Archive for January 8th, 2008

by Pete Talbot

First, the plural of caucus is caucuses, not cauci. I guess that’s because the word isn’t Latin but an American-English bastardization of the Algonquian Indian word meaning “meeting of tribal leaders,” according to Wiktionary. The word first appeared in American politics in the 18th Century in the form of the Caucus Club, one of America’s first clubs, where the likes of John Adams decided the political fortunes of Boston.

But enough grammar and history. The three separate subjects below don’t deserve to be posted alone. Their roots are from various blog sites.

Caucuses
On a rare occasion, I glean something interesting from the conservative blogosphere.

There has been a lot of discussion, both pro and con, and from the left and the right, about the upcoming Montana Republican caucus.

Carol over at Missoulapolis added a new wrinkle. Apparently, there is money to be made by holding a caucus. There’s gold in them thar lists! From Missoulapolis:

State GOP chair Erik Iverson spoke to Pachyderm today and said selling lists of those eligible to vote has brought over $17,000 to the Montana GOP.

And in Wyoming, where the Republicans just held their caucus:

Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson spent $10,000 each to acquire a list of the names and contact information for party members who will help select the national delegates.

Money shouldn’t be the sole motivation for going to a caucus system rather than the primary election system that the Democrats are using this year. The caucus system also gets candidates participating in Montana politics and voters participating in party politics.

There have been comments, blog-wide, that the whole primary system as it now exists is a farce and should be scrapped. No one seems to have come up with the perfect alternative, yet.

The problem with the Montana Republican caucus, IMHO, is its exclusivity. Only precinct committeemen and women, and other local, regional and statewide elected officials, are allowed to vote. Basically, it’s the party elite.

One possibility, though, and again I quote Carol:

I do wish it were an open caucus like the (Montana) Democrats had in 1984. Anyone could come and vote.

Initiatives
As usual, the lefty blogosphere is chock full of interesting information.

This news is a little old but worth repeating. Cece over at Montana Netroots reminds us that the initiative season is kicking off. Here’s a thumbnail sketch:

There are already two referendums (referenda?) on the ballot that were advanced by the legislature. C-44, a Constitutional Amendment that would change how state funds are invested; and LR-118, which would continue the six-mill levy for the university system. (This is where the u-system gets most of its funding).

Two intitatives that might be headed for the ballot are: CI-99, which would restrict residential property tax increases; and CI-100, which is basically a right-to-life (anti-choice) issue.

Both of these initiatives would change the Montana Constitution.

And there could be more. An initiative that could limit the amount of interest charged on (predatory) loans and one which deals with the children’s health care fund.

This is important stuff so stay tuned.

Conrad Burns
Montana Republicans are just giddy over the fact that the Justice Department isn’t filing charges against former Republican Senator Conrad Burns and his association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramhoff.

The main reason prosecution isn’t going forward is because of a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in another corruption case, that of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). Apparently, the search of Jefferson’s congressional office violated the “Speech and Debate Clause” in the U.S. Constitution. I’m not sure how but then again, I’m no lawyer.

But it wasn’t the legality of the contributions that bothered me or, apparently, a number of other Montana voters. It was the sleaze factor: giving $3 million to the rich Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan while stiffing poor Asian women working for Mariana Island textile industrialists. Both the tribe and the industrialists were clients of Abramoff’s.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane to an amusing story (yet sad comment on congressional politics) written by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone magazine. It sums up ol’ Conrad pretty well.

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