Tag Archives: Wendy Warburton

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.

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

Laszloffy’s Losses Part 2

by Cowgirl

The Montana Family Foundation’s Jeff Laszloffy suffered a slew of losses this session, but perhaps none was felt so bitterly as his failure to get a parental consent legislative referendum on the ballot for 2014. The Family Foundation’s legislative referenda work was the organization’s major cash cow last election cycle.  Since Laszloffy failed to get the measure on the ballot for 2014, the Family Foundation’s ability to impact elections has now evaporated.

Cowgirl readers will recall that Governor Steve Bullock allowed Laszloffy’s unconstitutional bill to become law solely so that the bill can be struck down in Montana’s courts. As John Adams at The Lowdown reports, the move allows women to immediately challenge the measure in court long before an identical referenda passed by the legislature gets to the ballot in 2014.

Sure, Laszloffy knew that the measure was unconstitutional–everyone knew it. But Lazloffy’s purpose in pushing it was electoral, not policy-driven.

You see, last election cycle Laszloffy raised some $300,000–purportedly for the parental notification legislative referenda which was sent to the ballot by the 2011 legislature.    Montana Family Foundation’s Incidental Ballot Committee Reports in 2012 show they were able to raise and spend $320,000 in 2012.

In a typical year, the Family Foundation raises about $20,000 for electoral work.  But because of the LR, LR-120, they were able to raise more than 15 times that amount. You can see the reports below.

$18,000 May 8-May 24

$3,000 May 25-June 18

$2,000 June 19-July 3

$6,000 July 4 -Aug 3 

$29,000 Aug 4-Sept 3

$191,000 spent Sept 15-Oct 15

$3,000 spent Oct 16-Oct 25

$68,000 spent Oct 26-Nov 19

For one thing, this is money that could be used to supplant Family Foundation funds that had been going toward Laszloffy’s salary.  What’s also interesting is that the campaign finance reports for Laszloffy’s ballot committee  shows that some of the money he raised was leveraged to actually help the GOP’s top targeted legislative races–not just the ballot initiative.

Here’s a screenshot from his “incidental ballot committee’s” campaign report.  It reports the expenditure Lazsoffy made for a mailer that was about the ballot measure on one side, and a top tier targeted GOP race on the other.   This means that all of the polling and research Laszloffy did for these mailings was supporting the GOP’s legislative candidates too.

MT Fam Foundation hide campaign work as ballot

Thanks to Cowgirl tipsters for pointing out these fundraising anomalies. Reader tips are the essence of this blog. Send tips to mntnacowgirl (at) gmail.com

Dark Money, Dim Bulbs

by Cowgirl

Dark money and its corrupting influence is the biggest problem in American politics today, but according to one TEA Party legislator, the real problem is blogging.

Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) held forth in a committee hearing Friday with concerns about Governor Bullock’s bill to clean up political contributions.  She was concerned that the problem wasn’t massive amounts of unregulated, unreported money buying Montana politicians–but rather, the blogs. Said Warburton:

 “they’re exerting great, great power and in fact the internet is becoming much more of a forum than paper. You know what I mean as far as what we’re really talking about in terms of political power and things here.

I’ll bring up specific examples. The Montana Cowgirl online anonymous blog exerts influence. I’ve had my local newspaper call me in response to things they’ve said.”

Here’s the video:

 

Warburton is talking about the call she got from the Havre Daily News after this blog mentioned that her name appeared in a brilliant piece of national investigative journalism.  PBS show Frontline‘s piece aired nationwide and revealed the seedy underbelly of secret money in MT elections.

In a full-hour exposé of Montana politics and a secretive right-wing group known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP, Frontline revealed that a secret stash of incriminating documents has been found in a meth house, showing extensive communications between Warburton and other Republican legislative candidates and the ATP, and showing that the ATP was even preparing campaign material for them.

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.

Wendy Warburton's behavior should be investigatedThe Havre Daily News reported that 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.

So basically what we have here is Warburton having a fit because a reporter called her when her name popped up in a national dark money exposé.  That she is trying to seek retaliation against a blog because of this is hilarious.

She doesn’t realize that the fault here is hers–and that her actions are exactly the type of things members of her own party are working with Governor Bullock to try to prevent.  I shudder to think what Warburton will do when she finds out that the dark money expose she’s angry about was not just discussed on the blogs, but also on Facebook and Twitter, around dinner tables, at coffee shops, and around water coolers across the state.

The bill is SB 375 sponsored by GOP Sen. Jim Peterson.