Tag Archives: Randy Rickman

Give Thanks, for the Crazies in Montana

It was a fun week all around for Tea Party loons in Montana. First, to court we go.

Boniek,  and some courtroom drama

Yesterday, Tea Party leader Joel Boniek appeared in court in Livingston, to answer for his arrest earlier this year at a traffic stop.  You will recall that a few months back, Boniek was detained by a cop at a traffic stop, appeared to then fondle a pistol in his clothing to try to scare the officer, and then ran the roadblock.  Boniek is a former legislator and ran for Lt. Governor this year. He rides his mule to work sometimes.

TEA Partier

As any good Tea Partier knows, when you have a date before a judge, the best way to win your case is to bring an angry mob of lunatics with you to court, to heckle the judge and prosecutor.  This is what Boniek did, and a hilarious scene ensued.  As the Livingston Enterprise reported, Boniek showed up and refused to recognize the authority of the prosecutor or judge, the crowd of foaming imbeciles hooting and hollering encouragement.  Boniek then tried to prevent the prosecutor from making an opening statement, saying, “Your honor, why is this woman even speaking to me if she can’t prove she’s a public official?” Boniek, like many wing-nuts, believes that neither a prosecutor nor judge has jurisdiction over a citizen unless she can  “prove to they have taken an oath.”  Oatherism, let’s call it.

Then things really got fun.  The raucous crowd began heckling the judge, and so the judge and prosector got up and left the courtroom. At that point, Boniek stood up and declared that he was “now in charge of the court.”

“The judge abandoned the courtroom and I announced the case dismissed as the last man standing,” Boniek later explained to an Associated Press reporter. A bailiff who remained in the courtroom told Boniek that he was mistaken, that he had no authority and that he better take his angry mob and leave.  Frighteningly, the bailiff saw a lump under Boniek’s clothing and asked him whether it was a firearm, and Boniek refused to answer.  At some point the mob and Boniek finally went home.  The charges remain.


Birther at Helena IR

Speaking of Oatherism, you will be happy to know that its better known cousin, Birtherism, is alive and well in Montana–and is being practiced by the editorial staff of the Helena Independent Record.

For those that did not see the item on A Chicken is Not Pillage, in Sunday’s IR there was a news article, written by a national AP reporter, which stated that President Obama was “allegedly born in Hawaii.”  Naturally, the Associated Press writer wrote no such thing.  The draft of the story that the IR received from the AP did not use the world “allegedly.”   Instead, the editorial room of the Independent Record took it upon itself to insert the qualifier–since, as we all know, the place of Obama’s birth has never been proven, right?

Outrage traveled quickly.   The Huffington Post wrote about the insertion, as did a former copy editor of the Helena IR, on his blog, where he expressed mortification at what had happened.

“That right-wing notion [that the president isn’t a U.S. citizen] has been so thoroughly discredited that only Donald Trump and assorted other loonies still cling to it. Neither the AP nor – I hope – The Independent Record belongs in their company.”

The IR had to do damage control, and a small retraction note was printed on the following Tuesday in which the paper claimed that a copy editor in the newsroom had merely played a prank by inserting the word “allegedly,” believing that his fellow copy-editor would catch it and delete it.

I suppose this could be a valid excuse, but it is also a perfect ruse, an escape hatch by which the conservative Republican publisher of the newspaper Randy Rickman can protect somebody in the newsroom who might have been doing his bidding.  I would say there’s a fair chance that, despite what he might say publicly, Rickman believes that Obama’s nationality is an open question.  He would not be the only editor in Montana to hold such an opinion. Frank Miele, who runs the Interlake, is a proud birther.

Anyway, I doubt that a reporter will digging into the IR incident any time soon.


Civil War, Anyone?

Speaking of the Helena IR, and speaking of crazies, am I the only one who was surprised when a full week passed after Intelligent Discontent and this blog wrote about it before the IR decided to report the fact that the Montana Tea Party has mounted an effort to get Montana to secede from the Union?  Unable to live under the terrible yoke of an Obama presidency, unwilling to move en masse to Canada or someplace else, and wholly approving of the actions of the Confederacy in 1860, the Tea Party in Montana and in many other states has launched a secession movement.

Like everything else the Tea Party does, this effort will flop because of consists of imbeciles who can barely read or write, let alone organize a mass movement.  However, as with other Tea Party antics that humiliate the GOP with image problems, the IR decided to wait on reporting it until a slow news day with few readers, the day before Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, the Cowgirl Blog told the story shortly after it broke, which is why we continue to be Montana’s number one site for politics.


Double Talk from a Right-Wing Publisher

Montanans have reacted with outrage to the lies being spread by the fake newspapers called the Montana Statesman and the deceptive mailers that arrived on doorsteps courtesy of the American Traditions Partnership.

But the reaction from Randy Rickman, the right-wing publisher of the Helena IR and Montana Standard looks more like jealousy.

Whatever his “reasoning” Rickman has decided to get into the double-talk game himself.

Last month, the Montana Standard and the Helena IR, the Lee Newspapers controlled by right-wing publisher Randy Rickman, sent letters [PDF] to democratic candidates saying they “decided not to endorse the statewide offices this year.”

This week however the Montana Standard endorsed Steve Daines for Congress.  

The letter reads:

Dear candidate:

The Helena Independent Record and the Montana Standard editorial boards has decided not to endorse the statewide candidate offices this year. However, we are going to provide space starting Sunday, Oct. 7, and going forward to candidates and their opponents to outline their vision and goals if elected. To that end, we would like you to submit a 450-word personal editorial outlining your goals. It will run adjacent to your opponent, but we insist that you not take the space to bash the opposition, rather promote yourself. If you have questions please feel free to contact me. Deadline is by 5 p.m. Wed., Oct. 3. Thanks for your attention to this matter.



Rick Hill Measuring Drapes?

From whispers I’ve heard, it sounds likely that Rick Hill has already enlisted Scott Mendenhall to run his transition operation, in the event Hill wins the election.

Mendenhall is a right-winger from Clancy, and served several terms in the legislature before being termed out a few years ago.  If the rumor is true, then Hill has chosen, as his chief advisor to begin a potential Hill administration, a man who believes that a woman who is raped and impregnated should be required by law to give birth to the rapist’s child.

And Hill shares this belief, by the way, even if the anti-choice Helena IR hasn’t given it much coverage (and don’t hold your breath).  So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he would enlist an anti-abortion zealot to begin assembling a gubernatorial administration, moot though that assignment may be.

Mendenhall has long been the darling of the religious right and is a fiery speaker at anti-choice events.  He says that conservative Christians must fight against “the extreme liberal left,” which he claims seeks to “undermine traditional family values.”  He also claims that women’s constitutional right to medical privacy is a “direct violation” of why America was founded. Mendenhall was an early endorser of the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Montana.

Mendenhall and his wife own an ultrasound business in Helena and Butte.  During the last session, Mendenhall sent his wife to testify in favor of a bill which would force women to undergo vaginal probe ultrasounds before they were allowed to terminate the pregnancy.

The last time, by the way, that Rick Hill was involved in a transition was in 2001, when he led Judy Martz’s transition policy team for economic development.

Size Matters: Whose is Bigger, Bullock’s or Hill’s?

Take a look at the photo here.

Clearly, Rick Hill’s lectern was taller than Steve Bullock’s, as has been much discussed. That’s a bad thing for Hill because he is a tiny man and does not want to appear diminished next to Bullock who is above six feet tall.

Certainly the Helena Independent Record, the newspaper which sponsored the debate, did not intentionally give Hill a bigger lectern. If somebody at the IR had done that, Randy Rickman, the conservative Republican publisher, would have already fired the person.

Most likely it was dumb luck that the debate facility (a middle school) did not have two identical lecterns. Hill got the bigger one.

But part of it is not luck at all. During pre-debate walk-through, a good campaign staff would have noticed this discrepancy and corrected it. Clearly Hill’s team of green campaign staffers dropped the ball.

This is campaigning 101. You have to check these things out ahead of time, sweat the details.

It’s sort of like a presidential debate in 2000, when Al Gore never tested the debate lighting with his make up on. Result? When the debate started, he looked to TV viewers like he was trying to impersonate somebody from another racial designation. His skin was dark orange–he looked like a wannabe Bill Richardson, not Al Gore.

Democrats should be emboldened. Hill is running an amateur shop, and we will probably see further screwups.

Questions at the IR

A series of strange occurrences at the Helena IR in recent days.

First, a bizarre editorial was penned  Sunday by the paper’s CEO, suggesting that the very existence of the newspaper may be in doubt.

Randy Rickman, the paper’s boss, wrote that “rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated,” but that “if the Independent Record is dying, it will never have had a better audience to watch its demise than today.”

The job of Managing Editor was posted in the help wanted section of the newspaper.  (Perhaps I’ll apply.) And other top staff are rumored to be jumping ship, including Business reporter and Opinion Page editor John Harrington.

No doubt it’s a tough job running a print newspaper nowadays, as print editions which sell for $1.00 are fast becoming dinosaurs that drain money.  Once upon a time if you were a newspaper baron, ink-by-the-barrel was something to be proud of having under your control.  Today, it’s nothing more than a dark, wet and heavy financial burden, weighing down companies like Lee Newspapers as they desperately try to find a way to monetize digital content which most people simply read for free. I don’t envy them.

There had been talk in the media world, not long ago, that single-newspaper towns would be immune from the financial difficulties being faced by national papers.  The theory was that if you run a newspaper in a one-newspaper town, you have a natural monopoly and can’t lose.  But judging by Rickman’s editorial board and other shakeups recently at Lee Newspapers, Inc.,  it appears monopoly status no longer guarantees success or even survival.  Or perhaps Helena is not big enough to impart this monopoly advantage to the IR.

Even though Rickman is an anti-choice Republican and is employed by a historically Republican company, I do wish the newspaper well.   It might require new management and a new philosophy (such as covering news, rather than ignoring it, and such as jumping on stories, rather than sitting around and letting a bunch of two-bit blogs beat you to the punch), but I am hopeful the IR will be around many years longer.

However, there’s another dark cloud over at the IR that concerns me. I’ve been told that the departure of several members of the editorial board is imminent.  This timing would be questionable, given Lee Newspapers’ conservative bent.   The IR’s (newly women-free?) editorial board is due to make political endorsements soon.   There have also been rumblings that the IR and its sister papers, the Missoulian and Butte’s Montana Standard, may be planning to make endorsements with no input from their community ed board members. A source at the IR would neither confirm or deny the information.

So is Rickman, or some corporate honcho, putting the fix in for candidates like Hill, Rehberg et al?  Certainly Rickman and his company have used his perch to deliver pure political advocacy in the past (like when he ran a virulent anti-choice column).

I hope it’s not the case.  It’d be bad for business, among other things.

A Commissioner’s Wrath

There’s an interesting article in today’s Helena IR about Helena City Commissioner Dan Ellison (the conservative on the commission).  Mr. Ellison used last night’s City Commission meeting to  publicly assail one of the IR‘s best reporters, Sanjay Talwani.

It looks like Mr. Ellison felt that the reporter mischaracterized him in an article last week.  The blurb stated that he “abstained” from a vote on the non-discrimination ordinance, which will help protect LGBT people from discrimination. In fact, he did not voice his support but also did not oppose (which one might call an abstention). Mr. Ellison took issue with that, because technically it was not a “vote” under procedural rules.

It seems Mr. Ellison complained directly to IR publisher Randy Rickman.  The IR then took what appears to me to be an unprecedented step.   Instead of issuing a correction, today’s IR reports,

The Independent Record ran a front-page story Saturday correcting the error and outlining Ellison’s concerns, as expressed Friday in a telephone interview.  In particular, [Mr. Ellison] asked whether a nondiscrimination ordinance should also apply to various other groups — he mentioned the bald and the left-handed, among others — that might also suffer discrimination.

I hadn’t realized that left-handed people can’t find a landlord who will rent to them.  But I’m glad Mr. Ellison was given front page real estate in the capital city’s newspaper to discuss this important problem.

Not satisfied with the whole extra article he got, he used the commission meeting not to work on expanding the Helena non-discrimination ordinance to the bald and left-handed, for whom he had previously voiced concern, but to lecture everyone else about the “injustice” that was done to him.

Let’s Just Make Billings the Capital City

As Pogie at Intelligent Discontent writes, the publisher of both the Helena IR and the Montana Standard, Randy Rickman, believes that the newspaper of Montana’s capital city doesn’t need independent editorial oversight – we can just share an editor with Butte.

Rickman’s high quality judgement and lack of political bias should not be doubted.  After all, it was Rickman who realized that the capital city’s newspaper, the Helena IR, has no need  to be a leading source of political news and government information.  It’s either this or that the IR’s publisher either doesn’t want to get into the quicksand of having to actually understand the political and policy issues facing Montana, or perhaps he don’t have time (given the urgent market pressures to produce stories about stolen garden gnomes a reporting fad from eight years ago, cat-finding beagles, and who could forget the groundbreaking investigative journalism that found “Loud Pop Caused by Fireworks.”)

Independent editorial management and oversight?  What’s the point when you can just run press releases verbatim from the Montana Constitution Party. Or is it that without an editor, Rickman will find it easier to enforce his own political bent on the paper, something that will no doubt please the Congressman Rehbergs of the world.

It’s really an embarrassment to Helena.

All indications are that Montana’s capital city just isn’t that important – at least it is not as important as it used to be.  Perhaps we should just get it over with and make Billings the capital city of Montana.  At least Billings has its own newspaper.


U of M Students School the Helena IR

Want to be an informed voter and responsible citizen by reading information about candidates and elections, but find that your address ends with the words Helena, MT (the capitol city, yet paradoxically the black hole of any political news and candidate information courtesy of Randy Rickman, Helena IR Publisher)?  Look here instead.

It probably is no use remarking that the readers of other papers in other towns get legislative candidate surveys like this, while we in Helena get “Loud Pops Caused By Fireworks.