Tagged: Mike Miller

Posted: November 15, 2013 at 7:36 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.

Posted: October 20, 2013 at 9:14 pm

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

Posted: July 8, 2013 at 7:11 am

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.

Posted: December 7, 2012 at 7:42 am

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.


Posted: December 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

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.

Posted: November 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Some Folks Might be Heading to the Pokey in Montana

In a brilliant piece of investigative journalism, the PBS show Frontline has revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in elections, with a full-hour expose of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP.

Numerous Republican candidates might have worked too closely with ATP, and could be in trouble legally if not electorally.  They might be going to the pokey (meaning the clink, the one in Deer Lodge.)

The short story is that the 2010 election, in which the Tea Party swept into control of the Montana legislature, may have featured massive illegalities.   Under state law, third party groups, the ones like American Tradition Partnership which spend masses of unregulated, unreported money, are legally barred from coordinating with candidates.  But several legislative candidates and the ATP have been caught red handed, working together, in violation of the law.  The Frontline documentary reveals that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found, showing extensive communications between Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News, for example, reported today that GOP legislator Wendy Warburton appears to have been in direct communication with the group, even going so far as to send them a “signature stamp,” presumably so they could send out mailings on her behalf, using her signature.  That’s likely to be found illegal under Montana law.

Files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Joel Boniek, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees were also featured on Frontline.  Again, groups and candidates cannot coordinate on campaign communications.

Candidates might be subjecting themselves to a range of penalties, including removal from office, fines, or worse.  The question is whether there is a prosecutor out there who is willing to begin looking into this stuff.  Generally, county attorneys stay away from political stuff, leaving it to the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Worse, the ATP’s headquarters is revealed by the documentary to be nothing more than a P.O. Box at a UPS store in Washington DC, even though the group is spending tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and is the most influential source of money in Montana politics.  They were estimated to have spent well over a million bucks on just a handful of state legislative races in 2010.  They’d send mail to voters, which looked very much like electioneering material, something that is illegal if you are hiding who your donors are.

Not all ATP’s donors have been able to hide.  Investigative journalist Paul Abowd this week uncovered a document that revealed one of ATP’s largest bankrollers-a Colorado anti-union group called Coloradans for Economic Growth.

And I would say that this documentary, above all, is an outright humiliation for the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who this summer rejected a request by Montana to reconsider the Citizens United ruling in light of the ATP’s shady, unreported, anonymously funded activities in Montana.  In rejecting Montana’s plea, Kennedy offered a single paragraph describing why he (the swing vote on the court) was refusing to consider the matter. He wrote that there was nothing that led him to believe that the ATP’s activities could lead to “corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Kennedy, if he watched Frontline this week, probably wishes he could have that one back.  Because he is now revealed to be not a brilliant jurist but a stupid old man, who got duped by a bunch of bad actors.  Soon, groups like ATP will completely own our state and federal governments, using corporate money, installing candidates into office, from a P.O. Box, never revealing who the donors are.  And the Supreme Court  believes that this is all perfectly okay.


Posted: October 31, 2012 at 6:34 am

ATP “Meth House” Docs Contain Names of Shadow Group’s Legislative Candidates

Last night, FRONTLINE revealed that ATP documents found in a meth house appear to contain evidence of “possible illegal ‘coordination’ between” the group and the candidates it supported, the Atlantic reported.

The boxes contained files on Mike Miller, Ed Butcher, Bob Wagner, Wendy Warburton, Jerry O’Neil and Derek Skees, who is now a candidate for statewide office.  Butcher and Miller were discussed extensively on the FRONTLINE piece.  The other names you can see in these screenshots.

But that’s not the only juicy information thought to be lurking in those boxes.  They also contain ATP’s Wells Fargo bank statements, and the names of some of the groups secret donors.

The group filed a “motion for protective order” in court last month to try and require the Commissioner of Political Practices to keep these public documents secret because it contained the names of ATP donors.   The state of Montana and ATP have filed briefs on the question of whether they can be made public.  Thanks to tipsters you can download them here and here.


Posted: October 17, 2012 at 6:58 am

The Foul 57

Republican candidates across the county have tried to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who believes that rape victims should be forced to give birth and said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

That’s been much more difficult for GOPers in Montana.

A whopping 57 candidates for the Montana legislature actually voted for an amendment to the Montana Constitution to ban abortion, under all circumstances, with no exception for rape or incest.  Sen. Debby Barrett (R-Dillon) was one of them, as democratic challenger Richard Turner of Dillan smartly points out in a mail piece (pictured).

The forced birth for rape victims amendment  cleared the house and the senate with 96 votes. All Republicans voted for it except Lila Evans.  However, because it takes a 2/3 vote of 150 legislators to amend the constitution,  the amendment failed by only four votes.

Below the fold is the list of current legislative candidates who voted in favor of forced births for victims of rape and incest.  Check it out to see if your legislator is on it–I’ve alphabetized the list by town.

Shamefully, Jonathan Windy Boy and Gene Vuckovich also made the list. To be sure, there are many more GOP candidates for legislature who share these beliefs but weren’t in the 2011 session–like Scott Sales. There are also many more Republican legislators who voted for this but aren’t up for re-election this year.

 Rick Hill, Steve Daines, and Tim Fox all support Akin’s position.  Rehberg was an early major donor to Akin.

Continue reading

Posted: September 2, 2011 at 7:01 am

Inside the Bad Idea Factory

The bad ideas and nutty legislation proposed in the Montana legislature certainly did not come from Montana constituents, and  did not even (always) originate in the muddled minds of TEA Party Republicans. Instead, many of the bad bills came from an out-of-state hard right strategy group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

Much research has already been done into the connections between ALEC and its corporate backers from Big Tobacco, PHARMA, and Big Oil, and there are several good sources of information out there about these connections. But that’s not the whole story.

This summer, Center for Media and Democracy posted some 800 ALEC “model” bills and resolutions on a new website, ALECexposed.org.     Now, internet savvy Montanans have an intriguing and largely untapped resource to compare ALEC bills to proposals in the Montana legislature and to see how and where they overlap. It would be interesting if people who find things post them  in the comments. Then we could all see what patterns emerge, if there are certain legislators who were the worst offenders, or if certain policy areas appear to dominate the list.

Even the briefest look at the ALEC documents shows that its goals appear to be much broader than enacting pro-corporate policy.

In some instances, the model legislation is designed to advance the agenda of far-right religious fundamentalists to steer public funds to religious/private schools. Here’s the model ALEC bill on special education vouchers–a type of “gateway” proposal to lead the way to full private/religious school vouchers later–and here is the Montana legislative version, for comparison.

In many cases however, the greater goals appear to be electoral.  Take the voter suppression proposal, a bill that (if it wasn’t vetoed) would have helped Republicans keep more young Montanans, seniors, and low-income people living in isolated areas from voting.  Here’s the model ALEC Model bill to require a current photo ID to vote, and  here’s the Montana legislative bill.

The other way ALEC advances the GOP electoral strategy is by forcing dems to take tough votes on issues that the republicans will then use to campaign against them.  Take for example, the ALEC bill to opt out of health care reform.  Here is the model ALEC bill for a constitutional amendment to allow states to opt-out and here’s the Montana legislative version.

Republicans don’t like to talk about how they are using the legislative process for partisan electioneering with assistance from out-of-state groups.  Instead, they claim that ALEC is no more than a non partisan source of policy materials and even bragged about their attempts to pass ALEC legislation.

Here is a list of current legislators with ALEC task force positions (below the fold).  Like the TEA Party, the ALEC crew appears to be concentrated in the House with a few notable exceptions, like State Senator and Gubernatorial run considerer Jeff Essmann.   The list also seems heavy on Republicans from the Flathead area.

Continue reading