Jon Tester’s Campaign Lies About Support for Single Payer Healthcare

Jon Tester’s campaign has resorted to outright lies after the Montana Senator revealed his “solid” support for Bernie Sanders- style single payer healthcare during a Senate Committee hearing on September 6th.

During the hearing, Tester firmly placed himself in the Bernie Sanders socialized medicine camp and immediately faced a barrage of attacks from the right. 

Yet, today Tester’s campaign manager Christie Roberts claimed to Fox News that he “has been clear in his opposition to single payer.”

Roberts claim is patently false. Not only was Senator Tester’s statements earlier this month a clear show of support, Tester himself said he would “endorse a single payer system” in 2006. The only thing that Tester has really been clear on is that he actually supports single payer.

Montanans deserve better than a Senator who lies about his record on an issue. Unfortunately, this fits a long pattern of behavior by Tester and other Democrat candidates pushed by Hilltop Public Solutions that try to cloak extreme left-wing beliefs with “Montana-ness”. Read more of our analysis of Hilltop’s campaign model here.

 

Daines/Gianforte should choose to strengthen DACA, focus on Entitlement Reform

A short Tuesday note from our staff writers:

The upcoming fight over repealing DACA, the Obama-era rule that grants legal work permit status to children of undocumented immigrants, presents a massive opportunity for Republicans to prove their commitment to economic prosperity rather than white nationalist dog-whistles.

With a vote towards strengthening DACA and streamlining the path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, our Republican representatives could stand up for human freedom and the inherent rights of individuals, something badly needed in the Trump era.

Then, by shifting focus in the upcoming budget battle towards serious reforms to address the stability and insolvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Steve Daines and Greg Gianforte could show their priority is fixing our nation’s problems, not generating headlines and facebook likes.

Make no mistake Conservatives, the real blame for our nation’s runaway entitlement spending is not on innocent immigrants trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, but rather on cowardly politicians who won’t step up to fix our entitlement programs and reign in our federal spending.

Sadly, we fear that political appetite instead of political courage will guide our federal delegation’s decision in the end.

Rampant Sexism Among Montana Democrats

There is a disturbing trend within the Montana Democratic Party to favor men and cast women to the side. Normally, we would not make such bold accusations, but the trend keeps popping up and we felt compelled to bring it to light.

It appears that despite their external communications, the Montana Democrats have a problem with strong independent women wielding power within their own party.

What triggered our need to cover this issue was found in a recent article by the Montana Standard. Here, we get the chance to see some text message conversations between Governor Bullock and legislators during the 2017 legislative session. In these conversations we see a patronizing exchange between Minority Leader Jenny Eck and Governor Bullock.

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In this exchange, Governor Bullock seems to think it’s appropriate to talk down to the Democratic Minority leader in the house as though she were a child. “That’s silly” is not only patronizing, but clearly directed at her because she is a woman.

In his messages with male legislators, Governor Bullock is much more professional and respectful. See here:

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It’s pretty clear in these exchanges that Governor Bullock preferred to deal with the men, rather than a woman. He refers to Jon Sesso as “Senator” and Austin Knudsen as “Speaker.” He also makes himself readily available to meet with these men. In his exchanges with Rep. Eck we get “that’s silly” and “go talk to someone else, I’m busy.” This behavior should be troubling to readers. As we recently reported Governor Bullock has been playing games with the Montana Budget, forcing Montanans to pay the price. It appears that while these games are played, it’s the “Good ole boys” who get to call the shots.

These texts are only a symptom of a deeper and more institutional problem within Montana Democratic power circles. In the beginning of 2017, Ryan Zinke was appointed and confirmed as the US Secretary of the Interior Department. This chain of events triggered a special election in Montana to elect a new member of Congress. The Montana Democrats had several strong female candidates, chiefly Rep. Amanda Curtis from Butte, MT.

Amanda Curtis is a teacher, lawmaker, and former US Senate Candidate. She is a strong willed woman with ambition and a hard work ethic. She sought the Democratic nomination for the Montana Special election and was bested by Rob Quist in the nominating convention. Strategically this was an awful decision made by the Montana Democrats as it turned out Rob Quist was plagued by personal issues and bad campaign decisions. In the end, Amanda Curtis was passed up by the Montana Democrats due to “electability”.

The Billings Gazette even reported how Amanda confronted this culture of sexism directly, in her stump speech for the nomination:

“Curtis ended her speech by acknowledging she’s a woman, which she called the elephant in the room. She shamed delegates for suggesting a woman couldn’t win right now.

‘Do you hear yourselves? Did you hear the 10,000 women in Helena? For the record, once and for all, without a doubt in my mind I do think a woman can win right now. I think this is our time more than ever.”

Despite Amanda’s credibility and experience, Montana Democrats seemed to prefer a Folk Singer from NW Montana who also just so happened to be a man. Just another unfortunate case of an institutional preference for male leaders within the Montana Democratic Party.

Thinking back on events in the last few years, we remembered an unfortunate incident within the Governor’s office that seemingly indicated a toxic environment of sexism, and ultimitely removed a successful woman from power. What we’re talking about of course, is the suspicious circumstances that surrounded Angela McLean’s departure as Lt. Governor. McLean had a reputation as a strong and independent woman. She was the first member of her family to get a postsecondary degree and overcame barriers to success in life. She was certainly a go-getter having been selected out of 20 applicants to be Governor Bullock’s second Lt. Governor.

Yet, despite this sterling reputation and ambition, it appears she was not treated as an equal within the administration. The Billings Gazette showed in an article that, Emails released showed that the Bullock Administration felt she did not need to play an important role.  This discouraging exchange between the Governor and his Lieutenant displayed this terrifying bit of information:

“Mclean and Parker had a meeting on Oct. 5, according to emails. The next day McLean sent an email to Bullock saying that Parker had called her five days prior and asked her ‘to imagine a workplace where, if I stayed in my post but the governor took away my initiatives (SMART Schools and STEM) and my ability to serve the citizens of Montana.’

She said that Parker told her ‘Bullock wanted her to assume a more “Traditional” Lt. Governor role.”

The article goes on to detail how Governor Bullock refused to meet with McLean on three different occasions and even went so far as to remove her access to her own twitter account. This exchange in itself generated a lot of speculation and hints at a toxic culture of sexism within the power circles of the Montana Democratic Party. Angela McLean tried to make her way in Bullock’s inner circle. Unfortunately for her, the Montana Democrats seem to prefer a “more traditional approach” i.e. “Leave it to the men.”

We felt this article was important to highlight as it appears no one wants to discuss it. Women in Montana are often strong leaders in our communities and the few mentioned in this piece are only a couple examples of thousands of women across the state. If the Montana Democratic Party wishes to be the champion of women, perhaps they shouldn’t diminish their roles within their own party.

If this culture of toxic sexism is prevalent in Helena and among power brokers in the Democratic Party, who knows what it is like for young women looking to make their own mark in Montana politics.

We are not hopeful that it’s an encouraging environment.

Montana Pays for Bullock’s Budget Games

With the recent announcement made by Governor Steve Bullock that State Agencies are expected to make a 10% across the board cuts, readers should expect some serious finger pointing over the next few days.

As the Montana Standard illustrated in their recent write up on budget negotiations and text messages, there were many parties involved in the negotiation for Montana’s biennium budget and the massive bonding deal. This makes for the perfect environment for everyone to blame everyone. Democrats will blame Republicans, Bullock will blame Knudsen, Republicans will blame Democrats, Knudsen will blame Bullock. It’s the same old song and dance we’ve grown accustomed to from politicians of all stripes.

What we do know is that it’s serious. Montana is not in good fiscal health right now. Just last month Montana’s budget shortfall triggered $97 million in cuts. Predominantly hitting schools and health programs. This is a budget mechanism put in place to ensure Montana maintains its constitutionally required balanced budget.

What we also know is that the state cannot afford to fight our own wild fires. This summer the feds rejected Montana’s plea to pay for 75% of firefighting costs aimed at the disastrous Lodgepole Complex fire. Only to then reverse their position shortly after. Why would the feds initially reject federal funding for the nation’s largest fire?

Our analysts believe it is because while reviewing the proposal, it became abundantly clear Bullock did not care to properly fund firefighting programs. This is not a far out proposal given that in November of 2016, Bullock wanted to raid the fire fund by $25 million. The governor’s budget director Dan Villa confidently stated:

“Based on our projections, we’ll have about a solid $50 million to fight fires over the next biennium”

In fact due to automatic budget cuts that have already been mandated, $30 million in firefighting funds have already been drained. When the feds looked at our proposal for aid, they probably saw Bullock’s budget for what it is. Propping up pet projects and increasing agency spending, while shifting the cost of programs like firefighting to “federal assistance.” This allows the governor to tout the success of his efforts, while being able to stretch the state budget as far as he can hedging his bets that the feds will come to the rescue if things get too bad.

Bullock’s administration has always attempted to play budget games to advance their agenda. While proposing boutique government programs like Medicaid Expansion and Universal Pre-Kindergarten, he balances the sheets by raiding other government funds. This type of budget management is not only irresponsible towards the taxpayers of Montana, but has also put the livelihoods of thousands of fine State Employees at risk.

It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to Montana. So while all the finger pointing persists, don’t pin it on some bonding vote that would have put us further into debt as a state, don’t blame leadership for not playing Bullock’s games. Blame the administration that has seen our state budget go from nearly $1 billion  in surplus revenue to automatic across the board 10% budget cuts.

Montana deserves better.

Shame On Montana Republicans Who Defend White Supremacists

After Charlottesville, if you are a Republican and you find yourself defending people who are making nazi salutes, utilizing rhetoric like “white ethno-state” and literally killing people they disagree with, then you are a racist.

There is no wiggle room around it. The violence and hate coming from Charlottesville demonstrated that this moment is not a crisis of political correctness vs. freedom of speech, it’s an all-out culture war. We have literal Nazis and Klan organizers taking to our streets with torches, spewing hate and hurting peaceful Americans.

Yet, Fox News and other outlets on the right have been trying to spin the Charlottesville saga into being primarily about whether monuments depicting the Confederacy should be taken down or not. Shame on them.

Keeping up statues is a “nothing burger” compared to fact that a large segment of our country actually felt conflicted about whether explicitly denouncing white supremacists, Nazis and the KKK this weekend was the right thing to do.

Charlottesville has revealed how intoxicating identity politics is. Since 2016, the GOP’s unabashed support for anyone who talks remotely like them- those who speak of despising “social justice warriors” and “cuckservatives”, or who support President Trump and “Making American Great Again” – is now leading a large part of the right into a rabbit hole of offering support or defense to abhorrent individuals, actual Nazis and white supremacists. Again, shame on the GOP.

Our tipsters have been alerting us over the last few days of outrageous social media posts by prominent Montana Republicans demonstrating everything from sympathy and support for the white supremacists in Charlottesville to outright calls for violence or even “marshall law”.

But we’re not going to put them on blast here. Not because we want to protect them, all are free to check out public social posts and we encourage others on #mtpol to do so, but because we wanted to spend our time talking about the larger issue of Republican identity in crisis. Because in reality, it’s the silence or the tepid response from those in a position to lead a condemnation of violence and hate that is the most concerning. We want to talk about what should be done.

For the right, the correct path forward is very clear:

  1.     Explicitly condemn the alt-right, the nazi’s, the KKK and the other utterly abhorrent, racist cultural nationalist voices present on the right. Call them what they are – racists. And then don’t feed them or give them any sort of platform.
  2.     Take down Confederate monuments. Move on from it. Don’t give voice to any on the right who continue to talk about “nullification” and “states rights” in the context of the Confederacy. Those are not allies for smaller government, those are covert racists.
  3.     Reject identity politics and xenophobia. Ostracize the radical anti-religion voices in the right who spew hate about an entire religion of Islam and a billion people. Banish those who legitimately contend that we should “build the wall” to fix our immigration system. Instead, welcome and defend the abundant, peaceful cultures in the United States with open arms.
  4.     Deliver on a message of economic empowerment.

The alternative path, the path of cultural identity politics, means doom for the Republican Party.

For the sake of the nation, we hope the right path is taken.  

Self Described “Super Lawyer” to Challenge Gianforte in 2018

After yesterday’s FEC filing, Greg Gianforte now has an official 2018 challenger from the Democratic Party: Billings Lawyer John Heenan.

Heenan is a partner at the Billings based firm Bishop, Heenan and Davies. His biography says that he went to UM and subsequently graduated from UM Law School. After graduating from law  school, he went to work for the Teamsters, a prominent Montana union and active liberal political group.

He is also a “proud member” of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association, a progressive group that props up activist State Supreme Court Justices.

And radical progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren’s pages are among his top facebook page “likes”.

Heenan previously made press after his shady political group Montanans for Experienced Judges was sued by Republican operative Jake Eaton in 2016.

Most recently, Heenan gained some attention as one of the two special attorneys appointed to represent former Montana COPP Motl in his infamous campaign finance suit against former State Senator Art Wittich. Heenan had also represented the COPP in an earlier suit against the Montana Growth Network.

The Montana Cowgirl described Heenan as one of “Montana’s best lawyers”. The Bozeman Chronicle reported that “Motl said he chose the Billings attorneys because they were experienced and agreed to work for free.”

With this most recent filing, we wonder if there wasn’t a political motive behind Heenan’s appointment to take down a prominent Republican. Could this appointment have been a kickback to an obviously partisan friend?

Our tipsters have previously suggested that Jesse Lasovich is gearing up for a run against Gianforte after his expensive 2016 loss to now State Auditor Matt Rosendale. But if Democrat mainstays like the trial lawyers and the teamsters are lining up behind the relatively unknown candidate Heenan, we may be in for an expensive and fun 2018 primary contest.

How Vulnerable is Jon Tester to 2018 Loss? Answer: Very

How vulnerable is Senator Jon Tester in today’s political climate?

That question currently radiates throughout the Montana political scene as we gear up for yet another “nationally important” statewide race here in Big Sky Country.

Montana’s Flat-topped Democratic senior senator has so far managed to defy the odds makers in both of his previous Senate runs. In 2006, he upset 3-term incumbent Conrad Burns to gain the seat. In 2012, he fended off a strong challenge from 6-term U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg to retain the seat, despite having to share the top of the Democratic ticket with Barack Obama.

But what is the outlook for 2018? The July poll from Morning Consult on the popularity of each U.S. Senator provides some interesting early insight as we head into 2018. In the July poll, Tester polled with an approval rating of 50 percent and a disapproval rating of 39 percent amongst Montana voters. Those might sound like good numbers until you place them in context of the approval ratings for other senators and then compare them to Morning Consult’s April numbers.

Despite voter approval ratings that hover somewhere in the neighborhood of rat poison for Congress as a whole, voters typically approve of their own senators and representatives. Tester’s disapproval rating of 39 percent is the 4th highest in the Senate. Tester’s counterpart, Republican Steve Daines, received a 53 percent approval rating and a 30 percent disapproval rating in the poll.

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the media would have us believe that Republicans are under siege nationwide. The narrative says that Donald Trump, in general, and the healthcare debate, in particular, are dragging down the Republican Party and an anti-GOP backlash is brewing amongst voters.

Maybe that is happening in other places, but what does the data say about Montana? If we compare the July poll to Morning Consult’s April poll, we find that Tester’s popularity has seen a 14 point negative swing in his popularity. In April, Tester was at 57 approve, 32 disapprove. After 7 months of dogged opposition to Trump and the GOP agenda, he finds himself significantly less popular. Daines has also seen his popularity slip, but by a far less dramatic 4 point swing, from 55 approve/28 disapprove to 53/30.

All of this despite the fact that Daines has been the senator under constant criticism and attack from the media, Democratic party, special interest groups, and liberal activists since January 20th. Despite the noise, it’s Tester who voters appear to be moving away from.

Clearly, the “anti-Trump backlash” that is supposed to be materializing against the Republican Party is not materializing in Montana and that is bad news for Tester. We saw some of this in May when Greg Gianforte, an unbelievably flawed candidate, was able to win the special election for Montana’s House seat by a comfortable margin.

If Tester finds himself in a battle against a statewide elected Republican candidate like Auditor Matt Rosendale next year, with the general conservative mood of the state in a mid-term election year that usually favors Republicans, Tester is very beatable.

Jon Tester Admits He Has No Idea How To Fix Healthcare

A recent Vox interview profiled Democrat lawmaker’s plans, or lack of them, to fix our broken healthcare system. Answers ranged from borrowed Republican talking points about high deductible plans to “doing something” to even outright denial that Obamacare has failed. But for Montana voters, the big takeaway was Jon Tester’s not-so-suprising admission that he doesn’t have any ideas of how to “fix” Obamacare, even though he’s been using the “fix obamacare” spin to jab political opponents.

Here’s the full exchange:

“Jon Tester

There’s about 2 million people in the exchange … who aren’t so rich that they don’t care and don’t get paid the subsidies and the deductibles are too high.

If we focus on that group, and get some doctors and some hospital administrators and some patient groups and some good-thinking senators, we can come up with some solutions.

Jeff Stein

What would those policies be?

Jon Tester

I don’t know yet. But the truth is, we fixed it so we’re the only country in the world with a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage. It’s apples and doughnuts, but the truth is we can do that if we get the people in the room, brainstorm some ideas, and walk in there with an open mind.”

Yet, at the same time Tester has made the press rounds recently calling on his colleagues to “work together and fix what is wrong with the ACA”.

What gives? This is the same guy who recently penned an Op Ed in the Bozeman Chronicle about the healthcare debate saying “throw in the towel on partisan bickering, and start fighting for what really matters.” But the only real position Tester has been “fighting for” has been “let’s get together and talk”. This is a time of crisis for healthcare and the nation needs leaders who will act, not “talk” and get nothing done. Montanans deserve better representation.

In the absence of specific policies or ideas, it’s clear that either the Senator needs more time to find the politically expedient choice or he absolutely does not want to in any way tweak Obamacare, the bill he was instrumental in passing. In fact, Tom Lutey at the Billings Gazette accurately points out that “Tester has advocated for the Affordable Care Act through in-person town hall meetings more in the last six months than he did in the year before the bill became law.” Defending the failed law more doesn’t seem like the behavior of someone committed to coming up with something better.

In addition to not having done the homework to “fix” healthcare, Tester also faces another challenge in the healthcare debate – Montanan’s mistrust Tester after his lies about Obamacare.

The Senator promised that under Obamacare “if you like your plan, you get to keep it.”, but that turned out to be 2013’s lie of the year.

Tester promised that Obamacare would make healthcare more affordable and costs would go down, but Montanans especially know that isn’t true.

Lie after lie from Senator Tester and Montanans have no reason to trust any more of his false promises. About the only thing we can believe at this point is that Jon Tester has no idea how to fix healthcare.

Consultant Reveals MT Democrat’s ’18 Strategy In Interview

On Sunday’s Face the State, Democratic Political Consultant Tim Warner revealed key elements of Democrat’s 2018 Strategy in his response to a barrage of attacks from his Republican counterpart, guest Aaron Flint.

First, take a few minutes to read this incredible rant about Tim Warner written by our friend Greg Standberg over at Big Sky Words. You won’t regret it.

These strategies were revealed in response to the complete verbal lashing that Warner received from Flint during the discussion. Warner was so taken aback that he was nervous and stammering throughout the interview.

Let’s analyze 3 key elements of the Democrat’s 2018 Strategy:

  1. Repeat that their candidate is a “Good Guy”
  2. Obfuscate candidate’s extremism
  3. Keep candidate’s record vague to prevent scrutiny

Flint posed a simple question to Warner: What has Jon Tester accomplished for the state of Montana while in office? The Democratic Consultant’s answer, repeated over and over: Tester is working “very hard”.

This was a theme we saw right from the start of the discussion, with Warner describing the recent field of Democratic candidates as “fringe” and comparing them to Senator Tester who is a “good person”. He then went on to repeat that talking point about Jesse Lasovich and for Governor Bullock.

In response to questions about Jon Tester’s support for the agenda of Chuck Schumer and other liberal extremists in the Senate, Warner came back to the “working hard” narrative. He’s working hard for our energy industry, working hard for our farmers.. etc.

This reveals more than a preferred saying, it gets to the core of the Democrat’s message for 2018: don’t fault us for our obstruction, our extreme views or our lack of accomplishments because our candidates are “good people” who “work hard”.

It calls back to the failed “experienced, hard working” slogans of Mitt Romney 2012, Jeb Bush 2016 and most importantly, Hillary Clinton. Jon Tester’s record of accomplishments sure can’t be described as anything close to “high energy”. Especially after the 2016 election results, it’s unlikely this “gold star for participating” strategy will be in effective in a political climate demanding change at all costs.

Weeks After Gianforte “Body-Slam” Media Frenzy, Quist Blames Media for Loss

The Montana special election has only been done for a few short weeks, but both candidates seem to already be preparing for a rematch.

Despite the bruising loss, Quist blames everyone besides himself as responsible for the defeat. Apparently the litany of personal issues that dogged his campaign from start to finish, everything from tax evasion to the discovery that Quist has genital herpes, wasn’t the issue. Instead, Quist takes a page from the Donald Trump playbook and blames the media’s reporting on those issues in a recent interview.

“Every time in the local papers, it was always repeating the negative narratives,” Quist said in the interview with Huffington Post.

Add in “covfefe” and Quist’s statement would be hard to differentiate from The Donald.

It’s unnerving when politicians who seek offices of power step this close to attacking the freedom of the press. And also why we called for Gianforte to pull out of the race after his egregious assault incident.

But perhaps this is a more calculated move on Quist’s part. Gianforte raised over $100k after his body slam incident and there is some indication that the body slam may have actually energized his campaign, as twisted as that is.

Congressmen Gianforte has already declared his intention to run for re-election in 2018, despite carrying some immense baggage from his assault. Not only must he continue to dodge questions about why his campaign distributed a statement that contradicts his apology and sentencing plea, a long legal fight now remains as to whether the media will get their prized, juicy mugshot of the Congressman’s booking.

With the addition of Quist taking the “negative media” angle as he considers entering the race again, 2018 looks to be a lively house contest.