by Pete Talbot

You get who you vote for

Montana’s PSC is one of the most important government bodies we have in this state. As the banner at its website reveals: energy, telecommunications, water/sewer, transportation and pipeline safety are all under its purview. Since last November’s elections and the new 3-2 Republican majority, the commission has been in turmoil. The latest dust up is being well chronicled by Pogie at Intelligent Discontent, and by the Great Falls Tribune, Lee Newspapers and the Associated Press.

But since the voters decided to return the incendiary “rogue commissioner”* Brad Molner to the commission, and replace utility expert and consumer advocate Ken Toole with utility owner Bill Gallagher, well, what do you expect?

The jury is still out on Travis Kavulla.

* Attributed to PSC Commissioner Gail Gutsche.

Denny’s going down

Rep. Denny Rehberg toed the Tea Party line when he voted against House Resolution 1473, the congressional compromise that cut $38 billion but kept the government up and running.

From the L.A. Tribune’s Washington Bureau:

The bill approved by the House and Senate Thursday will fund the government through the end of the 2011 fiscal year on Sept. 30, cutting $38 billion from environmental, health, education, job-training and other domestic programs. Despite the steep reductions, the measure didn’t go far enough for the House’s most conservative members, exposing divisions among Republicans. (Emphasis mine.)

It’s still early and anything could happen but if the Senate race isn’t already trending to Sen. Tester, I’d be surprised. Tester has been in the news a lot, lately: his wolf-delisting rider, veteran’s issues, and a wilderness bill (there are folks on both sides of the aisle upset with his wolf and wilderness stances, which indicate that they’re moderate positions). And Montanans, for the most part, are a moderate lot, which bodes well for Tester.

Rehberg has done nothing of note (besides casting Tea Party votes) and therefore hasn’t been getting much press, either good or bad, which goes to the old political axiom: I don’t care what you write about me, just spell my name right.

And I was so worried that Gadhafi would appear on the ballot

Some Montana legislators have offered up crazy stuff this session but most of the bills have died in committee, on the floor or have been vetoed by the governor. Not so in Arizona, where a bill promoted by the “birthers” is on the Arizona Governor’s desk awaiting her signature — and it’s possible the socially-conservative Republican governor will sign it. The bill demands proof of U.S citizenship before allowing presidential candidates on the ballot, and Arizona wants to see hospital records, baptismal certificates or circumcision records, along with other affidavits.

Always good to see that Montana’s legislature hasn’t cornered the market on wacky.

  1. Buh bye Jon buoy, ONE Term Tester. Good riddance to a lying bone head one of Baucus dullest Tools.
    Rehberg is no better – maybe, likely worse BUT in order to break the Baucus hold WE need either a super Prog candidate that Montana loved like Mansfield, or (which could have been what’s his face who ran against Rehberg but refused to be against these infernal wars or trade issues, as per my personal questions to him) or a few Luzers like Jon the Two-Faced idiot. and his daddy …
    The Dem party in MT needs to glean the Neo-Libs OUT OUT OUT. NO. i won’t vote for Rehberg…

    • lizard19

      this comment makes me realize my disdain for the neo-liberal complicity in the plutocratic attack against the people isn’t as monochromatic as yours is, darwin.

      though i might not appreciate how some people argue their POV, there is a political reality that those of us critical of Tester need to acknowledge: there doesn’t appear to be any viable progressive candidate who could primary Jon then take on the war chest of Rehberg.

      because i’m not prepared to send Denny to DC, i will vote for Tester.

      that said, i still think it’s important to bring some noise when politicians we support deviate from what they stated they intended to do. doing so shouldn’t warrant the kind of personal insults we’ve seen flying here from the “civil war” coobs and company are so delighted by.

      • petetalbot

        Some controversy these days in the Montana blogosphere between mainstream Democrats v. liberals v. progressives v. independents v. …

        In many ways, it’s healthy (maybe not so much the rants and name calling and defensive posturing) but to me, it shows intellectual interest and a keen concern for doing what’s right for the people – of this state, nation and world.

        And this much is for sure: the “civil war” among Democrats that Coobs refers to pales in comparison to what’s going on in the Republican Party. At both the state and national level Democrats are hanging together to beat back the regressive legislation offered up by Republicans. The Tea Party is turning out to be the worst thing that’s happened to the GOP since George W. Bush. As much as the establishment Republicans try, they can’t kowtow to them enough. The party is breaking ranks right and left. I see some big pick ups in 2012. We may not all agree on the strategies and policies being advanced by the Democrats but then that’s par for the course.

        I may weigh in later on this Democrat v. progressive conundrum. Then again, I may just stay out of the fray and let it run its course (probably the better idea). One thing that I’m sure of is that come crunch time, damn near all of us – from jhwygirl to Mt. Cowgirl, from Pogie to lizard to p-bear, even Wulfgar and JC – we’ll all be on the same side together.

        • I agree that to a certain extent it’s a good sign that we’re fighting over these things, because it shows a genuine belief. If you’re a liberal by default, things like this won’t concern you. But if you’re a liberal who cares to think things over and is really dedicated to seeing the country become more like how we all want it to be, it’s much harder to stay out of the fry. The only problem is when what should be meaningful discussion degenerates into personal animosity.

  2. Well Pete, the Civil War among the Dems isn’t just the ‘old school’ Dems who sit at the country club and discuss their philosophy, it’s between everybody at the Dem table. This includes the classic liberals (People who love Nancy Pelosi),greenies, the militant gays, the unionists, the pro-abortionist single-issue voters, and everybody who has their hand in the government pockets.

    On the GOP side, there are the conservatives, who want smaller government, less spending, and lower taxes, and then the more vocal conservatives like my Tea-party friends, who want reform coming much quicker. Both have the same goals.

    Let’s put this down guys – Pete Talbot is predicting that Jon Tester will easily win re-election because Denny and the Tea Party share common goals ! I guess Pete, that all those Democrats who voted for Denny just 5 months ago are going to change their votes this time ?

    I predict that Denny wins, and as soon as we get a lot closer to the election I’ll give you the margins, just like I did when you were predicting Dennis McDonald was going to win.

    • Pogo Possum

      I am siding with Erick on this one.

      The current political environment favors Denny in 2012. Denny has strong support from his base including both the moderates and ultra conservative elements of the GOP plus a strong following from the Tea Party followers. He can spend his time working on consolidating support among independents and swing Democrats.

      Jon, on the other hand, has a very fractured base as evidenced by the oft repeated criticism hurled at him from this and other liberal blogs. While many of the most hysterical of these critcs like Darwin will ultimatly hold their noses and vote for Tester over any Republican, their constant denunciations and poisonous critical rhetoric will be a constant reminder to independents and swing voters that there is something wrong with Jon’s politics.

      Barring a game changing event in the next 18 months, I am putting my money on Denny.

      • petetalbot

        Hi Pogo. See below. A quick observation on your comment, though: you say the “ultra conservative elements of the GOP plus a strong following from the Tea Party … ” Aren’t those one and the same?

    • petetalbot

      I appreciate your comment, Eric, I really do. It gives me a chance to reflect on my thoughts. It also confirms why I write what I do.

      Now, where to start.

      1) I never said that Tester would “easily win.” It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out but Tester will win because he’s more moderate than Rehberg and Montanans like moderates. Just look at past races, we elect some Democrats and some Republicans — no party owns this state – and the farther to the right or left one’s politics are, the less likely the win. Rehberg’s political leanings have flown under the radar but his true colors are starting to show and they are to the far right.
      2) I don’t believe I ever said McDonald was going to win. I hoped that he would but I, too, played the “margins.” Ask Ingy. I eagerly await your “margins,” Eric.
      3) “… all those Democrats who voted for Denny just 5 months ago are going to change their votes this time?” you ask. The Democrats stayed home last time – they won’t this time – and it was the Republicans who voted for Rehberg. Independents also leaned Rehberg. The Indys won’t this time. Might even see some Republicans (veterans, seniors, farmers) swinging to Tester. Here’s to you guys getting cocky, thinking the race against Tester will be like that against McDonald.
      4) As to the “civil war” and “the Dems who sit in the country clubs” … give me a break, you’ve got the wrong party. And all the others you mention – “greenies, the militant gays, the unionists, the pro-abortionist single-issue voters …” They’re all hanging pretty tight, now. The Republicans have stirred up a hornets nest. You’re gonna get stung, Eric.
      5) “On the GOP side, there are the conservatives … and my Tea-party friends … both have the same goals.” What I see is a schism, from the counties to the state to the country. I predict that the establishment GOP will distance itself from the radical right, especially when the public opinion polls start diving on the far-right agenda. Democrats are motivated. The Tea Party policy saw to that.

      Looks like Pogo is weighing in. Better attend to his comment.

  3. Matthew Koehler

    RE: The Montana PSC and You get who you vote for…

    Ochenski pretty much called this one (and advocated the approach) back in January.

  4. Matthew Koehler

    Pete, I have to question the notion that Senator Tester’s wolf rider is a “moderate position” or that it “bodes well for Tester” in the upcoming Senate race against Rehberg.

    As pointed out over at LiTW, Senator Jon Tester’s shameful and undemocratic tactic of successfully attaching his wolf rider (anti-Endangered Species Act rider) to the US Senate’s must-pass budget bill was the first time something like this was done in the 38 year history of the ESA.

    Senator Tester’s rider also forever closes the court-house doors and removes the possibility of any judicial review of his wolf rider, meaning wolves are delisted forever, no matter how low their populations may plummet. Do we really want an America where any members of Congress can use riders to effectively do away with one of our government’s three branches by completely eliminating the judicial branch, which is central to the notion of “checks and balances?” Is this really a “moderate position?”

    Senator Tester has now opened up the floodgates for more politicians just simply (and quietly) attaching riders to must pass bills to remove other endangered animal and plant species from ESA protections. Are salmon next? Desert tortoise? Leatherback turtles? Puma? Black-footed ferret?

    Senator Tester’s actions are a great gift to developers, the resource extraction industry, other special interests and politicians that don’t like the ESA and could really give a toot about protecting native wildlife and plants. The message is clear: just pass a rider and close the court house door like Montana’s Senator Tester!

    Except for a small handful of Tester apologists here in Montana, who happen to work for hunting or conservation groups, Senator Tester’s wolf rider was universally condemned by the environmental movement across the country.

    I fail to see how Tester’s wolf rider will actually gain votes for him in November 2012. The undeniable fact of the matter is that Senator Tester’s actions while in Congress (Successful efforts on the wolf rider, guns in national parks, as well as proposals such as the mandated logging bill, which also allows motors in Wilderness and releases Wilderness Study Areas protected by MT Senator Lee Metcalf, going to bat for bankers and Wall Street) have cost him votes, volunteers, advocates, door-knockers and phone bankers within the Montana progressive/environmental community.

    So while many Montana progressives, who collectively were responsible for Tester defeating Burns in 2006, may instead opt to “leave it blank” in the 2012 senate race, I have a hard time believing those loses will be made up by a strong faction of “Wolf Haters/Pro-Logging/Pro-Gun/Federal Gov’t Nullifiers for Tester.” Seriously, I’d like to meet all these Montana voters Tester apparently is picking up because of his wolf rider (or his mandated logging bill, for that matter), especially when looked at in the context of the progressive bases and votes he’s actually losing. Thanks.

  5. Matthew Koehler


    WASHINGTON (March 30, 2011) – Nearly 1,300 scientists today urged senators to oppose efforts to undermine the scientific authority of the Endangered Species Act, which they fear would threaten the long-term survival of all species protected by the law.

    The letter, signed by 1,293 scientists with expertise in biology, ecology and other relevant disciplines, urges senators to block any legislation that would compromise the scientific foundation of the law. The Senate is now considering its version of the House’s Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011 (H.R. 1), which includes [Senator Tester’s rider] language that would take the gray wolf off the endangered species list. The lone rider on the Senate version contains similar language.

    If Congress passed the continuing resolution with the gray wolf provision, it would be the first time a species was delisted without the benefit of scientific analysis, establishing a precedent for Congress to delist other species without scientific review.

    “The consequences of this action would extend far beyond the survival of one particular species,” said Franz Camenzind, a Wyoming-based wildlife ecologist who signed the letter. “If any one species is taken off the endangered species list by Congress, then all of the species on the list become vulnerable to future political attacks. This would send the implementation of the Endangered Species Act into chaos, creating uncertainty both for species and for the communities and businesses around them.”


    …and this is a “moderate position?” If Senator Burns would have done this, what would the left be saying? And by the way, What Would Paul Wellstone Do? Minnesota is home to about 3 times as many wolves as Montana. Would a true progressive like Wellstone have attached a rider to a budget bill to simply remove the Great Lakes wolves from the ESA?

    • petetalbot

      Thanks for the PSC link in your first comment, Matt; good background.

      As far as Tester’s wolf delisting rider, perhaps I should have said “perceived” moderate position, and in politics, perception is half the battle. After all, Tester’s rider was more moderate than Rehberg’s bill — a bill that never got any traction (nothing new for Denny).

      And I use the word “moderate” in the context of the “shoot, shovel and shut up” crowd. I don’t believe I endorsed the budget rider at any point. I’m just trying to read the pulse of your average Montanan.

      You also say, “I fail to see how Tester’s wolf rider will actually gain votes for him in November 2012.” Well, you could be right about Tester losing some of the “volunteers, advocates, door-knockers and phone bankers within the Montana progressive/environmental community.” This would definitely hurt him if he had a strong, progressive opponent in a primary, not so much in the general election.
      I may sound cynical here, but there’s going to be so much money dumped into this election by both sides, it’s going to be the voters’ perceptions and the never-ending TV commercials that will decide this election.

      Also, thanks for the UCS press release link. I’ll take all the info I can get on this issue. Unfortunately — and I’m speaking cynically again — the vast number of Montana voters probably won’t be reading that piece.

      Perhaps a strong, grassroots movement can hold Tester accountable for not advancing more progressive environmental legislation. Right now, though, as the state is still suffering through the Great Recession, I’m not sure that wolves or wilderness are at the top of the voters’ priority list. That could be just my been-around-too-long jaded view. Probably not, though.

      • i consider myself pretty progressive and i trust Montana and idaho state wildlife biologists to do a good job of protecting wolves while maintaining some balance with other wildlife. tester is right about this one. it is the moderate position.

        to do nothing and allow this impasse in molloy’s court to go on would be idiotic.

  6. ladybug

    Tester gets his way for one reason: He has senate Democrats convinced his could be the election that decides which party controls the senate in 2013. His Democratic Party colleagues will let him do just about anything he claims is necessary to hold onto his seat. But, when it becomes painfully clear his seat no longer determines which party rules the senate, we will be relieved of this temporary flirtation with unchecked power, his pandering to oligarchs and his anti-environmental riders. His pitiful career will end with a whimper as Republicans bury him beneath mountains of corporate campaign cash thanks to SCOTUS’s Citizens United decision.

  7. Chuck

    Denny Rehberg is going to be at City Club Missoula April 28th. Reservations will go fast but it would be nice to see some Democrats pack the house. I support Tester ,despite his flaws.

  8. Pogo Possum

    ” Aren’t those one and the same?”
    That is an understandable question Pete.

    Most people assume the Tea Party is made up of just ultra conservative Republicans. In reality, they are far more diverse as a group.

    Note the following two polls. Both show the Tea Party membership includes 54% to 57% Republicans with the remaining balance made up of Independents and a smaller number of Democrats.

    Winston Group Poll

    ”The national breakdown of the Tea Party composition is 57 percent Republican, 28 percent Independent and 13 percent Democratic, according to three national polls by the Winston Group, . . . .Two-thirds of the group call themselves conservative, 26 are moderate and 8 percent say they are liberal.”

    CBS News Poll

    “More than half (54 percent) identify as Republicans, and another 41 percent say they are independents. Just five percent call themselves Democrats.”

    I suspect the Republican/Independent/Democratic breakdown varies somewhat by geographic region too. Our data base identifies quite a few Montana Tea Party members as Independents, Libertarians and some Constitutionalists. We also find Tea Party members admit to supporting a wide range of politicians in the past ranging from the expected GOP candidates to Ron Paul, Ross Perot, Jerry Brown and even some former Obama backers (I guess this latter group is still looking for hope and change).

    Even their issues vary. I have seen Tea Party members who advocate complete repeal of medical marijuana and others absolutely pi**ed that the legislature won’t expand the initiative to complete legalization. Some are pro-life others are pro-choice. Some argue for eminent domain while others are strong private property rights advocates.

    They are a mixed bag, Pete, which is why I differentiate them as a group from the typical “conservative GOP” members.

    I do agree that this will be an interesting slug fest that could prove to be a very close race.

    The key issue at this juncture is that The Montana GOP and the Montana Tea Party (with their range of political differences) are solidly behind Denny. Neither group is taking shots at him. Denny can spend the next 18 months concentrating his efforts on picking up more Independents and disenchanted Democrats.

    On the other hand, Jon, whom I respect though I disagree on some of his positions, is taking criticism from both the far left and far right side of his own party. That is never a good thing at this stage. He is going to have to spend and waste a lot of resources over the next year trying to bring these groups back into the fold.

    • I guess I must spend more time talking to Montana Conservatives than you do because there is a great deal of dissension in the Conservative community in Montana. The issues are two fold –

      1) The Wingnuts were allowed to lead and they gave Montana conservatives a bad name. Mention someone like Knox or Essman in a typical conservative group around here and you will hear some very angry words. In fact, a number of people I know have stopped calling themselves Republicans (they prefer conservative or fiscal conservative at this point), to differenciate themselves from the Tea Party Republicans. You guys think you are having issues with “left” leaning bloggers taking pot shots at Democrat candidates, you should see how the “right” leaning people are eating their own candidates like Hill (and yes, Richy Rehberg).

      2) There seems to be developing a split in the right community between the Tea Party/Ubber right wing and the more moderate (and fiscal) conservatives. Much of what is dividing that community are the rigid (and religious) social issues being touted by the ubber right. This has definitely not helped Rehberg.

      I predict two things at this point – First, if a strong and well known independant/moderate were to run, both Tester and Rehberg would have to worry about it. Second, if Schweitzer runs for a Senate seat, he will primary Tester out and win by a landslide (I think that unlikely – if he runs for any position, it would be for Rehberg’s Representative seat).

      • Pogo Possum

        I really doubt you spend more time with Republican Conservatives than I do Moorecat, but that is a minor point.

        I never said there no disagreements in Republican circles. I said conservative Republicans and Tea Party members are behind Denny and they are. Of course you can always find someone somewhere on a blog who disagrees with something and we know as the political season begins to heat up we have lots of pretend conservatives taking pot shots to stir the pot and create spin. But our internal polling continues to show solid support for Denny by the GOP Conservative party base and by the vast majority of people who describe themselves as Tea Party members.

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