Archive for the ‘Conrad Burns’ Category

The Missoula Independent’s endorsements are up. They’re fantastic, and I pretty much agree with each. Here are the statewide endorsements. The Senate:

Hot damn, an easy one: Jon Tester for Senate!

The Indy calls him “genuine,” and better able to represent “average” Montanans in DC. Also:

He has established himself as an unrancorously mainstream politician with an independent mind, and while running a campaign necessarily tilted toward the missteps and implied misdeeds of his opponent, he has successfully communicated a message of progress and hope.

And Burns?

His opponent, on the other hand, is an embarrassment, nationally and, more painfully, at home. He speaks poorly, he appears not so much to think as to repeat, his campaign has been an endless parade of base indignities against the very idea of civil democracy, and he is the veritable tottering headmaster of the more-of-the-same school.

The Indy rails against his tax policies, support of the President’s war plans, his attitudes toward public lands, his negative campaigning, his foot-in-the mouth disease, etc. and company.

The endorsement was whole-hearted and sincere.

And for the House?

Rehberg is a formidable legislator who throws around a lot of weight as Montana’s sole representative, but given his persistent “stay the course” attitude on the ill-conceived war in Iraq, his votes favoring turning over public lands to private developers, his vote in favor of a bill authorizing the Bush administration to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions and eliminate habeas corpus for “unlawful enemy combatants,” and his unwavering support for the most disastrous and frightening administration in modern American history, we think a change is long overdue.Lindeen has run a serious and passionate campaign, even if it has gone largely unnoticed. She can hardly be blamed for the low-profile nature of this contest given the overwhelming attention paid to the nationally targeted Senate race. But Lindeen has been solid in her support for renewable energy and biofuels, and we believe her when she says she won’t be simply another rubber stamp for the Bush administration. Those are reasons enough to earn our vote.


The Indy also supports the lobbyist reform initiative 153. They give the nod to the hike in the state’s minimum wage, initiative 151, with this zinger: “If a business can’t make it in this state without riding on the backs of people making $5.15 an hour, then it deserves to fail.”

Again, amen.

Posted by touchstone


More great news for Tester: the Billings Gazette has endorsed the Big Sandy farmer over his Republican opponent, Conrad Burns.


As they point out, Tester led the Montana Dems to do precisely that as President of the Montana Senate. The Gazette reviews a bunch of Tester’s record, basically concluding that someone who lived up to his promises in Montana is more likely to be trusted than Conrad Burns.


In fact, if you know someone who is still undecided…or might not vote because of all the negativity, send them the link to the Gazette article. It’s about positive reasons to prefer Tester–something that I think even the Tester campaign has lost site of in the past few weeks.

Neither have commented on the Great Falls Tribune’s endorsement, but it’s probably more earth-shattering, considering Great Falls’ political leanings. That probably explains why the Tribune danced around the issues that make Montanans despise Burns at a 56 percent clip: corruption and rubber-stamping for President Bush. Instead, they focused on an easy target: Burns’ inability to keep his foot out of his mouth:

More troublesome is that with Burns you also get a tendency to say indiscreet things.Taken individually, those things — from his “raghead” crack to the comment about a Guatemalan worker — aren’t really all that awful. But taken together, they betray an attitude and world view that, in an age of increasing connectivity — and sensitivity — is neither productive nor reflective of prevailing Montana attitudes.

Tester, then, is the anti-Burns:

With state Sen. Tester you get an earnest and articulate man who we see lacking in one main area: seniority. However, his time in the Legislature and in an almost year-long campaign, has demonstrated good sense, a grasp of issues, and priorities that reflect those of mainstream Montana.

If you know Jon Tester, it’s laughable to imagine him as a “tool of East Coast liberals” like Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton, as his critics maintain.

The enormity of these two endorsements for Tester’s hopes is not to be underestimated. Both papers represent regions that Tester needs to do well in, in order to win Burns’ Senate seat. And the Gazette, especially, defined the difference so clearly and so cogently between the two men, that it’s hard to imagine a better:

Tester has pledged that, if elected to the U.S. Senate, he will adhere to stricter ethical standards than Congress requires in reporting and refusing lobbyist gifts. Contrast that with Burns’ decision to celebrate his 71st birthday with a $2,000-per-person party at a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. Or his choice in September to take the Vonage private jet from D.C. to Bigfork to his annual golf tournament. Nothing illegal in either case, but is that the image Montanans want their senator to present?

For those Montanans who are appalled at the burgeoning national debt, concerned about U.S. foreign policy, alarmed that today’s spending will be paid for by our children and grandchildren and fed up with business as usual in Washington, D.C., Tester is a fresh alternative. Those who want change have an intelligent, hardworking, common-sense choice in voting for Jon Tester.


Still, just as I ripped the Gazette yesterday for pussy-footing around the real divisive issues of the day in its endorsement of Rehberg, I’ll do the same today. Because the election is about more than character – although character is essential to the task at hand – it’s about preserving our liberties and untangling the myriad of scandals, foreign-policy disasters, and bitter partisanship that the Republican Party has cultivated in our garden over the last six years.

Now where will the Missoulian fall? It wouldn’t surprise me if they continue their rightward swing — just as the region is moving left — and choose corruption, pork, and incompetence and Conrad Burns, thumbing its nose at its readership. Luckily the editorial will likely be so poorly written and convoluted, no one will understand it.

Posted by touchstone

So the Billings Outpost endorsed Tester:

We need a senator who will stand up for a balanced budget, even if that means voting against money that would line the pocket of his constituents. We need a senator who will stand up for the civil liberties that have made this country worth fighting for. We need a senator who resists ill-conceived attacks against foreign nations. Sen. Burns has demonstrated, amply and repeatedly, that he is not that senator.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Outpost also endorsed Rehberg – even after admitting our Representative shares many of the same failings as our junior Senator:

Sadly, much of the criticism of Sen. Burns above could also be applied to U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. Like the senator, Rep. Rehberg has been willing to sacrifice liberty on the altar of the war on terror. If he has a better plan for handling Iraq than we have heard in the other house of Congress, then we haven’t run across it.

Moreover, he has a dismal record on environmental issues, and he has backed dubious constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage and prohibit flag desecration. This is government at its most intrusive, running roughshod over the rights of states and of citizens to direct their own lives and loyalties.

The Outpost then admits Lindeen is “articulate and focused.” So…um why is the Outpost plugging Rehberg?

Still, we are not quite ready to cast Rep. Rehberg aside, especially since it seems likely that we already will have a freshmen senator in Congress. While we don’t like everything Rep. Rehberg does, we do like the way he handles himself and his office. We watched him grow as a candidate, from an inept race against Max Baucus for the Senate to a well oiled campaign against Nancy Keenan to reach to the House. He is personable and diligent, and he has managed as much as possible to avoid antagonizing groups that disagree with his votes.

I’m a little flabbergasted. The Outpost is endorsing Rehberg because of pork and because he’s a slick campaigner who avoided airing his views in public? You’re rewarding him for that? You’re throwing US soldiers, our public lands, and the Constitution under the bus because Rehberg looks good in a suit???

First, on the pork. In all likelihood, Rehberg will be a member of a bitter and caustic minority party in the House after November. (He better be, I’ve got five bucks riding on it.) He won’t get his appropriations any more! If elected, Monica Lindeen would have more say in the House than Dennis Rehberg will next year.

This endorsement smacks of the Outpost’s attempts to remain “objective.” If you endorse two Democratic candidates, then you’re at risk of being labeled a “liberal” paper. So you endorse Tester, then find some reason to like Rehberg, even if you have to throw the country to the sharks in doing so.

Or maybe the Outpost likes a safer bet. You want to stay on your Representative’s good side, right?

Seriously, if the Outpost couldn’t think of one negative quality for Monica Lindeen, why did it endorse her opponent who it already accused of endangering our civil liberties and contributing to the Iraq War mess? I wish they had the courage of Kansas’ The Johnson County Sun, who boldly claimed “the Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally,” and stood by its principles, appearances be d*mned.

Enough of the mealy-mouthed platitudes towards “balance,” “objectivity,” or futile gestures to a non-existent “center.” Just vote your principles. Do the right thing.

Posted by touchstone

Well, here’s an interesting rumor that’s worth passing on to you: an indictment is waiting in the US Justice Department for our very own Conrad Burns.

Rumors flying out of the US Justice Department say that…new indictments in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal are now prepared, but are being held back until after Election Day…The two about to face the music are Senator Conrad Burns of Montana and Congressman John Doolittle of California according to sources inside Justice…

But far beyond that, the last thing the Republicans need is more news stories about corruption in Congress. The question know is,  have Bush and Rove interfered in an ongoing Justice Department investigation because of a political agenda?

So it looks like somone’s playing politics with the US Justice Department, and it ain’t the Democrats. Well, I’ve been saying for months that Burns is likely headed for the ‘pen, and it looks like his time is approaching.

It’s ironic, then, that Burns’ supporters are touting seniority as the reason we should vote for him. Take Brad Franklin’s endorsement of Burns in the Sidney Herald:

Conrad is on the committee on appropriations; committee on commerce; committee on science and transportation; committee on energy and natural resources; committee on small business; and the committee on aging. Max is on the finance committee; environment and public works committee; and the agriculture, nutrition and forestry committee. Denny is on the committee on appropriations. I have not included their sub-committee positions.Finance and appropriations committees in Washington, D.C., relate to financial benefits received by all Montana residents.

We, in Montana, cannot afford to lose the above positions, of which, the first criteria is longevity/seniority. Consequently, as I see it, we must re-elect Conrad Burns and Denny Rehberg in November 2006, and Max Baucus, if he runs, in 2008.

Remember, all you Republicans and Democrats, we have people in majority and minority positions of power, no matter if the majority is Democrat or Republican in the Senate.

Why would any Montana voter, regardless of political preference or whether you like or dislike the candidate personally, vote to lose our envious positions in national politics?

Besides being completely amoral, this line of thinking was well countered by Matt in a post today about this very issue of seniority. Basically he argues that both Burns and Baucus aren’t much longer for the Senate so in 8 years (tops!), we’ll have to start fresh anyway. Why not start building seniority now before Baucus retires?

Of course, if Conrad wins the election, it appears that this is the most likely scenario:

Burns Gets Reelected, Gets Indicted, Resigns: In this scenario, we’re in the absolute worst case we could be. Whoever gets appointed to finish Burns’ term doesn’t go in tied with his or her fellow newly elected Senators for seniority, they’re always a step behind. That will matter. And there’s no promise from caucus leadership for a seat on approps, so kiss that committee behind, if it’s truly a big deal to you.

Remember, if Burns loses his office, it’s the Governor who gets to name his replacement. If appropriations are your gig, it’s better to vote for Tester and allow him to racking it up right away rather than wait until Burns dons the orange jumpsuit.

Posted by touchstone

Like Craig, I, too, have been recruited to post over at my thoughts on the Montana Senate race.

So far, I’ve written three pieces – an overview, guns and the Western Democrat, and one on Tester and the netroots. It’s pretty general stuff, aimed at an audience that isn’t familiar with the race.

And nowhere near as interesting as Craig’s posts on going undercover to a Tester fundraiser.

But the best thing about my posts on Gather may be this picture of me and Mr. Proud practising for Little League tryouts in six or seven years:

So it looks like Iraq is growing into a liability for Republicans across the country. According to a recent report by the New York Times, GOP candidates are cutting and running from staying the rhetorical course.

…the discussion on the campaign trail suggests just how much of a problem the Iraq war has become for Republicans.It represents a startling contrast with the two national elections beginning in 2002 with the run-up to the Iraq invasion, in which Republicans used the issue to keep Democrats on the run on foreign policy and national security.

Perhaps it shows how out of touch with…reality?…Montana? they are, but both Conrad Burns and Dennis Rehberg are touting the war’s…benefits. (Rehberg more egregiously so.)

For a peek into the machinations of the brain in a partisan hack on the other side, we can perhaps get a glimpse of why Republicans like Burns or Rehberg still cling our country’s disastrous policies.

A majority of Democrats in Congress voted to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq in 2002, and then voted to continue to fund the effort. Some Democrats even hit the talk shows early on and made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or that a war in Iraq figured into the war on terror. And in the 2004 Democratic primary, the most outspoken critic of the war – former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean – was treated by several of his opponents as some crazy uncle who didn’t understand the stakes in Iraq or the weight of decisions that had to be made by Democratic members of Congress.

Members such as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. After Kerry became their presidential nominee, Democrats put on quite a show at their national convention, where – despite the anti-war leanings of delegates – one speaker after another talked tough, saluted the flag and promised to hunt down terrorists wherever they were.

And now, Democrats want to turn on a dime and pretend as if the Iraq War is someone else’s mess. With Iraq embroiled in civil war and U.S. troops overstaying their welcome, it’s a mess all right. But let’s be clear: It’s a mess that Democrats helped make.

Sort of mind-boggling isn’t it?

First, many of us who were against the war from the beginning do remember that the Democratic leadership supported the war. We will hold them accountable. They ignored our concerns about the war and failed to represent us.

Second, the Democratic party and the people of the United States were given bogus information for supporting an invasion. Given that the whole premise of the war appears to have been manufactured by administration ideologues, blame should hardly lie with the Democrats – or the people of the US – for this supporting this mess.

Third, the Democratic party had no say in how the war would be pursued. The present disaster in Iraq is due in large part to the administration’s lack of knowledge about the region, for using political hacks to create Iraq policy, and for using Iraq as an opportunity to let their corporate buddies run rampant in the country. The diplomatic bungling belongs solely to the President and his staff. The occupation bungling belongs solely to the President and his staff.

Fourth, that the Democratic party is now representing the will of the majority is a good thing.

Lastly, changing your strategy is smart if what you’re doing isn’t working.

That last point always gets me – for some reason, the Republicans and their supporters see admitting to mistakes as a sign of weakness, not as a sign of strength. But that goes hand-in-hand with the simplistic good/bad, black/white dichotomies that prop up so many of their policies. If you’ve established that maintaining the current strategy in Iraq is the height of patriotism, and questioning that policy is the treasonous work of terrorist-lovers, well, you’ve driven yourself into a corner, haven’t you?

As the election season counts down to its conclusion, the number of stories on the Senate race have increased exponentially. It’s so a hard-working blogger can’t keep up anymore. In any case, today I’m abandoning any attempt to parse these stories for you. Instead, I’m just going to offer you a smorgasbord of links, which you can freely discuss in the comments or pilfer for your own use:

Town Hall tries to whip up last-minute support for our corrupt and incompetent junior Senator by reminding conservatives he belongs to the Republican party. Yes, the old right-wing tactic of putting political party over…well…everything.

More debate packing by the Republicans? Pathetic.

The Washington Times subscribes to the meme that Burns’ appropriations are key to the race. Another observer might note that Burns’ pork spending projects don’t endear him to his conservative base.

The Great Falls Tribune profiles Tester in a good piece by Gwen Florio. It includes an attack by Bob Keenan on the Big Sandy farmer; Montana won’t forget you favored the unethical and incompetent junior Senator, Bob.

The Billings Gazette runs a bunch of “personality” questions past Jon. Ditto for Burns.

The title explains it all. “Sen. Conrad Burns: A buffoon fights to save his seat.”

Matt Gouras on the candidates’ fundraising: Tester’s raised more lately, but Burns has more overall.

Max Cleland is stumping on behalf of Tester today in Billings.

Mike Dennison scrutinizes the “radicals” in Burns’ ads and finds…people.

Burns: “Taxes!” He left out the terrorists who want to kill you in your sleep. *yawn*

Despite the rhetoric otherwise, Burns “remains a stout defender of the oil and gas industry.”

Love the (unintentional?) comedy found in Ron Crocker’s recent letter to the Billings Gazette supporting Conrad Burns: “Burns is a true patriot, great defender of the U.S.” Check it out:

To quote Clarence Darrow, “True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.”

That’s Sen. Conrad Burns! He is a patriot, a Marine Corps veteran and defender of our nation! He supports our president, and the Patriot Act. He wants to rid us of those who ploy terrorism as a means to destroy the United States and its way of life.

I believe Jon Tester is a patriot in his own way, but a true patriot will do everything they can to defend and protect their country. What does Tester want to do? He wants to repeal the Patriot Act!

The Patriot Act has proven successful and has aided in preventing any repeat of 9/11. Why Tester and so many liberals want the Patriot Act repealed literally worries me. Tester says, “The Patriot Act will take away our freedoms.” The only people who have cause to worry about their loss of freedoms are those who deserve to have their freedoms lost. The Patriot Act is aimed at individuals who have caused the United States great concern, not the everyday citizens of our great nation!

I served 36 years in the service of the United States Navy, doing my part to support and defend the people of the United States and in keeping our borders free from enemy attack. And I pray there will be no more 9/11s. That’s why I support and urge you to support Burns for U.S. Senate. He is a patriot!

Hilarious. I don’t know if Crocker just Googled quotes to use to defend Burns’ position, or he’s fully aware of who Clarence Darrow is, but using Darrow’s quote to defend the Patriot Act is like, well, using a John Brown quote to defend slavery…or a MLK quote to defend segregation…or…well you get the idea.

Clarence Darrow was an activist and progressive lawyer and prominent member of the early 20th-centure ACLU, a staunch defender of labor unions, and most famous for defending the teaching of evolution in the “Scopes Monkey Trial.” (Basically everything that is an anathema to Conrad Burns.) Darrow’s idea of “injustice” is exactly the kind that the Patriot perpetuates, not shadowy and nonexistent domestic terror cells. That’s why Darrow’s organization, the ACLU (along with the NRA) is one of the most outspoken opponents of the Patriot Act.

That Crocker can claim “The only people who have cause to worry about their loss of freedoms are those who deserve to have their freedoms lost,” is the height of folly. Just ask the railroaded suspects in the Lodi case, or the Canadian man kidnapped by the CIA and sent to Syria to be tortured – and who happened to be innocent. The disturbing element of these two cases is that federal agents appear to have been politically motivated and resorted to extreme measures because they didn’t have enough evidence for a solid case.

That is, the more shaky the suspicion against you, the more severe the police tactics are that will be used against you. Or, the less likely you are a terrorist, the more likely you’ll be tortured.

Let’s hope Crocker doesn’t go buying a disposable cell phone anytime soon.

Finally, the “United States and its way of life” is inherently tied to the rule of law, our basic liberties, and the Constitution of the United States. Amending, curtailing, or simply eliminating any or all of these rights does not aid in preserving our country – it will destroy it.

Honestly, I’d oppose the Patriot Act and the torture bill and like-minded policies from the Bush administration even if they were effective. But they’re not.

Had enough?

Roll Call, a subscription-only DC insider paper, has got a long story on the INSA scandal. Highlights:

Over the last four years, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) has earmarked more than $8 million for a project ostensibly designed to make Montana a center for space-related research and industry. But despite the millions of dollars in federal funding, it appears to have produced few tangible results while spawning several state and federal investigations. It has also earned lobbyists and companies connected to Burns hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts and lobbying fees as well as more than $80,000 in campaign contributions for Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.).


It is unclear how much of the $8 million in earmarks Burns sought to steer to INSA either directly or through the University of Montana has been allocated to the group. However, INSA’s tax records, federal lobbying reports and an audit by Montana’s legislative auditor of earmarks funneled to the group through the university show that between 2003 and 2005, more than $761,000 has been spent on salaries and benefits. Additionally, more than $320,000 has gone to former Burns Chief of Staff Leo Giacometto and a company associated with him.

According to Montana State University professor Loren Acton, a former astronaut who has long been involved in the private aerospace industry, almost from its inception INSA was plagued by a lack of “competence” and the technical inability to meet its goal of turning Montana into a center of private space travel and exploration.

Not much new, just some jaw-dropping numbers on how much was donated to Burns and Rehberg from the money they appropriated from Congress. $80 thousand? That’s a new figure for me, but this report also tracks money donated to PACs, while the numbers I’d seen before were contributions made directly to the candidates.

But then comes the juicy stuff.

According to the report, in 2003, Burns and George Bailey agreed with Space Sciences, Inc, to create the “Free Flyer Consortium.” Space Sciences, Inc founder – and hotel magnate – Robert Bigelow, and SSI counsel Mike Gold then began making donations to Burns and Rehberg (“the first time either man had made contributions to Montana politicians”) to the tune of nearly $30K ($21.5K to Burns, $7K to Rehberg) in 2003 and 2004, and paid for trips for Rehberg, and Rehberg and Burns staffers to Las Vegas.

According to sources close to Bigelow and INSA, Bigelow was willing to commit as much as a half-billion dollars of his own money toward perfecting the inflatable space habitat technology required to build a private space station.

In order for Bigelow to commit to funding, according to these sources, the government had to also make a good-faith commitment to work on the project, a condition to which Burns agreed. In 2003, Burns inserted two earmarks into the Veterans’ Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and independent agencies portion of the fiscal 2004 omnibus spending bill — a $1.5 million earmark for the University of Montana’s National Center for Space Privatization, which was used to fund INSA, and a $1.25 million earmark specifically for a Space Sciences Inc. microgravity pharmaceutical research initiative, according to a press release issued by Burns.

Burns stated in a letter to NASA officials that the new consortium would work on the inflatable space homes, and arranged a meeting between Bigelow officials and NASA. Meanwhile, the relationship between SSI and INSA was “cratering,” according to the report. Bigelow pulled out of the consortium for unknown reasons.

Nevertheless, Burns continued to use SSI’s name in pushing earmarks for INSA. On May 14, 2004, for instance, Burns wrote to O’Keefe regarding SSI’s “microgravity-related pharmaceutical development initiative” to inform NASA that because “SSI has not received federal grant money in any prior year … for reasons of expediency, as well as because INSA is based in Montana where the work will be conducted, INSA is preparing, submitting and administering the grant on SSI’s behalf.” Burns also added in the letter that, “This action is being taken with both the consent and approval of my office and SSI.”

Additionally, Burns included in the fiscal 2005 NASA spending bill a $3 million earmark for “INSA — Free Flyer Program, Space Sciences Inc.,” according to a Nov. 22, 2004, press release from Burns’ office. The bill also included $750,000 for the “National Space Privatization Program” at the University of Montana, according to the release.

According to Burns spokesman Jason Klindt – a master of absurdist drama and postmodern comedian/clown – Burns was just “trying to create jobs in Montana.” INSA, of course, was filled with friends and family of Burns and Rehberg staffers, while “…the bulk of the money received by INSA has gone toward compensating members of its board as well as to lobbying fees charged by former Burns Chief of Staff Giacometto.”

According to Senate lobbying records, INSA paid Giacometto’s firm, Gage LLC, $80,000 in 2004 and 2005. While INSA previously has insisted the funds were for “consulting,” a June 2006 report by Montana’s Legislative Audit Division found that INSA did in fact use federal funds for lobbying and that “to date, INSA has not submitted a lobbying activity disclosure form” to University of Montana officials as required by federal law.INSA also paid Compressus Inc. — which at one time included both Giacometto and Keely Burns on its board of advisers — $270,760 in “project management” fees in 2004, according to INSA’s tax returns. Although Keely Burns’ contract with Compressus included compensation in the form of stock options, Burns said in a statement released by the Senator’s campaign to the Lee Newspaper company this summer that she never exercised the options.

George Bailey was paid $153K, and Lucy Chesnut – wife of University administrator Lloyd – got $117K.

Although federal investigators have not named Burns as an official “target” of an investigation, sources close to the state’s investigations said the FBI has been looking into INSA and its relationship with both Burns and Giacometto. A source familiar with the legislative auditor’s work also said the auditor has given the FBI evidence not included in its June report that indicated “there was clear criminal activity” involved in the operation of the alliance. Because of the narrow scope of the auditor’s report, investigators did not include that evidence in the June findings, this source explained.

Nice dig by Roll Call there with the “target” reference. All I can say is no wonder federal investigators are taking so long to nail Burns and the other crooked Republicans. With the number of scandals Burns is involved in, feds obviously have too much work on their hands.

Call me crazy, but it looks to me as if Burns recognized an opportunity to set up a slush fund for friends and family when the INSA/SSI consortium fell through, and used SSI’s name after it backed out to pry earmarks from the federal government. And the evidence seems to show that INSA officials weren’t too interested in their mission: promoting and seeding space technology business in Montana.


And how many of these appropriations does the drunken sailor consider “his” when touting his ability to “deliver” for Montana? If INSA is evidence of Burns’ delivery, I say we get the southpaw on the mound.

Tester is asking Burns to explain his support for a national sales tax, which would replace the federal income tax. Good for him, because the plan by National Taxpayers Union seems like yet another attempt to use government to give hand outs to big corporations.

The 23 percent national retail sales tax would replace the revenue of these taxes. Under the plan, all taxpayers would receive a monthly “prebate” so no one would pay taxes for consumption up to the poverty line.

It would apply only to new purchases, making “used” purchases tax-free. Business purchases would be exempt, thereby eradicating corporate tax compliance costs currently hidden in retail prices, according to the union. Theoretically, that should reduce the cost of retail items.

Hm…you think corporations will lower their prices to offset the tax? Yeah, me neither. Seems like just another plan to give a temporary and artificial boost to stock prices, but it also seems it would also discourage people from purchasing.

And then let’s talk who would be shouldering the tax burden. Assuming that the same folks who set the current and ridiculously low poverty rate would set an equally low rate for a national sales tax, that means that the middle class would be paying a disproportionate amount of their income to taxes.

The thing with the sales tax is, that the amount that people spend on consumables isn’t really all that much different, regardless of income. Sure, the insanely wealthy buy Lexuses (Lexii?) while we buy Pintos, but proportionally we pay more of our income for a Pinto than Denny Rehberg pays for his Lexus. That 25 percent of our Pinto is more of our income – a lot more – than 25 percent of a Lexus is of Rehberg’s income. That is, under this national sales tax system, we’ll be in the high tax bracket.

The income tax, at least, taxes somewhat fairly across all income levels. Sure, there could be an argument made for a more of a flat-tax system, but that’d have to include the elimination of payroll taxes, of course, and universal health care.

Enough of this pandering to the upper classes already. Away with Burns and his “ilk.”

You’ve read what I wrote at the debate, and might have already heard or seen the debate on the radio or television. (If you haven’t, it’s still not too late.) So unless you live under a rock – and you don’t if you’re reading this – you know that Tester spanked Burns in Butte. Even the newspaper reporters couldn’t help let snark creep into their tone when reporting on the debate:

“He wants to weaken the Patriot Act,” he said of Tester.

Tester sought to clarify:

“I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it. What it does, it takes away your freedom … and when you take away our freedoms, the terrorists have won,” Tester said.

He came back to the subject near the end of the debate, when Burns tried to link him to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is, Burns said, pro-gun-control.

“With things like the Patriot Act,” Tester said, “We’d damn well better keep our guns.”

So forget about debate impressions. Tester came out looking like an independent-minded Westerner to Burns’…well, actually, that’s what I wanted to talk about. Burns.

I’ve heard this around town, from Republican supporters of Burns at the various debates. He just doesn’t look or act the same. He’s…I dunno…meaner? More out of control?

On stage at Hamilton and Butte, a number of times Burns looked lost. Fumbling for words, repeating the same talking points over and over again. Getting in-your-face negative with Tester, stalking the stage and pointing fingers.

After all, every Burns debate appearance has been run as if it were a national campaign. He’s heavily made up on stage, he stands for the camera, even his statements are tailor-made for television sound bites. Political suicide. This is Montana. Your neighbor’s word of mouth still means something here. The talk across the backyard fence (barbwire, in many cases) still means more than a slick politician’s sound bite. That Burns doesn’t get this should be yet another reason to send him away.

And that attitude permeates his whole campaign, the attack ads, the ridiculous statements from his campaign staff, the removed-from-reality delusions of his on-line supporters. The continued speaking gaffes and ethical improprieties even as he’s lambasted about his small-mindedness and Abramoff. It all adds up to a disturbing portrait of a man out of control.

But why? I’ve heard people suggest he’s going senile. Could be. Or it could be his heart’s not in it, he’s just letting loose, acting like his true self. Mean-spirited, disinterested by his constituency and electioneering. Or maybe the Abramoff scandal is getting too close, and he’s losing it. Getting desperate. Maybe he feels unfairly singled out – after all everybody’s on the dole in DC! That’s the way it works!

But that’s not the way it should work, Senator, and if you don’t understand the difference it’s time you were sent home to Missouri and fitted out for an orange jumpsuit.

The only time he lit up during the debate was when he was describing the myriad of interests surrounding him. (“They were lobbying me. I loved it!”) And they way he describes the appropriations for Montana, saying it’s his money he’s doling out for the state, they’re his hospitals and his labratories, his this and that, like the federal budget is his personal checking account, and the buildings erected by the dint of his personal labor.

On a similar note, wasn’t it amazing the chutzpah of Resondyn and the Burns camp to try to get away with packing the front stage seats with Burns’ supporters? Little did I know that a quick comment during the live blogging at Butte would end up as a blogswarm.

If you haven’t already, check out the details. They’re quite sickening. Shane ran with my comment and looked up the donations made by the company and its executives to Burns’ campaign and the Montana GOP. To the tune of some $30K in the last ten months. Big Sky Dems was there; relates an anecdote whereby a couple of undecided voters were booted for refusing to wear Conrad Burns stickers while sitting in the Resondyn section. Matt ran with these facts, and realized that Resondyn’s support of the debate and a Burns section likely runs counter to state election laws. Pogie sticks it to Lee Enterprises, who has the nerve to criticize raucous crowd behavior, but knowingly co-sponsored an event with an ardent Burns supporter, thus abetted their illegal activity. State newspapers have thus far failed to say “boo” on the subject.

My question: who gets to bring up charges against the Burns campaign and/or Resondyn? Should this at least warrant an investigation?

The real story is, of course, the fact that Burns is still playing the lobbyist game…this time in full view of the public. He scratched Resondyn’s back with some appropriations, Resondyn scratches his back by paying an undisclosed sum of money to, in effect, reserve a bunch of prominent seats so it looks like Burns actually has supporters in Butte.


Had enough?

Update: Missoula Justin does the legwork and has figured out how to file a complaint for the Resondyn/Burns Butte alliance!

Just got a press release about the national sales tax comment Tester brought up about Conrad Burns. Apparently the information comes from Burns’ answers on a recent National Taxpayers Survey. Some highlights from the release:

Burns favors a complete repeal of the entire federal tax code to be replaced with a national sales tax. According to his recent National Taxpapayers Union Survey responses, Burns said he would work to repeal the entire Federal Tax Code and replace it with tax reform including a national sales tax.

I’ll let other bloggers dig up the details, but let me say this: completely repulsive. Basically it would make real what Burns has been working for all along: he wants to put the majority of our country’s tax burden on working- and middle-class Americans.



Closing statements.

Tester: Talks about being a Montanan and a good public servant. “I’m going to fight for you.” Burns can’t beat me, “I’m one of you. I’m going there back for you and more importantly for your kids and your grandkids.” Talks about health care, Iraq, no leadership in DC. It’s time for a change. (Applause.)

Burns: “He wants a plan for Iraq. He already said he wants to redeploy.” Brings up the losing the war on terror thing. Think of the consequences. Fear. (I’m experiencing the loathing.) Talks about “what’s inside of us.” Touts appropriations. Proud of his service. Accuses Tester of weakening families security, he wants to “cut and run!” Mumbling. Standards of the world. “Freedom first!” (Whistling from the dozen supporters.)


Question to Tester about environmentalists blocking harvesting of beetle-infested forest.

Tester: We need leadership in the legislature. People need to talk. Protect watershed while harvesting the trees. Administration needs to obey the Constitution.

Burns: His people keep filing appeals. Talks about a California judge that won’t let people harvest salvage. We try to pass laws, and we’re blocked every time. “It takes a 39 cent stamp to stop these programs.” Calls people radicals. “Just look who endorses Mr. Tester. It is that group. And you think he won’t be beholden to them?” Talks about Chuck Schumer. Gun control? “That’s people.”

Tester: “With things like the Patriot Act we’d better d*mn well keep our guns.” Burns divides. Frightens people into making decisions. “If they’re supporting me, elect me so I can get them off the dime.” Burns: “good luck.” Tester: “I don’t need it.”


Question: Burns, how can we trust you to be fiscally responsible?

Burns: “There’s no doubt we have a problem.” (Laughter.) Brings up 9/11…talks about fear again…then we had Katrina. “Again we were asked to respond.” Brings up again asset-to-debt ratio, nothin like this has happened before. Inherited a recession, tax cuts, etc.

Tester: “$2500 per person under Clinton, nearly $30000 per person now?” There were disasters. But according to you we have a good enoconmy, why deficit spending? Under incredible spending with a Republican majority in every branch of government…we need to spend well, on the middle class, the economy’s growing, and they’re still spending.

Burns: If you weaken the economy, you weaken families, security, etc. It won’t get us out of this dilemna. “We’ve done a pretty good job…” (I chuckle.) Burns stops.


Question to Tester, how can you say you won’t take lobbyist money?

Tester: We need earmark reform. He’ll listen to everyone, not just a moneyed few. He will not vote based on who gave him money. He won’t fall out of touch with Montana. They need representation from a Montanan.

Burns: “I’m glad he brought that up.” He says Tester was in DC fundraising with lobbyists. “I was fundraising with American Heart Association,” struggles a little bit with what they were doing. “They were lobbying me. I loved it!” (I bet you did.) Says hospitals, etc, all have lobbyists. “I’ll see ’em.”

Tester: “Herin lies the difference.” “Not once have I changed my vote for money.” Talks about Missoula debate, Burns was at a Virginia debate with lobbyists at a fundraisers. Talks about doing a bill for Vonage, takes a flight on a Vonage flight.


Tester: Why did you advocate a national sales tax for the US?

Burns: Didn’t necessarily support a national sales tax. Says Tester’s a chicken for not filling out Project Vote Smart survey. “I believe in tax reform.” “I wouldn’t support a sales tax unless there’s tax reform.”

Burns: Taxes on business. Why you cut taxes on 13,000 businesses, but increased on 16,000 businesses? A second question. “What’s the price of copper?” (Tester: $3.43) Burns, asks prices of metals, Tester says “what’s the price of an acre of land in…county?”

Tester: Raised fees on access on public lands, which people wanted to pay to enter public lands. “Let’s talk taxes.” Again with the national debt: “the birth tax.” Superfund penalties taxpayers now have to pay. Says Burns in the pockets of lobbyists. He’ll represent middle class.


Why does Congress underfund veterans? What are you going to do about it?

Burns: I’ve passed the biggest appropriation for veterans. “I did it broad daylight. I do everything in broad daylight.” (Laughter.) Touts his own approations… “I built…this, I built…that.” “Thank you, Conrad.” (Thanks himself.) “I qualify for benefits, but I don’t take ’em.” Tells a story. Says the military are self-reliant.

Tester: We send people in harm’s way and we need to support them. Body armor, benefits, and medical care they were promised. Tells his own meeting with a young soldier who’s foot was shot. “Last time I mentioned it, Burns said, ‘he oughta call me.’ That’s not how it should work.” We haven’t funded it at the needed levels. Funding should be an automatic part of the budget.

Burns: “Thank your brother for his service. When you get home.” (Tester: “You can thank him now. He’s right here.”) Says he helps people because of big government bureaucracy.


Question: Tester, you raised taxes and increased spending in the state? How’s that going to work at the federal level?

Tester: Says the reality, he didn’t want to pass tax burden to local school boards. His programs are good and useful. Touts the balanced budget and in a timely manner. Burns is spending faster than the growing revenue, putting debt burden on unborn children.

Burns: Talks about Tester’s taxes, and his appropriations for Montana. “He wanted to tax combines and pickup trucks.” Etc.

Tester: “You are a borrower and a spender.” (Interrupted and sent back to Burns.)

Burns: Talks about tax raises. “My gosh. At least be honest.” Says he’s going to lower tuition, but since he’s been in the state legislature, tuition going up 48%.

Tester: “You’re running this country into bankruptcy.” “China’s buying our debt.” Because of Burns fiscal irresponsibility. Votes for funding, programs aren’t funded, talks about the underfunding for veterans. Votes for veteran funding, then votes against it in back-room deals.


Minimum wage. Why did you vote against the minimum wage, Burns, while voting for pay raises?

Burns: I’d vote for a raise in the minimum wage when there’s protection of small businesses. Then talks about the cr*p bill in which minimum wage was wedded to a repeal of the estate tax. Claims the raise wouldn’t increased taxes…etc…

Tester: Supports the minimum wage. It’s long overdue. Tax cuts should be for the middle class. His tax cuts benefited the very rich. “Why do we have to give tax cuts to Paris Hilton?” “Every child is born with a $28,500 tax in the form of federal debt.”

Burns: There’s never been a tax increase he hasn’t voted for. “I don’t vote for tax increases.” Says unemployment in Butte is 3.3%, “you’re economy is booming.” (Probably news for Butte folks.)


Tester’s asked how he plans on keeping the country safe. “Especially as you’re against the Patriot Act.”

Tester: The Patriot Act takes liberties from Americans. Talks about making the borders secure, using police action, not invading with the use of military. The President needs a plan, and we need to bring our troops after training Iraqis to do US military jobs.

Burns: Patriot Act, the tools to catch drug kingpins and terrorsts. “He’s soft on terror.” Says we should wiretap terrorists. Says he doesn’t want us to go to football games without worrying about getting blown up. Tester doesn’t understand the enemey, because they’re global. “We cannot afford another 9/11.” Tester wants to weaken the Patriot Act.

Tester: “Let me be clear. I don’t want to weaken the Patriot Act, I want to repeal it.” (Applause, which Tester halts.) It takes away your freedoms! Take away your freedoms, the terrorists win! We need to fight the terrorists, we need to be dilligent. (Tester is on a roll. Forceful, has to restrain us from cheering. 


Burns, you hold Mike Mansfield’s seat who refused to see lobbyists. Explain your relationship with Jack Abramoff! (Sweet question!

Burns: “I’m supposed to go over that in two minutes. Here we go again.” Calls it politics and baseless allegations. Claims he doesn’t do anything for bringing dollars to Montana. “Nothing to do with it.” “Montanans are first in my office.” Calls the allegations baseless. “I’ve never shorted my state.” “Never.” Calls it lies. “Politics at its worst. In its worst light.”

Tester: Burns changed his vote on the Marianas Islands on slave labor. Brings up the Saginaw Chippewas. He gave Abramoff everything he wanted. Talks about staff who leaves to lobbyist firms. “We need a change.”

Burns: “It doesn’t change.” “All baseless allegations.” (Stifled laughter.) “Worked for the state. That’s what I’ve done. Probably better than anybody in a long, long time.”

Tester: Grabs the microphone, reminds us not to heckle Burns. “Baseless allegations? I think not.” You’re under investigation…”

He’s interrupted by the panel who won’t let him finish. 


Question: Protecting jobs.

Tester: Federal programs have helped Butte. Started by Melcher and continued by following Senators, including Burns. “We can do better.” Talks about how Burns hasn’t delivered, water programs, border, cuts in meth projects. Touts state legislation’s help for Butte. Says he’ll do better.

Burns: “When they came to me, we acted.” Says Butte had its vision and he was a “part of that.” He facilitates. He loves the state. He loves Butte. “There’s no litmus test for visitors.” “Montanans ride first class.” (Except for his wife.)

Tester: We need Montana values in DC. We need Butte values. “I’m not going to cut deals with K Street lobbyists like Jack Abramoff.” “You will be priority number one.” 


Here’s the debate!

The candidates are introduced. Both receive standing ovations from their supporters. Burns’ crowd goes first.

Interesting note: The Resodyn Corporation — a Burns sponsor — is in part paying for the venue. They had a whole bunch of seats saved, all of them filled with Burns’ supporters. Without these seats, Burns’ supporters would probably be pushed to the back.

Opening statements.

Tester: Thanks around, people, Senator, sponsors, the crowd.

Talks about the money Burns claims he’s bragged he brought to Butte. Cites the former great lawmakers from the state who helped Butte, Tester’s going to support Butte. Don’t fear that Tester as Senator isn’t going to look out for Butte. Then lists his own appropriations from the state legislature he delivered. He’s honest.

Butte: “That’s what I like about Butte,” referring to the director of the chamber of commerce calling him by his first name. (Eww.)

There are differences in how we view Montana. Talks about how Butte’s attitude and economy has changed. He’s proud. A bipartisan effort. They wanted to do something different. “The only thing we did was to facilitate it.” Then mentions federal appropriations he’s brought to the city.

Claims Tester is a big taxer and a big spender. “I’m the opposite.” (The crowd murmurs. I bite my fist.) 


Hey readers: is this debate being broadcast on the radio or television live? I thought I heard that KPAX is showing the debate — but live? How about radio? I guess I could Google it, couldn’t I?

The lower section of the theater is now full. The newcomers are relegated to the balcony seates. Cece said the theater holds 1,200. If that’s true, I’d estimate the crowd at a lively 800 or so. Eighty percent Tester supporters? Ninety? Hard to tell. I think they ran out of “Fire Burns” tee shirts. What a great crowd. 

Ooo…the debate is about to start… 


A low table draped with a white tablecloth sits astride the center of the stage. Four men sit at the table in the spotlight.

The media.

To be honest, watching the media at this event has been somewhat…I dunno…weird. Cameras with primped and stuffed news people parading in front of them. It’s like this show is about them.

Colby Natale and Jeff “No Last Name” are here, too, though neither is blogging the debate. So I guess this is it, isn’t it? 


The room slowly fills. Mainly with the yellow “Fire Burns” tee-shirts. Despite the GOP’s call to fill the place, it looks like the call went on deaf ears. I could count Burns’ supporters on one hand. Really. Even if you count the crew-cutted, gum-chewing, low-browed staffers. (Where do they get these guys anyway? Do they troll the reject line for “The Apprentice” or something?)

The Firecracker and her daughter, Cece, discuss nicknames. 


Greetings, 4&20 b’birders, from Butte’s Mother Lode Theater. I’m sitting here with Firecracker, and Firecracker’s daughter, Cece, and the place is slowly filling up. I’d say that so far Tester supporters easily outnumber their Burnsian counterparts, but it looks like the rush was greatly exagerrated.

It’s significantly colder here in Butte than it was in Missoula, the peaks opposite the city are already snowbound. It was a beautiful, sunny ride up in the car with the Griz game on — Montana kicking the living sh*t out of Sacremento State — and hearing that Montana State was losing to Eastern Washington. Life is good.

I do owe some bloggers an explanation: I originally planned on watching Mr. Proud and Ms. Marvelous this weekend, but my wife’s camping trip plans fell through. (Bow hunters chased off the trumpeter swans she wanted to see.) So here I am.

Bob Keenan now:

The Tester you see on TV is all conservative talk…

But he votes with the liberal left because he is one of them. Tester has a record of raising your taxes.

He even co-sponsored a bill to increase income taxes on people making as little as $24,000 per year.

Make no mistake, we can’t afford the real Jon Tester.

Conrad Burns is the best choice for Montana in the U.S. Senate.

Bob Keenan then:

In his brief talk, Keenan also expressed concern over out-of-control federal government spending. He didn’t have to remind the crowd that this has occurred under a Republican president and GOP-controlled Congress.

“I’m concerned we’re selling our country out with long debt,” Keenan said.

Well, which is it, Bob? Do you want fiscal responsibility ($500 million surplus), or irresponsible spending ($300 billion deficit)?

Honestly, this bald partisanship is annoying. Keenan talks about fiscal responsibility and financial restraint, but is urging you to vote for the drunken sailor. You know how I feel about the GOP’s mindless “cut taxes” rant – it’s unrealistic given the current circumstances and their cuts invariably favor the wealthy.

Again, David Crisp:

What I’m waiting for is some genuine conservative to explain to me how it is fiscally responsible for a senator to support, say, a war that costs a billion or so bucks a day and then not only refuse to levy the taxes to pay for it but actually support tax cuts that dig the hole even deeper. Any takers?

Commenter TMM appeared in this thread and said, “we do have news that shows the federal government is taking in more cash than ever before. This, we can be sure, is not due to higher taxes.”

Of course we cannot be sure this is due to lower taxes. One of our nation’s most recent economic booms took place shortly after the tax increases instituted by George H. Bush and Bill Clinton. Revenue may be increasing, because the economy is “rebounding”…on the back of rising health care costs? If the theory about health care inefficiencies sparking our economic growth is true, then tax cuts have nothing to do with the economy’s growth. But one thing’s for sure, no one knows anything about the economy, that’s painfully obvious after talking to an economist for two minutes. What’s certain is if you spend more than you make, you lose money.

Apparently Republicans don’t get this. Or if they do, like Bob Keenan apparently did way back in April, they conveniently forget their beliefs if a fellow GOPer’s feeding trough is endangered.

If you are concerned by fiscal irresponsibility Mr. Keenan, why are you urging us to vote for the drunken sailor?

Has anybody else noticed that there’s been some excellent analysis of the Montana Senate race in the state’s newspapers lately?

First it was Gwen Florio’s article on the upcoming Butte debate. In it, Florio mentions the latest attack on Tester by the Montana GOP:

On Thursday an e-mail from the Montana Republican Party said Tester “leaves Montana children exposed to sexual predators” because in 2001 he voted, along with the majority of the state Senate, against legislation requiring Internet filters to protect children from obscene materials at libraries.

As usual in these news articles, Florio quotes a Democrat for an opposing view:

“Jon Tester believes in less government regulation, not more, and more local control,” responded Tester campaign spokesman Matt McKenna.

Normally, the story would end here with a sort of bitter “he said, she said” exchange which would only exacerbate partisan discord. No conservative will believe McKenna’s remarks because he’s a Democrat. No liberal will pay attention to the attack, because it was started by the GOP. In the end, you’d have to go to the blogs to see what the issue was about and what it really meant.

But Florio pressed on and did a little legwork, pulling up a quote from an objective source familiar with the vote:

Karen Strege, who was state librarian at the time, said in a telephone interview Thursday that she testified before the Legislature that the bill would merely have duplicated pending federal regulations, and “I think that was persuasive to people.”

There you go. The bill Tester voted against would have been unnecessary, redundant, useless. A stunt. There’s the facts, and the Montana GOP comes out looking a little worse for wear, as it should. Instead of discussing issues, they attacked Tester’s character with a false accusation.

And that’s what blogs – or at least this blog – has been asking of newspapers. Not to be biased – we can handle that – but to present the issues as they are, not as the two political camps present them. Fine, get quotes from both parties, but then give us some facts. Correct the politicians when they err. I don’t care if s/he’s Democratic or Republican.

In a similar vein, the Billings Gazette has started a useful feature of analyzing the Burns/Tester commercials. In today’s paper, the DSCC oil tycoon ad and the Burns ad on Tester’s Iraq stance were given the treatment. And I think they did a decent job.

In the analysis of Burns’ ad, Tester’s real stance on the war is explained without partisan rancor, including a note about how the GOP has spun its rhetoric around a newspaper mistake:

Tester has never described his position as “cut and run,” which is a label Republicans are using nationally against Democrats who demand that Bush develop a plan to pull American troops out of Iraq.

Regarding the Iraq war, Tester said in November 2005 that “The time has come (for Bush) to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.”

He repeated that statement at a Democratic primary debate in April this year, saying Bush should “develop a plan and get out and redeploy the troops as soon as possible.” The Great Falls Tribune paraphrased this statement as Tester saying he favors getting U.S. troops out of Iraq “immediately” which has been used by Republicans to say Tester supports “cutting and running.” The Tribune and Associated Press on Sept. 14 clarified that he did not say withdraw “immediately.”

Since July, press reports have quoted Tester as saying he wasn’t “inclined toward a timetable,” but wouldn’t “support a president who isn’t willing to develop a plan to get the troops out”; that he would like U.S. troops to “get out as soon as possible”; and that it’s important to “start a plan that revolves around training the Iraqis as soon as possible so they can take military control of their own country. That has been my take from the get-go.”

The Burns campaign has characterized Tester’s positions as “timeline, then immediate withdrawal, then no timeline, then immediate withdraw and now he’s for training the troops to take over.”

Of course, reading Tester’s various statements, it’s obvious to see that they’re not incongruous. Not being for a “timetable” for troop withdrawal isn’t inconsistent with getting them out “as soon as possible.” And of course, training Iraqis to take over US duties is a very smart precondition to withdrawal. Once you read Tester’s statements, Burns’ response is shown to be disingenuous.

Burns’ war stance is summed up neatly and accurately thusly:

Burns voted for and backs the Patriot Act, saying Americans have lost “no liberties” under it. The Patriot Act expands the power of the government to investigate suspected terrorist activity, and has been criticized by civil libertarians for overstepping privacy rights of Americans.

He also has strongly supported President Bush on the war.

The ad watch on the DSCC’s commercial is also decent. Here’s what it says about the ad’s attack on contributions to Burns from big oil:

The ad actually understates the money Burns has received from oil and gas interests during his 18-year Senate career and accurately states his votes in 2005 and 2006 on energy price-gouging and oil-and-gas tax breaks.

Get it? The DSCC was going easy on Burns.

My one issue with the analysis is that, for some reason, the article saw fit to drag Senator Max Baucus into the argument:

But it doesn’t mention that U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, Montana’s Democratic senator, also voted for some of the same oil-and-gas tax breaks last year, contained in the 2005 energy bill. Burns and Baucus supported the bill, which includes tax breaks for alternative energy, such as tax credit crucial to wind-power development. However, a majority of the $14.6 billion in tax incentives went to traditional energy sources like oil and gas, coal and nuclear power.

Um…what does this prove, other than Baucus has been feeding at the same troughs as Conrad Burns?

Attention Billings Gazette, attention Montana: JON TESTER IS NOT MAX BAUCUS.

That’s right, Jon Tester is running against Conrad Burns this election. Max Baucus is due for re-election in 2008. At that time, I give you free license to mention his ties to big oil and other assorted lobbyists. Right now, his character is not relevant.

Finally, the article analyzes the ad’s claims on Tester’s record:

The ad’s statement on Tester accurately refers to his sponsorship of a 2005 bill that requires Montana utilities to provide a minimum amount of electricity generated by alternative-energy sources. Legislative Republicans led a successful effort to amend the bill and insert price controls, so the alternative energy would not be required regardless of cost. The bill was approved and signed into law.

There you go. This is the exact kind of analysis that Montana newspapers should be supplying their readers. Partisan rhetoric is hard to parse for neutral observers, especially for non-political-junkies. It’s the newspapers’ job to correct fallacies and clarify the candidates’ records. Let the readers decide based on good information.

Nice job, Ms. Florio and Mssers. Dennison and Johnson.

It’s true! There’s a class blogging national Senate races, including our very own Senate race. It looks like a pretty cool project. They’re also doing the Ohio Senate race, the Rhode Island Senate race, and the Pennsylvania Senate race. Oh yeah, the Tennesee Senate race, too.

Check it out, give ’em some tips, leave comments. Blogging can be thrilling, especially if people are actually reading your posts.

Blaine Harden has a new story about the Montana Senate race in the Washington Post that’s…well…a little bit off. Ostensibly it’s about how the Abramoff scandal and Conrad Burns’ involvement in it isn’t the key issue for the 2006 Senate race. And I agree with that.

But after that, it’s pretty much down hill.

First, the Abramoff comments:

For all the influence-peddling that has been exposed in the run-up to the midterm election, corruption on Capitol Hill has not become a decisive issue — here or in much of the country. The Abramoff scandal, having ended the careers of a few lawmakers and stained the reputations of several others, can certainly rile up ardent Democrats, as the debate here demonstrated. But it is not making fundamental changes in the nation’s partisan landscape, especially in races, as with Burns in Montana, in which candidates are facing only unsavory stories rather than indictments or guilty pleas.

In an interview, the senator said his polling shows that most voters regard the “Abramoff deal” as merely a political liability and not a damning verdict on his character. Several pollsters and observers of politics in this state agreed with that assessment. The controversy is almost certainly the main reason Burns is in a competitive race this year, but by no means is it a guaranteed career-ender.

I’d have to agree with this assessment. There was also the feeling heading into the general election that Montanans had almost heard too much about the Abramoff scandal and that if Tester ran his campaign based on Burns’ ethics, the tactic would backfire.

Tester has not run his campaign on Abramoff. Instead, Tester’s made his campaign broader, on character, on Montana values, which contrasts sharply with Conrad Burns’ intensely negative and increasingly hysterical campaign. Tester’s current lead is built on the Democratic candidate’s handshake.

But where Harden goes awry is in measuring Burns’ chances by the state’s economy, and Burns’ ability to bring pork back to Montana:

The senator’s shield against Abramoff and his own rhetorical blunders may well be the state’s extraordinarily strong economy. As growth slows in much of the country, Montana is bulling ahead, on track for its fourth consecutive year of 4 percent growth. Consumer sentiment in the state is at an all-time high, and the annual rise in per-capita income — measured last year at 6.3 percent — ranks third in the country. At 3.8 percent, the unemployment rate is about a percentage point below the national average.


Burns argues that the federal money he has sent Montana’s way over the past 18 years helped ignite the boom — and his argument resonates. It “matters a lot” for a state with just 935,000 residents, said Craig Wilson, a political science professor at Montana State University in Billings.

“Burns has been extraordinary in his ability to bring money to poor little old Montana,” said Tom Britz, a consultant to the credit card industry who lives in the booming northwest Montana town of Whitefish. “When it is time to vote, the many people who have been touched by that money know where their bread is buttered.”

Note who Harden quotes. A credit card consultant living in Whitefish, the Beverley Hills of Montana.

Like most places in the US, economists are telling us that we’re doing very well, economically, while none of the economic benefits seem to affecting…well…any people. You can throw all these numbers at me, but I guarantee if you walk out the door anywhere in Montana and ask how secure they feel, whether their buying power is stronger, I guarantee you’ll get negative responses. The economy may be doing “better,” jobs may be up, growth up, but so are the cost of housing and health insurance and education. The future is unsettled.

Except for maybe Whitefish credit card consultants.

Which is odd, because Harden pretty much described the unsettled nature of Montana society in an August 4 article, “Driving Across Montana, From Old West to New”:

Yet, as a morning in Malta, in the plains of northeast Montana, and an evening in Bozeman, in the mountainous southwest, clearly show, this iconic Western place has been reformulated: cut into separate and unequal parts, cleaved along a fault line of wealth and bankruptcy, growth and decline, ebullient newcomers and aging descendants of the homesteaders.

Montana is at a cross-roads, torn between out-of-state developers and the Big Sky tradition. This is hardly a settled landscape. And Burns’ ability to appropriate – or what’s left of this ability – for the state is inexorably intertwined with his marriage to big business. Every boast concerning an appropriation reminds a listener of how Boss Hogg wrung it from Congress. The Abramoff scandal is important for that reason: it reminds voters where Burns’ loyalties lie.

Jon does the rest.

So Ohio Congressman Boy Ney is pleading guilty to charges for his activities involving Jack Abramoff. Good riddance to trash.

The lawmaker said he had agreed to use his clout on behalf of Abramoff clients in return for gifts and other largesse that included nights of casino gambling in London and a lavish golf junket to Scotland. In a statement, he said that alcohol abuse had contributed to a downward spiral in his life and that he had checked himself into a rehabilitation facility for treatment.

(By the way, why is it always conservatives who claim their malfeasance is to blame on some outside source like drugs or alcohol? Aren’t these people the ones who tout personal responsibility and urge lawmakers to be tough on crime?)

Do these activities sound familiar? “…agreed to use his clout on behalf of Abramoff clients”? “…in return for gifts and other largesse that included nights of casino gambling…”?

It should. You’re not the only one to notice the similarities in this case and the alleged activities of Montana’s own junior Senator, Conrad Burns. Time noticed it, too, in an article entitled “Who’s the Next Target in the Abramoff Probe?”:

A source close to the investigation told TIME that scores of US prosecutors and FBI agents continue to examine the activities of other sitting members of Congress and prominent individuals who could face prosecution, though not necessarily before the November 7 election. The source confirmed previous public reports that particular scrutiny is being paid to Sen. Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican who faces a tough campaign for reelection.

“A lot of the conduct to which Ney has pleaded guilty is similar to the alleged conduct of Senator Conrad Burns and his staff,” points out Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a non-profit watchdog group. “Abramoff has said that Burns and his staff used Signatures [Abramoff’s restaurant] like their cafeteria. And Burns took a number of legislative actions on Abramoff’s behalf, even as members of his staff went on trip to the 2001 Super Bowl on private jet and visited Sun Cruise gambling ships, which were partly owned by Abramoff. “Abramoff himself said in an interview earlier this year, “Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns’s committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria. I mean, it’s a little difficult for him to run from that record.”

Matt Singer addressed the fantastic, if predictable, reply from the Burns’ camp:

You can keep trying to convince me that Bush Justice Department is playing politics by leaking news that your boy is under scrutiny. I don’t buy it. Burns is under scrutiny because the corruption in his office was obvious. He sold out his country on the Marianas. He sold out Iraq on the Telecoms. And he undermined our entire republic for a pittance. And if he didn’t know what he was doing, he’s too damn stupid to be called Senator.

This may be a good time to remind folks that it’s too late for the GOP to slip Dennis Rehberg on the ballot instead of Boss Hogg.

Plus Rehberg’s got ties of his own to Abramoff. If Conrad goes down, do you think he takes Dennis, too, to lighten his sentencing a little? It’s not like these guys are loyal or have any integrity or anything. If Conrad would sell out his country, his Senate vote, for a few thousand dollars, imagine what he’d do to reduce his jail time…

Out here in the West, there’s a strong movement to retake our communities from corrupt and incompetent politicians. Western values have always tended towards a hands-off, live-and-let-live approach alongside strong neighborly values. In other words, it’s none of my d*mn business what you’re doing over there, but if you’re stuck, I’m here to help.

Over the past 20 years or so, Westerners had been attracted to the small-government message of Republicans, resenting what they thought were social engineering experiments and too much bureaucracy from the Democrats.

How things have changed.

Since President Bush was elected, the Republican leadership has repeatedly shown its incompetence, corruption, and indifference to the values that won it elections. President Bush has had five years to strengthen our national security and has instead squandered our good will and willingness to help on an ideological crusade in Iraq, while allowing government and our national debt to balloon to obscene sizes. Not only that, but the administration has also begun to wage war on Americans – government officials are listening in on our phone conversations, are following our web traffic, have dumped the Patriot Act on us, threatening our right to bear arms and our very liberty.

The West has had enough.

Here in Montana and in our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming, several strong Democratic candidates have emerged to challenged heavily-favored incumbents. All of the candidates have made a strong and public commitment to national security, health care costs, education, and ethics reform. In other words, they are representing the values and issues of ordinary Westerners. Of America.

I’ve written up a quick blurb about four important races I’ve talked about here on my blog: the Montana Senate race, the Wyoming and Montana at-large House races, and Idaho’s 1st House district race. Check out the candidates and issues and do what you can to help America take back Congress.

Montana’s Senate race

The Senate race is, of course, the marquee race. Democrats need to turn six seats from red to blue to win a majority in the Senate, and Montana’s is one that’s vulnerable. The two candidates couldn’t be more different and aptly represent the larger issues that are at stake this election cycle.

On one hand you have Republican Conrad Burns, one of the five worst U.S. Senators, according to Time magazine. He was in thick with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff (pdf), and is suspected of changing his vote in Congress for Abramoff clients at least two times: once for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe, once on behalf of the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association — on a bill that would have effectively ended forced prostitution, among other things. His former chief fundraiser is accused of fraud.

If that weren’t enough, Burns is renowned for saying stupid things. He called firefighters lazy and taxi drivers “terrorists.” He’s made a series of racist and sexist remarks, and has been caught on video sleeping during hearings, answering phone calls during campaign speeches, and more.

In Congress, he’s been a rubber stamp for the Bush administration on the Iraq war, torture, warrantless wiretapping, and the Port Dubai deal. During the campaign season, he’s run a decidedly negative campaign that deliberately and falsely smears his Democratic opponent.

(That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out Montana blogs for more: Left in the West, Intelligent Discontent, Cece-in-MT, Wrong Dog’s Life Chest, the brothers Moorcat and Wulfgar!, and Granny Insanity for more of the gory details.)

On the other hand you have Jon Tester:

In many respects Tester is running less on the issues than on his personal character, pragmatic outlook and salt-of-the-earth heritage. He has a good sense of humor, a big, genuine smile and a certain folk charm people out here respect — not the canned, political persona that campaigns sometimes try to sell to unassuming farmers and ranchers. He stresses that he’s not a career politician….He emphasizes his instinctive empathy: “For some reason, I don’t know what the hell it is, but we can connect with people,” he says.

Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, former basketball referee, music teacher, and butcher. During his term as the Montana state senate president he built a reputation for honesty and the ability to build bipartisan consensus. It was during his tenure as senate president that Montana reaped a $500-million budget surplus.Jon’s concerns are also Montanans’: health care, alternative energy, national security, a solution to the mess in Iraq.

Jon’s candidacy has sparked a stunning and effective grassroots movement in the state, which in large part enabled the Big Sandy farmer to stage a 25-point upset over Democratic primary front-runner and State Auditor John Morrison, despite being outspent 2-to-1.

The choice really couldn’t be clearer. Help Jon bring integrity back to Congress. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to send some with the vast potential to change Washington for the better. Jon Tester is exactly the kind of man who should be representing us.

Montana’s At-Large House race

The other statewide race this election – the House race – just isn’t getting much attention. It pits incumbent Republican Dennis Rehberg against challenger Monica Lindeen in another battle between a corrupt and out-of-touch DC insider and a feisty Montana Democrat with an excellent record in the state legislature.

Rehberg is a real winner. Not only has he supported Bush at every turn, he received a failing grade from the Drum Major Institute for his votes affecting the middle class, he voted against the minimum wage the same week he gave himself a pay raise, wants to eliminate the estate tax, and opposes Net Neutrality.

Rehberg’s also involved in a number of Montana-based scandals, including INSA and the Carter county lobbyist scandal; like Burns, he apparently feels that government exists to personally enrich himself and his pals.

Lindeen, on the other hand is an advocate of Net Neutrality, ethics reform, affordable health care, and energy independence, and is a strong opponent of the encroachment of the executive on our civil liberties. In the state legislature, Lindeen was an advocate of affordable secondary education.

Like Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen is a hard-nosed Montana Democrat and a lifelong native of the state. The daughter of a truck driver and a waitress, she put herself through school, started her own business – an early local Internet provider – and then served four terms in the state legislature marked by her reputation for competence, hard work, and ability to forge bipartisan coalitions.

She’s just the right kind of person we need in Washington DC right now. We need someone who knows how to govern, who won’t fleece the taxpayers, who won’t be influenced by lobbyists, and who will stand up to the Republican party.

Unfortunately the House race is getting overshadowed by the Senate race in traditional media circles and here on the Internet. Rehberg as the incumbent has all the financial advantages. Monica needs our help.

Help turn Montana BLUE! Contribute!

Idaho’s 1st House district race

In the country’s most conservative and reliably Republican of states, a Democrat threatens a Republican stronghold, and for good reason. In this district, the Republican nominee is so incompetent and extreme that even his fellow conservatives are deserting him in droves.

Meet Bill Sali. He’s backed by the fiscal extremist group, Club for Growth, who advocate the dismantling of Social Security and public schooling. In the Idaho state legislature, Sali lost his committee seats through sheer incompetence and is rumored to enjoy the enmity of Idaho’s other Republican representative, Mike Simpson, because of his tendency to grandstand for television. Idaho’s Speaker of the House, Republican Bruce Newcomb, said of Sali, “That idiot is just an absolute idiot. He doesn’t have one ounce of empathy in his whole fricking body.”

Ever since Sali won the primary, Republicans have consider the seat in danger. In July, Sali was a recipient of national GOP largesse as a member of a group of Republican candidates who are in “vulnerable” seats or who face “serious election difficulties.” Disgruntled Idaho Republicans have formed a group supporting Sali’s opponent, Larry Grant, and during a fundraiser with Dick Cheney, only 3 of 104 state legislators attended.

Larry Grant, on the other hand, former executive of Boise-based Micron Technology Inc, is well-known for his competency and fairness. He’s a fiscal conservative and moderate on social issues, running a campaign around ethics reform, health care reform, a plan for Iraq, and responsible federal spending.

(Grant has fantastic support from the blogosphere, including Julie Fanselow’s Grassroots for Grant and Red State Rebels, 43rd State Blues, Fort Boise, IdaBlue, Liberal Idaho, and F-Words.)

Despite having a 2-to-1 funding advantage (thanks, Club for Growth!), the latest poll shows Grant leading by eight points, 22 to 14 percent with a shocking 61 percent undecided. Sali’s lost half his support since the last poll; now we just need to get Grant’s message out there, so people will feel comfortable voting for him.

You can help oust Sali and put an honest man – Larry Grant – into office.

Wyoming’s At-Large House race

One of the more unheralded pick-up opportunities for the Democrats is in in Wyoming – Dick Cheney’s home state. There in the at-large House race Democrat Gary Trauner is giving incumbent Republican Barbara Cubin a race.

Trauner is another example of a Western Dem. A businessman – co-founder of an Internet Service Provider in the state – he’s running on a slate of no-nonsense issues: lobbyist reform, alternative energy, and health care reform. Basically he’s a competent and honest candidate who has pledged to bring an end to the kind of improper and unethical doings of the GOP and other fat-cat Congressmen in DC:

I will always raise my voice against wrongdoing, improper action or abuse of power, no matter the party or the political consequences. I will ‘do the right thing’ by putting the people I serve ahead of political calculation and party politics.

Incidentally, he’s got his own blog, of which he’s the sole contributor, a rarity these days.

Jackson Hole News and Guide has an excellent profile on Trauner that shows why he’s put this race into play:

From afar, Trauner’s campaign strategy seems like the wanderings of an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have obscured the modern political landscape. Trauner’s campaign manager, Linda Stoval, a 20-year veteran of Wyoming politics, argues exactly the opposite. Trauner’s approach is the only one that will work in the quirky political landscape of this large and scattered state.

“Even though the state is so big, people still expect to know the people they have elected,” she says. “Whether it happens or not, it means a lot to people that they have met him, especially at this level a race. In my mind [going door to door] is a necessity for Democratic candidates but I have been campaigning here for 20 years and have never seen it at this level.”

Meanwhile his opponent Barbara Cubin, who narrowly escaped the Republican primary, is…well…not quite all there. A 2003 incident sums up her competency nicely:

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) was engaged in a heated debate yesterday with Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) on the floor of the House yesterday over a gun control bill Watt was urging lawmakers to support an amendment to the legislation that would prohibit drug addicts or people undergoing treatment for drug addiction from purchasing guns; Cubin was working to defeat the amendment.

Cubin said, “So does that mean that if you go into a black community, you can’t sell any guns to any black person?”

Trauner and Cubin are nearly neck-and-neck on campaign funds: Cubin has $235K to Trauner’s $205K. A May poll (the latest I could find) showed Cubin leading by only four points, 47-43%, an astounding figure considering the state where the race is taking place.

Trauner needs help. Check out his website. Donate or volunteer.

I’ve seen this buzz around lately, first on Charlie Rose last night, and today in a comment on Left in the West, that Republican get-out-the-vote efforts gives the GOP an advantage heading into November. Evidence? Why Lincoln Chaffee’s primary victory against Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. (A lot of “f’s” in that race.”)

This is probably the worst bit of analysis I think I have ever seen. Did these people actually look at the numbers of voters? The targeted voters for the Republican voter drive? For a little dose of reality, check out the Hotline’s analysis: “How Chaffee Won.”:

Behind the curtain, Chafee’s campaign spent $500,000 to squeeze out every conceivable voter from neighborhoods across the state. They searched for independents who voted Democrat in municipal elections but who had once upon a time voted for a Republican for president or governor or senator. There were a few of those. They looked for non-affiliated voters in Republican neighborhoods. Using microtargeting techniques, they even tried to figure out which committed Democrats might be tempted to vote for Chafee.

Once having identified some 42,000 potential supporters, Chaffee’s gang went after them, hard, urging them to go out and vote for the incumbent Republican Senator.

It didn’t faze [Chaffee’s staff] when Laffey’s campaign bragged about meeting their targets. Chafee had simply found more voters. Laffey’s turnout was sufficient for a universe of Republicans and identified conservatives. But Chafee had found just about every Republican he could hope for and managed to attract at least 10,000 non-Republicans to his tally. One Republican in the state estimates that as many as 60 percent of the primary electorate were not affiliated with the Republican Party. (More than 20,000 Rhose Islanders requested formal disaffiliation forms after voting.) Chafee even managed to blunt Laffey’s margin of victory in Cranston to just a few hundred votes.

The second missing piece to this puzzle is that Lincoln Chaffee is a moderate Republican, the only member of the GOP who voted against the Iraq War. He’s pro-choice, a supporter of gay marriage, an environmentalist, opposed Bush’s tax cuts, favors using federal funds for stem cell research, etc & co.

His opponent is a fiscal extremist and found most of his support from the Club for Growth – a group that wants to dismantle Social Security and public schooling.

So where did Chaffee find his extra voters? Why, from the moderates and centrists of the state, the very folks who approve of Bush at a 22 percent clip. Got that? It’s likely that Chaffee supporters were drummed up to vote for an anti-Bush, anti-GOP Republican moderate.

And still — still — despite the voter drive, despite moderates’ support of Chaffee’s anti-establishment politics, still state voters are more likely to vote for Chaffee’s Democratic opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse. Hotline:

The same factors that drove Chafee’s victory are giving his Democratic challenger, Sheldon Whitehouse, some comfort. The universe of identified Chafee voters is at least 20,000 less than the number of Democrats who voted for Whitehouse in yesterday’s noncompetitive primary.

So saying Chaffee’s efforts will help aid the GOP in November in the key races across the country seems…well…divorced from reality. 

Chaffee’s strategy will not work in Montana. Moderates, who are generally disposed to dislike President Bush and prefer Democratic candidates this election cycle, cannot be scooped up and convinced to vote for Conrad Burns. It ain’t gonna happen.

No, my friends, if Conrad Burns is going to win this election, he’s going to have to discourage voters from going to the polls.

Everybody knows by now how terrible a Senator Burns is. They’ve heard the accusations. That’s why Burns has started a vicious attack campaign smearing Jon Tester, calling him an ally of al Qaeda and deliberately misrepresenting Jon’s record to the public. He’s trying to make Jon look equally as unpalatable a candidate as he is.

If there’s a low turnout, that means only the party faithful will vote. And the GOP is counting on being able to rally its legions to their cause, even if it’s an old, corrupt, off-kilter cause.

Is it working? If you believe the polls, it may be backfiring. I mean, haven’t you had enough of all the bitter invective from the GOP? Aren’t you tired of the name-calling and the in-fighting? Aren’t you tired of the incompetence and corruption?

Support Jon.

The media coverage of the Hamilton debate was…okay.

Honestly I was tempted to say p*ss poor. Certainly there were major parts of the coverage that was p*ss poor, but I do have to credit the newspapers and television segments with printing or running the best or most important points made by the candidates on most, if not all, of the issues.

Of course, that’s what they’re supposed to do.

Now for the p*ss poor parts, which are easier and more fun to write about. Let’s take a look at Montana’s CBS affiliate KPAX coverage of the debate (KPAX also has the video of the entire debate available, too) — a three-minute clip. There’s the first problem. The second is that the clip provides no context. To wit, starting at the 2:02 mark:

However, a question on money and politics drew a spirited response from both the candidates and the crowd.

(Tester) I will tell you right now, we’ve got the best government money can buy. (Laughter and applause.) And it starts early. I mean, it’s arguable we’ll be spending about twenty million bucks between the two of us, probably more than that, to be elected to the United States Senate. That’s way out of line.

(Burns) What is this little…slush fund? Called a constituency fund? No accountability. You don’t have to report where you got the money, you don’t have to report where you got it. What about a foreign trip. Unreported! I believe in light bulbs and sunshine. You know everything about me because it’s out there. It’s on my website!

That’s it for coverage on ethics. No mention of Abramoff by Tester. No sign of Tester’s best line of the night, when he answers the unfounded and untrue charges levied by Burns, when Jon ticked off the trips Conrad took and who paid for them and Burns’ response to the Great Falls Tribune when asked about them: “It’s none of your god-d*mned business.”

But the worst thing about this clip is that no explanation was made of Tester’s and Burns’ charges, no context was given. And I’m not talking about quotes from each camps about Abramoff and Jon’s trade trip to Tainwan, I’m talking facts. Facts! Clear the record, explain the charges, weigh the validity of each!

The voters have the right to know.

I’m doing my d*mndest here on 4&20 blackbirds, but I get only a couple hundred visitors a day. KPAX has…how many viewers?

All I’m asking is that you inform them, so that when they approach the ballot box, they can make an informed decision. Or at least post my URL at the end of the segment! I’ll do it, I’ll inform the voters for you! You can show “Dukes of Hazard” re-runs and print your ticky-tack columns about Notre Dame football and alien sightings, I’ll handle the important stuff…

Update: Well, well! It looks like some media sources researched Burns’ charges and found them without merit. That’s a good beginning!

It’s taken me a couple of days to order my thoughts around the recent Senate debate. It was loud and unruly, passions were high. I mentioned this before in the comments at Left in the West, but this debate was an old-fashioned stump debate. The hall was filled to capacity and then some – so around 800 people crowded in, elbow-to-elbow, missing the first football weekend, to hear the debate. It was electric. The audio caught by Intelligent Discontent does not do the crowd justice. In fact, it sounds like much of the noise has been edited out.)

Senator Conrad Burns of Montana turned in one of the most disgraceful, misleading, and shameful performances I have ever — ever! — seen from a candidate, local, state, or federal. He was rude. He was aggressive. Worse still, he told some of the biggest lies I have ever heard – some whoppers that might have made even Eric Coobs red-faced – lies specifically designed to impugn Jon Tester’s character and mislead the electorate.

Montana, meet your Senator, and welcome to your autumn. It’s going to be ugly.

The negativity started early, with the first question on Iraq. First, Burns questioned the loyalty of any American who opposes the war. Then he implied that anyone who thought we were in a quagmire with no plan to extract ourselves was living in a fantasy world. He vainly tried to capture a little Reagan humor with a “here we go again” line, but the delivery was so mean-spirited, not a single person laughed, not even from the kicking-girl chorus line of Burns Youth.

It only went downhill from there.

There were the usual dodges, like when Burns touted the host of his loser legislation. The car-wreck that is Medicare Part B. His energy bill that dropped billions into the pockets of Big Energy. Worse still, he claimed the deficit was under control, because the amount we’re borrowing was shrinking. (Tester: like saying “I’m maintaining my weight gain.”)

Then there was the physical and verbal aggression. During the question on energy, Burns charged across the stage and wagged his finger at Tester, yelling “Skirted the question! Skirted the question!” During the last question on vets, Burns shouted “Why don’t he! Why don’t he!” when listening to Tester’s agenda, insinuating he had the power to enact it during his tenure in the state legislature.

But worst of all were the outright lies, directed at Tester’s character and his ethics.

It started with the question on ethics. Tester claimed that Washington changed the Senator. That it’s time to come home. (I’m saying “claimed” because that’s assuming Burns was honest before he was elected to the Senate.) Burns’ response:

Burns fired back: “Washington hasn’t changed me. I have the same wife, the same kids, got the same principles, same values.”

“While we’re talking about that, Jon, why don’t we spell out the Votesmart little thing. What is this little slush fund? You call it a constituency fund – no accountability, you don’t have to report where you got the money.”

Burns then challenged Tester on a foreign trip, which Burns claimed Tester took and didn’t report.

“Jon you were called on the carpet for illegal phone-calling to raise funds,” Burns said. “And I think you said at the time that’s a terrible law.

“When you look at everything here, maybe I’m the only one here that’s not a lawbreaker. I might be the only one, I might be the only one.”

Burns’ connections to Jack Abramoff are well documented. Burns and his staff are under investigation by the Department of Justice. Every accusation Burns made is false.

That Burns could stand there in front of the crowd and make those allegations while claiming his own honesty…well, let’s just say that he was amply rewarded by the crowd for his actions.

Whatever smidgeon of respect that I had for Conrad Burns is now gone. Gone. He is a liar and a cheat. He’s willfully deceiving the Montana voters of his record and his integrity and deliberately tarnishing the character of an honest man.


I don’t know which genius on Burns’ staff came up with the idea that Burns should compare himself to “sunshine” and “light bulbs,” but trust me…that will stick.

Tester, for his part, started out weak. He spoke too softly and got lost in policy – which isn’t a bad thing, it’s obvious Tester actually cares about these things, health insurance, agriculture, energy. But it was an awkward start for Jon.

But once Burns started ripping him, the gloves were off and Tester not only refused to back down, he threw it all back into Burns’ face. Burns at times appeared confused, bewildered, and at a loss for words. When the crowd heckled him over his ethical questions, he looked part shocked and part guilty, like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Tester walked all over Burns.

The worst of it came when Burns started on agricultural questions. Burns’ attempts to portray himself as the benevolent and paternal check-writer to Tester’s naughty and disrespectful rebel-farmer (perhaps showing us how Burns himself has been too often treated by his lobbyist overseers?), totally backfired as a visibly angered Tester shot back with a number of real and serious issues that are affecting family farmers across the state and issues Burns is less than stellar on. The exchange made one thing clear: Tester is closer to the farmers and ranchers of the state than Burns ever will be.

Look, much has been made of the crowd – some of it negative, especially by a press corps who dislike politics and regard enthusiasm with distrust and antipathy – but the fact remains, Hamilton is supposed to be a Burns stronghold! If you get booed in your own house, you’ve got problems!

One can only wonder what the atmosphere in Butte will be like.

The bottom line. In the Whitefish debate, Burns looked like a tired old man searching for words to describe polices he didn’t understand, while Tester looked young, smart, and open. In the Hamilton debate, Burns looked like an angry and aggressive rooster who picks a fight only to find himself backed into a corner, while Tester looked like passionate, honest, and strong.

After a hard debate, a man likes to kick back with his loved ones where he feels comfortable.

Sen. Mike DeWine, who has been aggressively soaking up Washington lobbyist money for his uphill re-election campaign in Ohio, has added an unprecedented campaign finance twist: bringing in another endangered Republican senator for his fund-raiser.

During the August recess of Congress, lobbyists received an invitation for a $1,000-a-ticket ”sunrise breakfast” in Washington on Sept. 14 to ”honor” DeWine. Listed as a ”special guest” is Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana. DeWine and Burns are considered two of the Republican senators most likely to be defeated in November.

The breakfast will be held at Charlie Palmer’s in Washington, a favorite restaurant among lobbyists. The listed hosts are the political action committees of EarthLink, an Internet service provider, and the National Mining Association.

That’s nice to see that Conrad Burns is relaxing among people he can trust, not like the nasty, nasty reception he received in Hamilton from the riff-raff in the high school Performing Arts Center. Why, they just let anyone walk off the streets and attend those things!

Greetings, 4&20 b’birds fans. I had every intention today of posting live from Hamilton’s Performing Arts Center during today’s Senate debate. I brought my computer, I had a cozy front-row seat in the corner, a great view, a wireless connection.

Only…my site was blocked by the network. Actually, so were all blogs. Whaddya know. No reading or posting to blogs from the Hamilton high school. Am I surprised? No. Do I approve? I’d say no, if I believed that high school students actually read political or literary blogs instead of their friends’ MySpace pages.

And then WordPress changed their controls around, and at midnight last night I couldn’t figure out how the h*ll to get this posted. (The block party last night was amazing! Great fun!)

Anyhow. I kept a running log of my thoughts during the debate on a word-processing document, so I’ll post the general gist here, ‘tho heavily edited. It’s fun reading live posts as it’s happening, but not so much serveral hours later. So…anyhoo…


Performing Arts Center, Hamilton High school, the place is packed. Wall-to-wall people. Noisy, anticipatory. To be honest, the GOP dominated the entry-way, loads of tee-shirts and signs. I can’t say what the mood of the crowd is, who they’re pulling for, tho’ I suspect – as Hamilton is the center of some *ahem* interesting conservative groups, a good chunk may be pulling for Burns.

The pro-Burns crowd outside were mostly kids. Teen-agers. Seems awful young to give up all semblance of a moral code. I mean…how could you support this guy if you’re idealistic? And what are you doing at 18 years tossing aside your idealism?

As I sit here, I can only think of the myriad ethical and judgement lapses of our junior Senator, and it seems to me the choice is clear. Burns has overstayed his time in DC, and a vote for is vote of approval for his conduct with Jack Abramoff, for lobbyist money controlling federal policy, a vote for the rudderless war policy of an incompetent and lame-duck President, and a further endangering of American security.

Trust me, if a Democrat were as incompetent and corrupt as Burns, I would at the very worst simply not cast my vote in that particular election. What we need in office are competent and honest representatives who will actually represent us, Montanans, and not big-money business, which already has too many advantages.


NOW is here. I got to do the “perp” walk down the hall with a camera in my face to my seat here in the front row, right by the stage. There’s a block of “Fire Burns” shirts just a few rows behind me, center seats. Bright yellow. Can’t miss ’em if you’re sitting on stage.

The traditional journalists are stacked against the far wall. The lights on their cameras gleam like insect eyes from the shadows. You can only imagine what cr*p they’ll write and air about this debate. Ugh. My stomach hurts thinking of these people obscuring the facts and issues with their quaint notions of “objectivity.”

2:07 pm

The candidates enter. The crowd goes bonkers. Standing ovation, Cheering. Raucous. Goose bumps. Both candidates get a loud ovation. Tester’s was louder…tho’ he was introduced second. Still, it’s loud.

Enter the boy scouts with the flags. We all do the Pledge of Allegiance. Cute. I haven’t said it since…when? High school? I nailed it, though. I’m just glad that NOW camera isn’t in my face. The produce is spider-crawling throughout the auditorium. Hope he gets some of this excitement into the show.


Burns opens. Man, that’s some twang! He gits folksy and sucks up to Hamilton, remembering auctioneering swine or something here. It should be swine. Introduces his wife, and looks d*mn old. Starts touting his appropriations for the state, reeling off a list of things we should be grateful for. (Tester’s granddaughter sits a row behind me and heckles the Senator throughout. She’s two. Go, girl.) Burns brags up his energy plan but forgets to mention all those subsidies to Big Oil.

Wait…it’s getting surreal. Burns just claimed this election was all about “vision,” about thinking up innovative ways for forming the future. This old crank? How odd. Is letting big corporations write legislation “visionary”?

\Tester follows. He plunges right in, talking about the myriad problems – energy, health, education costs – that afflict everyday Montanans. Then he makes a powerful statement saying DC has a corrupt culture…it’s actually quite moving and honest-sounding. In a way, he’s calling Burns a liar, corrupted by Washington. Moving, though he appears a little nervous and is speaking, perhaps, a little too softly.


The first question is about the war. Timetable, or stay the course? And what’s “victory” for Iraq?

Burns gets a chukle when he asks, rhetorically, “what are we doing there?” Indeed, Senator. What are we doing there? The crowd is rowdy, for sure. Then he evokes Somalia, calling our exit there a victory for…?…didn’t quite catch that. “Them.” Somalia? Not that Burns admires consistency or accuracy…but…did he support Somalia? Gotta look that up.

We shift gears. Apparently we’re losing in Iraq because “some” are dividing the nation. We’ve got to be unified, so we’ll win. Apparently what Burns doesn’t know is that we are unified, it’s the government that’s dividing the nation by continuing a war we don’t like. In any case, I don’t like being called a traitor, and he’s just p*ssed me off.

Tester quickly notes that Iraq has nothing to do with 9/11, says we need a plan and we should bring the troops home. Iraq is diverting from the war on terror. “Let’s go after the terrorists,” he says.

\Burns’ rebuttal. Says Tester has had four plans. What are the consequences for losing? Calls opponents of the war “out of touch with reality.” (Goodness, he sure knows how to rile up Touchstone! Unfortunately for Burns, and for his constituents, reality is not what he thinks it is.)

Tester rebuts, saying the Iraqis should be doing all the things we’re doing, but there are no plans for withdrawal. “We need to fight the war on terror – for real.”

Rebuttal time is up, but Burns gets a jab in “under his breath” and after the alloted time, asking – sarcastically – what Tester’s plan is. Tester looks a little surprised at the out-of-bounds play.

Montana, meet your *sshole – er, junior Senator. This is not the same dowdy old guy we saw in Whitefish. This is your drunk brother-in-law who mistakes stares of incredulity for wonder.

2:26Question about North Korea, Iran getting nukes.

Tester says the war in Iraq is diverting resources and tools to deal with these states. Our armed forces are tied down. We need to use diplomacy to curb the programs.

Burns: “Here we go again!” Claims we can’t negotiate with Iran, North Korea, implying they’re madmen. “You can’t deal with these people!” Burns plays to the lowest common denominator, allowing them to ignore the subtlies of history, culture, and current events across the globe. Good versus evil. We’ve already seen this ideology is worthless, only it plays well to the Eagle and Flag crowd.

Tester: If we don’t communicate, there’s no upside. We need to apply pressure diplomatically. Why are we relying on “Red China” for diplomatic negotiations? “We’re the leader of the free world,” he says, let’s use that power.

Burns: “We’re communicating, they’re listening, and we’re hearing them. There’s only one way to protect the free world: be strong.” Quotes Reagan. (Some applause from the Burnsian side. “Let’s take a look at the world as it is, not as we would like it to be.” (Derisive laughter.)

Tester asks the moderator if he can respond, she says no. Everybody laughs.

(Little worried about Tester here. Burns had some good one-liners they’ll no doubt play on televison tonight and every night for the next two months. Plus Tester looked a little taken aback by Burns’ sudden aggression. He – we all – thought this might be a congenial affair like the Whitefish debate. Guess not. Let’s see if Tester gets off his heels.)


Energy question.

Burns points out that most our energy – oil, gas, coal – comes from the Western hemisphere, not the Middle East. Talks about upping development of oil and coal here, especially in Montana. Then he starts in on that tract of coal in Southeast Montana, the infamous Davison tracts full of sodium and too dirty to burn with current technology. “We got to sell that coal.” (“Because my pals need the money!”)

Tester: “We’re more dependent on foreign oil than we were in 1970.” Talks about coal to disel, using Montana coal, agreeing we can use Montana resources. Touts wind here in Montana. Talks about the resources here in Montana, biodisel fuels, etc. Montana can be a “key role player.”

Burns: “Skirted the question! Skirted the question!” (Wow, what a jerk!) Takes credit for Judith Gap, says it was him that enabled it. Meanwhile, Burns stalks right over the stage to about the halfway line and starts in directly on Jon. Agressive. Jerk. Apparently getting “tough” is on Burns’ agenda tonight.

Tester: Calls Burns a “Johnny-come-lately.” Raises his voice and stalks to stage center and addresses the crowd. He’s done more for energy independence during his brief tenure in the state Senate than Burns has done in 18 years in the federal body. Persuasive. He’s off his heels and fighting again. Burns stepped on his toes in a policy Tester’s actually far superior in.


Health care reform question.

Tester: Touts state legislative agenda. (Burns scowling, crossing arms.) Tester talks policy, still notes there’s troube. We need affordable health care, with prevention a critical component. “We’re driving families into poverty.” Says health care is maybe the number one priority for Montana. (Amen!)

Burns: Centralized medical records. Touts the “small business” health plan, that cr*p Burns/Enzi bill that lowers costs for healthy single people and guts state regulatory power. I.e., the boot for people who need insurance the most. “Guess who’s blocking this bill?” Burns asks the crowd.

A voice rises up from the crowd, “Abramoff?”

Uproarious laughter.

I can’t believe it! Perfect timing! The crowd is ugly! It wants Burns’ head!

Burns looks a little embarassed, smiles awkwardly. Waits for the laughter to die down.

Starts again, “Guess who’s blocking it? The Democrats!” More hissing and mumbling. You’d have to be an idiot to believe this. Who controls Congess? Touts his health care “record.” Brings up Medicare Part B, the piece of cr*p legislation that sent governors across the country in crisis mode, because few seniors understood what the h*ll that was all about. Brings up the insurance bill again.

Tester: “Let’s start with Medicare Part B.” Goes into the plan…which quickly gets complicated. He’s losing us, but catches us again by saying, “see? It’s too complex!” Seniors aren’t signing up. The drug companies drafted the legislation!

Burns: With your plan, you’d have nothing! (Loud catcalls and boos from the audience.) Goes into an anecdote to defend his bill. A senior who needs an expiramental drug saves money. A confusing example, and I admit I don’t understand what the h*ll he’s talking about. Says Tester’s “friend” helped write it. (He means Baucus. I hate it when people bring up Baucus as an example of why a Democrat is bad. That’s like using Burns as an example of a Republican, only too many are like him. At least according to the DoJ.)

The moderator chides the audience for the outbursts. She looks annoyed. Must be a journalist. They hate when people actually believe in something strongly.

2:44Question about deficit.

Burns: It’s a concern. (Groans from the audience.) Our debt-to-asset ratio is smaller than under Reagan. (Uh…I’m getting lost. So he means we’re overspending less than we were last year? Is that a good thing?) Claims the economy is growing and working to help the deficit. (The economy is growing?) We have always operated within the budget… (?)

Tester: Brings up the Medicare info again for more clarification and urges Burns to support Baucus’ bill that would simplify the plan. (Hm…a good idea? It’s obvious that Tester knows and cares about this issue, but this is a bad time to give folks PSAs.)

Then quickly moves on to the debt. what Burns is saying “is like me saying I’m maintaining my weight gain.” Says Burns increases the debt, except during election years. (Murmur from the Burns gang.) Talks about running his farm and how you can’t get into serious debt on a farm. Bad business.

Burns: “Your farm didn’t get hit by Katrina, didn’t get hurt by terrorists.” (Some grumbling from the crowd.) Says he wrote checks that Jon cashed. Farm subsidies, I assume.

Tester interrupts before his time is up! He’s genuinely angry! Burns…out of sorts…gropes around the stage for where he’s supposed to be standing to look tough, while Tester, nearly yelling, talks about some real problems family farms are experience, thanks in part to Burns support of large multinational agribusiness corporations, and then there’s a six-year drought in Eastern Montana, Burns gropes, smiles…looks around…he’s got a rattlesnake in his boot, a bear in his bedroom.

I can only think what farmers must think of Burns after this. Tester obviously knows their problems. Burns looks chagrined.

2:49 How to end corruption in DC? Tester: “Be honest.” “We have the best government can buy.” (Laughter.) Talks about lobbyists, Abramoff. Says Montana values should be represented in Montana. Burns relationship with lobbyists is well documented. “Senator Burns has changed.”

Burns: “Washington hasn’t changed me.” Wonders why Tester didn’t fill out the Vote Smart quesitonaire? Accuses Jon of not reporting slush funds, foreign trips. “I believe in light bulbs and sunshine.” Talks about slush funds again, claims his own website reveals everything. (Much muttering in the crowd.) “Maybe I’m the only one here that’s not the lawbreaker.” (Much groaning, booing.)

Tester: Asked as part of his duty to the legislature to go on a trade mission to Taiwan. He didn’t want to leave the farm, but he was obligated. There’s nothing secret about that trip. “Let’s talk about Senator Burns’ trips:” lists a long long long list of places, funded by lobbyists.

Truly spectacular moment. So true. Perfect delivery. Outrage. Plus the list…it’s long…so long…and so many lobbyists! A great moment. Wish I had film. Must find some…

\Burns: Claims he’s not under investigation…his trips and campaign funds are up for everybody to see! (Not.) Brings up the robo-calls he and the Montana GOP birng up as Tester’s ethical “entanglements.”

Tester: Explains the calls, that he stopped them as soon as he realized they were illegal. About Burns’ trips being open for everyone to see, quotes from a Great Falls Tribune story in which the report asked about those trips, and Burns replied, “None of your damn business.”


Quesiton about road access to Bitterroot dams.

Burns: Says the people should decide, the water is critical to this valley.

Tester: Why isn’t the forest service doing this? Why does this have to be a Congressional law? Says the dams have to maintained, but public access to hunting has to be maintained.

Burns: Claims he didn’t understand Jon’s answer. “Someone has to make the call.” (This whole issue was manufactured by Conrad Burns. It’s definitely a softball question he controls. There’s really no answer to this. It ain’t the best policy, but who wants to create a hubub over this? That’s what Burns wants, to depict the left as allied with environmentalists who would stand between Bitterrootians and their water.)

Tester: The Forest Service should be in charge.


Immigration question.

Tester: Quotes 9/11 commission, says we need to secure our borders. “No amnesty.” Enforcing the laws on the books: crack down on businesses hiring illegal aliens. Trade agreements don’t force our trading partners into poverty.

Burns: Secure the border first. Then deal with the domestic issues. Guarantee no amnesty. “None. (Should Tester mention Burns’ record on this?) Says he voted against the recent Senate bill in immigration. “This is where I part with my President.” (Funny, it’s the only issue where I agree with Bush.)

Tester: Both borders are a concern. Talks about working with Canada. Brings up Marianas Islands, voted to loosen immigration standards there, a conduit for illegal immigration. (But…where’s the mention of Burns’ flip-flopping like a fish out of water on the issue?)

Burns: It’s not the US. It’s a protectorate. Smirks. (“Gotcha!” Does he think we’re that dumb?)

Tester: It is a protectorate, which means they get to apply the “made in the USA” label, with different labor laws…seems stunned at this twist in Burns’ argument, which defies reason.


No Child Left Behind Act.

Burns: Supports it, says it creates accountibility for schools. What’s wrong with defending accountibility?

Tester: “We have accountibility: it’s called the local school board. Local school boards know best how to educate their kids.” We’re sending the power to Washington DC. The act punishes rural schools, they can’t get certified teachers.

Burns: Says he’s visited middle and grade schools across the country – mumbling from Burns own supporters! — says accountibility is important!

Tester: Making teachers teach to standards, not education. Real accountibility exists with the local school boards. (Positive mumbling from Burns’ supporters. Wow. Burns was very weak on this question, and it seemed his own people were a little unnerved by Burns’ devotion to DC oversight of their local schools. That’s not a Montana value.)

3:11 Do you support stem cell research?

Tester: (Looks tired.) I support it.

Burns: I support it, too. Adult stem cell. It’s continuing in private research. Don’t support federal funding, but supports it. (Seems like he really likes stem cell, with a passing nod to pro-lifers.)


Veterans’ question

Burns: Touts his own appropriations for veterans’ services. Here in Montana. New bill on training. We’re spending more money than ever in veterans’ health care. (Why are the benefits being cut?) Mentions he’s a former Marine, etc…

Tester: Talks about the Iraqi war veterans coming back injured. A cost we should bear first. We need to assure them they get benefits. Brings up an anecdote about a footless Missoula vet.

Burns: Have him give me a call! Talks about more and more and more appropriations for veterans. It’s got to take a guy with a little more seniority to get it done…

Tester: There’s too many people who aren’t getting the benefits. It’s too big an issue to be playing politics with. (Probably should have mentioned the debt question, Burns record with Disabled American Veterans. There are concrete instances of Burns’ malfeasance towards vets.) “One other thing, Senator, the money you spend is not your money, it’s our money.”

Burns: You should know…you should know…(cackling like an old woman)…taxes! Taxes!

Tester: Touts balancing the budget, good spending. Not no-bid contracts for Iraq! (Wild cheering!)

Burns: “Why don’t he! Why don’t he! Why don’t he lower cost of school? Why don’t he turn coal to oil? Why don’t he! Why don’t he!” (Not verbatim, but you get the gist. And, yes, he kept saying, “why don’t he,” over and over.

Tester: We balanced the budget, reduced taxes for small businesses. You voted against Pell Grants. We need more money for education!

Burns: Blames the Democrats for blocking education bill. (Democrats are the majority party in Congress?)

Tester: I know how important higher education is. You’ve had 18 years. It’s time to quit talking on the issues and start doing something about it.


Closing statements

Tester: Very inspiring speech…about ending divisiviness, partisanship, we should work together.

Burns: Quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson? Attacks Tester as a liar. Talks about vision. Talks about fighting for our kids and grandkids. Smears Tester’s ethics. Smear, divides, angers, quotes the forefathers, touts freedom, claims to be honest. Election is about the “man who has seniority…”

Wow. Conrad sure knows how to p*ss people off.

Impressions later.

Burns’ latest radio attack ad came out recently, and it’s a doozy. Burns stops short of calling Jon a traitor and calling for the rope and tree, but he comes close. It’s ironic, too, that Burns is concentrating on security, when his own record on the issue is so poor, and he’s a stalwart champion of Bush’s quixotic “security measures.” Oh well.

I’ve provided you a transcript of the ad, and have linked to stories and pictures that explain the real issue and positions that the candidates take:

Jon Tester talks tough about security. (Tester’s voice.) “I will never waiver in keeping America safe and strong.” Tester says we should go after terrorists wherever they are, but then he wants to cut and run in Iraq, even though we fight al Qaeda terrorists there every day. Jon Tester isn’t being honest with you. His position on Iraq is constantly changing, and he’s taken thousands from ultra-liberal groups that mocked American deaths. Tester opposes the Patriot Act and sides with liberal judges in opposing successful anti-terror programs. Tester’s not tough on terror. He’s deceitful. But Conrad Burns is a Marine who won praise for strong support of our military, and an unwavering commitment to the war on terror. So when you hear Tester’s tough talk, remember: Tester will say anything to get elected. Anything. But he won’t be honest about your family’s security.

There you go. You know what to do.

One of the more interesting theories on why Iverson was sent over to Burns is that Burns is headed for indictment, and Iverson is there to smooth Dennis Rehberg’s transition to Republican Senate candidate.

Love the rumor. I don’t buy it. Basically if Burns is indicted, the Republicans are scr*wed. First, Montana law doesn’t allow candidates to withdraw their names from the ballot at this late date (MCA 13-10-325):

A candidate may not withdraw later than 85 days before a general election or 75 days before a primary election.

There’s some 60-odd days left before the general.

If Burns, say, resigns from his office, he’s still stuck on the ballot. And:

13-25-202. Vacancy in office of United States senator. (1) If a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator, an election to fill the vacancy shall be held at the next general election. If the election is invalid or not held at that time, the election to fill the vacancy shall be held at the next succeeding general election.

(2) The governor may make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy until the election.

The “governor” in this case is Democrat Brian Schweitzer and friend and political ally of Jon Tester. Don’t take rocket-science-level-genius to see where that dog’s headed…

There is one – and only one — way that Dennis R slips onto the ballot as the Republican candidate, and Boss Hogg’s probably not gonna like it (MCA 13-10-327):

However, if a candidate for partisan office dies less than 85 days before the general election, the affected political party shall appoint a candidate within 5 days after being notified of the vacancy.

So…unless Dennis and his pals are planning on Conrad Burns’ untimely death, Montana is stuck with Burns as their Republican nominee for Senate.

That leaves us hanging out to dry on the Iverson switch-a-roo. It doesn’t make much sense. Why would someone knowingly and willingly join a losing campaign and a loser candidate? Charity? If you follow the links on Matt’s excellent post, you could speculate that Iverson’s showboating and upstaging got him booted off the Rehberg campaign. Essentially Iverson was canned. Or exiled.

But a poor choice, for Rehberg as well. Check out McKenna’s quote in the Gazette article, for reasons why:

In response, Tester spokesman Matt McKenna said, “Outside of Conrad Burns, few people in Montana are more entangled with the Jack Abramoff and INSA (Inland Northwest Space Alliance) than Erik Iverson, so this seems like par for the course with the Burns’ campaign.”

He was referring to the fact that Rehberg recommended Carter County hire Kevin Ring, a former associate of Abramoff’s, to lobby to get a highway paved. Iverson’s wife worked on a clinical trial for INSA, although she was paid by other sources.

So here’s a guy involved with Rehberg’s dirty laundry coming over to Boss Hogg himself. Turns out they know some of the same guys. You can’t help but start thinking of Burns and Rehberg as coming from the same mould, now can you?

Great letter in Sunday’s Missoulian! Tim D. Peterson of Missoula writs in about Dick Cheney’s recent visit to Montana on behalf of Conrad Burns (I changed the title because I suspect the Missoulian – *gasp* – got it wrong:

Cheney seems to be campaigning for Tester

Let me get this straight:

Shotgun Dick visits Whitefish stumping for his buddy Conrad Burns (Missoulian, Aug. 17) and says that in the 20 years he’s known Burns, “Conrad’s always been the same person.”

Does that mean Conrad’s always lacked ethics? Does that mean he’s always been eager to do the bidding of convicted felons like Jack Abramoff? Has he always tried to help Native Americans that don’t live in his district while neglecting those who do live in Montana? Has he always spit venom when encountering heroic public servants like firefighters? Suddenly, “Conrad’s always been the same person” doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, Mr. Vice President.

Cheney also quipped that Burns is “a great son of Montana” and “I think there is something special and unique about that Western perspective.” But Conrad’s not from the West; he’s from Missouri. In the all the years he’s been representing Montana, he hasn’t even bothered to lose his ‘Miss-urruh” accent. Missouri hasn’t been “the West” since the days of the Louisiana Purchase, boys…

I used to think Burns should resign in disgrace and withdraw from the Senate race, but now, I’d like him to just continue being “just like he’s always been,” just like Tom DeLay! What more could Jon Tester ask for?

I have to say this letter kept me laughing. It’s spot on! Not that Cheney can keep track of all the legislators he stumps for, but couldn’t he have at least researched the Montana Senate race and made some, I dunno, personal or accurate statements?

And why the h*ll would anyone want Dick Cheney stumping for them? Might as well invite Darth Vader or Osama bin Laden, they’re about equally as popular.

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