Archive for May, 2007
by Jay Stevens
Matt Singer at Left in the West has invited me to blog at his site, and I’ve decided to take him on his offer.
It’s a bittersweet move, of course. Left in the West is a great blog and has a large and dedicated readership. I’ll be writing the same stuff and in the same way I write here – a style a little different than Matt’s – so I’m not really going anywhere. Matt and I – tho’ we don’t always agree on policy and politics – are working towards similar progressive goals, so the switch seems to be natural, even inevitable.
On the other hand I’ve scratched out 4&20 blackbirds from nothing. I get a fair number of readers every day, a few hundred, and have had over 150K clicks since I switched over to WordPress about six months ago. And I’ve put a lot of work into this blog. I know it’s just code and a Web address, a couple of graphics and a lot of text, but it’s come to feel like my little house. So I’m sad to leave it behind.
That said, I’m not taking 4&20 blackbirds down. I’m trying to convince some suckers — er, some interested people to take over the site and make it more of a local blog, focusing on Missoula city politics and issues and culture. Everyone reads the national blogs, but I think local and state blogging is where the real effect of blogs will be felt, as bloggers can bring attention to and explain municipal and state issues, topics that really aren’t commented on enough in the traditional media.
If that happens, I’ll no doubt pop over and post now and then on local issues or events.
In the meantime I invite you to follow me over to Left in the West. I’ve got a bunch of topics on the back burner that I’ll be able to write about now that the legislature is over and done with. The 2008 election is coming up; you’ll be able to follow the state and federal races at LiTW, as well as providing rockin’ commentary on the issues crucial to the state as we plunge further into the 21st century…
Come on! Let’s go! What are ya gawkin’ at?
by Jay Stevens
The bill that would close the tax loopholes for out-of-staters was scuttled by the House Republicans. In response, the equipment tax reductions for businesses was scrapped.
That’s not terribly surprising. The GOP has been against the tax-collection bill since day one. What’s interesting about this particular report is what Sales has to say about the bill:
House Speaker Scott Sales sent a clear signal to Democrats on Tuesday that the “revenue enhancements” would not get through the House.
“Hell no,” he told Senate President Mike Cooney after Cooney asked him in a morning meeting to reconsider the issue.
“I’m not raising taxes on someone to cut taxes for someone else,” Sales said.
Got that? First, Sales acknowledged the bill would have meant more revenue from the state. Second, the Speaker also considers tax collection to be a form of “tax increase.”
It appears that Speaker Sales is saying that poor tax collection is a known form of tax cut for big business. It’s an interesting moment of truthfulness from the House Speaker, isn’t it? He apparently would undermine the laws and government agencies of the state in the name of ideology. Classy.
by Jay Stevens
The House adjourned after passing its tax and budget bills without waiting around to see if the Senate will pass them. If the Senate rejects any of the bills, the Governor will have to call another special session…
As ID’s Jason says, “I am beginning to think that Mr. Sales really just doesn’t get how the Montana Legislative system works.”
The first casualty in the brouhaha is now former House majority leader, Michael Lange, who was stripped of his position, largely over his obscenity-laden tirade.
A couple of things. First, I told you so!
Second, I actually feel bad for the guy. Apparently having learned his lesson from the fallout of the angry rant, he was one of the 13 House Republicans to reach out to the Good Guv and rescue the state’s budget.
I suspect there will be other casualties from the 2007 legislative session. I suspect we won’t ever see another Sales Speakership, for one. Or another Constitution party member in the body (Jore terms out after this session). Or Sinrud given the reigns of the Appropriations Committee.
Whether Schweitzer has suffered any damage this session remains to be seen, but despite some institutional criticism in the papers, some critics in the blogosphere (myself included), and general disgruntlement in political circles, I suspect it may be Schweitzer who may emerge from this session as the “winner.” Certainly it could be – and likely will be – spun that Schweitzer stepped in and saved the day.
Update: It’s over.
by Jay Stevens
Dagnabit! Just when I was going to sit down and write a post about how the special session was hummin’ along for budget issues, but foundering on tax issues – and not over the substance or amount of relief – but on the collection of taxes, I see David Sirota beat me to the punch:
…the Republican leadership in the Montana legislature has no problem with resident taxpayers paying higher taxes because out-of-state landowners and corporations are being allowed to get away with not paying what they owe. This, folks, is the war on the middle class at work.
The Great Falls Tribune gives us more details, reporting that Republicans offered “amendments rang[ing] from reducing the number of lawyers in the state Department of Revenue to cutting funding for a tax-gap analysis.” And the Billings Gazette and the Daily Interlake gives us some details on exactly who is pulling the strings – it’s Republican Reps. Scott “My Vote’s For” Sales, Bob Lake and John Sonju.
From the Daily Interlake’s piece, Bigfork’s Bill Jones sums up the current session’s logjam:
Rep. Bill Jones, R-Bigfork, said he’s not aware of the details, but he is “disturbed that we’re talking about revenue enhancements when we have a surplus.”
Jones was not among the Republicans who met with Schweitzer’s staff last weekend, but he often votes with that group. He voted in the Republican bloc to pass the major education bill Friday and the governor’s energy bill Saturday.
“There’s two steps that I’ve supported them on right there,” he said.
Looks like Republican corporatists are caving on the budget, on the composition and amount of tax relief (Interlake: “Sonju and Sales, R-Bozeman, both said the bill is laden with so much harmful tax policy that they would not support it even though it also contains tax relief provisions”…), but are trying to derail the process over collecting taxes. That is, they don’t want big business to have to pony up.
And while the Governor is not winning any friends this session and has made a lot of bonehead blunders, it’s quickly becoming evident that this whole Legislature crash has been about protecting out-of-state big business from their tax responsibilities.
I’m not as quick as Sirota to accuse Sales of being bought. After all, Sales and the gang may actually believe it’s in the best interest of the state to relieve business of their tax obligations. It makes for a “business friendly” state! Unfortunately for the rest of us, being “business friendly” means having to pony up and pay a disproportionate amount of taxes.
Sirota calls it a “war on the middle class.” As much as I often chafe at Sirota’s demagoguery, I have to agree.
by Jay Stevens
So a guy gets plastered, causes a wreck in Bonner, drives off, veers into a bicyclist and kills her in front of witnesses, crashes into a stop sign, then staggers off home where the cops nab him.
And then he pleads “not guilty.”
Is he still drunk?
It’s *sshats like this that test my opposition to the death penalty.
And don’t even get me started on this guy. Violent women-hating stalkers bug me.
Update: My knee-jerk passion is corrected by defense attorney, “Ty,” in the comments:
An arraignment is just an initial presentment – usually your first time in court. The entry of the plea at that stage is basically a formality. Often that will be the first time you see a lawyer. It is the rare case that anyone would plead guilty at arraignment, where you may not even have a lawyer yet and certainly no lawyer has investigated your case, talked with the prosecutor about a potential plea bargain, or considered all your options and advised you about them. It would be unethical for a lawyer to just advise a client to just plead guilty at arraignment without having investigated the case at all.
Good to know. I’m not crazy about bicyclist-killing drunks, but I admit I went a little overboard…
by Jay Stevens
Jon Tester won a Senate seat way back in November. The battle for credit continues to rage, this time between Howard Dean’s DNC and Chuck Schumer’s DSCC.
The core of the argument? Who spent how much when!
Schumer told the DNC that his committee put $500,000 into building a voter file in Montana, about 10 times what the national committee had invested in voter registration and identification.
“He said, ‘What are you talking about? We put in half a million into voter registration and you put in 50,000 [dollars],’” one source said.
The DNC spent between $7 million and $9 million on Senate races and between $2 million and $3 million on House races, according to congressional Democratic estimates. Senate leaders were satisfied with the amount given by the DNC, but House leaders were not.
Most of the DNC’s spending went toward building party infrastructure in traditionally Republican states and helping Democrats to win state and local offices.
By touting its activities in Montana, the DNC stepped on Schumer’s pride.
Here’s what I know. I wouldn’t have joined the Missoula Democrats, volunteered for Tester, or started blogging without Dean’s infrastructure.
The voter lists were nice…but about a gazillion organizations had similar lists. How many of you Democratic-leaning Montana voters received phone calls this election, raise your hands! And how many of you received like a gajillion phone calls? That is to say, the lists didn’t carry the day. In fact, if I recall correctly, not only did the Beltway gang back the wrong pony at the start of the race, they dumped some pretty horrible ads on the state.
Stop with all the DC chest-thumping. It was dumb luck. Great political timing. An honest, decent man with the right issues running against a corrupt Missouri auctioneer from a corrupt, incompetent political party. A lousy war. A desire for change, and a lot of naive joes and janes just optimistic enough, just dumb enough to do the gruntwork.
Jon won that race. Montanans won that race. Thanks for all the money, though.
by Jay Stevens
There’s a nice story in today’s Gazette on how 13 Republican legislators met over last weekend with members of Governor Schweitzer’s staff to come with a broad agreement on spending and taxation for the legislative special session.
First, the thirteen. Revile or praise them, as is your wont:
–Llew Jones (Conrad)
–Alan Olson (Roundup)
–Michael Lange (Billings)
–John Ward (Billings)
–Edith Clark (Sweetgrass)
–Tom McGillvray (Billings)
–Elsie Arntzen (Billings)
–Gary Maclaren (Victor)
–Wayne Stahl (Saco)
–Jesse O’Hara (Great Falls)
–Carol Lambert (Broadus)
–Bill Nooney (Missoula)
–Walter McNutt (Sidney)
Nooney, for one, had to know his voting record this legislative session won’t play well in this town, even in the conservative neck of Missoula he represents. That’s the downside of marching lockstep with your caucus, especially if it’s on the extremist side. No doubt he’s anticipating a reelection battle; compromise now will help him appear to be a moderate.
Then there’s this little nugget:
Conspicuously absent was House Speaker Scott Sales, the highest-ranking Republican in the House.
Sales said later he wasn’t invited. Those at the meeting said they wanted people there who were willing to negotiate. Sales, an outspoken conservative, has been adamant in his call for deeper spending reductions and longer-term tax cuts.
Even his own party views him as an obstructionist.
There was some talk to rehabilitate Sales’ image – Lange, notably, said that Sales intransigence gave the 13 Mutineers some advantage in their negotiations with the Good Guv’s people. In other words, the GOP went along with obstructionism and helped scuttled the general session for…a bargaining chip?
I know how much the Speaker enjoys his manly war analogies, so I’ll offer this one up: when you surrender, you offer up your sword with the hilt given to you enemy. Don’t stick him with the point.
by Jay Stevens
So far and so good: nothing unusual or unexpected has yet occurred in the special session of the legislature. It looks like the education bill will leave the Senate tonight for the House tomorrow – where it’s likely some sparks will fly. The budget bill is still being hashed out.
Matt Gouras filed a story about this morning’s Republican caucus, in which Scott Sales confronted his mutiny:
House Speaker Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, called a meeting of House Republicans and told them he was not in on the compromise, didn’t authorize members of the caucus to cut a deal and won’t support it.
A Republican moderate then stood up in front of his GOP colleagues, many of whom didn’t look pleased, and explained why he has decided to go along with a package being put together by Schweitzer’s office.
“This common ground is something I can accept,” said Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad. “Is this common ground acceptable to everyone? I don’t know.”
Jones, in talking about his decision to be among the dozen or so Republicans who took it upon themselves to negotiate with the governor, said he believes “folks on the extremes are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Right afterward, conservative Republican Rep. Ed Butcher of Winifred, stood up to take issue with the package.
He said Republicans supporting it are “rolling over to give the governor what he wants.”
Sales told the House Republicans at their meeting that he would not tell anyone how to vote over the next three days of the special session.
“You are accountable to yourselves,” Sales said.
Me? I’m just glad some Republican moderates stepped up and made the deal, putting the interest of their state over their political party.
by Jay Stevens
A little while ago, I wrote about Sen. Baucus’ clash with the administration over closing the tax gap, and offered a recommendation of how he could achieve his goals.
The post got picked up by a rightie (and eventually found its way to a North Dakota television station) and linked to a WSJ report on some errors Max made in his taxes. The point was that the tax gap isn’t made up of just cheats, but also by those making honest mistakes, like Max Baucus.
(But that conclusion didn’t stop the Montana GOP from labelling Max as a tax cheat in a You Tube video. Is this any better than suspecting Vogel’s subpoena had something to do with Republican corruption? Answer: no. Or, to paraphrase Dennis Rehberg: “[The Montana GOP’s] implications in the [hosted video] are false, shameful, and unbefitting anyone who claims to be a Montanan.” Or whatever. It’s early to start bloviating, folks.)
Hey, I’m all for simplifying taxes! (Of course, it was Congressional GOPers who made ‘em complex so their fat cat friends could exploit the subsequent loopholes.) And I never advocated going after those who messed up on their taxes, but those big corporations and the mega rich who use offshore accounts to dodge millions in taxes.
Max’s example shouldn’t be a reason to give up on closing the tax gap. In fact, it should encourage Congress to simplify the tax code and close those loopholes.
by Jay Stevens
Bush has threatened to veto the Democrats’ newest Iraqi funding bill because it includes “unacceptable language restricting funding.” Like, for example, requiring Bush to report progress in Iraq to Congress.
If the President is going to veto over that then we really are entering into some kind of wonderland. I don’t think he can hold his caucus together on this veto. I’m not saying the GOP would override his veto, but there will be a lot more defections.
This veto dance is getting silly. I realize the Prez can’t sink much lower among the American people, so there’s no concern in the administration for that, but at some point folks are going to realize this man is out of control.
by Jay Stevens
Steve Benen is one of my favorite bloggers. No, strike that. He is my favorite blogger, which should be evident to regular readers of my “Links…” post. He’s prolific, his posts are well-written and well-thought-out, and he seems to be always right.
He recently wrote a post criticizing Rep. Ted Poe’s quoting of Nathan Bedford Forrest on the House floor. To Benen – and a number of other liberal bloggers – Forrest’s background as slave trader, Confederate general, and founder of the KKK implied that Poe is a racist f*ck:
Shouldn’t this be a bigger deal? Given all of the racial problems of the Republican Party, isn’t it rather scandalous for a Republican lawmaker to rely on the words of the founder of the KKK?
Er…yes…but this was the quote: “Git thar fustest with the mostest.” (The correct quote is “git thar fust with the most men.”)
Sorry, Steve, but this is a form of ad hominem attack. It’s bad rhetorical form to discount an idea because of the moral makeup of its source. Despite Forrest’s politics, racism, and battlefield barbarism (Fort Pillow massacre, anyone?), he is also known by military historians as perhaps the Civil War’s greatest tactician.
Rightie Ed Morrisey:
It’s an anecdote used by people to talk about military strategy, as Poe clearly did, instead of some invocation of racism. It’s not particularly bright of Poe to quote Forrest — especially since the quote is essentially meaningless as well as fabricated — but discussing Forrest’s military acumen (which was considerable) doesn’t mean people support the Klan, a point that is rather obvious when considering authors such as Catton who catalogued Forrest’s strategic thinking.
Well put, but then is followed – as are many rightie responses – with finger pointed to former KKKer, Sen. Robert Byrd, who happens to be a Democrat, as if somehow Byrd’s presence in the party negates all of the eliminationist, nativist, and racist rhetoric flowing from the right lately. (And there are a whole lotta links I didn’t post.)
At worst, Poe was giving the ol’ wink-and-nudge to Confederacy idolizers and their passion’s racist not-so-subtle subtext. And to be fair to Benen, Poe’s office’s explanation of the quote didn’t help quash that suspicion:
“The reference to Forrest was used in an historical context comparing the request to Congress for support of the Confederate troops to the request that is being made today by our Generals in Iraq.”
In all seriousness, there should be no prohibition from bringing up people’s names or accomplishments because of their background. Should we ditch the interstate highway system because Hitler came up with the idea first? Should we spurn pasta because Italy went for Mussolini? Should we push Texas into the sea because it propelled Bush into the nation’s top political seat? Well…now that you mention it…
by Jay Stevens
Gee. A terror plot involving Christian radicals. Imagine that. And to think I got jumped yesterday (and today) in email and attempted nasty, unprintable comments for expressing concern as to whether or not the bombs seized in Alabama involved white supremacists, and today we read about a terrorist plot against a woman’s clinic that was supposed to take place on American soil – planned out by ……………… Christian radicals.
You idiots on the wingnut right who only see the media and ‘Islamofacists’ as the “real” enemy ever gonna get a clue? Ever going to get beyond slamming people for rightly worrying that an explosion or a thwarted plot is the work of an Christofascist? Was your first thought today when you heard about this plot was that it was a “Islamic” plot? I wonder which one of the righty ‘nuts declared the news of this thwarted plot as ‘overblown’ first?
Ever since I saw the newstory about the clinic bomb, I’ve been wanting to take a rightie rant about terrorists and do a find-and-replace. I didn’t have to wait long, thanks to the idiots who wanted to shoot up a military base.
Basically I took “Sista Toldja”’s hysteria-laden post about a “Islamic militant terror plot” to attack Fort Dix, and replaced a few key words and links.
Not to downplay the Fort Dix gang…yet, but the administration does have a history of passing off less-than-dangerous and less-than-organized plots as proof of a world-wide organized Islamic terror threat. What’s already known is that the Fort Dix six were not affiliated with any known terrorist group.
Were they dangerous? Of course, just like any other group of alienated twenty-somethings with assault rifles. (See, “Shootings, Virginia Tech,” for more details.)
But what’s not in doubt is that they were nowhere near as well-organized or had as much history of violence as anti-abortion clinic bombers and militia groups, both mentioned in the links above.
My point is that terrorism isn’t inherently Islamic – or even religious — or the purveyance of dark-skinned illegal immigrants. To simplify the problem to a set of preprogrammed ideological values only diminishes the complexity of the problem.
I’m happy the Fort Dix six were caught before they could act – I’m especially happy for the soldiers stationed and training there – but let’s not pretend they’re the vanguard of an “invasion” of Islamic radicals or something, eh? There are plenty of violent loonies right here at home we need to deal with.
by Jay Stevens
We got ourselves a humdinger this legislative session.
Governor Schweitzer called the special session of the Legislature this weekend – starting Thursday — and has declared it will meet for three days, through Saturday.
Here’s what we know from the news reports. Schweitzer and his administration have met with “a dozen Republican legislators,” including House Majority Leader Mike Lange. Apparently the Governor and the rogue Republicans have struck some sort of deal.
My thoughts, and things to look for:
— It appears that John Sinrud, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Scott Sales, Speaker of the House, were excluded from the deal.
That’s huge, and means that the Governor has to line up more than just a couple of Republicans to his tax and budget plans. Sinrud can table any appropriations bill – such as, say, a budget bill – that passes through his committee. Sales can tweak procedures to sit on bills. He can use “pocket vetos” – simply putting passed bills into a desk drawer or refuse to sign them. Both men have this past legislative session used those procedural tactics to deal with legislation or legislators they don’t like. (Yes, a lot of bills vanished.)
In order to bypass these procedural difficulties, the Governor needs 60 House votes to “blast” bills out of committee. That means he needs at least eleven Republicans to vote with a unified Democratic bloc to get bills past the Sales/Sinrud bottleneck.
— If Schweitzer does have his “dozen” Republican legislators, we’ll see some internecine sparks fly on the House floor. Maybe even more angry speeches from Sales again questioning the morality of his opponents and no doubt some of his one-time allies.
If Schweitzer does have his “dirty dozen,” then we may be witnessing the beginning of an internal struggle for the Republican party. Scott Sales won the House speakership over the more moderate wing of his party by a single vote; is this the first sign of a moderate versus radical struggle in Republican electoral politics, we’ll see intensify in 2008? Are state party leaders and donors pulling the party back to the center?
— Schweitzer’s plans and call for a special session caught the Democratic leadership completely off guard.
That doesn’t bode well for some of his pet projects, notably the “green” energy bill he tried to pawn off on the Legislature this session. A complete mess, possibly illegal as it’s written, only one Democrat voted against it the last time around – Jim Elliot, a Senator who’s facing term limits, and who had nothing to lose politically by opposing the Governor. You can bet more Democrats step up against this dog when the bill threatens to become reality. Does the Governor have enough Republican votes to overturn his own party’s defection on questionable legislation?
— Right now, this is the Governor’s game. By most accounts, his leadership – or lack of it – was a major reason why the 2007 Legislature’s regular session failed so spectacularly. (The other major contributor, of course, was demagoguery from the House leadership.)
I’m really beginning to hear a lot of negative comments about the Governor’s communication style, and a lot of internal, muffled disgruntlement with policies and politeness stemming out of Helena.
The bottom line is this: if Schweitzer pulls this special session off – and there’s a lot of reasons why this session could crash and burn – it’ll be a major political coup for the Governor. If so, it’ll be seen as a validation for Schweitzer’s diplomacy and policy-making. That’s not a good thing, but I’ll take it if it comes with a budget and the public humiliation of right-wing extremists Sales and Sinrud.
(I know the Good Guv reads the blogs, so let me make a personal appeal: a crash is coming. Poor policy and poor manners will catch up to you. It may not happen now, it may not happen before your re-election; but if you’re thinking bigger and beyond, you need energy policy that’s well written and effective. And you need friends.)
So there’s my views on the special session. Your thoughts?
by Jay Stevens
Ah, the Internets…
Remember waaa-a-a-a-y back when – in the Dark Ages of the Montana blogosphere? Last September? When a class at the University of Richmond was blogging the disputed Senate races, including Montana’s own brouhaha?
Anyhow, a prof in the Ohio State system is teaching an English class using blogs as an example of rhetorical exercise.
Good luck there, Mr. Boczkowski.
For nascent bloggers, I have some advice:
–Do not write in italics. It hurts the eyes.
–Use a lot of paragraph breaks. Those spaces give the mind a lot of comfort.
–Always remember the funny.
(If you do go over for a visit, do be gentle on the class. Remember, I’m here by choice and offer myself up for your jabs; those poor souls are indentured servants toiling in the fields of higher education.)
I do think studying blogging for a composition class is a good idea. There’s a variety of language styles, voices, and ways to frame ideas. That’s something a lot of 4&20 b’bird and blog haters miss: different tone, vocabulary, and voice is appropriate to different situations. And determining a voice that “sells” your blog is a valuable skill – if you can decipher the rules and conventions that govern a media (blogging, in this case), and adapt your writing to fit in, you’ll find communication is a snap. But it is an exercise that requires practice…
Oh, man, do I not miss teaching English composition…
by Jay Stevens
Rehberg’s office released information on Randy Vogel’s subpoena (sorry no link available): it has nothing to do with investigations into ethical questions wrongdoing (paragraph breaks mine):
The subpoena in question was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice at the request of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The subpoena has absolutely nothing to do with Randy, me or my office…
On March 13th, an agent of the IRS came to my Billings District Office and demanded a copy of a file retained in our office regarding a constituent we had conducted casework for in the past. This particular constituent was having problems with the IRS and came to my office for assistance. The IRS wanted to examine this file because, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, it had decided to pursue legal action against this constituent.
The IRS agent spoke with Randy, who told the agent that because of House of Representatives Ethics Rules, and our internal office policies, he could not turn over the file because it is considered confidential information and would violate the privacy rights of a constituent. The IRS agent said he understood and that he would return with a subpoena for the file.
Randy then contacted the U.S. House of Representatives Office of General Counsel to notify them of the conversation and was advised to forward the subpoena directly to the House Counsel and they would handle the matter.
The next day, March 14th, the IRS agent delivered a subpoena to my office, at which time Randy tendered the matter to the General Counsel’s office. Randy further followed the rules of the House and alerted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that our office had received a subpoena. My office, working on the advice of House Counsel, has complied fully with the subpoena.
Good for Vogel. I’ve heard nothing but good of the guy, and I’m glad to see he’s not mixed up with Abramoff or INSA.
In yesterday’s post on the matter I declined to speculate on why the subpoena was issued. And, boy, am I glad that I did.
Unfortunately, Montana’s Democratic Party chair, Dennis McDonald, in his press release yesterday, didn’t. “Where does this federal grand jury subpoena lead?” read the release, and speculated on a number of possible, corruption-related reasons.
If a blogger feels uncomfortable speculating on a story because of a lack of evidence, chances are it’s not a good thing to run with allegations. McDonald goofed. He owes Vogel an apology.
But then Rehberg, in today’s press release, attacks McDonald in polarizing, shrill language that makes even a blogger blush:
Mr. McDonald’s implications in the press release are false, shameful, and unbefitting anyone who claims to be a Montanan. Mr. McDonald should be ashamed of himself for unfairly and publicly attacking the character of one of my employees who was merely doing his job….
The actions by Dennis McDonald, insinuating that Randy was in some way involved with convicted felons, were dishonest and shameful…. Mr. McDonald chose the low road and launched a sleazy, deceitful political attack against one of my employees. Accordingly, Dennis McDonald should voluntarily resign his position as Chairman of the Montana Democratic Party. I call upon Governor Brian Schweitzer and Senator Max Baucus, as the leaders of the Montana Democratic Party, to join me in asking Mr. McDonald to step down. Montanans deserve better than the dishonest actions of Dennis McDonald.
Talk about overreacting. Resign? Over this? If misguided political hyperbole were the criteria for shamed resignations, there’d be no one left to pen the Montana GOP e-brief.
Okay, folks: take a deep breath….now let it out…count to ten…
So much for the meme that bloggers are divisive, polarizing blowhards. These guys make us look like tea-sipping nannies.
by Jay Stevens
On Nov. 10, 2005, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sent a letter to a federal judge in Montana, assuring him that the U.S. attorney there, William W. Mercer, was not violating federal law by spending most of his time in Washington as a senior Justice Department official.
That same day, Mercer had a GOP Senate staffer insert into a bill a provision that would change the rules so that federal prosecutors could live outside their districts to serve in other jobs, according to documents and interviews.
Mercer’s non-presence in Montana was bogging down courts in Montana – at least that’s what Billings justice Molloy claimed in voicing his complaint. So the loyal Bushies jerry-rigged the rules to allow Mercer to ignore his Montana office, while (one assumes) still punching his time clock.
This maneuver is made even worse in light of the fact that the Dept of Justice used absentee office-holding as an excuse to fire New Mexico attorney David Iglesias. Only Iglesias wasn’t polishing wingtips in Washington DC during his absences, he was serving in the Naval Reserves.
That’s probably why Jon’s asking Mercer to step down:
For months, I gave Bill Mercer the benefit of the doubt that he was shooting straight with me and with the people of Montana. Mr. Mercer has been given every opportunity to do right by the people he represents; he has passed on that chance too many times. Mr. Mercer was operating outside federal law, so he had the law changed. That might work in Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department, but it’s not how we do business in Montana. He should resign his post as Montana’s U.S. Attorney immediately.
(Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear similar statements from Max and Dennis?)
That’s one of my pet peeves, I admit, when folks use their office or wealth or connections to skirt the rules they then apply to the rest of us with officious zeal. So, yeah, I think Mercer should step down.
But will he? And what should we do if he won’t? All this grilling of Gonzo is good fun, but I think it’s evident that the man is unfit for his office, as are his underlings. Let’s do something.
by Jay Stevens
Shane got the same press release from the Democratic party that I did, announcing that Rehberg staffer, Randy Vogel received a federal grand jury subpoena:
Rehberg Staff Hit with Federal Grand Jury Subpoena
(Helena, MT) – It was learned today that the office of Congressman Dennis Rehberg has received a grand jury subpoena by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana. According to the official Congressional Record, Rehberg’s State Director Randy Vogel has been summoned to a federal grand jury. Rehberg’s office would not disclose the reason for the grand jury subpoena.
I’m not going to speculate – unlike the press release – why Vogel was subpoenaed. A subpoena is a request to supply testimony for a criminal investigation – in this case of a federal crime – it doesn’t mean that the subpoenaed individual is under investigation.
You may remember Vogel: he was the Rehberg staffer involved in a little Iron Horse bathroom fracas. From all accounts, though, it was pretty obvious the incident was the obnoxious drunk’s fault.
by Jay Stevens
Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker wrote yesterday about indictments brought against four registration recruiters working for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in Missouri, and the indictments’ relationship to the prosecutor purge. Basically – and you should read it yourself – but US Attorney Bradley Scholzman rushed basically baseless allegations.
Four recruiters were indicted over six forged registration forms – turned in by ACORN itself.
The former U.S. Attorney for Little Rock Bud Cummins told Salon that in cases like this, the fraud is perpetrated upon ACORN, not by them. The organizers forge registrations in order to justify their $8.00/hour wages. Elyshya Miller, the organizer from ACORN, explained to me that the group frequently hires people who are in “desperate situations,” who “really need something at the time.”
That is, the organization policed itself, and was the victim of fraud. (Unlike, say, signature collection that was marred by “pervasive fraud.” Those organizations were, at best, indifferent to fraud.)
I won’t go into the details of the case itself, or how it fits into the prosecutor purge or the GOP’s phantom tilting at voter fraud in a bald attempt to discourage voting. What I want to talk about is hinted at in Kiel’s piece, where he mentioned the news of the indictments was covered by major news outlets. (Fox interviewed an elections official who said it was “the worst case of registration abuse in the last quarter century.”) And, as Steve Benen pointed out, five days before the election, the Wall Street Journal dedicated a front-page editorial to the case:
The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos. After the federal indictments were handed up in Kansas City this week, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that “This national investigation is very much ongoing.”
The work was, of course, of a few yahoos.
What’s interesting to me, is to what extent major media organizations – in this case The Wall Street Journal and Fox News – rushed to support the allegations made by the “loyal Bushie” during a crucial moment in the 2006 elections. While the WSJ’s editorial is, well, an editorial, it’s obviously and shamelessly written in collusion with the Bush administration goals of crying voter fraud where there is none.
The question we should be asking, are these outlets working in collusion with the Republican party? Or are they rushing to judgment in support of an obvious conservative policy?
Because what’s clear is that they were concerned with neither the facts, nor journalistic integrity.
by Jay Stevens
Everybody’s angry that the Legislature adjourned without a budget. Partisan gridlock is to blame, they say, Democrats, Republicans, ptui! They’re all the same!
Yeah? Read over the transcript from Scott Sales speech after the Legislature adjourned:
…we’ve met a brick at every stage of the way. There was absolutely no compromise with the Democrats. They wanted to spend it all, and then some. We took the historic step of breaking the budget into eight…er…initially six bills became eight…we did it for one reason, and one reason only: we wanted to bring forward a sustainable, accountable budget for the people of Montana, so that we could then offer the tax, uh, tax cuts that they deserve!…and we received not one bit of help from the Democrats. In unison on 49 votes, they fought us tooth and nail and refused to participate in the budgeting process.
The bills went over to the Senate, and they blew the budget up way beyond the subcommittee work…I believe about a hundred seventy-five million, if the — correct me if I’m wrong – about 27 million above the Governor’s budget…they were horribly irresponsible! They spent money that…uh…uh…nobody could even imagine! I think it was obscene and immoral how they bloated that budget up. Without giving any concern to the taxpayers of Montana again!
Um, it’s unfortunate the way this thing turned out. We came in here this morning, and…uh…what the intention and every, uh, uh, effort, to try to come some sort of resolve with the Democrats, and come up with a sustainable, accountable budget and tax relief, and in fact, a couple of our guys – Representative Lange and Representative Glazier – were in the midst of a negotiation with the Senate to provide some sort of tax relief, and they were called out of that meeting, it was adjourned abruptly so they could sine die and run away.
Now yesterday…we have repeatedly made offers to the Governor and to the Senate, ah, what we wanted to get accomplished. Uh, yesterday we got an ultimatum from the Democrats, I don’t know if anybody brought it here, but I’d sure like the press to get it in their hands. Basically it was an ultimatum, you do it our way or the highway. They demanded unilateral surrender from us yesterday, if we wanted to adjourn. Um, we held firm, on the belief that the money belongs to the people, we turned down that offer, and they decided to unilaterally surrender against us.
And somehow we’re to blame. Somehow we’re to blame because we are fighting for the citizens and hardworking people of Montana.
I disagree. I think we’re very unified in this. I hope when we come back in the next session the Governor is willing to work with us. He’s called, I’m sure he’ll call a special session. And when he does I hope he decides to attend that one instead of being gone, like he was so much of this one. And, uh, that’s my challenge to the Governor. If you’re going to call a special session, please attend it. And please come to the bargaining table with House leadership, so we can work out a compromise.
It’s all the Democrats’ fault, they’re immoral and obscene, they refused to compromise, and by golly! The House Republicans preserved their collective manhood by standing firm and forced the opposition to “unilaterally surrender”!
The Democrats offered a tax rebate, and even increased the amount of the rebate after complaints from the Republicans.
The Governor did try to compromise, but was told to “stick it in his *ss.”
While manly Scott Sales “held firm” in the name of saving Montana taxpayers money, he’s also sticking us with $38K a day for the costs of the special session.
Honestly, could you think of a more acerbic, more confrontational speech on exit from a confrontational legislative session, which nearly every Montanan has decried as being too acerbic and confrontational?
No wonder Republican Senator John Cobb had public thoughts about the House leadership:
[House Appropriations Committee chair John] Sinrud continued to cut off comments by [Rep. Eve] Franklin and other Democrats. During a brief recess, Cobb stalked from the room after telling committee member Dave Kasten, R-Brockway, that the Republicans on the committee were “a bunch of idiots.”
“They’re using the rules to abuse people,” said Cobb during the break. “They think they can bully the governor. It’s no different than what goes on in a Third World country.”
If this is the kind of thing Republicans are saying in public, what are they saying behind closed doors?
Let’s hope they’re discussing a change in leadership. Because right now it seems likely as long as Sinrud, Lange, and Sales are in charge, the acrimony will not subside.
by Jay Stevens
This is one of those “I heard it from a friend, who has a friend…” rumors, so it could be completely without merit…but, I heard that the state’s GOP leaders are mighty displeased with Mike Lange’s recent public outburst, and are considering organizing his ouster.
It’s a rumor. I’ve no proof. I’ve no evidence.
But it sure makes a lot of sense! Pretty much everyone in the state is ticked off at the Legislature for failing the one thing they’re mandated to do by the state’s constitution: provide the state a budget for the next two years.
Newspapers, pundits, and bloggers alike have made every effort to include the Governor and the Democratic lawmakers in the list of blame for the legislative mess, but every list ends with Mike Lange’s obscentiy-laden tirade not long after being offered a compromise by Schweitzer.
Lange’s “shove it up your *ss” is the last taste on the tongue for the legislative session. It’s the one moment Montana is guaranteed to remember until November 2008.
And the video of the rant has circulated far and wide, so much so, that Lange is probably now the most recognized Republican officeholder in Montana. (Apologies to Dennis Rehberg, but you don’t want that kind of publicity.)
So even if this rumor isn’t true…it should be.