The Latest Fight Between #MTleg Republicans

By Montana Street Fighter, on February 26, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

rosendale pic

 

If it seems like we post a lot of stories on Republican infighting in the Montana legislature, that’s because we do. It seems like every week they are finding new things to fight over, and new ways to attack each other publicly and behind the scenes.

Yesterday, a major division in the Republican caucus became very clear on the senate floor, when Sen. Chas Vincent’s CSKT Water Compact bill was up for debate. After several hours of discussion, the senate voted in favor by a comfortable margin, with Republicans pretty evenly split on the issue. More interesting than the floor debate through, is what happened behind the scenes leading up to the vote.

Standard etiquette in the legislature is to notify a bill’s sponsor of amendments that you plan to offer, especially if that person is a member of your own party. But, according to a tipster at the Capitol, Republicans led by Matt Rosendale who were serving with Vincent on the senate Finance and Claims committee took advantage of his absence while in another committee meeting and attempted to derail his bill by proposing amendments. Essentially, members of Vincent’s own party waited until he was out of the room to try to sink his legislation. Our source says that a Democrat on the committee had to propose that Vincent be notified of what was taking place.

This is just one more example of the Republicans’ extreme TEA Party leadership trying to punish members of their caucus that are willing to work across the aisle, even if it means keeping sensible legislation from passing. Members of GOP leadership like Rosendale continue to put partisanship ahead of getting any work done for Montana.

 

Art Wittich Is Having A Tough Year

By Montana Street Fighter, on February 23, 2015 | 4 Comments

Wittich

 

Art Wittich is having a tough year. To start, the state senator-turned-representative from Bozeman is facing the possibility of being removed from office for violating campaign finance laws in 2010. Despite claiming that the charges are nothing more than a bipartisan plot to discredit him (although he does a great job of that all on his own), his trial date has been set for one year from this week and his imaginary accusations of conspiracy were dismissed by the court.

As if the law breaking and paranoia weren’t enough embarrassment, today Wittich was the only person to testify in favor of his own “right to work” bill, without even any of his Republican colleagues speaking in support of it. While Wittich stood alone trying his best to screw over working class Montanans, dozens of people spoke in opposition to the legislation. Adding insult to injury, even a number of Republicans testified against Wittich’s bill.

Things just really aren’t going Wittich’s way this year, from his very public legal troubles to his lack of legislative support from his own party. It almost makes you feel bad for the guy. Almost. Until you remember that he’s the guy trying to cut funding for child abuse prevention, subpoenaing state employees, and trying to derail Medicaid expansion.

 

Bullock Moving Montana Forward, Republicans Dig In Against Progress

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

Bullock SOTS

In last night’s State of the State address, Governor Bullock laid out his vision for Montana, and presented proposals to build on the accomplishments of his administration. During the hour-long speech he touted Montana’s shrinking unemployment rate, record energy production of all kinds, strong business climate and increased graduation rates, among other things.

But, he argued that these achievements can and must be further improved upon. Bullock urged legislators to pass his policy proposals for the 2015 session, focusing on investments in infrastructure, healthcare and education. He presented a powerful case for expanding Medicaid to cover the more than 70,000 Montanans currently living without health insurance, and asked the legislature to pass his proposal to provide public early childhood education to Montana’s students.

While Governor Bullock outlined his vision for Montana, many Republican legislators made no attempt to hide their partisan opposition to his plans to improve and expand education and healthcare in Montana. While Democrats and Responsible Republicans stood, clapped and cheered to voice their support for these popular, commonsense policies, TEA Party legislators could be seen looking disinterested and disrespectful. Many even remained seated when Bullock suggested that hiring Montana workers for state construction projects should be a priority, as is done in many other states. You would think the TEA Partiers could at least get on board with that idea, but apparently not.

SOTS Tweet

This tweet from the Helena IR’s Thom Bridge sums it up pretty well.

TEA Party legislators continue to oppose ideas that will move Montana forward, preferring instead to dig in deeper to their partisanship and fighting, rather than working together to do what’s right for Montana. Democrats in the legislature have tried to work with Republicans, offering compromises and fair debate, but many Republicans refuse to give up their “all or nothing” adherence to rigid and extreme ideology. This was demonstrated very clearly in the Republican response to the Governor’s address, when Senator Eric Moore spoke against the ideas that Bullock presented.

Luckily for the people of our state, there are some in the Republican caucus who have stood up to the primary challenges and political retribution from their extreme party leadership and worked with their colleagues across the aisle in past sessions, rather than just trying to score political points against the other team.  Let’s hope that these Responsible Republicans are able to do this again in 2015, and work together with Democrats, in the best interest of Montana, to keep the state of our State strong.

 

 

Zinke Can’t Keep Away From PACs

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Ready to lead? We doubt it.

That’s up for debate.

Ryan Zinke can’t keep away from PACs. You probably all remember Congressman Zinke’s extensive troubles with his personal Super PAC, but in case you were living under a rock during the 2014 election, read about it here, and here, and here and about a thousand other places on the internet.

Now it looks like Zinke is already missing the PAC game, because yesterday the Hill reported that he has launched a brand new committee called SEAL PAC. The SEAL PAC website prominently features a number of pictures of Zinke, apparently copied and pasted from his campaign website, and not much else. This one’s great, a classic shot of Zinke leaning causally on a Mountain:

sealpac2

With the magic of Photoshop, Zinke can finally be as big as he thinks he is.

Like SOFA PAC, the group is ostensibly for the purpose of electing veterans to congress, but given Zinke’s track record, we’re betting he’ll find some way to profit off of it. A quick search of FEC records shows that Zinke didn’t waste any time in launching the group. The initial paperwork was prepared on Ocotber 30th of last year, almost a week before the election, and filed on November 4th by Zinke’s campaign treasurer.

No surprises here, we don’t expect anything different from good ol’ “Chairman Z”.

 

Daines’ Dinner With The Koch Brothers

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Daines

Over the weekend, Steve Daines returned to his home state to attend a conference in Palm Springs, California hosted by the Koch brothers’ network of Super PACs and political organizations. According to the Washington Post, Daines and other newly elected Republican senators were “on hand to thank donors” over a dinner of filet mignon at a seaside luxury resort.

Now keep in mind, this is not Daines thanking his donors, but the billionaires who funneled unlimited amounts of money through PACs trying to buy the 2014 elections. With out-of-state big money supporting him like this, it’s no wonder Daines supports the Citizens United decision that allowed for unlimited money to pour into our elections. In fact, the Citizens United PAC even endorsed Daines in his senate campaign.

We’ve written plenty about Ryan Zinke’s flip-flops, but at least with Daines, Montanans know right where he stands: squarely on the side of the Koch brothers and California special interests.

 

 

Zinke SOFA PAC

Zinke’s Extremist Friends and Flip-Flops

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision, and after Republicans in the U.S. House this week put forward, then withdrew and replaced a controversial abortion bill which was co-sponsored by Congressman Ryan Zinke, we thought this would be a perfect time to take a look back at his very confusing and often contradictory record on issues of choice and women’s healthcare.

It’s no secret that Zinke has been on both sides of this issue depending on what suited his political needs at the time, voting against anti-abortion measures in the Montana Legislature, and then claiming to be staunchly opposed to abortion during the 2014 Republican primary. At the same time, his opponents and other well-known Montana Republicans attacked him for his inconsistent claims.

In September 2013, while still serving as chairman of his personal Super PAC, Zinke (or “Chairman Z”, as he apparently likes to call himself) posted the following to his personal Facebook page:

 

zinke sofa note friess

 

It seems that during his final weeks raising money for SOFA PAC, Zinke took some time to sit down with right wing Republican mega-donor Foster Friess. If that name sounds familiar, you may have heard about him more or less bankrolling Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign, or the major controversy surrounding his comments during an interview with Andrea Mitchell, when he suggested that women simply “hold an aspirin between their knees” rather than use contraceptives.

That Zinke would associate himself with someone who holds such positions, let alone brag about sharing his values, paints a very clear picture of just how extreme Zinke really is. Do their shared values include Friess’ beliefs on contraception?

He may have tried to sell himself as a moderate to Montanans, but by sponsoring a bill that would have made abortions illegal for many victims of rape, a bill which even dozens of Republicans wouldn’t support, Zinke is already showing his true colors.

 

GOP Leadership Stacks Committees To Shut Out Moderates

Either TEA Partiers Have Started Teleporting, or There's Something Very Fishy Going on at the Capitol.

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 8, 2015 | 1 Comment

 

montana senate chambers

 

A tipster inside the capitol brought something noteworthy to our attention today: the TEA party Republican leadership in the Montana Senate have stacked some of the chamber’s most important committees with the same few far right-wing legislators. The only problem? Many committees meet at the same time, meaning these senators will necessarily have to miss their committee meetings.

As neat as it might be to have legislators teleporting back and forth between committee hearings, our guess is that this was done very purposely, just to keep the moderate Republicans from having more votes on key committees. Apparently it wasn’t enough for every committee to have a GOP majority, they want a majority that is in lock-step with their extreme leadership.

You see, the TEA partiers are too few to dominate every committee fair and square, but if they stack them all with their same group of senators, then they can bend the rules and let TEA party senators vote by proxy if they just happen to be in a different committee at the same time (which obviously they will be at least 50% of the time).

Here are a few of the senators who will be doing their constituents and Montanans a disservice by skipping half their committee meetings and proxy voting:

 

  • Sen. Kris Hansen (Havre) sits on the overlapping Finance & Claims and Judiciary committees. Surely both will be working on important legislation that deserves the full attention of committee members? Are the TEA Partiers afraid that a Responsible Republican on the committe, like Sen. Llew Jones might break from the pack on finance issues?
  • Sen. Cary Smith (Billings) sits on both Business & Labor and Finance & Claims. Are they afraid that Sen. Pat Connell will side with Montana working families on Business & Labor?
  • Sens. Janna Taylor (Lake Co.) and Mark Blasdel (Kalispell) both sit on the Finance & Claims and Taxation committees. Is this because the TEA Party is afraid of Sen. Duane Ankney working on reasonable compromises again this session?

This attempt to stifle their own caucus members shows that their “unity” is a lot more fragile than it looks, but instead of allowing majority rule and a healthy debate, the GOP leadership wants to kill good bills before they can even get to the full body. This is just more dirty intra-party politics, and it’s an affront to voters who won’t be well-represented by Senators who can’t show up in 2 places at once to do their job.

 

 

Zinke’s Unethical Business as Usual

Zinke appoints treasurer of his former Super PAC as congressional chief of staff

By Montana Street Fighter, on January 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, Don Pogreba over at Intelligent Discontent reported on now-Congressman Ryan Zinke’s latest shady move involving his personal super PAC. After an election year packed with criticisms over Zinke’s dealings with SOFA PAC and the obvious coordination with his campaign, he now seems to have stopped even trying to hide it.

Yesterday, Zinke announced his choice of Scott Hommel as chief of staff. If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he’s the guy who kept Zinke’s PAC chairman seat warm while he was running for congress, and just happened to oversee massive amounts of spending to benefit Zinke.

Go figure, right? Only one official day on the job, and congressman Zinke is already pushing the limits of what he can get away with. At this rate, he’ll probably be auctioning his votes to the highest bidder in a matter of weeks.

 

#MTleg Preview: Bullock, Dems Push Good Proposals, GOP Will Just Keep Fighting Each Other

By Montana Street Fighter, on December 23, 2014 | 1 Comment

p329363-Helena-Montana_State_Capitol_building

 

It’s that time again – the election season has come to a close, and Montana is gearing up for the biennial legislative session. The 2013 session saw unprecedented infighting among the fractured GOP caucus, allowing the Democrats to advance a number of policy compromises with moderate Republicans, despite being in the minority. The 2015 session already looks to be shaping up in a similar way, with the TEA Party wing of the Republican party taking leadership, but alienating moderate members who will likely look to work with the Democrats again.

In a move that could come back to bite the TEA partiers during the session, incoming speaker of the house Austin Knudsen has already upset some members of both caucuses by appointing Jeff Essmann and Art Wittich (incoming “freshmen” representatives who were senate president and majority leader in 2013) to important committee chairmanships. Although the two are both experienced legislators, incoming freshman are very rarely, if ever, given top committee spots, and this is sure to rub some more senior Republican members the wrong way.

In case you don’t recall, Essmann and Wittch were the driving force behind the partisan fighting (and infighting) and general lack of productivity in the 2013 Montana senate, while most of the compromises and bipartisanship took place in the house. It seems their work is done in the senate, and now they want to bring their special brand of divisive “leadership” to the lower chamber.

So, aside from the usual spectacle of TEA partiers doing their best to keep anything from getting done, here’s a quick rundown of some issues we’ll likely see brought up this session.

Governor Steve Bullock outlined his priorities for the 2015 legislature last month in a plan that includes expanding Medicaid to cover 70,000 uninsured Montanans, building and infrastructure projects, investing in public early childhood education, and a budget that continues the freeze on college tuition. These are popular proposals that will have huge short and long-term economic benefits for the state, and are widely supported by Montanans. Democrats will back the governor’s policies, and even the Montana Chamber of Commerce, typically a more Republican-alligned group, has come out in support of Medicaid expansion. But, don’t expect these proposals’ popularity to stop TEA party legislators from doing anything they can to block them.

While Gov. Bullock and the Democrats in the legislature are working to advance these policies that will help Montana’s economy, we can pretty safely expect Republicans to push the same types of bad ideas that they were unable to pass last time around. Look for GOP bills on charter schools and vouchers, decreasing access to public lands, and restricting women’s health choices, among others. Beyond that, it’s a pretty good bet that the Republican caucus will split on many issues, just as they did in 2013. Many moderate republicans will likely back proposals like Medicaid expansion and early childhood education, while their leadership will once again use any tactic they can in an attempt to derail them, all without providing many substantive ideas of their own, of course.

The 2015 session kicks off in just under two weeks, and it seems that despite Republican majorities in both chambers, the TEA party will once again be on the defensive, trying their hardest to keep Gov. Bullock and the Democrats from working together with moderates to actually get things done for Montana.

 

 

Zinke’s Desperation on Gun Rights is Showing

By Montana Street Fighter, on October 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Montana has always been a state where second amendment rights and gun ownership are top issues. It means being able to protect yourself. It means hunting for elk in the Missouri Breaks or pheasants outside Scobey or, heck, even shooting some cans for target practice.

Recently, you might have seen the Montana GOP and Ryan Zinke desperately attack John Lewis on gun issues. These attacks are blatantly false. John Lewis has an A from the NRA and is a staunch supporter of gun rights; whereas, Ryan Zinke has a meager 42% lifetime rating – a failing grade.

It’s also important to note that Zinke hasn’t received much support from gun owners, or his fellow Republicans when it comes to the right to bear arms.

Ryan, do you have a license for that?

Ryan, do you have a license for that?

While lately Rick Hill has been a good spineless Republican and fallen inline to endorse Zinke’s candidacy, he was singing a different tune during the primary.  Hill lambasted Zinke for being anti-gun amongst his many other flip-flops.  Hill, a former Congressman and the GOP’s latest candidate for governor, repeatedly voiced his concern with Ryan Zinke’s record on gun rights.

And this guy is your friend?

And this guy is your friend?

GOP leaders aren’t the only ones attacking Zinke for his poor record on the 2nd amendment. Even the National Association for Gun Rights has called out Zinke for voting against the interests of gun owners.

Gun Rights 1

Ryan Zinke is desperately attempting to make inroads with a skeptical GOP base. But these attempts won’t work. The GOP base doesn’t trust Zinke except when it comes to baring his own arms (literally).

Zinke Shirtless

Not quite the right to bear arms that Montanans were thinking of