Archive for July 12th, 2006

There’s been a lot of talk swirling around the trio of terrible ballot initiatives sponsored by a shady cabal of conservative interests and the amount of money spent to get them on the ballot. Today, the Gazette ran a story about who and how much spent the money:

Financial support for Constitutional Initiatives 97 and 98 and Initiative 154 comes primarily from one group: Montanans in Action, a nonprofit group that so far has declined to reveal specifically where it gets its money.

Reports filed this week show that Montanans in Action has spent nearly $633,000 on the campaigns for the three measures. That accounts for 92 percent of financial support for the three measures. Of that amount, $580,000 was paid to signature-gatherers, the reports showed.

I’ve written a bunch of posts about these initiatives. They are reprehensible and misleading.

CI 97 is the “Stop Overspending” bill, which is a spending cap initiative that would basically cripple the state’s ability to deal with changing population demographics, and whose inbred uncle — Colorado’s TABOR — nearly took down the state’s school system.

CI 98 is an attempt to do an end run around the foundations of American constitutional democracy by making judges subject to simple recalls, likely an effort to more easily implement bizzaro conservative agendas.

CI 154 is an eminent domain law that would force the state to compensate property owners for regulation that affects the property’s value. That is, environmental regulations, and mining property, for example. The initiative, however, makes it easier for the government to condemn property and take it away from you. Basically the initiative’s sole purpose is to destroy the government’s ability to regulate business.

In other words, these initiatives open the door for a few powerful businesses and conservative ideologues to run roughshod over our state without leaving us any power to stop them. They want to eliminate taxation, eliminate services, and eliminate government control over their polluting or dangerous business practices.

These are not initiatives born of democracy intended for the good of our community. If the very ideology behind the initiatives haven’t convinced you that these bills are not in your interest, then the fact that unknown interests have poured more than a half million dollars to pay a bunch of out-of-state professional signature gatherers to descend on Montana and trick, fool, and deceive people into putting their names on these dreadful petitions should make it plain as day.

But wait! It gets worse!

Sandlapper on the Daily Kos wrote a post about the vast sums of money stemming from a Montana “nonprofit” intended for other similar initiatives in other states:

Who in Montana — or somewhere else — would be hiding behind laws that shield a nonprofit group’s books to send more than $600,000 to ballot campaigns in California, Nebraska and elsewhere? Is a political action committee there being used as a right-wing tool to launder and funnel money across the country, the same as Tom DeLay’s TRMPAC is accused of doing in Texas? And what does Trevis Butcher, a conservative political activist in Montana, have to do with it?

But wait! Sandlapper has another post on the unethical practices of professional Oklahoma signature gatherers! Sound familiar? It should! (To be fair to the signature gatherers, Montana doesn’t have a residency requirement for gathering signatures. But from the general harassment endured by these initiatives’ out-of-state mercenaries it’s fair to say that little attention was paid to the means, just the results.)

There is hope. First, Schweitzer has tied one of these nasty measures to his property tax rebate, and I’m convinced anything that the Guv goes against is as good as dead. Second, some Montanans are getting suspicious of Travis Butcher’s sudden effusion of cash; according to Sandlapper’s first post, Jonathon Motl of Montanans for Fair Initiatives has demanded a review of Butcher’s books.

I’m curious and eager to see the results. When you turn rocks over all sorts of uglies crawl out…

Update: On a positive note, the minimum wage initiative made the ballot. Excellent news.

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In today’s links, I connected to a couple of posts about Nazis Bill White and Shawn Stuart. White quit the US Nazi party because it was too creepy for him…which says a lot…and Orcinus wrote a great report on right-wing extremists in the military, framed around the “Republican” candidate for a Butte state House seat.

You’ll recall the brouhaha about Shawn Stuart’s filing as a Republican in a Butte state legislature race, and all the concern expressed by Montana’s GOP, even going as far as saying they would “work to defeat” Stuart.

Of the GOP response, I wrote this:

I do think [MT GOP chair] Karl Ohs’ respsonse was the right thing to do. He completely denied any association with the National Socialist party and reaffirmed his party’s “commitment to equal rights and equality for every citizen regardless of gender, age, race, national origin, religion, creed, or physical impairment” (tho’ he left out “sexual orientation”!). Yes, having a Nazi running under your banner is bad publicity, but I do believe that this was one of the rare cases where political expediency met genuine feeling.

But, as I am a partisan hack, my trust has a limited shelf life. What, I wondered, had the Montana GOP done recently to ensure Stuart’s defeat?

Praise be the Internet! I simply penned an email to Ohs, asking this very question. Here’s the response I got from executive director (whatever that is) Chuck Denowh:

Mr. Stevens,

Thanks for your concern in this area. I can assure you that Shawn Stewart will not be in the Montana Legislature next year. This is a very Democratic district. John Kerry won in this district by 1,085 votes, Brian Schweitzer won by 1,694 votes, and Bill Kennedy won by 1,588 votes. Needless to say, a Republican doesn’t have much of a chance here in the first place. But we don’t want to take anything for granted. Though I don’t want to lump this Nazi in with the Democrats, we are treating his as an opposition candidate, after all, he has damaged our party enough already. We are not providing him with any of the candidate support that our real Republicans get and we will continue to publicly denounce him as a candidate.

Thank you for your concern and your input.

Chuck Denowh

MT GOP

Hm. Not exactly the “work” I expected the Montana GOP to do. Apparently Denowh is relying on Butte’s historically Democratic base to defeat Stuart, with an occasional statement from the Montana GOP to reassure everyone that Stuart is a Nazi, not a Republican.

I’m sure John Sesso, the Demorcratic candidate for the district is thrilled about the level of GOP support. He’s probably spending a bunch of his own money on the race. I wonder if Denowh would be willing to give Sesso the candidate support he usually tabs for Republican candidates?

I’ll ask. Stay tuned!

Links…

The Gazette on fireworks bans.

Left in the West’s V went to a Missoula-area Monica Lindeen fundraiser (I was camping, natch) and was inspired to traipse through the archives for reasons why Rehberg should go.

Pogie compares W to FDR. W loses.

Bill White quits the Nazi Party. Where does that leave Butte “Republican,” Shawn Stuart? Speaking of Stuart, Orcinus notes that he’s an Iraq vet and part of a growing trend of right-wing extremists serving in the military.

Ugh. The New West parades the latest “free market” argument to ignore global warming.

The Carpetbagger on Bush’s budget numbers. Don’t believe the hype. The NYTimes: “the rich are getting richer while the rest are, at best, only holding ground…”

Perhaps the pay raises at the White House best illustrate the President’s view of the economy and who deserves the breaks.

Halliburton to lose its no-contract bid privileges. About friggin’ time. Poor, poor Dick Cheney.

Justice Department automaton in a Congressional hearing: “The President is always right.” Um, no he’s not.

Why Keith Olbermann is better than Bill O’Reilly.

“We are furious that the religious right has made Jesus into a Republican. That’s idolatry.”

The WaPo’s Meyerson on Lieberman: “Lieberman has simply and rightly been caught up in the fundamental dynamics of Politics 2006, in which Democrats are doing their damnedest to unseat all the president’s enablers in this year’s elections.”




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