Archive for the ‘Conrad Burns’ Category

by Jay Stevens

Hey, everybody! I thought I’d drop in and say hello and give shouts out to old friends that did well in their election bids yesterday. Jhwygirl and I chatted on the phone the other day, and she said I should post every once in a while, and why the heck not? I miss Montana politics and the hubub of election day in Missoula.

So, anyhoo. Congrats go out to Jon Tester and Steve Bullock, who won very close and extremely important races. Congrats, too, to Linda McCulloch for destroying Brad Johnson, again. (Who will ever forget Johnson botching the 2006 election? Not Montana, apparently.) And to Monica Lindeen in defeating the reality-challenged Derek Skees. (Who won 46 percent of the vote?) Tim Fox‘ win in the attorney general race, and the nearly neck-and-neck OPI race should remind us how nuts and frustrating Montana election results can be. Do folks really like Fox’ dirty politicking? And why would anyone support Juneau’s excellence in public office with a vote for Welch? (Please speculate freely in the comments!)

Congrats, too, to old friends JP Pomnichowski, Bryce Bennett, and Ellie Hill for winning their races. And my sympathies for Richard Turner — a great guy and good friend who deserves a seat in Helena, even if his neighbors don’t see it. I wish someone had written more about the state races this year — I used to do it, and enjoyed it. Anybody want to analyze this year’s results?

What I really came here to talk about, though — me and everyone else, apparently — is Nate Silver. Yes, we all know about the punditry backlash, the dust-up with Joe Scarborough, and the fact that Silver nailed it. (I’m with Conor Friedersdorf: I trust Silver more because of the bet.) Okay, Silver might have destroyed punditry (um, no), but he’s not perfect: He muffed Montana.

Read it again: Nate Silver got Montana’s US Senate race wrong. 

Actually, he missed it by quite a bit. Silver projected that Dennis Rehberg would win the race, 49.9 percent to 48.4. Tester, according to the unofficial results, won 48.5 percent to 44.9. That’s a swing from a +1.5 Rehberg win to a -3.6 Rehberg loss, over five percentage points off from his projection. The odd thing is that recent polls showed Tester with a small lead — even Rasmussen, which tended to overestimate Republican support. How did Silver interpret those results with a “lean Republican” projection?

The big factor in his analysis was an adjustment he called “state fundamentals,” which, according to the blog, is “an alternative forecast of the outcome that avoids polls and instead looks at the partisan environment of a state, public fundraising totals, statistical measures of left-right ideology and candidate quality, and other quantifiable factors.” According to that measure, Rehberg had a 50.7 to 42.2 percent lead. 

That was egregiously wrong.

Why? For starters — and I’d need to check other states’ election results over the years to confirm this — Montana is notorious for splitting its ballots. Montana’s perfectly comfortable, for example, in voting for a Republican president, whisking in Democrats to all the statewide seats, and increasing the number of seats Republicans hold in the state legislature — all in the same election, which happened in 2008. This year, Montanans went for a Republican president, Democratic governor, and Democratic Senator, while dividing the statewide seats.

For another, Silver apparently didn’t calculate the effect of a third-party candidate. This election Libertarian Dan Cox won a whopping 29,979 votes, good for 6.52 percent of the vote, which is nearly double Tester’s margin of victory. That’s reminiscent of 2006, when Libertarian Stan Jones’ vote haul (10,377) was more than Tester’s margin of victory over Conrad Burns (~3,500). Tester, after all, won a smaller percentage of the electorate in 2012 than he did in 2006. It’s just that Montanans apparently dislike Dennis Rehberg even more than they did Conrad Burns — after his disgrace for his involvement in the Abramoff corruption scandals.

Either way, Silver’s election projection model is good, but it ain’t perfect.

by Pete Talbot

“I shouldn’t say this …” Conrad Burns said. It was the only accurate statement he made all day.

He then went on to insult Indians, Wall Street occupiers and the President.

He was talking to a small tea party crowd in Billings, an event organized by Americans for Prosperity and underwritten by the billionaire Koch brothers.

I’ve been waiting for another Montana blogger to write about this (Montana Cowgirl, Pogie?) but haven’t seen a thing. Maybe Conrad’s speech was so obtuse it didn’t deserve notice. I, however, think it might because it mirrors the far-right’s rhetoric of ignorance, intolerance and racism.

Ignorance: “Burns was there to ‘expose the Obama administration’s $40 billion energy tax grab that will destroy jobs, decrease government revenues at a time of exploding national debt and make America less competitive.'”

In reality, the idea is to eliminate taxpayer-financed oil subsidies and tax breaks, and reinvest the $40 billion into social programs, green energy and job creation, according to C’mon Conrad, continued subsidies for oil companies with record-breaking profits are going to reduce the deficit, destroy jobs and make America less competitive? Well, it might give the oil companies slightly less money to employ corporate mouthpieces such as yourself.

Intolerance: On the Wall Street/Missoula/Helena/etc. occupiers, Burns said: “I feel sorry for these kids. They’re kind of spoiled. They’re down there having a hissy fit. They don’t know who they’re mad at.”

Oh, they know who they’re mad at, these spoiled kids, it’s the likes of you: politicians who push economic inequality, and advance the financial institutions responsible for a recession that’s crippling middle-class Montanans and devastating the poor.

Racism: “We got a guy in the White House (who) believes all of us should be dependent on the government,” Burns said. “I shouldn’t say this, but he wants this whole country to become like an Indian reservation.”

Conrad is on the record as a bigot: Arabs, African-Americans and now, Native Americans. Those damn Indians … and after all that the government has done for them. (R.I.P. Elouise Cobell. Please ignore Burns’ spiteful comments.)

So Conrad is still out there. He’s working for GAGE, a Leo Giacometto/Son-of-Rehberg Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, and spewing far-right rhetoric.

In these troubled times, do we really need the former Senator sowing seeds of hate, divisiveness and malice. I think not.

by jhwygirl

A reminder to all you folks out there that HB418, the proposed law that would authorize “investor-owned equine slaughter or processing facilities” is set for hearing today at 3 p.m.

You can read more about this vile piece of legislation here at 4&20 or here at Left in the West or here at Will Work For Fish. And in those posts are other informative links that give even more information.

If you haven’t called or emailed yet, please take the 2 minutes necessary to do so and let the entire Senate Agricultural Committee know – in one easy, quick phone call – that this legislation isn’t something that we want here in Montana. You can do that by calling the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800. Your message will be delivered directly to the entire committee. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

Know that there are lobbyists up there – rumor has it Conrad Burns is chief cheerleader behind this whole sordid fiasco, and may even make an appearance today – lobbying away for this bill for outside corporate interests which include facilities in Canada and breeders who need somewhere to dispose of their “mistakes”. Burns has, in fact, had his heels dug in to promoting these facilities going back to 2004 when he slipped a clause into an appropriations bill that legalized the slaughter of wild horses on BLM grounds, and allowed the product to be shipped overseas. Now, all he wants is more facilities to do so.

And don’t you bet that isn’t true – otherwise, why do you think this bill is geared towards “investor-owned” facilities? Who else, frankly, would afford the old Senator Burns lobbying fees?

Somehow, I’m doubting Conrad’ll have the you-know-whats to show up backing this bill in person. I’m guessing he’ll probably send a friend.

by Pete Talbot

After reading jhwygirl’s various and sundry for the weekend, I stumbled across a few stories that also deserve attention.

First, I get most of my information the old-fashioned way: newspapers. As a matter of fact, most of the nuggets in this post were gleaned from local, regional and national newspapers.

So, this news, that the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News are drastically cutting newspaper delivery was a downer. Of course, staffs and content will also be cut. And as the New York Times explains in the story, other papers around the country may follow suit.

Will the Internet pick up the slack? It seems unlikely since online revenue from websites is a fraction of the revenue generated by advertising in the old, dead tree editions.

What about our local newspapers? Well, one of the Missoula Independent’s cheap holiday gift ideas were shares of stock in Lee Enterprises (publisher of the Missoulian, Ravalli Republic, Billings Gazette, Helena Independent-Record and Butte’s Montana Standard). Shares in Lee are going for around 50 cents, down 98 percent from a year ago.

I was surprised that the Indy included this in their list as I can’t imagine its profits are soaring, either, although it does fill a bit different niche.

Despite our criticism of local newspapers, reporters and editors, the demise of our dailies would be a great loss.

I gotta get me one of them dolls

Here’s an example of a local story that had me wondering in amazement. Reporter Jamie Kelly must have had a hard time writing this piece with a straight face.

Any doll that says “Islam is the light” or “Satan is king” deserves a place under my Christmas tree. Please, K-Mart, put them back on the shelf.

The financial crisis explained

Another reason I love my paper is the comics. When I was a kid in Wisconsin, I’d read the Chicago Tribune’s comics at my grandfather’s knee: Dick Tracy, L’il Abner, Mark Trail (Dick Tracy had this cool two-way wrist radio — the predecessor to today’s cell phone).

I still read the comics everyday. Saturday’s Dilbert unravels the mysteries of the current financial meltdown.

A conundrum

So here I sit, writing about the glories of newspapers on this blog site — a format that probably doesn’t reinforce, for the most part, newspaper readership.

And old 4&20 Blackbirds is doing OK. Sometime on Friday, around 4 p.m., we got our 400,000th visit. While this isn’t huge in terms of Daily Kos or Huffington Post, it ain’t bad for a local blog.

Kudos to Jay Stevens, who started this blog; jhwygirl, the site’s current bread-and-butter writer; Rebecca Schmitz (best headlines); our newest contributor, problembear; Jamie, Jason, et al.

And thanks to our readers and especially those who contribute comments.

by jhwygirl

Correction: Doug, of The Montana Misanthrope, notes in a post of his own that both Tester and Baucus also signed the letter referred to in the post below. I don’t know where he got that letter but it doesn’t change my view. As I said in the comments – until someone wants to cut me a check to subsidize my primary residence (at the very least), I say “No” to subsidizing second homes for anyone, irregardless of their income.

Representative Dennis Rehberg thinks that it is unfair for holders of cabin lessees on federal lands to have to pay rental fees based on fair appraised values of their cabin sites.

Now, why would an anti-tax guy like Rehberg feel that 2nd home owners on federal lands should be given a discounted subsidized-by-the-taxpayers free ride on federal lands? Seriously?

The Cabin User Fee Fairness Act of 2000, to which Rehberg refers in his letter to USFS undersecretary Mark Rey, was passed by the House on June 16, 2000 with an overwhelmingly nonpartisan vote. Even his predecessor Rick Hill voted for it. Both of Montana’s Senators – Burns and Baucus – voted for it too. The Cabin User Fee Fairness Act was part of the 2000 Department of the Interior appropriations bill.

The feds charge a rental fee based on the value of the lands – and the local forest offices have been gradually bringing these rental fees – for all types of uses – up to par with the going market prices on similarly situated property values. Are cabin lessees going to see increases in prices? In places where property values are going up, you bet. Should they? Why not? Why should vacation home owners – no matter how humble their abodes – get a free ride? A subsidized ride on the back of all federal taxpayers?

The USFS has to maintain the roads to these places – and they have to provide fire protection. Tyvek wrap isn’t cheap, nor are those retardant drops. There’s inspections and staffing and paperwork. That stuff isn’t cheap either. Then there’s the increased fire danger merely by having these things around. While many of these are off the grid, a whole bunch of them have electricity wired to them – older wooden structures with even older utility poles carrying electricity through miles of national forest. Lovely.

Apparently Rehberg and some others feel that the intent of the legislation is different from the printed word. They have a problem, it seems with “a fair appraisal process,” which is part of the legislation.

At a time when the USFS is strapped for operating monies, why would Denny call on the USFS to be reducing rental fees on vacation homes located in public national forests?

I mean, how many votes is that gonna get him? Does he really need to pander that far down the pole?

We probably don’t have to worry about Mark Rey caving on this one, though – cabin lessees, I doubt, reach the influence level of large corporations.

by Pete Talbot

John McCain is spending the Fourth at his home in Sedona, Arizona. Barack Obama is in Butte, America. He and his family will watch the parade and then host a picnic.

This is Obama’s second visit to the Mining City. I wonder if he’ll stop by the M&M Bar again?

Obama also has a state campaign manager and staff, and has been running TV spots. McCain has no staff and, really, no presence in Big Sky Country.

During the Republican caucuses in February, McCain came in third, behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. This year, he has yet to visit the state.

(He did visit once, and I went out to see him. It was 2000 and he was stumping for Conrad Burns. He flew into Missoula with Burns and held a rally out at Executive Aviation. McCain was working on campaign finance reform back then but had taken time out of his busy schedule to campaign for one of the most easily bought members of Congress. This irony was lost on the Republican Party faithful.)

Anyway, Obama wants Montana’s three electoral votes. McCain doesn’t seem to care. I applaud John McCain’s efforts in turning Montana from red to blue.

by Pete Talbot

It’s a gorgeous sunset to the west from the Holiday Garden Inn parking lot. I’ve donned another clean oxford shirt and I’m back at the Montana Republican state convention, as promised.

Just in time for keynote speaker Ron Paul. I’ve heard his rap before in Missoula and the crowd at UM was more enthusiastic than here.

Paul’s speech ran long, too long for this crowd. He had about 25% of the audience in the palm of his hand but the rest of the rank-and-file wanted the rah-rah, go Montana Republican message.

Paul presented the same subject: freedom, freedom, freedom. It’s hard to go wrong with that message but I saw eyes gloss over at the Federal Reserve, World Bank, IMF, UN portion of Paul’s speech. The guy can talk but I don’t think this was the message that most in the Montana GOP came to hear.

(Just got a cute beverage coozie from a Denny Rehberg staffer. It’s shaped like a cowboy boot and says “Boot PAC.” I’ll have to check that one out.)

I can’t find senate candidate Bob Kelleher anywhere and haven’t seen former Senator Conrad Burns either, although I heard he was auctioning off some cool Republican booty at a fundraiser.

It was just announced to me, in a bitter voice, that the delegate slate advanced by the executive nominating committee was accepted. I’m not sure what that means but since this info came from a Ron Paul supporter, I’m guessing there won’t be a lot of Ron Paul delegates from Montana going to the national convention in St. Paul.

There are Republican youths working the tables and some of the seniors are making their way back to their rooms. A convention is a convention and as much as it pains me to write this, go to Carol’s Missoulapolis for the blow-by-blow. She has better typing skills, understands the Republican mindset better than I ever will and is about as close to gonzo Republican blogging as you’ll ever see.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Ahhh, spring. It’s a marvelous time in the northern Rockies. It’s wonderful to see our fellow creatures–trout, wolf, waterfowl, grizzly bear–repopulate their historic range or return to Montana from their wintering grounds. Some creatures are even finding their ecological niche:

Former Sen. Conrad Burns has registered as a lobbyist

Isn’t it inspiring to watch nature at work?

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.

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.

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.

by Jay Stevens 

Here’s an intriguing bit of news: outgoing Senator Conrad Burns hinted at future plans in a speech today to the Montana Grain Growers Association convention:

Burns told the…convention that he planned to remain involved in issues such as litigation reform, taxes and fighting environmentalists – both in his last month in office and through a coalition he is helping organize.

A mysterious “coalition” to battle environmentalists? Hilarious. Sounds like he’ll be the baddie in the next Bond flick, “Gold Digger.”

But here’s the killer quote in the piece:

Burns said Thursday he wasn’t sure why he lost. The economy is good in Montana, unemployment is down, and incomes are rising, he said.

Completely unaware on so many levels. Blustering auctioneer to the end, eh? Forget about Abramoff and his shotgun mouth for a second, the economy quote is telling. As Babej and Pollack wrote in Forbes’Eight Marketing Lessons for ‘08”:

–When it comes to economics, relevance matters.

The Republican majority believed it deserved credit for strong economic numbers–low inflation and unemployment, high profits and stock indices–yet many voters didn’t see it that way. They saw higher gas prices, higher medical costs, higher interest rates–and little personal benefit from the highly touted tax cuts. If you are going to talk about the economy, make it relevant, like Ronald Reagan did with his famous question: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” Of course, Iraq and corruption were the key issues in the race. But when the GOP tried to throw a Hail Mary with the economy, it screamed “out of touch” to many average voters reeling under the combination of higher everyday costs, a decline in real wages and perceived erosion of their net worth as the housing market stalled.

While the most of us were being buried under rising health care, energy, and education costs, good ‘ole Connie was cuttin’ deals with Big Pharm, Big Energy, and Big Insurance. Forgetin’ the little folks was what did him in.

by Jay Stevens 

According to an ABC report, Jack Abramoff is giving up some information that might link Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ethics violations.

As convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff reported to federal prison today, a source close to the investigation surrounding his activities told ABC News that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was one of the members of Congress Abramoff had allegedly implicated in his cooperation with federal prosecutors.

No doubt the quacking will start on the right about how corruption is only important to the Montana leftys when it applies to Republicans. I could link to some of Coobs’ comments and posts that claim all the Burns – Abramoff hubbub was largely a political maneuver since, if nothing had come of the accusations by now, there was obviously nothing there, and ape his rhetoric. But I won’t, because corruption actually matters to me.


If Reid is guilty, fry him. I’ll be the first in line to applaud.

I’m holding judgment. Until there’s ample evidence of Reid’s misdoings – like in Burns’ case – I’ll just wait to see what happens. It’s not an election year, Reid isn’t Montanan. I’d prefer to focus on issues right now.

Even if Reid is guilty, the culture of current DC corruption is Republican. Abramoff-related convictions include Duke Cunningham, David Safavian, and Bob Ney. Tom Delay has been indicted. Prominently suspected Republicans include John Doolittle, Conrad Burns, Richard Pombo, Jerry Lewis, and Dennis Hastert. (And that’s just at the top of my head.) If Reid is really a suspect, that’s a ratio of 9 to 1. You do the math, but that doesn’t look like a bi-partisan scandal to me.

I’ve never been a big fan of the DC Democratic leadership. Democrats caved in on Iraq, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito, just to name a few. Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama et al. threw Ned Lamont under a bus. H*ll, the DC gang wanted John Morrison to be our Senate candidate.

Even if Democratic leaders are spineless and too political (a nasty habit with politicians), it is the GOP who created the Iraq mess, the Patriot Act, and Samuel Alito. They created the “culture war,” bitter partisanship, and the ugly rhetoric that drives most political discourse. To me, there’s no comparison.

Finally, it’s for all of these reasons that I started blogging and that I whole-heartedly supported Jon Tester’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate. That’s the thing; I want to change Washington DC, not contribute to it. I don’t expect it all to transform magically overnight, if ever, into an ideal body, but if we fight, seat-by-seat, to replace the out-of-touch ethically compromised technocrats with genuine, honest, and competent people interested in the electorate, well…maybe we can make a difference.

Replacing Conrad Burns with Jon Tester was a great beginning.

by Jay Stevens 

Last night at the Tester victory party, state representative-elect Michele Reinhart showed up. I joked with her that she outpolled Jon Tester, because in HD 97 she won 70.47% of the vote, while Tester picked up a measly 64% of Missoula’s vote overall.

She had a six-point edge on Tester.

Of course, comparing these statistics is wrong on so many levels: Tester’s vote is for the county overall; Reinhart’s for one House Disctrict in a liberal section of a liberal city. Oh, and Tester was running against a three-term U.S. Senator with wide name recognition and who had spent, by some accounts, close to $10 million in his re-election effort; Reinhart ran against a member of Montana’s Constitution Party who had not actively campaigned at all.

So Reinhart picked up 70% against a whacked-out, paleo-conservative who wants to abolish income tax, public schooling, and the Department of Health and Human Services.

But…then…that means Burns did only six points better in all of Missoula county, which includes conservative swaths. Six points better than a right-wing extremist who didn’t campaign at all.

–by Jay Stevens 

Winner: Jon Tester. It wasn’t the election he was shooting for. But he ran a decent campaign largely on the strength of his character and experience, and he won just enough votes in the rural areas to allow the cities to carry him into office.

Loser: Conrad Burns. Let’s face it. Tester was a great candidate and sparked enthusiasm in places like Missoula, but it was Burns a lot of people were voting against. That’s not a bad thing; it’s good to see that voters feel they should hold their representatives accountable. The rumors are swirling about investigations into Burns’ Abramoff-dealings, and I suspect he’ll be back in the spotlight soon enough. This can’t be a good time for our former junior Senator.

Winner: Missoula. As a farmer and third-generation Montanan, Tester was supposed to have crossover appeal. But in the end, only a fraction of his vote came from those crossing over. In rural counties, he picked up maybe an extra 20% over Democratic House candidate, Monica Lindeen, and I suspect a number of those votes were cast against Burns. In the end it was turnout in the pro-Tester neighborhoods that won this election, most notably in Missoula, where voter turnout may have exceeded 70 percent, of which two-thirds pulled for Tester. Missoula now has to be considered a political block to be reckoned with in the state, not just an isolated outpost of crazed hippies.

Loser: Rural Montana. They wanted Conrad Burns. They really, really, really wanted Conrad Burns. Some rural counties pulled for our former Senator at a 70 percent clip. Tester is apparently less popular in the rural part of the state than Schweitzer was in his bid for a Senate seat. Schweitzer lost that race; Tester won his. As the western cities grow, the eastern part of the state is in danger of losing some political clout.

Winner: Howard Dean and the DNC. Thanks to Dean’s 50-state strategy, Montana Democrats had the organization foundations to mount an effective GOTV attack in the last weekend before the election. Dean had been criticized by Democratic leaders for squandering funds to bulk up state offices in the reddest of districts, but it paid off here in Montana last week.

Loser: The DLC. A “centrist” organization that has vied to be the dominant force in Democratic politics, it was a complete non-factor in this race. Can you name a single DLC candidate outside of Hilary Clinton? Bill Clinton’s recent conference, in which he explains how the 2006 election results is a clear rejection of extremist ideology is being ignored by virtually everybody. Let’s face it. The DNC organized; the netroots inspired and opened up the process; the DCCC and DSCC provided the funds.

Winner: The left blogosphere and netroots activism. One of the main criticisms of the blogs was that no blog-supported candidate had ever won a general election. Well, 2006 put this crit to rest. Two Senators — Tester and Webb – were both Net-supported. Not to mention some valuable House pickups. While Connecticut’s Ned Lamont lost his general-election bid, his anti-war campaign energized Democrats everywhere and forced the issue on the nation. Would there have been a sweep without Lamont? Not likely.

Loser: The DC punditry. Man, did these guys get everything wrong. They poo-pooed the notion that Iraq and civil liberties were winning campaign issues. All summer they denies the possibility that the Democrats would even win the House. They said the Burns was going to win back his Senate seat because of tax rhetoric. They said Idaho would never be in play. They said bloggers were extremists, the electorate conservative, Bush suffering only a temporary setback. They depicted Karl Rove as a genius. In short, keep it tuned right here, folks.

Winner: People-power. We couldn’t have done it with the thousands of small donations, Tester house parties, and the amazing amount of door-knocking, phone calling, and chatter on the streets and roads of Montana.

Loser: Money. Morrison outspent Tester – what? – three to one in the primary. Burns outspent Tester – what? – two or three to one in the general election. The GOP flew in lawyers and volunteers and had robo-calls and push-polls, and Tester had you. They lost.

So what about you? Who were your winners and losers?

by Jay Stevens 

Senator Conrad Burns’ communications director, James Pendleton, has written an excellent and sincere personal concession-post. In it, Pendleton praises Conrad Burns’ service to the country and state the past 18 years, and comments on the man’s character and legislative history.

Pendleton also congratulates Jon on the victory, but laces his praise with a warning:

There are rightful celebrations this week among his supporters, and I can’t say I blame them. I would offer a word of caution though. This wasn’t like winning the Superbowl. This is more like having a baby. A celebratory event for sure, but the work is just beginning. To quote Conrad, it’s going to be like drinking from a firehose as he gets his legs under him. He has a good man in his stable in Bill Lombardi, with qualified Senate experience and a thoughtful and articulate way about him. I hope Jon draws from that. I also hope that he is able to maintain his intention of making the Senate look a little bit more like Montana. We would all benefit from that.

That said, he’s got a daunting task ahead of him, as the problem isn’t the individual member, but the collective machinery that is Congress. The institutionalized mentality of superegos, fiefdoms, and inherent laziness that panders to the extremes; inevitably creating milquetoast legislation that accomplishes little other than to expand government, abdicate responsibility, and waste tax dollars. It’s going to take more than a Mr. Smith to change this Washington, and he’s going to need to make some converts on both sides of the aisle, and both sides of the chamber in order to accomplish real change.

First off, I wish this had been the tone coming from the Burns’ camp all election cycle. It is thoughtful and reasoned and meaningful. I don’t want to kick any dogs while they’re down, but I will say Burns’ other communications man was not so…communicative. Certainly Tester’s camp had its share of blowhard statements: there’s blame enough to go around for the negative tenor of the election.

I guess I’m saying I found Pendleton’s piece moving. It’s an excellent tribute to, in my opinion, a compromised man, and tinged with the fire of experience in its blunt warning to Tester and his supporters.

Give it a well-deserved read.

Thanks, James.

Burns Concedes

by Matt Singer 

It’s over.



by Matt Singer

The Senator-unelect from Montana is refusing to concede saying that we should wait to count all the votes. Right now, 2,847 votes separate the two. Secretary of State Brad Johnson has essentially said the race is over. The ballots remaining to be counted? Roughly 1,000 provisional ballots and an unknown number of military ballots. Assuming that there are several thousand military ballots as of yet unreturned (anyone know when they cut off counting ballots coming from military?) and that all of the provisionals get counted, it is still highly unlikely that anything reverses.

Still, Burns can’t say goodbye. No surprise there. But there’s another question I’d like to ask of Burns and his army of press flacks: Is the Senator or his campaign currently planning any lawsuits or other challenges to the results? Or are they simply waiting and seeing?

by Matt Singer

If you were to sit down and write an article about how to win a statewide election in Montana, you would probably think the Tester strategy was suicide.

Tester lost Yellowstone County, albeit narrowly, meaning that we now have two statewide officeholders who failed to carry Billings (the other being Brad Johnson).

Tester didn’t come close to carrying rural Montana. In fact, rural Montana went pretty overwhelmingly for Burns.

Tester didn’t win by carrying senior citizens — regular voters — by a wide margin. In fact, according to exit polls, he narrowly lost them.

Tester won by putting up a huge margin in Missoula County, turning out his base, relying on urban progressives, and young voters.

In other words, despite the biographical similarities, Schweitzer and Tester could not have won two more different campaigns. Schweitzer received 61% of the vote in Missoula, carrying a 13,000 vote margin. Tester received 64% of the vote in Missoula, carrying a nearly 15,000 vote margin — despite lower turnout in 2006. Meanwhile, in a decent example of how small county returns came in, look at Musselshell. Schweitzer pulled 37% of the vote. Tester came in six points lower — at 31%. Similar trends occured all over rural Montana.

So, let’s cut to exit polls. In 2004, Schweitzer did well among male voters, getting by with virtually no gender gap. Tester had one, albeit small. Schweitzer got 52% of young voters. Tester pull 56%. Schweitzer got 69% of the votes of voters over 65. Tester got merely 48%.

Schweitzer posted his best numbers among the working class ($15,000-$30,000 a year in income) with 62% of the vote. Tester drew only 51% of this crowd.

In 2004, Schweitzer won the rural vote 50%-48%. Tester lost it this year 53%-45%. Schweitzer won both “Urban West” and “Eastern Montana” while Brown won “Rural West.” Tester only won the Urban West, won it by a wider margin and its share of the electorate increased.

In other words, Tester just may be the first urban elected official to ever come out of Montana. He got elected with a polarized electorate in a state where a polarized electorate should have helped the Republican. He also made big gains in terms of cementing young Montanans as Democrats — something that Schweitzer has done well since winning election.

Finally, Democratic claims regarding early vote and same-day registration appear to be vindicated. These two changes in election law may very well have changed the fate of this election.
It appears that legislative races did not go as well as we might have hoped, but there are a lot of signs of life in those down ballot races.

by Matt Singer
Alright, conservative friends. You can all stop that “Matt Singer suicide watch” or whatever it was. ‘Cause it is looking clearer and clearer that we won. Jon Tester has declared victory. With it, the Democrats take the U.S. Senate. We also took the U.S. House. It’s time to get this country back on track.

I’m only now looking more closely at state election results. There’s some interesting things happening out there. More later.

Update:  The AP calls it for Tester!

I realize this is old news, the “defection” of right-wing blogger John Cole, who finally cracked and disowned the GOP. But I hadn’t read his post or Kos’ response, as busy as I was with GOTV work, “activist” blogging, being a daddy, and working. But the posts are important — stirring, even — a reminder at what we’re fighting for here in Montana and everywhere across the United States.

It started with Cole’s admitting he’d had it with supporting the Republican Party. The Shiavo debacle cracked him.

In short, it really sucks looking around at the wreckage that is my party and realizing that the only decent thing to do is to pull the plug on them (or help). I am not really having any fun attacking my old friends- but I don’t know how else to respond when people call decent men like Jim Webb a pervert for no other reason than to win an election. I don’t know how to deal with people who think savaging a man with Parkinson’s for electoral gain is appropriate election-year discourse. I don’t know how to react to people who think that calling anyone who disagrees with them on Iraq a “terrorist-enabler” than to swing back. I don’t know how to react to people who think that media reports of party hacks in the administration overruling scientists on issues like global warming, endangered species, intelligent design, prescription drugs, etc., are signs of… liberal media bias.

And it makes me mad. I still think of myself as a Republican- but I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder ‘Why can’t they see what I see?” I don’t think I am crazy, I don’t think my beliefs have changed radically, and I don’t think I have been (as suggested by others) brainwashed by my commentariat.

I hate getting up in the morning, surfing the news, and finding more and more evidence that my party is nothing but a bunch of frauds. I feel like I am betraying my friends in the party and the blogosphere when I attack them, even though I believe it is they who have betrayed what ‘we’ allegedly believe in. Bush has been a terrible President. The past Congresses have been horrible- spending excessively, engaging in widespread corruption, butting in to things they should have no say in (like end of life decisions), refusing to hold this administration accountable for ANYTHING, and using wedge issues to keep themselves in power at the expense of gays, etc. And I don’t know why my friends on the right still keep fighting for these guys to stay in power. Why do they keep attacking decent people like Jim Webb- to keep this corrupt lot of fools in office? Why can’t they just admit they were sold a bill of goods and start over? Why do they want to remain in power, but without any principles? Are tax cuts that important? What is gained by keeping troops in harms way with no clear plan for victory? With no desire to change course? With our guys dying every day in what looks to be for no real good reason? Why?

I couldn’t have written a better diatribe against the GOP myself. And every single word of this impassioned post applies doubly to Conrad Burns. This is the struggle that Montana Republicans are having as they look at themselves in the mirror in the morning. They’ve got their cr*p Party and they’re terrified of voting for a Democrat.

Kos — who you might expect to whoop with glee at a conservative defection — actually sympathizes with Cole. You see, the great Wizard of Kos was once…*gasp*…a Republican!

Lest I come off as condescending or patronizing, please understand that I left the Republican Party in 1992 for pretty much the same reasons, if in a different era. It was at the height of the Christian Coalition’s rise to power. The deficit was a mess. The politics of Lee Atwater were dragging politics into the gutter — a foreshadowing of the Reign of Rove. And really, as socially liberal as I am, I am still and always will be a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility and a healthy, robust entrepreneurial business climate. I was a Libertarian Republican in a party already moving toward its present authoritarian foundation.

I was a precinct captain for the Republican Party at the age of 16. I campaigned for Bush Sr. I door knocked, phone banked, stuffed envelopes — whatever. I have a picture somewhere of me and Papa Bush, taken during one of his campaign swings through Illinois in 1988. I dug up an old comic book I had drawn together. In the dedication page, I dedicated it to the “Republican Party”.

And despite all that work, all the emotional investment, all the fights I had gotten into because of my trust in the GOP, I had to come to a realization that it was all for naught. That what I thought and hoped the Republican Party was about really, at the end of the day, was nowhere near the reality. Coming just two years after I tore myself away from the Catholic Church, I felt like everything I had believed in for so long was a cruel lie.
I could be flip and say, “come on in, the water’s fine on our side!” But first of all, it’s not like our party doesn’t have its own problems. And more importantly, partisan fealty (especially for us political junkies), like religion, goes much deeper than the intellect. It cuts to the very core of who we are, of how we define ourselves. That’s why for many of the disillusioned, it’s simply easier to tune out or become “independent” than it is to jump in bed with the other party.

Here’s the thing. We’re a country in crisis right now. We’re embroiled in a terrible war that’s draining our financial resources and slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocents and destabilizing the most dangerous region in the world.

We’re in a constitutional crisis: our executive has attacked the very foundations of our legal tradition in habeas corpus. Forget all the other stuff, the torture bill allows the President to jail whomever he wants and ensures they’ll never see a trial or light of day. Even if they’re innocent. Or a political prisoner, not a criminal.

We’re in a financial crisis. Our budget deficit is alarming and growing rapidly. Spending is out of control. Tax cuts targeting the wealthiest in our country are irresponsible when the middle class is burdened by out-of-control housing and health-care costs, never mind working class families.

Our Congress is corrupt, our President incompetent. Conrad Burns and Dennis Rehberg are the worst of the worst. They’ve rubber-stamped every Bush foreign policy plan. They stood by and even supported the administration as it bungled the Iraqi occupation. They lard federal budgets with pork while cutting taxes and giving subsidies to multinational corporations. They take from creeps like Abramoff — Burns changed his vote for Abramoff, Rehberg made constituents use Abramoff clients to represent them in Congress.

You conservatives may not like everything the Democratic Party stands for, but right now we can’t afford six more years of Burns and two of Rehberg. We need to right the ship, address the crucial issues affecting the country. Once things are back on track we can resume our old squabbling, the little nitpicky issues we each obsess over. But right now it’s time to save this country.

by Matt Singer

Someone has to do it.

  • Jon Tester wins by 1.5%. He henceforth is known as “Landslide” Jon.
  • Populist Sherrod Brown wins election to the U.S. Senate by a wide margin in what was supposed to be one of the closest elections of the cycle. The DLC’s collective head explodes.
  • Self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders wins election to the U.S. Senate by a wide margin (including attracting a number of Republican votes). Libertarian’s heads explode.
  • Democrats pick up a U.S. House seat in either Idaho or Wyoming. Hell freezes over.
  • Democrats win the Governorship of Colorado and possibly of Idaho, leaving the Rocky Mountain states (with the exception of Utah, and possibly Idaho) firmly blue at the state level.
  • Democrats may lose the Montana House, but not without picking up some unlikely seats (and I still think they take both chambers in Montana; it’s the PSC that I’m unsure of).
  • Conrad Burns finds a good-paying job with big oil, the telecomms, the big financial companies, or, simply, with Leo Giacometto.

Anyone else got predictions?

By Jay Stevens 

Fancy that. Recently the Great Falls Tribune published the results of a USA Today/Gallup poll that shows Jon Tester with a healthy lead over Conrad Burns in the state’s Senate race. You’ll never guess Burns’ campaign’s reaction.

They yanked the paper’s credentials.

A Burns spokesman dismissed the USA Today/Gallup poll as inaccurate and initially said the campaign was revoking one newspaper’s credentials to attend Burns’ election night event in Billings because it wrote about the poll.Jason Klindt first said Monday that the Great Falls Tribune would not be allowed to attend, before changing his mind later in the day.

“Running a bogus poll on the day before an election to try and suppress Republican voter turnout is irresponsible and in poor taste,” Klindt told The Associated Press on Monday.

The campaign decided to allow the paper’s reporters to attend “so as not to punish the readers,” Klindt said.

Hilarious. Apparently statistics have a liberal bias.

But on a more serious note, Burns’ camp’s initial reaction – punishing the paper for printing news not friendly to their candidate – should serve as a reminder to all good American citizens of what’s at stake here. They want to curtail your right to information if it counters their political beliefs. They did it with climate change, they’ve threatened to do it to bloggers, as well. They want to control the information you receive.

In the end, this little bit of hysterical over-reaction from Burns’ campaign hints that their GOTV ain’t going so hot… I mean, if they’re worried what effect this news will have on one of the most conservative areas of the state…well…that probably means they’re having trouble convincing people to go to the polls.

By Jay Stevens 

The excitement across Missoula is palpable today. The rally at the Children’s museum was raucous. Monica Lindeen, Max Baucus, Pat Williams, John Melcher, and Brian Schweitzer were all there to support Tester. Nearly everyone in the room – two hundred? – had already voted and had volunteered or is going to volunteer on Election Day. It’s safe to say that Missoula is firmly in Tester’s camp.

It’s not too late to volunteer. Tester’s blog has the numbers, addresses, and contacts for all the major Democratic headquarters throughout the state. If you’re shy about cold-calling or knocking on doors, there is plenty you can still do for Tester on Election Day. Transport people to the polls. Support the poll watchers. Paperwork, errand-running, anything.

You can also help out on your own. Proudly display a Tester button on your lapel, put up a sign in your window or on your lawn. Engage everybody who looks interested. If they’re unsure, tell them – honestly, but not condescendingly or with anger – why you’re backing Tester.

You can also call anybody you know who might not vote. An elderly neighbor. A single mom. Offer them a ride or babysitting in exchange for the few minutes it will take to vote. Call all your friends and remind them to go out and vote. Urge all your Tester-backing friends to do the same.

Both parties have organized machines to get out the vote. Give it the personal touch and start the landslide from your kitchen.

And you know what? Things look very good for the Democrats right now in Montana, based on anecdotal evidence. Here’s a comment from athene-owl here in Missoula:

I just voted early at the Missoula County courthouse, fifteen minutes before the cutoff for absentee ballots (noon) and there was a line out the door. It was a pretty charged environment. One guy said he hadn’t voted for ten years.

Does a guy come out of a ten-year hiatus to vote for Conrad Burns? No, I don’t think so, either.

Here’s part of an email from a Democratic activist in the Flathead involved in GOTV efforts there:

A friend of mine called me to go the Cheney event to scout the opposition. I said no, I would spend that time phone banking. (Which I did.) She went, and said it was a very low energy affair. They tried to get a chant going several times “Conrad”… and couldn’t… it just died. She said Burns didn’t work the crowd, he just appeared on stage for a few minutes and left. Dick Cheney spent his time talking about “Boogie men, Democrats.” She said the crowd did not appear to get energized by the affair.She then joined me at the Tester rally in Kalispell on Wednesday. She said the energy difference was very noticeable. We had over 500 people there. I grew up here, and I can’t remember seeing 500 Democrats together in the Flathead ever. And more importantly I saw traditional moderate conservatives excited about Tester. They have crossed over!

I spent about 5 hours house canvassing in Kalispell yesterday. We saw a rental car van, dropping college students with Burns campaign literature. People are getting tired of being called, and contacted.

I’m going to steal this next line of thought from the Governor, who gave a much more spirited rendition about an hour ago: A lot of people talk about the vaunted GOTV machine of the GOP. They’re shipping people in from all over the country. They’re sending in lawyers from Philadelphia and New Jersey to discourage voting in low-income areas and on the reservations across the state. And all we’ve got is you.

Advantage, ours.

One quick last note. Schweitzer mentioned in his speech today that Missoula was instrumental in his election. He got 31,000 and change votes from this county. If Tester wins a thousand more – 32,000 and change – he’ll go to the Griz-Cats football game and allow Monty to tackle him in the North End Zone.

Let’s let that bear loose on our governor!

The New York Times has a piece on the robo-push-poll telephone calls an Ohio group has unleashed on behalf of Conrad Burns.

The Ohio-based conservatives behind the new campaign, who include current and former Procter & Gamble managers, say the automated system can reach vast numbers of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional volunteer phone banks and is the most ambitious political use of the telemarketing technology ever undertaken.

But critics say the automated calls are a twist on push polls — a campaign tactic that is often criticized as deceptive because it involves calling potential voters under the guise of measuring public opinion, while the real intent is to change opinions with questions that push people in one direction or the other.

Fantastic. They’re using telemarketing techniques to “push” people towards a “product.” In this case, Boss Hogg Burns. It sort of makes sense in a twisted sort of way: Burns does have all the charisma of a cheap nose-hair trimmer.

Worse still, the group Common Sense is one of those Trevis-Butcher-Howie-Rich-like mysterious “nonprofits” that doesn’t have to reveal their backers, members, or funding. So what we’ve got here is another big-money out-of-state rat trying to buy an election.

Why can’t these people leave us alone?

Are we going to let them buy our votes?

Posted by touchstone

by Matt Singer

Alright, folks. Hopefully, you’re used to reading me over at Left in the West. Well, I screwed up and went with a lousy domain registrar and now I can’t renew my domain. I’ll get a new-and-improved shop set up after the election, but with all the work to be done, that’s a low priority.

So what’s happening?

  • Both the Republicans and the Democrats have unprecedented Get Out the Vote operations up-and-running in Montana. I’ve seen some folks trying to compare these two operations. Let me tell you, unless you’ve got a background in field organizing and have really had a chance to get inside info from the two side’s field operations, you’re probably not in a great position to judge which side is doing the better job. By all indications, though, both sides are running extremely strong.
  • Gallup is polling Tester way up: 50-41. My gut? I don’t believe it. We may be up. We ain’t up 9. I think we’re up 1 or 2. That’s more in line with other polling. A 1 or 2 point race is also one that will be determined by turnout.
  • Early voting is way, way up. This one is across the board. Yellowstone is looking at 20,000 early voters. Missoula County is looking at 15,000. Cascade has had 11,000 or so. County offices are also seeing walk-in voters (people who were unregistered). How many of these are there? As far as I know, no one has firm numbers on that. Who do they help? Good question. My gut says new voters help challengers, as few people get excited by incumbents, but we’ll see. Both sides are spinning hard on early voters. We’ll see which team actually delivered.

Alright, that’s it for now. My guess is that we’re probably out of new polls except for the one that matters. In spite of the recent surge for Burns, the consensus view is still that we’re in the driver’s seat in Montana. TradeSports has us up. Most folks are still predicting a Tester victory.

Rasmussen released another poll for the Montana Senate race, and the results are encouraging: Tester at 50 percent, Burns at 48 percent. Based on Rasmussen trends, it looks like Tester’s support is holding steady at or above 50 percent, while Burns wobbles between 46 and 48 percent.

This is good news because, while Burns looks like he’s lured some of his conservative flock back into his camp from the undecided voters, Tester isn’t losing anybody.

With just 53 hours before polls close, it’ll take quite a lot for Burns to climb up that final two percent, especially with Democratic GOTV efforts in full swing.

And that’s important. According to some experienced Democratic activists down at Missoula HQ, they’ve never seen such an organized and energetic push as what’s happening this year. That is, all the volunteering you’re doing and all the money you’ve donated is actually playing out this weekend.

Posted by touchstone

I had my mother look up the timeline for the Marianas Islands vote. She did a fantastic job. I’d polish it up, but I think the timeline speaks for itself. But before we dig into the facts, let’s lay a little background on why the Marianas Islands vote was important.

Here’s what was going on. The garment manufacturers of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) – a protectorate of the United States – were basically suckering poor Asians to the islands to stock their sweatshops:

This month PBS televised a special documentary by Bill Moyers showing the forced servitude of Asian women who arrive in the Northern Marianas after paying traffickers up to $7,000. They believed that they would end up instead on the mainland U.S. These guest workers constitute 58 percent of the population of Saipan.According to a May 2006 NPR “Fresh Air” show about Saipan, many of these workers are forced to work 20-hour days in the island’s $2 billion garment industry. Workers are fired for pregnancy or are forced to have abortions.

The problem of forced prostitution of these largely female guest workers is not new. Six years ago, Kwon Enterprises was prosecuted, according to ABC’s “20/20,” for forcing guest worker “waitresses” to become prostitutes.

A May 2006 article in Ms. Magazine described serious nutrition and substandard housing problems endured by these workers.

Four nations, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, have filed official complaints with the U.S. about working conditions in Saipan.

And for those of you who hate “causes” and are more worried about national security, the Marianas Islands provides a sort of loophole for immigrants to enter the United States. Basically, there’s no federal control of its border, despite it being a protectorate. The labor bill that Burns helped kill after a $5K contribution would have tightened our border.

The goon behind the garment industry is Willie Tan. He was a major client of Jack Abramoff.

A bill came before the Senate in 1998 and again in 2000 that would have extended federal oversight over the islands and strengthened labor and immigration laws that would have, in effect, ended sex slavery, forced abortions, and sweatshop conditions and would have strengthened the borders against illegal immigration, possible terrorists, and the importation of meth.

It didn’t happen, because of $5,000.

Here are the details:

1997: In December, Leo Giacometto, Burns’ chief of staff, visited CNMI on a trip paid by the host. The purpose of the trip, and other like trips of Congressional staffers and delegates, was part of “an aggressive campaign to educate,” according to Jack Abramoff. Golf was played.

1998: The Members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources recommended adoption of the first Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Implementation Act (S. 1275). The bill targeted immigration and minimum wage in the CNMI. The recommendation was reported in the Senate, but no further action was taken.

In 1999, Representative John Doolittle, R-California, helped Abramoff secure a lobbying contract with CNMI. Abramoff donated $4,000 to Doolittle’s campaign and $10,000 to his PAC. Doolittle helped CNMI legislator Benigne Fetial win election as the Speaker of the House, and he, in turn, convinced CNMI legislators to hire Abramoff’s firm, Preston Galeis as its lobbying firm.

Also, in 1999, Senator Charles Murkowski of Alaska sponsored the second Northern Mariana Islands Implementation Act (S 1052) which asked for immigration reform, but omits any reference to increasing the minimum wage. The bill was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, only after several amendments. After being under consideration in the House Committee on Resources for a long time, it was killed. Representative Don Young, R-Arkansas, blocked the bill sponsored by House Democrats that would have made the garment industry in CNMI comply with federal labor laws, after he made a trip to the Mariana Islands.

The CNMI leadership, concerned about a crackdown on their island hired Jack Abramoff in 2001 for $1.36 million to stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops in the American territory. The Western Pacific Economic Council was formed to flow funds to Abramoff . Abramoff secured a meeting with Conrad Burns.

In February of 2001, Abramoff donated $5,000 to Friends of the Big Sky, Senator Burns’ PAC. In March, Abramoff made another donation of $2,000.

In 2001, Burns who served on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee which was considering legislation that the CNMI opposed, also ran a Senate appropriations subcommittee which controlled spending for the Interior Department which regulates U.S. territories. On April 3, 2001, Burns had met with Rita Inos, commisioner of Education in the CNMI, and sister-in-law of Eloy Inos, an executive of Tan Holdings Company (Which owns garment manufacturing among other business in the Marianas, and is the largest employer in the island), and who was a client of Abramoff’s Benigno Fitial was also present at that meeting. In April, Burns received $5,000 donation from Inos. Burns and staff met with Abramoff’s lobbying team on at least 8 occasions, and collected $12,000 in donations.

On May 23, 2001, one month and three days after the $5,000 donations, Burns voted against the exact bill as he voted for in 2000 . He called for a roll-call vote so that his vote was recorded. Burns said that he didn’t remember why he voted the way he did the first time around, but that he voted against the the second bill after reading government reports that showed expanding federal immigration control would hurt the islands’ economy.

So there it is. For $5,000, Burns changed his vote and enabled sex slavery, importation of meth, forced abortions, illegal immigration, and sweatshop conditions to persist.

Burns has much to be ashamed with for these series of events. But the figure that keeps jumping out at me is this: five thousand dollars. He did all this for $5,000. That’s all it cost.

Have you no dignity, Senator?

Posted by touchstone

So Burns and Tester are closing. Matt’s not surprised. He thinks it’s natural that Montana is loath to give up its conservative Senator. It’s been awhile since the Democrats have upended a Republican incumbent at the statewide level. The GOP says it’s because Burns has been running an incessant campaign accusing Tester of being a tax-raiser.

I can’t believe the tax issue is really what’s driving the pinch in poll numbers.

Why? Does anyone out there really think that the foremost worry on Montanans’ minds are taxes? If so, then the GOP is running a d*mn fine race. Only they’re not. Burns’ campaign for months was framed around the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. Oops. The Burns’ campaigned worked for months to portray Tester as an out-of-touch liberal. Oops.

I think Matt’s a little closer to reality here. What I think’s going on, is not that Montanans want to keep Conrad Burns – he’s still the most-loathed US Senator – they hate him. I have not spoken to a single Burns backer who’s voting for the incumbent because s/he wants to. Not one. What I think is going on is that Montanans are nervous about the success of the Democratic Party across the country.

That is, they’re afraid of contributing to the “bluing” of the country.

If Burns’ were as this despised, and Tester the Democratic candidate, and the political composition of the country at stake, I think this race would be a push-over for Tester.

But it’s not.

If elected, though, Tester would be one of the stars of the entering class of new Democratic Senators. He’s a populist and a netroot candidate, and will command a lot of curiosity and pull with the Democratic leadership. He’s an independent voter, he has a mind of his own. He’s got a strong record in the state senate of representing average Montanans with tax breaks, health care reform, and funding for public colleges. He’s on our side. The thing is, if Tester’s elected, we’d have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really make a difference in Washington, to make, as Tester himself says it, Washington look a little more like Montana.

But the bottom line is this: do you want change? If you want an endless clusterf*ck in Iraq, vote for Conrad Burns. If you want pay-for-play to become a permanent part of how our government does business, vote for Conrad Burns. If you like spiraling health-care costs and the erosion of the middle-class family, vote for Conrad Burns.

If you have hope and optimism and a view to the future, vote for Jon Tester.

Posted by touchstone

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