Trio of extremist initiatives and the shady cabal of moneyed conservatives that support them

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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  1. 1 Howie Rich scoops Montana newspapers; website shows support for state initiatives « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Meet Howie Rich! The picture alone is worth a blog post. Previously the Manhattan real estate developer and hidden funder of Montana’s trio of terrible initiatives – 154, 97, and 98 – was about as camera-friendly as a mafia don. The only picture on the Internet of Rich previously available was a grainy snapshot from some Manhattan function on Hart Williams’ blog. He was a recluse, pulling the strings for putting fiscal social engineering intiatives on the ballot in Arizona, California, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Washington, buying signature gatherers through front organizations in an attempt to make the initiatives look like grassroots-driven legislation. […]




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