Tag Archives: Mike Miller

Top 10 Biggest Mistakes Rightwing Legislators Made Before the Session Even Started

1. Banning technology.  GOP lawmakers are pushing a rule change that would allow GOP leadership to ban the use of technology from committee hearings.   Rep. Tom Woods, in a guest post on the Cowgirl Blog, explained some of the draconian new rules the right-wing of the GOP legislature is seeking to pass this week.  Democrats on the rules committee objected that technology was important for “researching facts and figures during a hearing, which is of great benefit to our constituencies, our objections were disregarded.”  Some Republicans objected too:  Rep. Mike Miller says he uses technology to take notes, you know, because it’s 2015.  The GOP majority still moved the anti-tech rule forward.

2. Giving legislative staff two weeks off because their new budget software doesn’t work.  The MT legislature is implementing some new budgeting software this session.  Word on the street in Helena is that the software isn’t working yet–so whomever is in charge supposedly decided to just give all the staff a couple of weeks off instead of preparing for the session.  If this rumor is true, this move certainly doesn’t do anything to instill public confidence.

3. Granting new “insanely powerful tool” to the Speaker of the House. This session, GOP leaders are proposing a move which would grant unprecedented new power to the Speaker of the House. As the Billings Gazette wrote in an editorial condemning proposed rule change to give Speaker  Austin Knudsen new powers, “If the full House approves this rule, the speaker will effectively have the power to kill any bill that he wants to kill – unless 60 House members vote against his decision.”  Bad idea.  The Gazette editorial concluded by calling on “Knudsen to rethink his support for this ‘insanely powerful tool,’ as Rep. Rob Cook, R-Conrad, has said.”

“We call on all House members — Democrats and Republicans — to vote against this change that would take power from the majority and transfer it to one representative.”

4. Banning the public from the house floor.  Apparently unfazed with the fallout from getting busted holding a secret caucus meetings in a Helena motel, GOP leadership is seeking yet another rule change to create what TEA Party Rep. Art Wittich called a “refuge” to talk with other legislators without the public present. (Wittich is the lawmaker who faces removal from office for his role in the meth house scandal.) Republicans are proposing a rule banning the public from the house floor 24 hours a day – 7 says a week. In the past the public was not allowed on the house floor two hours before and after a floor session, but at all other hours were able to come to speak with legislators.

5. Claiming they are striving to be more like the U.S. Congress. The GOP-controled rules committee also voted to unilaterally demote democratic vice chairs to the position of “ranking members.” Rep. Jeff Essmann said the move is intended to make the MT legislature “be more like the U.S. Congress.”  As Rep. Tom Woods explained so well,

“In a move that can only be seen as sticking a thumb in the eye of Democrats, GOP leaders in the house rules committee stripped the titles of all house Democrats serving as vice chairs of their committees. No valid reason was given for this action aside from a stated desire to “emulate the traditions in the US Congress.” I have never, ever had a constituent request that our Montana legislature be more like the US Congress, but…there you have it.”

6. Continuing obsession with taking over public lands. Jennifer Fielder alone has requested dozens of different bills to address the same scheme – which republicans call TPL for “takeover of public lands.” Previously, GOP moderates tried to distance themselves from this half-baked and childish idea, especially after the idea got a nearly unanimous endorsement at the recent GOP platform convention.  Moderates backpedalled when it was revealed the transfer would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy.

7. Dress code and modesty standard. Requiring, then being forced to rescind a ridiculous modesty standard and dress code targeted at women lawmakers and reporters.  The embarrassment made national news.   Rep. Jenny Eck, thankfully stopped the nonsense immediately.

8. Packing the house education committee with anti-education extremists. GOP leaders sent a clear anti-education message when they appointed a group of homeschoolers, anti-education lobbyists, and even a convicted child abuser to the House Education committee.  It’s already clear that a right-wing attack on education is going to become one of the major themes of 2015.  Montanans are strong supporters of our public school classrooms, and this won’t bode well for the GOP.

9. Holding a secret caucus in the basement of a Helena motel in violation of state open records laws. Having 20 of the state’s largest news organizations file a legal complaint against your caucus for violating open meetings laws certainly can’t be how how any GOP elected official wanted to start the session.

10. Inviting a hate group to speak to the state legislature.  Intelligent Discontent first reported that a hate group would be speaking at the Lewis and Clark Library this week.  Now, that same blog and the Billings Gazette are reporting that this guy has been invited to speak to Montana lawmakers as well.   The group’s speaker is a nullification proponent who preaches that parents should teach their children to hate people and that wildfires in CA were divine retribution for a state anti-discrimination law.

As the Gazette reported “Republicans participating in the sermon defended his inclusion as a matter of free speech.”  The Gazette spoke with GOP state Sen. Jennifer Fielder about it Sunday, as well as Wendy McKamey (R-Great Falls)  who originally said she may not participate in the program after learning of the speakers’ views. Other GOP-ers must have got wind of her hesitation however, because she called the Gazette back the next day to tell them she would definitely be there.

These mistakes are bad not because they further damage the hard right’s reputation with the public, although to be sure they do. They’re bad because they serve to keep the public out of decisions the legislature make and to consolidate these decisions into hands of a few extremists  behind closed doors who dutifully follow national special interest and fringe group directives but don’t represent most Montanans.

 

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.

 

Montana is at the Forefront of National Fight Against Election Corruption

A Montana case is the next battle in the fight to keep elections from being for sale to the highest bidder by keeping campaign finance limits in place.

Now, a group of leading national legal non-profit advocacy groups including Free Speech for People, former Montana Supreme Court Justice James Nelson, the American Independent Business Alliance,  the American Sustainable Business Council, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Justice at Stake and the League of Women Voters are joining Montanans in the fight to keep Montana’s campaign finance limits in place.

The groups joined the defense of Montana’s campaign finance limits with an amicus brief and and amici brief in Lair v. Motl.  They are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to overturn a District Court ruling that struck down Montana’s political campaign contribution limits.  Earlier, a District Court disregarded both Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent to overturn Montana’s limits on contributions to state candidates, including judges, from individuals and political parties.

In Lair v. Motl, American Traditions Partnership board member Doug Lair wants campaign finance limits abolished.  Several prominent Republican office holders and candidates in Montana caught up in the infamous Meth House Scandal, in which documents belonging to the infamous American Tradition Partnership (ATP), were found in a Colorado meth house.  The documents incriminated TEA Party Senate leader Art Wittich, Mike Miller, Derek Skees, Pat Wagman, Jerry O’Neil, Bob Wagner, Dan Kennedy, Scott Mendenhall, Wendy Warburton, Ed Butcher, and Tom Burnett to name a few.  Wager, Burnett, Miller, O’Neil and Wittich are currently running for office.

Here’s how Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People, explains it:  “Campaign contribution limits are justified by an interest in ensuring political equality for all, regardless of access to wealth. When political equality is jeopardized, democracy itself is at risk.”

Justice James Nelson, a former Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, and on of the court’s most respected justices, said, “Candidates for political office and elections should not be for sale to the biggest spenders. The Supreme Court has decreed that money equals speech; and contribution limits help to level a playing field tipped in favor of the big spenders by Citizens United.”  I could not agree more.

The District Court overturned the Montana’s candidate contribution limits applicable to individuals and PACs, even though the limits have already been upheld by the Ninth Circuit.

In addition to the limits on candidate contributions from individuals and PACs, the lower court struck down Montana’s limits as they apply to contributions from political party committees. Montana does not limit the amount that any individual or PAC may give to political parties, but instead restricts the “aggregate” amount a candidate can receive from his or her political party.

Surprisingly, the issue hasn’t been covered by Montana news outlets, even though its the next step in a nationwide battle to protect America’s and Montana’s elections from corruption.

After all, this case comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down longstanding limits on the total amount of money wealthy individuals could contribute to federal candidates in an election cycle. As with the Citizens United ruling which now allows unlimited corporate dollars into our elections, the high court’s McCutcheon decision is unleashing further money into the political process from wealthy interests.

We’ll see if it gets more attention by Montana reporters after the op-ed by Justice Jim Nelson and Ron Fein appeared in yesterday’s Billings Gazette.

TEA Party Republicans Outraged Over Bill to Require Consensual Sex

TEA Party Republicans are none too pleased about a bill proposed in California that would acknowledge that women aren’t consenting to have sex with you just simply by being alive and of a legal age. Senate Bill 967, the Student Safety from Sexual Assault bill ,would mean that silence or not protesting enough is no longer considered sexual consent on public college campuses.  It would mean women aren’t consenting to having sex with you by not saying no, rather they consent by saying yes.  The bill also requires colleges to implement comprehensive prevention programs addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Most men want to have sex with women who want them back and would welcome rape and domestic violence prevention programs on campus.  But that didn’t stop TEA Party Republican Mike Miller from rushing to his Facebook page to express his outrage over the bill this week.  Miller also posted this article, which grossly distorts the purpose of the bill.  He calls the proposal an unwanted intrusion and “control” over “what happens in the bedroom.”

GOP candidate for legislature Joe Dooling of East Helena couldn’t resist joining in.  He responded that consensual sex “might be a bit of a ‘mood’ killer.”   To be sure, it could be that it is the domestic violence prevention programs that Dooling is calling a “‘mood’ killer.” Dooling doesn’t specify. Here’s the screenshot: Miller Facebook   Miller tweeted his shock at the proposal too, screenshot here. Miller Tweet   He’s claiming to be upset that the law would be “tough to enforce” while omitting that when women are considered to automatically consent to sex at any time, rape laws are tough to enforce. The feminist blog Sasha Said writes:

The [current] law presumes women old enough to legally have sex to exist in a state of perpetual consent. Unless you are able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt–a very high standard–that you did not consent to sex, the law assumes that whatever dude came along and forced himself on you had the right to do so.

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices has called for Miller to be removed from the ballot for political practice violations.   Dooling will face the popular former democratic candidate and former state Rep. Jill Cohenour in the November.

Cowgirl Blog Primary Election Predictions

Here are my predictions for the most important races in the primary, the state legislative races.

While some bloggers have chosen to focus on the races that Lee Newspapers once deemed important, the real question on everyone’s mind is who will prevail tomorrow night- the TEA Party extremists or the main street republicans. Nowhere is this battle for the GOP hotter than where incumbents face challengers – from the left and from the right.

These are among the key bellwether races to watch tomorrow night.

Certainly I’ll also be watching what happens with the TEA Party’s fake Trojan horse dems, and what happens in primaries with MT Family Foundation recruits like Debra Lamm in Livingston, Marissa Stockton in East Helena, and Ronalee Skees vs. Frank Garner is the Flathead. The Flathead has several interesting legislative races to watch actually.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s race, where two fake democrats are running against T.J. McDermott, is important.  Tim Ravndal is running for County Commissioner in Broadwater County, which is frightening.  Another race to watch for those seeking to take the TEA Party’s pulse is the Gallatin County Commission race, where Don Seifert faces TEA Partier Barb Blum (backed by Roger Koopman).

Let me know if you agree or disagree and what other races you’re watching in the comments.

House   
HD 17 Rep. Christi Clark of Choteau vs. TEA Parter Jim Anderson. Anderson is the TEA Partier who hijacked the Teton County Republican Party’s annual shrimp peel fundraiser for the TEA Party. Local Republicans are not pleased. Prediction: ClarkScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 18 Rep. Rob Cook of Conrad vs. endorsed TEA Partier Ann MorrenPrediction: CookScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 19 Rep. Roger Hagan of Great Falls vs. TEA Partier Randy Pinocci, who is backed by Gary Marbut. Prediction: HaganScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 27 Rep. Roy Hollandsworth of Brady vs. right winger Darrold HutchinsonPrediction: HollandsworthScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 30 Rep. Ryan Osmundson of Buffalo/vs. Right-winger and 86-year-old Jim PaughPrediction: OsmundsonScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 40 Rep. Tom Berry vs. TEA Party winger Ray Gorman. Prediction: BerryScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 53 TEA Party wingut Rep. Sarah Laszloffy, age 20 of Laurel, who attended a school which teaches you how to bring people back from the dead.  No Joke.  TEApublican Rep. Sarah Laszloffy is an alum of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. (She’s also the daughter of MT Family Foundation wackjob Jeff Laszloffy) vs. former long-time legislator Mark Noennig, well respected by the business community. Prediction: Toss-up.  Noennig can win this and voters would be much better represented by him, but papa bear Laszloffy is likely to pull out all the stops to keep his pawn daughter in office.Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 71 In Madison County, Rep. Ray Shaw vs. Birther Bob Wagner, a former Representative infamous for losing economic development for his district and making an ass of himself on national television. Voters already ousted Wagner in favor of Shaw once. Prediction: ShawScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 72 Rep. Jeff Wellborn of Dillan vs. TEA Party college Republican Brooke ErbPrediction: WellbornScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 80 Rep. Mike Miller vs. Patrick Johnson/Ron Vandevendor. Prediction: Miller, since not enough Montanans will have heard of his political practices shennanigans.  Miller is being challenged from the left by Patrick Johnson. If Miller is elected, the primary election won’t actually decided the final outcome, because Miller faces being thrown off the ballot for political practices violations. So does Art Wittich, and so do others.Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 92 David “Doc” Moore of Missoula vs. Larry Dunham Prediction: MooreScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 93 Rep. Dan Salomon of Ronan vs. challenger Frank Delgado. Frank Delgado is a responsible Main Street republican challenging GOPer Salomon from the left in a seat the dems will likely take back in November. Prediction: SalomonScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
HD 99 Rep. Ed Greef of Stevensville faces pro-business, pro-economic development non-nutjob Russ Vogel.  Prediction: GreefScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM

 

Senate  
SD 4 Former Kalispell Mayor Tammy Fisher vs. Rep.  Mark Blasdel of Kalispell. The race is hotly contested. Prediction:  Blasdel is an inferior pick and a right-winger and Fisher is a pro-business Republican, but the power of incumbency is strong. Blasdel has raised more money. This is an open seat.  However, Blasdel was an extreme right legislative leader in the house last session, and faces a primary from the more rational wing of the party. Would love to be wrong on this one.Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 9 Sen. Llew Jones/vs. TEA Party tax dodger Joe Large in Toole, Pondera and Glacier Counties. Prediction: JonesScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 14 Anti-education lobbyist Rep. Kris Hansen of Havre is now running for Senate against Carl Mattson of Chester.   Mattson is the superior candidate.  He doesn’t favor using your tax dollars to subsidize private sectarian schools.  Hansen has been paid to promote that terrible idea. Prediction:  HansenScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 20 Rep. Duane Ankney (east of Billings) vs. TEA Party booster clubber Barry Usher  of Colstrip Prediction: AnkneyScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 29 Right-winger birther Rep. Joanne Blyton of Red Lodge vs. Ultra nutjob and imbecile extraordinaire Rep. David Howard. Howard is a man who has, somewhat obsessively, devoted his Facebook page to criticizing gay sex. So of course, the GOP picked to lead the Children and Families legislative committee last session. Howard will face off against Red Lodge Republican Joanne Blyton. Blyton is a birther who actually voted for Birther Bob’s birther bill. (You can see a pdf of HB 205, the birther bill, vote here.) Yes, that’s the same bill that later made the Montana Legislature famous on CNN.   Prediction: Tossup.  This is also an open seat, but is included here because both Blyton and Howard served in the House.Screen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 34 Rep. Gordon Vance vs. Rep. Ted Washburn both of Bozeman. One of the most bloody GOP primary battles of the year.  Gordon Vance is the TEA Party nutjob who vote to conduct all state business in gold.  Vance and is trying to brutally attack paint Washburn as a liberal and RINO.  Problem is, Washburn is anything but. Washburn is under investigation for having been caught up in the Meth House Scandal, in which documents found at a meth house in Colorado were found to implicate certain GOP lawmakers for illegally coordinating with a dark money group, the American Tradition Partnership.  Washburn also is the author of the famous bill to legalize hunting with silencers.  It made the venerated2011 Montana Nutjob Bills list first published at Cowgirl Blog, and Washburn brought back the bill in 2013.   Washburn has also called for what is essentially a poll tax, a bill that would allow only taxpayers to vote (poor people often don’t have a taxable income, nor, for that matter, do many farmers and ranchers).  And he has often been the lead sponsor of bills that would make it more difficult for people to register to vote, especially if those people are likely to be democrats. Prediction: TossupScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
SD 43 Sen. Scott Boulanger of Darby (appointed, not elected)  vs. Rep. Pat Connell.Sen. Scott Boulanger R-Darby loves being pictured with the  infamous bullet-ridden Obama outhouse.  He’s running in a GOP primary against Rep. Pat Connell. Boulanger was one of ten Republicans who actually voted to take freedoms away from Montanans by keeping being gay an imprisonable offense in Montana.     Voters in the area have already picked Pat Connell over Boulanger once before, when Boulanger ran for house in 2012. Boulanger lost, and the only reason he’s in office now is because he was appointed by the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee after another legislator was elected to the Public Service Commission. Prediction: ConnellScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM
 SD 27  Another open seat where a right winger from the House faces a pro-business wing challenger.  TEA Partier Cary Smith of Billings faces former legislator and dentist Don Roberts.  Prediction: TossupScreen shot 2014-06-03 at 6.05.58 AM

Mike Miller Latest Republican Under Investigation

State Rep. Mike Miller (R-Helmville) is the latest Republican legislator under investigation for illegal campaign activity, the AP reported.

His name was found in a box of documents in a meth house which later became the subject of a brilliant work of national investigative journalism. In a full-hour exposé of Montana politics and the secretive right-wing group, PBS’s show Frontline revealed that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found in a meth house, showing extensive communications between these and perhaps other legislative candidates and the American Traditions Partnership, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

The list of others who could be investigated because documents and campaign materials with their names were found in the meth house includes–but is not limited to–current and former legislators Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Wendy Warburton, Jerry O’Neil, and Derek Skees. Rep. Dan Kennedy (R-Laurel) is already under investigation.

Miller announced the investigation on his own Facebook page, saying. “Well, before the press breaks the news, (or MT-Cowgirl), former MT Rep. John Ward has filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices over the 2010 primary, alleging coordination with Assembly Action Fund and ATP (WTP).” Screenshot.

He said he is “not commenting further at this time on the merits of my case.” Screenshot. However he added,

“One could wonder in the Kennedy case if a candidate buys something (paper) on sale at say WalMart and Staples has the same item at a higher price, just what is the fair market value of that item. Or if a candidate buys stamps at Costco at a 25 cent discount if Costco is making a corporate contribution to the candidate as it is less than the US Post Office charges which one could assume the CoPP would think was the “fair market value.”

Former Rep. Scott Mendenhall (R-Clancy) blamed the investigation on “More divisiveness out of the self-proclaimed ‘Business Republicans.'” Those alleged to have illegally coordinated with ATP are in the TEA Party camp.

ATP’s Tangled Web May Snare Others

Montana’s head elections regulator ruled this week that American Tradition Partnership illegally coordinated with a GOP legislative candidate, Dan Kennedy R-Laurel.  Now, Montana’s top election regulator says he’s launching an investigation into other candidates ATP may have coordinated with.

ATP is the right-wing political attack group that was instrumental in bringing us the nation’s most bat-crap crazy state legislatures in 2011 and 2013. Kennedy’s primary opponent was but one of several GOP candidates who complained about ATPs activities to elect hard right-wingers over more moderate republicans.

As KUFM’s Dan Boyce reports, an investigation into illegal campaign activity

“is now expanding to include Continue reading

Off Message?

Ever since the Montana Republican Party’s ideology went so far askew it caused several of its own members to start voting independently during the 2013 legislative session, the Montana GOP has been busy trying to put some spin on the problem.

Former GOP Speaker of the House Mike Millburn is the latest to do so with a guest opinion in the Great Falls Tribune, saying that the GOP must “stay the course” on its hard-right ideology.   Milburn says the real problem is that the GOP’s message “just needs to be refined.”

It’s easy to see why the “message” theory is so appealing to Republicans.  It allows them to tell themselves that they need not be concerned that most people disagree with their ideology.    It allows them to believe that if they just had better polls and slicker advertising all of their problems would be solved.

But while Republicans think their problem is one of message rather than bad policies, a look at recent polls shows the public does not share that view.

By 47 percent to 22 percent, Americans say they disagree with the GOP’s approach to social and cultural issues,  according to a NBC/WSJ poll.  Polls also show that people think the GOP’s policies are indeed too extreme:

a majority of Americans (53 percent) say the Republicans’ problem is that they are overly conservative and unconcerned “with the welfare of the people, particularly those in the lower and middle income levels.”

Americans say Democrats are doing a better job than Republicans. They say health care is important and that cost is a barrier to getting it.

So if the GOP wants to stop losing votes and voters, the answer isn’t that yet another round of road show tours in which they repeat the phrase “jobs for Montana” ad nauseam when they voted to block 14,000 Montana jobs just last session.   They should listen to voters instead of right-wing think tanks.   They should start funding public school classrooms and improving wages and health care for working people instead of focusing on corporate welfare and conspiracy theories.

Milburn also advises Republicans to stop the debilitating race to the bottom that the party has seen recently, with every conservative candidate and officeholder trying to prove how conservative they are, and trying to prove that they are more conservative than their colleagues.  Milburn says the GOP is “a big tent” open to all Republicans.  He might be hopeful that the GOP could be such a tent, but his viewpoint is a minority one.   The right-wing has lately been dictating the course of the GOP, and there is no sign of anything changing.

Meeting of the Minds

In a little over a month, legislators from across Montana will descend on Helena to make the laws you must live by.  Let’s meet them.

1-Rep. David Howard (R-TEA Park City), Chair of the House Human Services Committee. Rep. Howard is on the record saying he believes a Civil War is imminent 

2-A FRONTLINE documentary reported that documents found in a meth house indicate potentially illegal collusion between a secretive right-wing group and Republican candidates. Files on Dan Kennedy, Wendy Warburton, Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Joel Boniek, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees were found so far.

3-Rep. Roger Webb (R-Billings). This recently elected GOP-er was convicted of shooting his neighbors dogs to death. It was reported in MT’s largest newspaper.

4-We now have a legislator with ties to the militia movement. Yes, Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-TEA Sanders County) was elected and will serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

5-Then there is the GOP legislator who when called by the press about a former UM student who accused him of sexual assault, handed the phone to his mom. Rep. Nicolas Schwaderer  (R-Missoula Mineral) denies the allegations.  He has also threatened a defamation suit against anybody making “slanderous statements” against him. It is not known at this time whether mom will be coming to Helena with Rep. Schwaderer.

 6-Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R-TEA Columbia Falls) demanded to be paid for his legislative acts in gold and silver. O’Neil has been ridiculed for his request in the national press.  But recall that last session, half of the House of Representatives voted for Wagner’s bill to require the state of Montana to conduct all business in gold and silver. This includes current GOP Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel and Republican House Majority Leader Gordon Vance and many, many others who are back this session.

7-And let’s not forget Rep. Wendy Warburton and Rep. Kris Hansen (both of Havre) who co-hosted an event with former Gov. Judy Martz to tell Montanans that the War on Women is made up.   Warburton has an explanation for the lack of GOP women candidates. She said a couple of years back, that “the biggest reason that more women who are Republicans don’t get into politics is because we are the pro-family party.” Yes ladies, GOP women are home raising kids like the women of the pro-family party should be.

8-After I first blogged it here, the Chair of the MT House Judiciary Committee TEA Party Republican Krayton Kerns (R-TEA Laurel) was featured in a popular Huffington Post story for his blog post claiming that moving some bison will “topple the Republic” and lead to $25/gallon gas prices.  This month, Kerns’ concern is the “imminent collapse of society.

9-The newest member of the MT House Education committee will be an interesting addition.  Republican Rep. Sarah Laszloffy, age 19, is an alum of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, where students of all ages come to learn how to live  ”a supernatural lifestyle.” (And you thought Republicans opposed alternative lifestyles.  Not true!)

According to the school’s website, Rep. Laszloffy and her fellow students learned how to “live the Bible,” —including useful skills such as “how to cast out demons” and other practical solutions to life’s most pressing problems. Bethel’s members also  purport to have the ability to heal people through prayer and bring the dead back to life.

Perhaps the ability to bring people back from the dead will be useful.  Former legislator turned Public Service Commissioner Roger Koopman threatened that if his fellow GOP legislators didn’t stop criticizing him, “Republican blood will flow in the streets.”

10-The outgoing GOP House Majority Leader, Tom McGillvray (R-TEA Billings). McGillvary tweeted (from his official Twitter account) that President Obama must release his college records so as to prove that he was not a “foreign exchange student” while he studied at Columbia and Harvard. McGillvray is termed out and his term will end this month.

 

Since the Dawn of Time

The Helena City Commission  has voted unanimously to give its preliminary approval to a non-discrimination ordinance they’ve been considering for some time.  In case you missed the hearing, there were some really bizarre statements made in opposition to the idea.

To give you the flavor of who’s against ending discrimination, check out the opposition’s website.  The main argument appears to be that “our values have not changed since the dawn of time” and so we should not be changing a Helena city ordinance either.

It’s hard to calculate the myriad of ways in which this premise is flawed. There are many traditional beliefs have gone by the wayside “since the dawn of time”–and many more have been added.  For example, 14th century dwellers valued burning cats, believing they were Satan’s minions.  With all the cat burning, rats ran rampant– spreading the bubonic plague which killed 200 million people. So that value’s out.

The use of toilet paper wasn’t even around at “the dawn of time” to be valued, yet our beliefs have evolved so that TP it is now widely supported–though perhaps not by everybody if the website’s creator is to be believed.  And slavery, much used in biblical times, is now thankfully illegal. Many kinds of discrimination are now illegal too — though there is still more work to be done.

As to who is behind the opposition site, this man is already taking credit for it, as you can see from this screenshot:

The author, who calls himself only “Jim,” says he’s from Tennessee and is a teacher at an unaccredited local religious school. This is probably Helena Christian School or Last Chance Academy.  In his spare time, he hunts with Rep. Mike Miller (R-HD 84).

Jim says he attended a theological seminary but appears to have dropped out saying he “found that it wasn’t “theological” enough.”   Among the problems Jim found with the the theological school was that it had an Office of Women’s Concerns:

“as if the Bible doesn’t say enough against the role of women’s general LEADERSHIP over the local church.”

He believes that environmentalists are “evil” and that environmentalism is “a religion of human sacrifice.”  As proof of this, Jim explains that the ban on the carcinogenic chemical pesticide DDT was a government conspiracy to “exterminate” more people with malaria than Mao, Stalin, and Hitler killed combined.

If you live in Helena,  and do not want these views incorporated into your city government, do not dispair. Send an email in support of the ordinance and against a bizarre amendment (more on that later) to the city commission at publiccomments@helenamt.gov   The idea will have its next hearing on December 17th.