I have an idea to keep a scorecard of our Montana legislators this session. Not that I intend to be fair and balanced, since my admittedly-biased intent is to analyze the compromised nature of these elected beasts of burden that we insist on overloading with power using broken-down pack saddles and half-assed diamond hitches. That said, I think every multi-generational Montanan can admit that elephants are harder to pack than donkeys, but more on the elephants and half-assed diamond hitches in a minute.
As we all know, there are more than a couple ways to analyze hypocrisy. Even those who vehemently believe Obama was born on another planet cannot deny this basic fact. But when you’re talking about 21st century elephants and what comes out of them, it becomes harder than some are willing to work, which is probably why there’s such a vacuum of media coverage on the subject. Not that it’s hard to find examples of glaring conflict-of-interest, venality and slave-state interpretations of the Constitution in our legislators’ portfolios. What’s hard is that the examples are legion, sometimes arcane, and the vectors intersect from multiple directions emanating out of the black hole just to the Far Right of Attila, which means they come predominantly from Montana Republican legislators dutifully following their state party platform (*). From corporate media’s point of view, this means that the kind of in-depth coverage citizens need in order to know what’s going on is too confusing to fit into one pre-packaged sound bite and therefore does not sell product. It also means that, since the sordid (and sadly true) tale predominantly paints individual Republicans as the Dark Perpetrators of Naughtiness, the tale is therefore not “fair and balanced”. But as I hope the incomplete compilation below indicates, nobody to the Right of Attila is trying to hide who threw the gauntlet of corruption down anymore. So why should We The Taxpayers be shy about picking it up and accepting the challenge full on? Therefore I’ll claim the mantle of the former torpedoman I once was several lives ago and say, “Damn the Fair and Balanced! Full speed ahead!”
This is a partial list (**), but I hope it’s a decent start. Most of this information is available on other sites; I just thought it was worth the effort to compile it all in one place and for one core reason—to foster Good Government by constantly exposing blatant corruption.
For simplicity—which I love—I calibrated my corruption-o-meter with a bat-crap decoder key to track three vectors:
· A.L.E.C. for venality and conflict of interest.
· Federal farm subsidies for hypocrisy.
· Over-the-top teabaggery, in which classification I added Gun Love, for members of the Friends of Jeff Davis Club.
I won’t go into an in-depth explanation of who A.L.E.C. (American Legislative Exchange Council) is. You can get that information here: http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed and you should. But consider the following baseline distillation:
· A.L.E.C. buys elected officials. There’s no other word for it. Out of approximately 8300 state and national elected officials in the U.S., A.L.E.C. boasts of having 2000 of them in their corporate pockets, including at least 24 Montana legislators. They buy them for the price of a steak dinner and a plane ticket (what A.L.E.C. calls a junket “scholarship”). Using Montana’s official state language—English—this practice can easily be defined as accepting a “bribe”, or, if you choose not to be fair and balanced, a “kickback”.
· A.L.E.C. is a super-funded bill-mill massively underwritten by mega-corporations who are, in Montana’s case, almost exclusively out-of-state and often out-of-country.
· A.L.E.C.’s corporate partners, many of whom—again--are from other countries, write “model bills” and hand them to their pet legislators who, in turn, introduce them into their own state legislatures as their own ideas. Oftentimes these A.L.E.C. bills are boilerplates of corporate-written legalese that, if one wants to indulge their worst real fears, could have originated in Saudi Arabia, Israel or Dubai.
· A.L.E.C. boasts that through this Machiavellian mechanism, which really needs to be studied to be believed, their pet legislators have introduced about 1000 A.L.E.C.-originated bills a year, legion of which are now state and federal law.
Out of 150 Montana legislators, 25 are demonstrable A.L.E.C. pets—ALL OF THEM REPUBLICAN. This does not include the many former legislators who are also rattling around in the A.L.E.C. moneybag, including two newly elected Public Service Commission (PSC) members—Bob Lake and Roger Koopman, and the Montana Supreme Court justice—Jim Rice. For context: remember that American Traditions Partnership (ATP) case that overturned 100 years of Montana anti-corruption law and allowed $500,000 to magically-appear in Rick Hill’s campaign account? Jim Rice was the swing vote on that one. As for the PSC, they’ve just announced that they will refuse to pursue alternative energy sources. Given that A.L.E.C. is predominantly funded by energy giants like Exxon and Koch Industries, this can be considered a magical event, too. N’est pas? (***)
Thirty years of Reagan-epoch Tax Warrior doctrine now floats tepidly within the confines of the Styrofoam teacups many of our Republican legislators proudly sip from. This doctrine demands that federal government entitlements and subsidies are BAD when given to THOSE PEOPLE. Little is said by these same tea sippers about the vast amounts of sublime subsidies emanating from the same supposedly evil federal government received by THEM.
19 of our Montana legislators, ALL REPBULICANS, including 7 who are also on the A.L.E.C. pet list, received a total of $6,521,900 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009 (****). Using simple (and therefore unfair) math, if we divide six million-plus by 19 we come up with about $25,000 a year per legislator who chooses the political party whose winner-take-all philosophy targets those making less than that per year for economic and corporeal extinction. I didn’t include the two Democrats, who received a combined $6,000, because it’s not a point of faith among their crowd to castigate THOSE people for taking OUR money. Again using Montana’s official state language, we can define this type of phenomenon by a couple of word choices—“hypocrisy” or “magic”. In the interest of kindness, I will use both.
Again in the interest of kindness, I’ve only included nine in this category--so far. They made the cut for their recent demonstrations and utterings supporting pre-Civil-War concepts on states’ rights such as “coordination” and “jury nullification”, N.R.A. talking-points opposing gun control, and anti-science stances related to global warming and evolution. I know there are many more (sigh). But what I want to emphasize here is that all of the above craziness is vetted, approved and promoted by those pesky out-of-state and out-of-country mega-corporations through their A.L.E.C. ties that bind.
So-- drumroll please. The winners are—so far:
Sen. Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) A.L.E.C. Junket participant
Rep. Mark Blasdel (R- Somers) A.L.E.C. Education Task Force
Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
Sen. Elsie Arntzen (R-Billings) A.L.E.C. Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development
Rep. Liz Bangerter (R-Helena) Health and Human Services Task Force
Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse) A.L.E.C. junket participant
Rep. David Howard (R-Park City) A.L.E.C. Civil Justice Task Force
Opined more guns in schools right after Sandy hook http://mtcowgirl.com/2012/12/19/gop-lawmaker-wants-more-guns-in-schools/
Sen. Llew Jones (R- Conrad) A.L.E.C. Communications and Technology Task Force
$609,508 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) A.L.E.C. bill 2011 to Generally nullify Environmental Protection Agency directives
N.R.A. bills to legalize the use of silencers out in the woods 2011-13 and HB 228 (Castle Doctrine) 2009
Rep. Roy Hollandsworth A.L.E.C. Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
(R-Brady) $80,675 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) A.L.E.C. Public Safety and Elections Task Force
Rep. Mike Miller (R-Helmville) A.L.E.C. member
Rep. Jesse O’Hara (R-Great Falls) A.L.E.C. Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force
Rep. Lee Randall (R- Broadus) A.L.E.C. Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
$507,674 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Wendy Warburton A.L.E.C. Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
Rep. Cary Smith (R-Billings) A.L.E.C. Junket participant
Rep. Ted Washburn Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
Rep. Scott Reichner A.L.E.C. Communications and Technology Task Force
(R- Bigfork) Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
Sen. Jason Priest (R- Red Lodge) A.L.E.C. Boilerplate, 2011 resolution to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
Rep. Pat Connell (R-Darby) Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
Rep. Tom Berry (R-Roundup) Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
$2,819 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Jeff Welborn (R-Dillon) Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
$972 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Jon Sonju (R-Kalispell) Has introduced A.L.E.C. boilerplate bill(s) in past sessions
Sen. Rick Ripley ALEC junket participant
(R- Wolf Creek) $89,847 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Debbie Barrett (R-Dillon) ALEC junket participant
$123,378 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Ron Arthun (R-Wilsall) $213,800 federal farm subsidy
Sen. John Brenden (R-Scobey) $497,291 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Taylor Brown (R- Huntley) $473,560 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Christy Clark (R-Choteau) $122,287 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Austin Knudsen $705,941 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Terry Murphy (R- Cardwell) $188,427 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Keith Regier (R- Kalispell) $380,160 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Matthew Rosendale $1,083 federal farm subsidy
Rep. Daniel Salomon (R- Ronan) $223,865 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Janna Taylor (R- Dayton) $1,017,491 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Bruce Tutveldt $643,063 federal farm subsidy
Sen. Jim Peterson (R- Buffalo) $637,547 federal farm subsidy
HB 549, 2011, "Code of the West"
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R-Victor) County-supremacy/”Coordination” proponent
Ravalli Co. Tea Party Patriots member
Citizens for Excellence in Education member http://billlacroix.blogspot.com/2012/01/is-world-flat-or-round_1016.html
Sen(!) Scott Boulanger County-supremacy/”Coordination” proponent
(R- Darby) Advocate for privatizing public game herds/lands http://billlacroix.blogspot.com/2012/12/privatized-venison-anyone.html
Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) Introduced Creationism bill LC 0599
Sen. Dave Lewis (R-Helena) Introduced SJ 2 in 2011 for MT to withdraw from UN
Rep. Jesse O’Neil Requested to be paid in gold while advocating for a return to
(R- Columbia Falls) pre-1913 elections when seats were honestly bought up-front
Sen. Fred Thomas Good God!!
Rep. Champ Edmonds Reknowned for being to the right of Atilla (*****)
(R- Missoula) Recent gun apologia letter-to-editor after Sandy Hook
(R- Missoula) Recent gun apologia letter-to-editor after Sandy Hook
Rep. Alan Doane (R- Bloomfield) “Encourage manufacture of ammunition in Montana to ensure availability.”
Sen. Vernall Jackson Introduced bills to allow legislators to pack heat on the house and
(R-Kalispell) senate floor 2011/2013
ALEC junket participant
This is an incomplete list. It’s certain that, as the session moves forward, more will surface and make the cut. But just on this preliminary and (I feel) honestly attempted count alone, out of 150 total Montana legislators, a full 45 of them—ALL REPUBLICANS—make my list so far. That’s exactly half-of the 90 sitting Republican legislators who have demonstrably-compromised themselves. So far.
If traditional, Lincolnesque Republicans really want to clean up the mess the Tea Party has made of their organization, they know where to start. Equally, if traditional good-government Democrats really want to put the public heat on cleaning up our horribly corrupt political system to the point where it represents real, unincorporated people again, I suggest they start in the same place.
In the interest of Kindness, that’s what I would call true bi-partisanship.
(**) Over a dozen state legislators owe their seats to American Traditions Partnership (ATP). I don’t have corroboration on all the names, but as I get them I will post them. For now, keep Ballance’s and Thomas’ campaigns in mind and check out Montana Cowgirl’s related post: http://mtcowgirl.com/2013/01/08/bullock-on-national-radar/