Tag Archives: lobbying

Complete Fraud

Liz Bangerter (R-Helena) is a complete fraud who was elected to represent a liberal district and then, on most issues, turned out to be one of the most conservative scumbags out there. 

Bangerter ran as a moderate,  through also a devout Mormon, in Helena, one of the state’s most progressive towns. This was supposed to make us think that she wouldn’t be a smug, sanctimonious liar. I mean, Mormons are known for telling the truth. Well, we guess there’s an exception to every rule, and Bangerter is quite the exception.

With the backing of Big Insurance – and the biggest lobbying money spent in the entire 2011 legislative session, Bangerter sponsored proposal to allow life and auto insurance companies to discriminate against women.  The insurance industry even had the audacity to have a woman sponsor the discrimination bill, and its sponsor, Liz Bangerter blatantly lied when she claimed (as she argued for a bill to end the ban on discrimination against women) that women would benefit.

Yes, “Representative” Liz Bangerter is some piece of work.

Bangerter tried to act the role of a pious protector of the Constitution, even as she sponsored one of the most unconstitutional bills of the session–but she’s just another low-life GOP hypocrite.  The bill would allow insurance companies to base rates on gender rather than driving record-discrimination which the Montana Constitution specifically prohibits.  So in spite of all the big insurance industry cash spent on the session, Schweitzer vetoed the bill.  Bangerter’s is one more seat that the Republicans won’t be keeping.


Big Tobacco

Big Tobacco spent big bucks to influence the Montana Legislature, but what did they get?

GOP special interest groups came into the 2011 legislature thinking that they had already won.   With big majorities in both houses and a slate of uninformed dolts easily persuaded by slick lobbyists, they would surely have a cakewalk.

Instead, lobbying groups–led by Big Tobacco, Big Insurance (these were the top two spenders) and the Montana Realtor’s Association–were forced to spend only slightly less than last session, as the Billings Gazette reports:

The top spender on lobbying in 2011 was Montana Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association at $160,367.
Second was Altria Client Services and its Affiliates, formerly the Philip Morris USA tobacco company, at $154,326.
The Montana Association of Realtors was third at $142,520.

For all the big money and majorities on their side, the fist pumping coming from the backbone of the GOP’s bankrollers has been weak.  At first, it looked like they would get a lot for their money. Republicans, led by Senator Dave Lewis (R-Helena), cut nearly all of the state’s tobacco prevention funding.

Mind you, this wasn’t a move to reduce the tobacco tax , it was a move to divert existing tobacco settlement funding away from prevention programs that help prevent young people from taking up smoking and help for current smokers to quit.

But the Democrats weren’t having it.  At the session’s end, Democrats and Schweitzer fought to restore funds for tobacco use prevention, which had been eliminated entirely in the GOP Legislature’s original budget.   The funding was restored to $9.4 million for the 2 year budgeting period, though the restored funding level was not as much as the Governor had originally proposed.

So the tobacco companies spent a lot to get a very little. But $160,000 for lobbying a session is a drop in the bucket to Big Tobacco probably, as they spend millions marketing Skoal Rebel and cigarettes to Montanans each year. And it just goes to show what it takes to buy and sell our GOP legisaltors like cracker jack.

Sinrud Appears to Have Committed Crime, Lobbied Illegally

1994 called, they want John Sinrud's tie back.Someone sent me a tip the other day, that John Sinrud broke the law in late 2009 because he appeared as a lobbyist to lobby on behalf of the Northwest Montana Realtors.

It appears that the tipster was correct.  Mr. Sinrud left the State Legislature on December 31, 2008.  By law, a member of the legislature must wait exactly two years before becoming a lobbyist. This law was passed overwhelming by voters in 2006 as a ballot measure, as part of a comprehensive ethics reform initiative by the Governor. It is an important legal prohibition, as it prevents public servants from making personal business-use of the relationships and connections they establish while serving the public.  It also makes it less likely that legislators or other government officers will cut shady deals in their last days in office and get rewarded, with a job, by the corporate beneficiary, immediately upon leaving office…

The Montana Code, Section 5-7-310, says a person can’t lobby or even get a license if “during the 24 months prior to applying for a license, that individual served as a state legislator”.

And yet, on December 4, 2009 only a year after leaving office, Sinrud showed up at the state legislature to lobby for the Northwest Montana Association of Realtors at an interim committee, and declared that he was, in fact, appearing before the committee to advocate for that group. He has also, I am told, lobbied in front of the Whitefish City Council and Flathead County Commission prior to December 31, 2009. I believe, but am not certain, that those activities, too, are against the rules.

This stuff seems pretty cut and dried. If there is a loophole here, I don’t see it, but if there is, I hope Sinrud will take this opportunity to explain himself in the comments.

Sinrud should be held accountable if his actions contravened the ethics statute. Assume they do, NWMR will be required to make a decision as to whether they want him representing them.  Right now he is a major force behind shady campaign tactics and shadow groups,  as he has been for the last several election cycles in the Flathead and elsewhere.  Western Tradition Partnership should also be held accountable for having a scofflaw as its head.

Actually, that was already the case.  This is not the first transgression by Sinrud. He was busted for practicing architecture without a license in 2007. He blamed Schweitzer for that.

Maybe he feels that he is now getting some revenge by breaking a law that Schweitzer created.