Archive for October, 2009

by jhwygirl

So no one’s gotten to this yet? Whee!

But seriously…no surprises there, right?

Senator Greg Barkus (of Kalispell) had 3 felony charges filed against him, in what was a day of minute by minute (practically) updates from a bunch of Montana news tweeters as the charges played out. NewWest has Dan Testa’s report from the Flathead Beacon.

Barkus’ BAC was .16 – twice the legal limit – 1 hour and 45 minutes after the crash.

4 hours after the crash, Barkus’ BAC was .12.

Barkus appeared in court today. He and his lawyer have already disputing the BAC figures, saying he’s got receipts showing he didn’t purchase enough alcohol to be that drunk…or something like that.

How soon before he surfaces his ‘..but my gps was broke‘ defense?

The “my gps was broke and even though I was drinking, I wasn’t drunk because, you know, it’s Montana and drinking and operating a motorized vehicle is no big deal, and it’s a good thing that I nearly killed people that were my friends, because, like, could you imagine what would happen to me if I had nearly killed someone I didn’t know?” defense. Yeah – that one.

Besides that…with all that national press, he might as well give ’em a little extra to write about. I mean – even Roll Call picked it up.



by Pete Talbot

Missoula physician Meg Sarnecki is one of 50 doctors from around the country who are meeting with the President to discuss health care reform.

(You won’t find this news in our local print media. Don’t ask me why. KPAX ran a short piece. I found out about it in the Billings Gazette. Here’s the story by Mike Dennison.)

Doc Sarnecki is in an excellent position to comment on the kind of health care available to uninsured and low-income Montanans. She works at the Partnership Health Center in Missoula. The center is partly government funded and also receives payments from patients on a sliding scale, according their ability to pay. From what I hear vicariously through some folks who work there is that the place can barely keep up with the demand for its services.

I’ve gleaned some quotes from the story:

She’s “pretty happy” with the U.S. House’s bill, which has passed out of committee and awaits action on the floor, but is “much less happy with what (Max) Baucus has put forward.”

Sarnecki said she doesn’t like the Baucus bill because it does not include a public, government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

“I don’t like the idea of mandated, private health insurance without a public option,” she said. “To make that affordable, we need a public option to give people some competition and choice in that matter.”

Baucus’ bill, among other things, would require all Americans without health insurance to buy it starting in 2013, or face tax penalties. The measure also includes federal subsidies to help people with low or moderate income afford private insurance.

Another person, and this one more qualified than most, to join the legions of Montanans who are disappointed with Max’s health care proposal. Come to think of it, one of the few folks who has commented positively about the plan is Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, our only U.S. Representative from Montana. Good company, Max.

(UPDATE — The Missoulian did have this story in Monday’s paper; page one, above the fold. The Gazette beat the Missoulian by at least 24 hours, though.)

Could it be Gopher vs. Otjen for Congress?

by JC

This last week has seen two newcomers to Montana politics throw their hats into the ring to unseat republican congressman Denny Rehberg.

First up, Melinda Gopher–daughter of Robert Gopher, a long time native activist, cultural leader, and petitioner of the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention for “the need to provide for state support of the cultural survival of Montana’s Tribal peoples.” The Gopher family’s unique experience living and growing up on the northwest side of Great Falls on Hill 57 helped them to lead the way on Montana’s Constitutional “cultural integrity clause.”

The result was Article X Section 1. (2) The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.

I find some personal satisfaction in Gopher’s announcement, having grown up in the same Hill 57 neighborhood, knowing that the Gopher family persevered through all of the adversity that came their way.

While I’m a few years older than Melinda, I knew the family, and went to school with some of her siblings, watching many of the obstacles that were thrown their way. Some of those obstacles I likely contributed to during my misguided youth on GF’s northwest side, though I have come to a different understanding of native culture, and the residents of Hill 57 since then, and offer my amends as often as possible.

Melinda will officially announce her candidacy today at 3pm at the Family Life Building in Montana Expo Park in Great Falls. In her announcement, Gopher had this to say:

Gopher’s news release said she is a descendant of the Rocky Boy’s Band of Ojibwe and a member of the Blackfeet Tribe. She is a lifelong civil, treaty and political rights activist who works as a paralegal, feature writer and screenplay writer.
Gopher said she helped initiate fair housing in Montana in the late 1980s and early 1990s and worked alongside her late father, Robert Gopher, to fight for “environmental justice.” She is trying to restore the Chippewa nations’ sovereign status.

Calling for building coalitions at every level, Gopher said she will work to draw independent and Republican voters.
“My heart is in both parties; the Chippewa people have a direct historic connection to Republican Frank Linderman. He is to Montana what President Lincoln was to the nation.”

She said the Rocky Boy’s Reservation wouldn’t exist without Linderman’s efforts.

“Now we need a fresh set of eyes to tackle the many issues we face,” Gopher said. “I will work to reach across the aisle and mediate to find common ground. I would consider it an honor to represent Montanans of every political stripe.”
Blogging for the liberal Huffington Post on health care, Gopher blasted Democratic Sen. Max Baucus for his “callous disregard” for Indian constituents by opposing a public option – a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.

“In all the battles we have fought as a family, I have never been involved in such a tough fight as to keep the public option in health care reform,” Gopher said.

I look forward to seeing and hearing much more from Melinda as the primary season heats up. Welcome to the race! While I haven’t found an official campaign website yet, check out her Facebook campaign page. Or do a little Googling.

Next up is A.J. Otjen, who dropped by earlier today at 4&20 to leave a comment inviting people to her new campaign website, I don’t know anything about A.J other than what she has posted at her website, but it is good to see another republican come out to challenge Denny.

A.J. seems to represent a spirit of new republicanism, in that she isn’t afraid to buck the party line and deliver some well deserved criticism where she sees fit:

In 2004, I was very unhappy as I thought the Bush Doctrine was the opposite for which our country stood. I wanted America to get out of Iraq and I thought George Bush and Dick Cheney were very bad for the country and the Republican Party. I thought that John Kerry combined with a Republican Congress would be adequate government for four years. If Bush lost, we could have begun to rebuild the Republican Party in 2004. I voted for John Kerry.

In 2008, I liked Obama early because he spoke like Ronald Reagan and he is a centrist. John McCain made up my mind when he picked Governor Palin as his running mate. I think she is what is wrong with the party today. Our current base of the party is about fearand ignorance.

For example, there is a big difference between socialism and fascism. In fact, they are basically opposites.
We don’t need graduate degrees to know this. We can now look it up on Wikipedia. We can end the fear by being informed. The McCain/Palin ticket was not informed of the issues important to our future. The future Republicans must be. I am running for Congress to help the party be a part of this time of transformation.

Judging from what I’ve seen of the other two contenders in the Democratic primary, and from incumbent Rehberg, the entry of Gopher and Otjen into the primaries provides an opportunity to inject some new views on issues from individuals who haven’t bought into the current political climate of polarization and ideology.

Welcome to the primary season, Melinda and A.J.! And thanks for having the courage to step up to the opportunity to doing good things in public service. I hope that your presence in the races will open up the dialog on the great issues of our time: health care; climate change; war and terrorism; the Great Recession and our horrible situation with jobs and reigning in our finance sector.

I look forward to much time spent here debating your platforms and ideas. And I’d love to see a General Election with these two women as their respective party’s nominees!

Quick update: It seems that the righty blogosphere has just gotten wind of A.J.’s campaign via her comment here, labeling her a “moron,” and lambasting her as “someone whoring their website” at a Left blog. (Go Rusty! You’re helping A.J. out bigtime here!)

I hope that is a good indicator that the whacko republican base is feeling some strong pushback from those that want to bring the republican party back from the wilderness into some form of political sanity.

by jhwygirl

Good Fantastic news this afternoon for pro zoning reform in the City of Missoula. Judge Sherlock has released his 9 page opinion which denies Lawsuiters Dick Haines & Renee Mitchell (Councilpersons for Ward 5) and Ward 4’s Lyn Hellegaard their Writ of Mandate, seeking the city to comply with public noticing requirements.

At the heart of their complaint was the idea that the city should send an individualized notice to each and every property owner in the city telling them precisely how they would be affected by the zoning rewrite.

The scores of public meetings, of stakeholder meetings, of public notices, of public information put on on the cities website, the public hearings themselves – and even the scores of stories written by Missoulian reporters was not enough for these Lawsuiters…..but apparently, was enough for Judge Sherlock.

If you see any of these people this weekend? Thank them for wasting taxpayer time and money (in the form of City Attorney and his staff Jim Nugent, along with the Office of Planning & Grant’s staff time…plus the reams of paper generated).

Now let’s see what they do. The core of their complaint – as they state it – is the lack of public involvement. Since that legal question has been asked and answered – by a judge – let’s see how they vote now that the issue has all been cleared up for them.

by jhwygirl

Don’t miss Bunk the West’s review of Tuesday’s candidate forum held by the Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce, the Missoula Organization of Realtors and the Missoula Building Industry Association at the Broadway Inn.

Ward 1 challenger Ryan Morton takes Bunk to task for restating that which the Missoulian reported. I suppose that means he’s requested a correction from the paper?

I do, though, especially love Ward 3 candidate John Quandt’s suggestion (as taken from the Missoulian) for maintaining our neglected city park system:

‘Community members who care about their neighborhood can volunteer to mow the lawn, for instance.’

I guess that means if you won’t (or can’t) mow the lawn of your neighborhood park, you just don’t care.

Bunk’s last paragraph is fab. Go read it.

by JC

Click on the graphic for a larger version. Print it out, it’ll make a great dart board target!baucus wheel

Thanks to the work of the good folks at the Sunlight Foundation, we’re able to see how bundling works its magic on Congress in general, and Max Baucus specifically.

The Foundation took a look at the donations that lobbyists and their families made to politicians like Baucus–the same politicians that their corporate employers made significant donations to. So all of the recent reports of the magnitude of Baucus’ glad tidings from his corporate donors puppeteer manipulators just foreshadowed the magnitude of the problem.

The chart above shows how the effect of campaign dollar bundling–donations from both the corporation (light blue) and its lobbyists (darker blue)–greatly increases the stranglehold they have on a politician. In Baucus’ case, the lobbyists actually have given more money than their employers! One might say that they are purchasing job security, along with advancing their clients’ legislative goals.

And of course, we all know who the source of these funds is–the U.S. taxpayer, who stands to lose as their dollars continue to flow to these corporations and their manipulators, only to be recycled through this bundling game once again. The ultimate corrupt feedback loop.

The Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics co-released an in-depth study on this phenomenon:

A new collaborative investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that many of the major players in the health insurance reform debate have hit members of Congress with a one-two punch of campaign contributions from at least 10 of their hired, outside lobbyists on top of donations from their employees or political action committees.

Since January 2007, more than 500 individual lobbyists who fit these criteria donated roughly $2.8 million to 61 members of Congress who also received about $1.9 million from the companies’ PACs or employees. These lobbyists represented 25 major health care and health insurance organizations.

Not only did these contributions go directly to the politician’s coffers, they were directed to places like Max Baucus’ Glacier PAC, which is a nice and handy slush fund that he can use to pay for things like motels, airplane tickets, coffee, drinks, parties, car rentals. You know, all of the nice things that the rest of us have to pay out of our monthly paycheck. Thanks to a new investigative database and report from ProPublica, we can check in on our Senators’ spending habits:

In the past three election cycles, lobbyists and special interests poured $355 million into these funds, making them the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress.

Legally, lawmakers are free to spend the leadership PAC money pretty much as they wish.

Lobbyists and lawmakers can — and do — use it to travel together to play golf at Pebble Beach, ride snowmobiles in Montana’s Big Sky Country and go deep-sea fishing in the Florida Keys. The lobbyists don’t pay the costs directly. They contribute to the leadership PAC, which then pays the lawmaker’s resort and travel bills.

Hmmm… $46,721 from Glacier PAC to Bucks T4 and $36,616 to the Cabin Bar. IT’S PARTY TIME…WHOO HOOO!!! Check out the list of Glacier PAC expenses, if you want to see the dirty laundry. Nothing like an expense slush fund of $261,925 for “Entertainment, events, and travel.” Oh, and did I mention that the Glacier PAC managed to spend $1,198,023 in just 2007-8? Nice…

So how widespread is the practice of bundling? We may never know. The Hill had a nice piece about the practice last month, concluding that little has changed:

“This is going to be the dog that never barked,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates for campaign finance reform.

“It tells me one of two things, which is these fundraisers were not very successful or the public is not getting the lobbyist bundling disclosure it thought it would with this legislation.”

So rest assured that our Congress is doing all it can to raise money to travel and have big parties protect the public interest and do the people’s work on the great issues of the day like health care reform.

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