another civics lesson from the GOP.

Cowgirl Poll: Who would make the best democratic US senate candidate?

UPDATE: Tipsters report Franke Wilmer is no longer running because she is staying in her legislative race. The legislative races are undoubtedly this cycle’s most important.

Who do you think would make the best democratic candidate for US Senate?

View Results

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If there is someone you like that’s not on the list, let me know in the comments.

Senate Candidate will be chosen next week

With the announcement that John Walsh has departed the Senate race, the Democratic party is planning a date TBD next week as the nominating convention for Walsh’s replacement. The “central committee” will decide the matter. This group is composed of 175 or so party officers such as county chairs and vice chairs, all members of the executive board, presidents of each chartered Democratic organization, and the elected positions of Lt. Gov, Clerk of the Supreme Court, and Public Service Commissioner. They will descend upon Helena and convene at a TBD location and time probably in the next week to choose a replacement candidate.

Lots of rumors so far as to who will show up to make their case to the delegates, but so far only three candidates have actually said publicly that they will try for the nomination: Dirk Adams, Franke Wilmer and Dave Wanzenried. Two of them, Wilmer and Wanzenried, have excellent legislative careers and Dirk Adams was one of the few who stepped up to run in the primary.

Brian Schweitzer sent his regrets today; Nancy Keenan, widely speculated as the leading replacement candidate, is on record saying that she is not interested. Monica Lindeen also declined as has Denise Juneau.

One name not recently discussed in any great length, but which bears consideration or at least musing because he is one of only two people who could start out in the lead against Daines, is Steve Bullock. He’s 20 points more popular than Daines and even if he lost he’d still be employed.  But alas Bullock poured water on this idea today.  He’s not in the mix.

Many tips have come in today to my tip line about other names, and there has been rampant twitter speculation about many others. These include John Bohlinger, Linda McCulloch, Carl Borgquist (Bozeman), Ed Smith (Helena), Pam Bucy (Helena) Amanda Curtis (Butte), Mike Phillips (Bozeman), former Schweitzer staffers Dan Villa (Anaconda) and Eric Stern (Helena), Carol Williams (Missoula), Anna Whiting Sorrell (St. Ignatius), Diane Smith (Whitefish), Jacquie Helt (Helena), Elizabeth Best (Great Falls), Casey Schreiner (Great Falls), Kim Abbott (Helena), and Mike Cooney (Helena).

This as you can see is a wide open contest, and the convention promises to be a unique day in Montana political history. So stay tuned and enjoy the theater.  Let me know what you’re hearing about who is running in the comments.

 

 

 

Election Information Feed and Links

Here’s a link to the Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s election results website:

And the live Twitter feed for #mtpol for political and election updates via Twitter:


REPORT: Montana Elections Among Best Run in Nation

A recent report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts ranks Montana elections as the 11th best in the nation under Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. The report also calls for implementation of McCulloch’s plan for online voter registration, which would make access to voting a lot easier.

Montana has ranked in the top of the nation for the past two federal election cycles. Under McCulloch’s leadership, the state has been recognized for expanding its use of electronic voter information tools, adding post-election audits, and increasing the accessibility and accuracy of military and overseas citizen ballots.

Online voter registration in the era of online banking, shopping, and everything else is a no-brainer. Twenty states already have it. But luddites (and those who don’t want more people to vote) in the Montana legislature have repeatedly blocked McCulloch’s proposal to implement online voter registration and instead continue to introduce bills to make it more difficult to vote in hopes of suppressing votes from young people, women, working families and people of color–people less likely to support Republicans.

McCulloch shows up personally to oppose every single bill to restrict voting rights, for which she is to be commended. Republicans legislators forced a referendum on the November ballot to repeal same day voter registration in Montana and restrict the amount of time available to Montanans to register and vote.

Big Weekend in Montana Politics: Dem Dinner, and Bohlinger, Driscoll, Turiano, Arntzen enter race

It’s a big weekend for Democrats in more ways than one.  Tonight is the Mansfield Metcalf Dinner, the annual soiree at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds at which people drink, eat, and cheer on their favorite democratic politicians.

Make sure to look for me with my spurs and my chaps, and my donkey pin.

Tonight’s guest speaker is Cecile Richards, who is the head of Planned Parenthood of America. This is a good choice as it shows the that Democrats are becoming more comfortable in recognizing how important their stance on medical privacy really is.  And her appearance could not be more timely, coming on the heels of a horrible incident of vandalism of an abortion clinic in Montana.

Others on the list include John Walsh, our new senator, as well as Governor Steve Bullock, Senator Jon Tester, and Insurance Commissioner Monica Lindeen, Superintendent Denise Juneau and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. And don’t forget the popular Ed Smith, the clerk of the Supreme Court, as well as state House and Senate Leaders Jon Sesso and Chuck Hunter. Bring your money but don’t drink too much, especially if you are giving a speech. Hopefully, we can at least be assured there will be no poetry.

Even bigger news occurred Friday, when a number of politicians entered some of the top races. John Bohlinger officially entered the race against Senator Walsh. John Driscoll, the nominee for U.S. House in 2008, filed to run in the Democratic House primary against John Lewis. And Drew Turiano, a white supremacist, has filed to run in the House Race as well (the GOP always tries to have at least one white supremacist on the ballot). And Elsie Arntzen made her candidacy official, too. She presents a stark contrast to the other candidates in this crowded primary (and most other GOP primaries), and was immediately endorsed by Rick Hill.

The Bohlinger deal is interesting since he had given indications, around the time Walsh was appointed Senator, that he would bow out. But now he’s in it for certain. The 77-year-old Republican turned Democrat is a former Lt. Governor, former clothing merchant from Billings and former Marine boxer, and is well known among voters and has a freewheeling style and says what’s on his mind, contrasting to the more measured Walsh. Bohlinger has not raised much money and Walsh has raised a good clip (half a million or more), but that stuff matters only when the money is spent. We shall see how and when (or if) the Walsh campaign chooses to spend some of its war chest in the primary against Bohlinger. Bohlinger, meanwhile, is trying to fashion himself as a progressive, outsider alternative to Walsh. He says Walsh was anointed by Harry Reid and others in Washington.

By the way, word on the street is that Bohlinger has been denied a speaking spot on the program tonight. That would be okay, I suppose, if the rule were that only incumbents or unopposed candidates got to speak. But that’s not the case. We will see if Bohlinger causes a fuss (or even attends). We might even be lucky enough to hear from his and outspoken political advisor on the subject. I can’t wait. Dirk Adams, by the way, is also not listed on the program.

Nor is Driscoll, the new House candidate. But that is definitely a good thing because he is the Democratic equivalent of a Tea Party imbecile (if such a thing could even be said to exist). He has said that he plans to run for office without raising any money. We’ll see how that works out for him. Driscoll also claims the odd distinction of being the only Democrat in Montana history (so far as I can tell) to win a nomination and then immediately endorse his Republican opponent.  As the Democrat nominee in 2010 he endorsed Rehberg. That’s reason enough not to listen to anything he has to say and to let your Democratic friends know that Driscoll is simply a fraud.

You can buy a ticket at the door, and don’t miss it: 6-9 P.M.  Eat, drink and be merry, and cheer on (and donate to) our candidates. And if at any time during the festivities it gets slow or boring, just remind yourself what the Republican dinner must be like.