Montana Archive:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Continues to Enjoy Taste of Own Feet

Posted by DavidNYC

Oh man. Conrad Burns must surely have the worst case of pedontophilia (aka "foot-in-mouth disease") known to man. He just can't shut up and stop making inappropriate remarks:

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, who has gotten into hot water before for comments seen as disparaging various groups, joshingly remarked Thursday on the number of Italian-Americans at the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Montana senator, facing a tough re-election fight against Democrat Jon Tester, was heading an aviation subcommittee hearing of the Commerce Committee when two FAA officials, Michael Cirillo and Nicholas Sabatini, introduced themselves as witnesses.

"I'm wondering if that's all they're hiring," Burns said of the federal agency.

Jebus. Burns is lucky the WaPo is covering for him, because these remarks are pretty awful. ("Joshingly" remarked? Man is that stilted.) Just imagine if he had said something similar about two black men or two Jews. This really is an addiction for Burns, though:

Also during Thursday's hearing, Burns asked witness Matt Andersson, senior aviation consultant for CRA International, about the spelling of his name. Andersson said it's the Swedish spelling.

"Oh, ja," Burns replied in a mock Swedish accent.

Republicans will tell us, as they always do, that we can't take a joke - in fact, that's the line Burnsie's flack is already taking. But if Conrad wants to keep making inappropriate statements in public settings, that only makes our job easier.

(Hat tip.)

Posted at 08:57 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MT-Sen: Deeper and Deeper

Posted by DavidNYC

I always knew Conrad Burns hated working people. I just didn't realize his hatred ran this deep:

The report contained an account by Gabe Templeton, one of the Augusta Hot Shots, describing what happened to him and fellow team members Jeff Cleek and Jude Waerig. It said the three men were sitting in the Billings airport waiting for their flight when Burns approached them with an outstretched hand and asked if they were firefighters.

"I shook his hand and replied yes," Templeton wrote. "He shook my hand introduced himself and then replied, 'What a piss poor job' we were doing. I replied, 'Have a nice day.' The senator mentioned that we were 'wasting a lot of money and creating a cottage industry.' He also told us that we needed to listen more to the ranchers. I replied that 'we are pretty low on the totem pole.' Then he walked off."

Just like the Bush administration prefers to blame rank-and-file soldiers for command failures, Conrad Burns likes to castigate hard-working firefighters when his beef is about policies drawn up in air-conditioned conference rooms. To me, that represents a deep sickness of the soul - to attack the people on the very bottom of the totem pole for the failings of their higher-ups. But, of course, if you already view those people with contempt, then it's easy to treat them like dirt. I'm sure Burns is equally odious toward the people who clean out his office at night or prepare his coffee in the morning. You can tell a lot about a person from the way he treats others - and in Burns' case, none of it is good.

Anyhow, I'm still asking: Will Sen. George Allen defend the August Hotshots (based in Virginia) from Connie Burns' outrageous attack?

Posted at 02:44 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, July 27, 2006

MT-Sen: Burns Attacks Firefighters, Face-to-Face!

Posted by DavidNYC

What an unbelievable ingrate! Conrad Burns had the gall - the unthinkable gall - to approach a bunch of undoubtedly weary firefighters at Billings Airport last weekend and tell them, right up to their faces, that they had done a "poor job" fighting wildfires in Montana. Amazing! These firefighters had trekked all the way from Virginia to help Montana put out a 92,000-acre forest fire. And instead of thanking these hard-working souls, Conrad Burns went out of his way to insult them. I suppose he's lucky he didn't wind up with a fat lip - most first responders are not exactly known for taking kindly to gross insults.

Of course, I expect nothing less from Burns: He's the ultimate privileged, entitled, out-of-touch fop who has no appreciation or understanding of how hard ordinary people work. It's one thing to, say, criticize Forest Service policy. But to attack the very firefighters who just helped your own home state? That's like dissing the ambulance driver who takes you to the hospital. Unreal.

Oh, and no word yet from Sen. George Allen (R-VA) as to whether he plans on defending these hard-working Virginia firefighters - or, in the alternative, whether he wishes he were born in Montana.

Posted at 10:06 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns is Out of His Mind

Posted by James L.


Burns, in fact, started his speech Saturday by noting the immediate intensity of the general election campaign after the June 6 primary.

"June 6 of this year is as good as June 6, 1944, D-day," he said. "We launched another attack."

No need to rub your eyes. Conrad Burns just compared Jon Tester and the Montana Democrats to Nazis. (Hat tip to Left in the West)

(PS: Sorry of the lack of postings lately--between the Stanley Cup Finals, work, and studying for the LSAT, I'm starting to feel as swamped as DavidNYC!)

Posted at 06:54 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Monday, June 19, 2006

Why Can't California Be More Like Montana?

Posted by DavidNYC


Montana Democrats Barnstorm for Unity

After what could have turned into a divisive primary election, Montana Democrats rallied in four cities Friday to show that the state the party is united behind Jon Tester in what promises to be a no-holds-barred U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Conrad Burns this fall.


Tension Builds Between L.A. Mayor, Angelides

Tension between Antonio Villaraigosa and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides surfaced Friday as the Los Angeles mayor declined to say whether he backed his own party's candidate to unseat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It looks to me like Dems in Cali are living up an old credo: They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. All I can say is, someone better bash a few heads in over on the left coast before Angelides and Villaraigosa give the media any more fodder for one of their favorite evergreens, "Dems in Disarray." Maybe we should send Brian Schweitzer over there to whoop some ass.

Posted at 03:29 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, 2006 Elections - State, California, Montana | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tester Wins

Posted by James L.

Wow. What a fantastic showing of broad support for Jon Tester tonight. From longshot to upstart to competitor to steamroller, Jon Tester has, without a doubt, scored an absolutely stunning victory in Montana tonight. On Dec. 31, 2004, when Swing State Project dropped his name for the first time, few could foresee that Tester, an organic farmer from Big Sandy, could absolutely wallop one of the most popular and well-funded Democrats in the state, Auditor John Morrison, and do so without slingling mud, without creating an intra-party rift, or without a massive warchest. Jon Tester accomplished what he did today by getting people to genuinely like him, which is a damn rare thing in politics these days. And that's exactly how he's going to convince Montana voters that he should be the next Senator from Montana.

The rebirth of the Democratic Party begins in Big Sky Country.

Posted at 12:54 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

MT-Sen: Tester Edges Morrison in Billings

Posted by James L.

From the Tester Time blog:

9:05 p.m. MT
Results from Yellowstone County:
Tester 2349, Morrison 2207

This is huge. Recall what Matt Singer wrote about Billings, the population capital of Yellowstone County yesterday:

he Ohio of Montana, Billings is the swing city that often decides the winner of the general election, but it's relatively low primary turnout and its swing status makes it slightly less important in the primary election. County Commissioner Bill Kennedy, the only D on the Commission, is Morrison's treasurer (reportedly, he's got his eye on the Auditor's office is Morrison somehow pulls this thing off). Kennedy and Morrison have been working this town hard and it's been an admitted weak spot for Tester's campaign.

This is Tester at his weakest, folks. He's going to win this thing.

Posted at 11:14 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Iowa and Montana Results Open Thread

Posted by James L.

Here we go.

MT-SEN, 0% 2.42% 10.73% 33.22% 75.78% of Precincts reporting:

John Morrison (D): 1,140 (52.41) 2,631 (34.73) 6,463 (33.10) 15,932 (34.86) 27,735 (36.04)
Jon Tester (D): 969 (44.55) 4,801 (63.37) 12,588 (64.48) 8,657 (62.70) 46,517 (60.44)

These numbers (the 2.42% update) are from Cascade County, which is the Great Falls area. This is fantastic news for Tester, since Matt Singer wrote that "This is one of the few towns where a number of legislators have stayed neutral or are supporting John Morrison, so expect it to be a bit closer here."

Conrad Burns (R-Inc.): 1,500 (69.64) 4,814 (71.36) 10,027 (71.71) 24,746 (70.32)

Bob Keenan (R): 527 (24.47) 1,541 (22.84) 3,150 (22.53) 8,543 (24.28)

IA-GOV, 10.34% 48.67% 58.53% 67.11% 99.47% Precincts Reporting:

Mike Blouin (D): 4,771 (62.50) 29,758 (34.40) 33,084 (34.18) 37,066 (34.30) 49,900 (34.02)
Chet Culver (D): 1,597 (20.92) 31,527 (36.45) 35,995 (37.19) 40,816 (37.76) 57,178 (38.98)
Ed Fallon (D): 1,143 (14.97) 24,064 (27.82) 26,495 (27.37) 28,835 (26.68) 37,795 (25.77)

IA-01 (see IA-Gov link), 0.3% 42.81% 70.06% 100.00% Precincts Reporting:

Rick Dickinson (D): 900 (61.73) 6,274 (44.30) 7,158 (33.29) 9,937 (33.82)
Bill Gluba (D): 323 (22.15) 2,902 (20.49) 6,003 (27.92) 7,496 (25.51)
Braley, Bruce (D): 207 (14.20) 4,545 (32.10) 7,487 (34.82) 10,797 (36.74)

Bill Dix (R): 123 (41.84) 2,309 (40.11) 4,472 (28.29) 8,504 (37.53)
Mike Whalen (R): 113 (38.44) 2,424 (42.11) 8,930 (56.49) 10,985 (48.47)
Brian Kennedy (R): 58 (19.73) 1,024 (17.79) 2,407 (15.23) 3,173 (14.00)

Posted at 10:15 PM in 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - State, Iowa, Montana | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

California and Montana Predictions Open Thread

Posted by James L.

Polls close in under a half hour in these two states Montana, so take a breath and hit me with your best shot. Of course, like Stoller, I'm not going to make any predictions (though I do have a few things rumbling around in my gut besides the stuffed peppers I'm digesting). I don't want to slant your guesses, but the NRCC is sounding pretty confident, according to the Hotline:

NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds (NY) said earlier today that, based on an analysis of absentee returns in CA 50, ex-Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) held about a 10K vote lead. Reynolds added, however, that he wouldn’t make any predictions at this early stage.

Posted at 09:32 PM in 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, California, Montana | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Optimism in the Tester Camp

Posted by James L.

Matt Singer of Left in the West gives a personal anecdote on why the Tester camp is feeling upbeat today:

Yesterday, after spending the day at work, I reviewed historical turnout numbers. I spoke with a friend about the size of the two paid media operations. I felt like vomiting. I was terrified, terrified because despite how things felt like they were going, I’ve seen too many victories slip away.

That was before I hit the phones.

Understand this, I’m calling Yellowstone County. The most prominent Democratic official in Yellowstone County hasn’t just endorsed John Morrison. He’s serving as his treasurer and has been working hard for him. This is supposed to be among our worst territories.

Twenty calls in and I can’t find anyone voting against us. A friend of mine running another phone bank across town calls, excited. He’s talked to twenty people. He’s got 19 Tester supporters and one person voting for Morrison.

The numbers start piling up. By the end of the night, our phone bank has talked to 150 live ones and left hundreds more messages. Tester supporters outnumber Morrison supporters 4-to-1. If you give Tester the “undecided” voters who have said they lean our way and give Morrison the rest of the undecided voters, we’re up 5-to-2. The margins are unreal. And our people are excited.

We call it a night at 8:45. I talk to a friend on the other side of the state. His calls are going the same way, overwhelmingly favoring Tester.

I hear from someone who knows a Morrison volunteer. Her list in Helena struck out. People are even telling the Morrison campaign that they are voting for Tester.

Meanwhile, our volunteers in Helena can’t find Morrison supporters and our folks in Great Falls are getting positive feedback from across the state.

Honestly, this is my third cycle in Montana politics. I’ve made a lot of calls over the years. I’ve never literally felt like I was witnessing the ground shift under my feet the way it has felt here in recent weeks.

One week ago, calling on the same batch of lists we called on last night, our support-to-oppose ratio was 1:1 or maybe 3:2. Every night it has improved. We’re now talking close to 5:1.

The big question on everyone's mind is whether Tester's late surge will be enough to counter the apparent organizational advantages of Morrison's campaign (which started earlier, and with better funding throughout), not to mention Morrison's broader name recognition. I'm still expecting this one to be tight tonight, but stories like this one are great to hear.

Posted at 12:22 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, June 03, 2006

MT-Sen: Getting Out the Vote in Big Sky Country

Posted by James L.

If San Diego is a little too far out of reach, and you live in--or within driving distance of--Montana, Andy Tweeten of Montanans For Tester writes in to get the word out on how you can help Jon Tester get out the vote in the last few days before the primary:

Volunteers in Montana can contact us at (406) 454-2006, (406) 449-0117 or to help out. We have activities happening across the state that we'd be happy to direct people to--including literature drops, phone banks, and visibilities.

Unfortunately, we do not have capacity to do GOTV phone calls from out of state.

Tester has been getting a remarkable surge of momentum in the last week--racking up big endorsements, including a few from several former staff members of his opponent, MT State Auditor John Morrison. If you have the means, the campaign would greatly appreciate any effort you can make to ensure that Jon Tester comes out on top this Tuesday and keeps this race competitive against the vulnerable Conrad Burns.

Posted at 01:03 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Week Ahead in California and Montana

Posted by James L.

We have a number of hot races to look forward to next Tuesday, June 6 in California, and my neighbor state Montana. Here's a run-down on what to watch:

CA-50: Busby's all-out battle to steal this open seat from the Republicans will be, without a doubt, the premier event of the night--and the Republicans are on edge:

Staffers from the National Republican Congressional Committee are quietly telling GOP House members to prepare for a possible loss in the June 6 special election to fill the seat of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now in prison for taking bribes. The Southern California district is heavily Republican, but some GOP insiders believe that Democrat Francine Busby will defeat former GOP Rep. Brian Bilbray and go on to win a full term in November. More alarming some worry that a Bilbray defeat could signal the GOP's loss of control of the House. The NRCC has already pumped $3.1 million into the race. "It is becoming more and more likely," says one GOP strategist, "that Bilbray will squeak out a victory." But another longtime Republican operative isn't so sure. "This is a district we should never lose," he says. "It's the stink of Cunningham, and the Bush problem."

CA-42: If you live in the 42nd district of California (see a map here) or know anyone who does, and you'd like to have the chance to get a Democrat on the ballot this November, you'll have to write in the name of Mark Hull-Richter on the ballot. House Race guru BENAWU has the lowdown. Hull-Richter is gonna need to come up with 2641 write-in votes. That's a huge hill to climb, but it's worth a shot. Afterall, under-the-radar write-in campaigns allowed Democrats to field candidates in previously uncontested races in PA-09 & PA-15.

CA-36: Anti-war activist Marcy Winograd is challenging Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. From the L.A. Times:

In sum, Winograd casts her opponent as a Bush Democrat who was too slow to challenge the president on the war, one who moved left only when challenged in the campaign. Winograd could only have been delighted when restless House liberals complained of the same thing in the early jockeying for position in next year's Congress, lobbying to have Harman replaced as the party's voice on the Intelligence Committee.
I'm not sure if Winograd has the necessary organization to pull of an upset, but her primary challenge has at least forced Harman to prove her progressive bona fides.

CA-11: Netroots favorite and '04 nominee Jerry McNerney vs. DCCC-favored Steve Filson. The winner will take on scandalized Republican Richard Pombo (he himself is facing a primary challenge from Pete McCloskey, a 78 year-old former Congressman who authored the Endangered Species Act). I don't have a dog in this race.

CA-06: In many ways this is the opposite of CA-36. Incumbent Rep. Diane Lynn Woolsey is one of the most liberal members of Congress, and her challenge is coming from the right:

Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey faces a challenge from Assembly member Joe Nation -- her first significant primary contest in more than a decade for the district representing Marin and much of Sonoma counties. Woolsey, elected in 1992, prides herself as being one of the House's most liberal members, attacking the war in Iraq, promoting alternative energy sources, and fighting cuts in health and education spending. Nation, a popular local politician and former economics professor, pitches himself as more moderate and pro-business. He touts his work in the Legislature to push for alternative fuels and his opposition to building a new Death Row at San Quentin Prison in Marin.

MT-Sen: Another huge one to watch. Likeable progressive Jon Tester has got his mojo working and the perceived front-runner, state Auditor John Morrison, has seen his fundraising dip and some of his support shift to the Tester camp in the wake of an extramarital/conflict of interest scandal. Both are still polling ahead of the uber-corrupt Conrad Burns, but it's Tester that has the buzz in this last final stretch. Will it be enough to clinch the nomination? This one will be a nail-biter.

Anything I missed? Consider this a CA and MT-Sen open thread. Have at it.

P.S.: Obviously, I left out the contentious Angelides-Westly battle for the Democratic Nomination for Governor against Schwarzeneggar. The mud-slinging is pretty off-putting in this race, and I'm not inclined to blog much about it other than I hope that the battle will be one more factor to help energize Democratic turn-out in CA-50. But Angelides and Westly fans are more than welcome to duke it out in the comments section.

Posted at 05:18 PM in 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, California, Montana | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Montana: The Field Is Set

Posted by DavidNYC

Today was the filing deadline in Montana. You can see all the Senate and House candidates listed here. Bob Keenan did indeed file to challenge Burns. (as promised). Meanwhile, Denny Rehberg did not jump into the senate race - he filed to run for his House seat once more.

In other words, we probably wound up with the best of all possible scenarios, or close to it. Burns now faces a decidedly non-trivial primary challenge, which is awesome. If Burns wins, he's wasted money and gotten even more bloodied than he already is. If Burns loses, well, Keenan is no Racicot or Rehberg. (Those were the two names which whooped our two guys in the latest Rasmussen poll.) I'm sure Keenan doesn't have comparable name recognition. Speaking of which, Matt Singer speculates that Keenan is simply trying to up his name rec for an eventual run against Brian Schweitzer. Good luck with that, buddy.

The only person who loses out here is Monica Lindeen, who still has to face Rehberg in November. It's a tough fight, but Rehberg's got his own Abramoff problems. If the Montana press stays on this story as aggressively as it has vis-a-vis Conran Burns, Rehberg is going to have some serious troubles.

UPDATE: When a perfect 100 really just ain't too good.

Posted at 07:57 PM in 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

MT-Sen: Keenan to Challenge Burns

Posted by DavidNYC

So Bob Keenan will indeed challenge Conrad Burns for the MT-Sen GOP nod. Tomorrow is Montana's filing deadline, so we'll see how things finally shake out. (Denny Rehberg is still the question mark.) I think that Burns is definitely in this for the long haul, though, and Keenan's move may wind up being a gift from heaven. If you're about to bail, you don't send forth your minions to say stuff like this:

"Conrad Burns has voted to lower taxes; Bob Keenan has a record of voting" to increase taxes, Jason Klindt said.

Let the games begin!

Posted at 06:21 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, March 17, 2006

MT-Sen: All Hell About to Break Loose?

Posted by DavidNYC

Wow. This whole race might be on the verge of getting a lot more interesting. The top Republican in the MT state Senate, Bob Keenan, says he's mulling a challenge to Conrad Burns in the primary. Keenan can't run again because of term limits, and he said he won't seek a state House seat as an alternative. When a prominent Republican considers challenging a sitting senator of his own party in a primary, that means said senator is even weaker than you might have imagined.

But things may actually be even crazier still, if you can believe it. Matt Singer noticed this unusual detail:

Speaking of Burns’ race, does anyone find it odd that Rehberg still hasn’t filed for the House seat? With Burns’ seat in a free-for-all and both Max and Brian looking solid for ‘08, Rehberg just may decide that it’s time to cash in his chips. Given that the D.C. establishment reportedly doesn’t want Burns in this race and that they are likely to pick Dennis the Menace over Bob Keenan, it looks like Montana’s Congressman may be weighing the merits of picking a fight with the man he got into office.

Interesting catch indeed. I doubt that anyone is this clever, but maybe this is just a brilliant ploy by Keenan - goad Rehberg into challenging Burns, and then run for Rehberg's seat. Regardless, if Rehberg jumps in against Burns, then we'd really wind up with a sweet deal: Burnsie staying in, Burnsie getting wounded in a primary - or even losing, and an open seat in MT-AL to boot. We might just hit the trifecta!

Posted at 01:25 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dropout News Roundup

Posted by DavidNYC

There are two media events going on today in races swirling with confusion. One is taking place as we speak: Elton Gallegly is conducting a press conference right here in DC. We should hopefully get press reports back soon.

The other takes place at 9 o'clock tonight, when Kathy Harris seeks the warm, lickspittle embrace of Sean Hannity to announce her future plans. The rumour du jour is that she will resign from the House to focus only on her Senate race. Personally, I wonder why more people don't do this - after all, it's not like she gets to keep her House seat if she loses the Senate race. But doing so might also require a special election (something I haven't looked into yet).

In other dropout-related news, Markos points to this short note at the Hotline blog which says that Conrad Burns just hired a political director - not the sort of move someone on the verge of dropping out tends to make.

UPDATE: Gallegly will indeed run again. I still say he bails shortly after winning, forcing a special election. We should be ready for that eventuality. What Dems in the area might make strong candidates?

UPDATE: Harris is staying in, too. Haven't heard anything about her resigning from the House, though.

Posted at 04:20 PM in 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, California, Florida, Montana | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Monday, February 13, 2006

MT-Sen: Poll Has Morrison Leading, Tester Tied with Burns

Posted by DavidNYC

A new poll from Rasmussen (likely voters, Jan. in parens):

Tester: 46 (45)
Burns: 46 (45)

Morrison: 50 (43)
Burns 43 (46)
(MoE: ±4.5%)

Two strong months in a row for both Dems, with Morrison picking up some more steam recently. Bottom line is that either man could beat Burns. (It wasn't too long ago when things looked like this.) Of course, I'm not saying this is any kind of foregone conclusion - Burns has a lot of money, and much of the year remains. All I'm saying is that both Tester and Morrison could beat him.

The issue, really, is who wins the primary. Right now, Morrison is probably the favorite, by virtue of his higher name rec and better fundraising. We still haven't seen any independent polls on the primary, though. (I don't understand why Rasmussen can't tack that question on to his survey.)

As everyone who reads this site well knows, I'm supporting Tester. But I'll get behind whoever wins the Dem nomination. I mention this because supporters of both candidates need to be considerate of the other side - if Tester wins, he'll need to cultivate Morrison supporters and vice-versa. We're all on the same team here - let's not lose sight of that.

Posted at 02:35 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

MT-Sen: Morrison Swamps Tester, Burns Way Ahead of Both

Posted by DavidNYC

Bad news, Tester fans:

Tester 4Q Fundraising: $89K
Morrison 4Q Fundraising: $407K
Burns 4Q Fundraising: $814K

Tester Cash-on-Hand: $167K
Morrison Cash-on-Hand: $753K
Burns Cash-on-Hand: $3.4M

Morrison raised almost 5x as much as Tester, and Burns almost 10x as much. Tester really has got to turn things around, and soon. You can help him by going here.

P.S. Markos rounds up fundraising numbers from a whole bunch of top-tier Senate races. The numbers don't look great for us.

Posted at 03:19 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

MT-Sen: Tester Tied with Burns, Morrison Close

Posted by DavidNYC

From Rasmussen (likely voters, Sept. in parens):

Tester: 45 (38)
Burns: 45 (51)

Morrison: 43 (39)
Burns: 46 (51)
(MoE: ±4.5%)

That's a lot of movement, and fantastic news for our side. Burns' cash advantage no longer seems to be helping him, and I can only conclude that the harsh negative fallout from his entanglements with Abramoff is hurting him. Just the other day, Burns had to embarassingly insist that he wasn't going to drop out of the race. He sounded a lot like Janeane Pirro to me - in other words, I wasn't buying his shtick that he was stickin'.

Burns clearly should bail - just think of how much more money he could make (and how many fewer constituents he'd have to worry about) if he took a sweet lobbying job. Doesn't he want to be comfortable in his retirement, and take care of his kids and grandkids? The issue, though, is of course whether he will retire. And here's the thing: If the GOP can't pull a Torricelli on Santorum - hell, if they can't even pull a Gillooly on Katherine Harris - then I don't see how Burns can be pushed aside. The Republican Party is leaderless at the top - Frist is crippled, Liddy Dole is incompetent. I think GOP Senate candidates are just gonna do their own thing from now until November.

Anyhow, as I say, this poll is tremendous for our side, and especially for Tester - Morrison supporters have often said he won't have enough money to compete, but that's clearly not hurting him. I'd love to see an independent poll of the primary matchup, but for now, why not send some coin Tester's way? In the eyes of the traditional media, this poll officially marks this race as a top-tier pickup opportunity, and Tester deserves our help.

Posted at 01:02 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, December 30, 2005

MT-Sen: Schweitzer on Tester: "Best Senate Prez Ever"

Posted by DavidNYC

A little bit of feel-good as we wrap up the year. MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer declares Jon Tester "the greatest President of the Senate in the history of Montana" at a meeting on educational spending. Political puffery? Sure. But Schweitzer didn't have to say anything about Tester at all, so I'll take it. Enjoy the video clip here.

If I don't post any more until after Jan. 1, have a Happy New Year!

Posted at 02:21 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Monday, December 26, 2005

MT-Sen: As Dem Name Rec Moves Up, Burns Slips

Posted by DavidNYC

Ah, joy! I love it when independent outfits poll my favorites races. Today, we've got a poll on MT-Sen from Mason-Dixon, and it's good news for Dems ("active" voters, May in parens):

Morrison (D): 40 (34)
Burns (R): 46 (49)
Undecided: 14 (17)

Tester (D): 35 (26)
Burns (R): 49 (50)
Undecided: 16 (24)
(MoE: ±4%)

Morrison went from -15 to -6; Tester went from -24 to -14. That's some definite slippage for Burns. Here's the interesting thing: Since the last poll way back in May, Morrison's DK moved down five points, and his total in the head-to-head moved up six. Meanwhile, Tester's DK moved down nine points and his head-to-head score moved up nine. Pretty tight correlation indeed.

If there's any causation (and surely there must be some), then both Dems are in good shape heading into 2006, but especially Tester. Why? His DKs are twice Morrison's - 52% vs. 26%. In other words, Tester has a lot of room to grow. He pulls 35% in a head-to-head with Burns while Morrison gets just 5% more than that, despite being far more well-known.

But obviously, Jon Tester needs help to make that happen - it's never automatic. I know that this is a tough time of year to do fundraising, and that many people have probably already spent plenty of money on gift-giving and charitable giving. But if you do have some scratch left over and are looking for a worthy cause, I strongly encourage you to give to Jon Tester. (Act Blue appears to be down right now, but you can use this link instead if it revives later.) The trendlines of this poll are a solid reason to get behind him.

Posted at 01:42 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, December 16, 2005

MT-Sen: Burns to Return Money, Missoulian Says "Don't Run Again"

Posted by DavidNYC

Score one for the Hotline blog. From the Helena Independent Record:

U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., will return the estimated $150,000 in campaign donations he has received from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his co-workers and tribal clients.

Nevermind the absurd turnabout from just two days ago:

"There's nothing to return, the money has been spent," [Burns spokesman James] Pendleton said.

Of course it was there to return - Burns had over $700K cash-on-hand. That's gotta sting! But even worse for old man Burns is this editorial from the Missoulian:

Montanans in general and the GOP in particular will be best served if he doesn't run for a fourth term and, instead, orchestrates a dignified passing of the baton.

Of course, if Burns does decided not to run again, that would probably make life more difficult for Democrats, since the MT GOP can probably find a stronger (or at least, not as ethically compromised) candidate. However, what this kind of talk does in the short term is make it harder and harder for Burns to raise money. If the media starts to fret that Burns is not a viable candidate, it might wind up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Posted at 12:00 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, December 15, 2005

MT-Sen: If Burnsie Retires...

Posted by DavidNYC

First, Hotline speculated that Connie Burnsie might be holding on to his Abramoff-tainted cash because he's going to step down. I didn't think that theory made much sense - sure, ol' Conrad could find some way to launder his cash-on-hand for his own personal use, but $130Gs seems like chump change for a guy who would make tons more as a lobbyist.

Now, Hotline claims he's gonna give the money back. I'll be watching that one closely to see just how good Hotline's sources are.

But back to the general idea of Burns retiring. I don't see that as being outside the realm of possibility at all - especially if prosecutors' guns wind up trained on him. And after all, he's about to turn 71. So what happens if he bails? You're gonna like this:

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.

As is the practice in many if not most states, the governor - in this case Democrat Brian Schweitzer - gets to appoint a replacement. Now that sure would be interesting. Whom would he pick? Would he tap Jon Tester or John Morrison, the two top candidates already running to replace Burns? Does anyone know what kind of relationship he has with either man? Or would Schweitzer seek to avoid controversy and name a "caretaker" for the duration? What are your thoughts?

Posted at 09:34 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, December 02, 2005

MT-Sen: Which Is It, Connie?

Posted by DavidNYC

Connie Burns (R-The Simpsons) is increasingly under fire for his involvement with the Abramoff web of scandals. His defense now is one we've commonly seen in the post-Enron era: I was asleep at the switch. Just one little problem with trying to make that claim:

"Senator Burns is not hands-on in the donations to his campaign; he doesn't know about them until he sees the quarterly reports.'' - J.P. Pendleton, Burns spokesman. [Bloomberg News, 12/2/05]

Burns sent an extensive solicitation recently asking supporters to max out in their contributions to him before the next reporting period, which closes March 31. "By sending your $10,000 political action committee check or your $4,000 individual check today, you help discourage challengers, making the difference between playing defense and playing offense," he wrote. [Roll Call, 3/10/05]

Yet another captain trying to disclaim responsibility for his ship - but in this case, the record plainly indicates otherwise. Why am I not surprised?

Posted at 03:00 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Monday, November 21, 2005

MT-Sen: State Dems Target Burns on Corruption

Posted by DavidNYC

First, I'm glad to see the Montana Democratic Party is once again opening fire on kleptocrat Conrad Burns on the airwaves. And second, I'm delighted that they are once again making corruption Issue #1. Oh, and they zing him for his retrograde sexist remarks, too. The script of the ad, via Hotline On Call:

"Almost 200,000 women work in Montana. But local newspapers report that Senator Burns told a working mother concerned about losing her job to outsourcing that she could just stay home with the kids."

"Burns doesn't get that staying at home won't pay the bills."

"And what is Burns up to?"

"He's taken thousands from Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now indicted for fraud and conspiracy."

"Tell Burns to work for Montana's working families, not indicted lobbyists."

"The Montana Democratic Party is responsible for the content of this ad."

This is the second round of ads to hammer Burns on his Abramoff connection. I hope the MT Dems keep it up. And if anyone has a link to an actual video of this ad, it'd be great if you could post it in comments.

Posted at 06:18 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Bush's Pathetic Approval in Montana

Posted by DavidNYC

George W. Bush carried Montana last year by over 20%. A different day, a different story. Today, his approval rating there stands at a mere 42-51 according to a new poll by Montana State University-Billings. Watch him crater, year-by-year:

Year Approve Disapprove
2001 87 10
2002 70 26
2003 59 34
2004 56 38
2005 42 51
With numbers like these, it's no surprise that a Democrat ousted the incumbent Republican mayor of Great Falls.

One other finding stands out in the most recent poll. Support for the war in Iraq is at 46% now, down from 53% a year ago. This dovetails nicely with Jon Tester's call (noted below) for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. It sounds like something most Montanans would support - and it's the right thing to do.

Posted at 04:22 PM in Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Tester Calls for a "Clear Exit Strategy" for Iraq

Posted by DavidNYC

No time to waste in turning to the 2006 elections. An important statement from Jon Tester via a campaign e-mail:

Put simply, the time has come for us to put in place a clear exit strategy to bring our troops home from Iraq.

This plan is necessary for a number of reasons. The heavy reliance on National Guard and Reserve units has depleted the ranks of our first responders here at home. We simply can’t have that.

Second, the costs and resources needed to pursue the war in Iraq have distracted us from our missions in Afghanistan-- and from the larger war on terror. We need to recommit resources to these important struggles—and we need to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

Finally, the latest polling in Iraq tells us that the Iraqis want to step up and take responsibility for their own future. Until we make it clear that we believe they can accept that responsibility, the insurgents will spin the worst lies about American troops. A clear exit strategy and timeline establishes America’s faith in Iraq and will be the surest blow we can strike against the insurgents.

No kidding. I personally think that if all (or even most) Democrats across the land were to sign on to this issue - whether you call it an exit strategy, a timetable for withdrawal, what have you - it would be a powerful way to nationalize the 2006 elections. If you couple that with relentless hammering on the Republican culture of corruption, you've got national issues on both the domestic and the foreign fronts. They even intersect at a crucial juncture (see Libby, Irving Lewis "Scooter").

I'm glad to see that Tester has seen the wisdom of this, and is making his voice heard on the subject. If a candidate from a conservative district in a red state can start talking about this, then I surely hope other Dems elsewhere can follow soon.

Posted at 12:11 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, October 29, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Declares Bush's Record 'Isn't That Bad'

Posted by Bob Brigham

The Montana Senate race is going to be a great race for the netroots to follow. Conrad Burns has the most exposure of any senator in the Jack Abramoff scandals. Montana is a red state with a vulnerable three-term incumbent. Even Karl Rove is worried about this race amidst all of his other problems.

That, and we have an inspiring challenger in Jon Tester (who is on the Swing State Project Actblue page).

Today, the Montana press headlined, Burns facing tough re-election bid which included the type of quote you don't expect from a GOP Senator:

"The president is having his problems but that could straighten out," Burns said, adding that Bush's record "isn't that bad."

Not that bad, eh? Remember, this is a state where Bush enjoys an approval rating 11% pts. better than the national average -- yet a three term incumbent who has already raised 80% of what he need in 2000 is still running scared from Bush. And Burns sounds worried, here is the story's lede:

In the staid halls of the U.S. Senate, Montana Republican Conrad Burns is known for his booming voice and his cheery, back-slapping confidence. But when it comes to talking about his upcoming bid for re-election, his demeanor turns more serious.

Burns' is up to his cowboy hat in Jack Abramoff's scandals, so he should be worried about coming off as cocky because of how much money he has in the bank:

Democrats plan to make up for their financial disadvantage by leveling ethics charges at Burns. Strategists have already signaled that they plan to exploit Burns' ties to GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has been indicted on fraud charges.

The Montana Democratic Party aired a television ad in August that criticized Burns for what it said was his vote to give one of the nation's wealthiest American Indian tribes $3 million from a federal program intended for cash-strapped tribal schools.

Abramoff was a lobbyist for the Michigan tribe, and also donated to Burns' political action committee along with some of his associates. Abramoff is now under a wide-ranging investigation, accused of bilking his Indian clients.

The Democratic ad said the financial arrangements add up to an "improper relationship" between Burns, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that wrote the bill, and Abramoff.

Sketchy. Here's another great quote from Burns, not as good as his defense of Bush, but still desperate:

"I'm here and they're not," he said, sitting in his Senate office. "I've got the seniority and they don't. And I'm in the majority and they're not."

My response: Not for long, give Tester time, not for long.

Speaking of which, it is Tester Time.

Posted at 12:38 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Culture of Corruption, Montana, Scandals | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, October 27, 2005

MT-Sen: So Much for Seniority

Posted by DavidNYC

One argument often made on behalf of incumbents is that their "seniority" is somehow important - that presumably, it allows them greater leverage to get legislation important to their constituents passed. (This is considered so important that federal courts even permit it as a justification in re-districting to protect incumbents.) I happen to think it's bullcrap as often as not - there are a lot of factors that go into whether certain legislation gets passed, and pure seniority is just one of them.

So why am I bringing this up? One issue of important to many Americans - and to a lot of Montanans in particular - is "coutry-of-origin labelling," aka "COOL." It's a simple (and inexpensive) idea which says that all farm products should carry information identifying where they are from. And this law was actually passed at the federal level in 2002. But its implementation has been delayed, thanks to Congressional Republicans.

And guess who's been whining about it loudest lately? Why, our dear friend Connie Burns - a Congressional Republican! Burnsie is in his third term - he oughta be way senior by now, right? Well, then, why the hell hasn't he convinced his colleagues to finally authorize COOL? How pathetic is that? But wait - it gets better (or worse, depending upon your perspective).

While Connie Burns has been proving his utter ineffectiveness on Capitol Hill, Jon Tester, as President of the MT State Senate and working with Gov. Brian Schweitzer, got a state-level COOL bill passed earlier this year - and was heartily thanked by Montana's cattlemen. I guess the farmer and the cow-man can be friends, after all!

Burnsie, you have a year to get this legislation fully enacted. All of Montana - and your friends throughout the country - are watching. Your failure thus far is proof that your claims to seniority are worthless. If you can't get this done by election day, it'll just be one more nail in your electoral coffin.

(Hat tip to a Tester campaign e-mail.)

Posted at 09:11 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MT-Sen: John Morrison Condones Corruption

Posted by Bob Brigham

A couple of weeks ago, the blogs were in an uproar about Montana Senator Max Baucus (D-MT?) feeding from the GOP Culture of Corruption by taking dirty money from the Leo Giacometto. Giacometto has a reputation as being the most crooked hack around and he's one of the key guys in the death of Republican Rep. Paul Sliter. Kos said:

Corruption is corruption, no matter where it takes place, no matter which party engages in it. [...]

Keep that shit on their side of the aisle. It's hard to talk "culture of corruption" when our own side starts fraternizing with their sleaziest characters.

Considering the widespread condemnation of such a crooked act, you would think that Montana politicians wouldn't make the same mistake. But not DLC poster boy John Morrison. Instead of standing up for ethics, Morrison's response was to applaud the effort:

State Auditor John Morrison, who is running against state Senate President Jon Tester in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, said he thought it was “great that Max is doing a NASCAR event.’’

“Every successful Democrat in Montana gets the support of some Republicans,’’ he said.

Should Morrison prevail in the primary, he will go head-to-head against Giacometto’s former boss Burns.

WTF? This isn't support from a Republican, this is taking dirty money from the most crooked Republican operative to ever set foot in the state of Montana.

Either Morrison has no fucking clue about Montana politics, or he decided to use the newspapers to put a giant FOR SALE sign up next to his name.

Morrison might be a pathetic candidate, but he's no idiot. John Morrison sent a clear signal to every single special interest that he is their guy. If he'll take money from the worst, he'll take it from them all. Meanwhile, Montanans will take it in another place.

John Morrison is a disgrace to the Democratic Party -- either that or he's a complete idiot.

Posted at 10:24 PM in Montana | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Burns is a Repeat Offender

Posted by DavidNYC

As the post below indicates, this isn't the first time Conrad Burns has seriously put his foot in his mouth, revealing the deeply offensive thoughts that lurk within his skull. The DSCC has done all the work of rounding up Burnsie's previous greatest hits:

Burns Refers To Arabs As “Ragheads.” During a 1999 speech to Montana constituents about U.S. dependence on foreign oil, Burns referred to Arabs as "ragheads." The term is a derisive reference to the gutra, the head cloth traditionally worn by Arab men. [Washington Post, 3/12/99]

Woman Said Her Nose Ring Prompted “Tribal” Remark By Burns. In March 2000, Angela Warren of Billings said she was offended by a comment Burns made when he visited her office and noticed she wore a nose ring. "What is that thing in your nose? What tribe are you from?" she recalled Burns saying. "It's a nose ring, and I am obviously not from a tribe," Warren said she replied. [Associated Press, 3/2/00]

Burns: “Hell of a Challenge” to Live With Minorities. In 1994, a Washington Post editorial noted that Burns recounted an incident when a rancher asked him, “Conrad, how can you live back there [in Washington] with all those niggers?” Burns reportedly “told the rancher that it was ‘a hell of a challenge.’” The Post then noted that “After protests erupted in the state following publication of his remarks, the senator apologized.” [Washington Post, editorial “Conrad Burns Tells a Story,” 10/26/94]

Burns Said He Was Going To An Auction of Slaves After Voting On Civil Rights Bill. In 1991, Burns “startled lobbyists outside the Senate chamber” following passage of a civil rights bill by saying he was going to an auction of “slaves.” A Burns spokesman attempted to clarify the statement saying the senator was referring to a charity event known as a “slave auction.” [Associated Press, 11/13/91]

Burns Joins Santorum: Santorum Mocked Women Who Seek Careers. In his book, It Takes a Family, Santorum suggests that women seek careers are looking for a false sense of accomplishment. "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/6/05]

Better start lining up that lobbying gig soon, Connie.

UPDATE: (Bob): In addition to Burns being a complete asshole, his remarks have real world consequences. After his "ragheads" comment, Pakistan cancelled a huge U.S. wheat shipment and placed an order with Australia instead. Montana farmers really appreciated Burns' blunder.

Posted at 03:33 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Connie Burns a Retrograde Sexist

Posted by DavidNYC

Man, I am just having too much fun today - fun in the nerdy political junkie blogger sense. Conrad Burns (best known for being a cousin of klepto-plutocrat C. Montogomery Burns) has taken a page from the Rick Santorum playbook in his latest attempt at voter outreach. Just read and enjoy watching a sitting senator shoot himself in the foot so badly:

Sen. Conrad Burns' off-the-cuff remarks have gotten him in trouble in the past.

He once called Arabs "rag heads," later apologizing for the comment. Another time, the Montana Republican commented on how challenging it is to live with so many blacks in Washington.

Now, two Northwest Airlines flight attendants say Burns offended them recently when he told one of the women she could stay at home and be a mother if she lost her job to outsourcing.

"He's still living in the '50s," said Karen McElvaney, who is raising two young children in Atlanta while working for Northwest. "If I could stay home, I certainly would love to stay with my kids."

Burns, who is up for re-election next year, said Tuesday morning he did not recall the conversation. He later said through a spokesman that he remembered speaking to the flight attendants but never told one she could stay home with her children.

McElvaney said she approached the lawmaker with her concerns about outsourcing during a Sept. 25 flight from Great Falls to Minneapolis. When McElvaney asked what she would do if she lost her job, Burns replied she could stay home and be a mother, she said.

McElvaney did not reply.

But Kari Johnke-Henzler, a flight attendant from Minneapolis, who listened to the exchange, said she told Burns what both she and McElvaney were thinking: "I am a mother. However, I need to support my family."

The two women, both longtime Northwest employees, said many families can no longer rely solely on a husband's income.

McElvaney repeated the story to another Northwest flight attendant, Jaime Drain, who has a penchant for writing letters to public officials.

"Before you sit in judgment and make such ignorant statements, you really should stop and remember that we don't all live in a Leave it to Beaver world," Drain wrote in a Sept. 28 letter to Burns. "Perhaps it's time for you, Senator Burns, to retire and stay home since it's obvious to me that you have absolutely no concept of what it's like to be a middle-class average working American living in the modern world."

Damn straight, Ms. Drain. Connie can go hang out with Wally, June and the Beave. The rest of us living in the real world can help boot him out of office.

Posted at 01:04 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

MT-AL: Erik Iverson Embarrasses Congressman Dennis Rehberg

Posted by Bob Brigham

Representative Denny Rehberg, who represents Montana's lone congressional seat is having some serious staffing issues. In a move that is sure to further erode Congressman Rehberg's limited respect from both Republican and Democrats, Rehberg's Chief of Staff is getting a great deal of attention for overshadowing his boss. Now that this is becoming gossip across Montana, it will be interesting to see how long Rehberg waits before getting rid of Erik Iverson:


Iverson, Rehberg’s protégé and top advisor, has been tromping around the state under the guise of representing his boss at official events. But to many observers, Iverson is positioning himself to run for high office, even the U.S. Congress.

And then there are Iverson’s countless on-record newspaper antics. In politics, there’s a code Iverson breaks often that says “thou shall not overshadow the boss.” He clearly doesn’t care. Beyond that, the art of subtlety is lost on Mr. Mini Me. [...]

At a Hi-Line event to promote Amtrak last spring, Iverson gave a speech that reportedly left the audience scratching their heads. “I couldn’t tell who the Congressman was,” one observer said. “His whole speech was me, me, me (Mini Me). He barely mentioned Rehberg.” Ouch.

And at the kick off ceremony for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in Fort Benton, Iverson was “giving his own campaign speech, no two ways about it,” said another witness.

Congressional Rehberg is a remarkably unremarkable politician best know for living on his capitol hill office couch. The excesses of Erik Iverson provide further reinforcement of the fact his boss is an easily overshadowed lightweight.

Hat tip to Left in the West

Posted at 04:40 PM in Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, October 14, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester Hauls in $324K

Posted by DavidNYC

Our man Jon Tester just announced his third-quarter numbers via e-mail, and he did well, raking in $324,000. Some 2,580 people contributed to the campaign, including the awesome readers of this blog. (Jon even took the time to thank us with a phone call. Total class act, not that there was any doubt.) Three quarters of Tester's contributors are from Montana, which is nice to see.

I'm also hearing that Tester materially outperformed his main opponent for the Dem nomination, John Morrison. That would sure as hell be interesting. The National Journal's Chuck Todd took a few unfair shots at Jon Tester recently, based largely on the fact that Jon taught bass to Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament and the two are still friends. Todd thereby concluded that Morrison is the better candidate. Two days ago, Todd retreated somewhat, reducing his preference for Morrison to the following calculus (sub. only):

We're going to stick with our philosophy on Senate races and assume the guy with the most money is the best answer.

So if money - and not friendships with popular musicians - is what matters, and if Tester's better at raising more of it, is Chuck Todd gonna switch horses? I await his answer.

Posted at 08:22 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (19) | TrackBack (1) | Technorati

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MT-Sen: Max Baucus Joins Culture of Corruption

Posted by Bob Brigham

The new Hotline On Call (subscription free) yesterday exposed Montana Senator Max Baucus (D?) for his ties to Leo Giacometto. For those unfamiliar with Montana politics, Giacometto has a reputation as being the most crooked hack around -- no matter where in the country he goes. We aren't just talking typical pay-to-play corruption, we're talking one of the key guys in the death of Republican Rep. Paul Sliter. Yet Democrat Max Baucus is now entangled in Giacometto's culture of corruption.

Montana blogger Matt Singer is widely respected because he talks truth to power and refuses to give free passes to Democrats when their actions deserve to be criticized. So go check out Left in the West, Singer justifiably takes his Senator to the woodshed.

UPDATE: (Bob) On the most popular Democratic blog (average of more than 750,000 readers a day), the word is:

Corruption is corruption, no matter where it takes place, no matter which party engages in it. [...]

Keep that shit on their side of the aisle. It's hard to talk "culture of corruption" when our own side starts fraternizing with their sleaziest characters.

Posted at 01:08 PM in Culture of Corruption, Montana, Scandals | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, October 07, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Denies Being Corrupt

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Senator Conrad Burns is a key figure in multiple investigations (FBI, Justice Department, and the Interior Department Inspector General), the scandals are hurting his re-election chances, and even Karl Rove is worried.

Burns first ran a campaign against Washington politicians, vowing to only serve to terms so he wouldn't become corrupted by Washington politics. But Burns loved Washington politics so he broke his word to the voters and ran for a third term. Now, even though his is up to his cowboy hat in corruption, he is running for his fourth term. And it is playing out in the Montana newspapers.

Today, Conrad Burns had an op-ed distancing himself from his close ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and playing himself off as a victim. He even goes so far as to say:

They have declared me guilty of ethics violations. Absolutely not true. I am not under any investigation, nor have I been.

That is the type of spin you would expect from somebody who has been in DC for too long. As a Swing State Project reader notes in an email:

The Senate Ethics Committee was asked to investigate these claims by Montana Democratic Party Chairman Bob Ream. The Ethics Committee does not comment on ongoing investigation, therefore Sen. Burns cannot honestly say that he knows he is not under investigation. However, this is what we do know:
• The Senate Gifts Rule restricts gifts from lobbyists. Members, officers, and employees of the Senate may not accept “gifts of personal hospitality” from registered lobbyists. Jack Abramoff was a registered lobbyist. As a result, neither Sen. Burns nor any member of his staff was permitted to accept reimbursement for travel expenses from Mr. Abramoff. [Senate Ethics Manual, ch.2, p. 43]
• Members and staff of the Senate are only permitted to accept reimbursement for officially related travel. “Reimbursement for necessary expenses for events which are substantially recreational in nature, however, is not considered to be ‘in connection with the duties of a Member, officer or employee . . . and will not be allowed.’” As examples of travel that may not be accepted, the Senate Ethics Manual includes “charity golf, tennis, fishing, or ski tournaments.” It is extremely difficult to believe that a trip to the Super Bowl with a side trip to a gambling ship wouldn’t fall into the same category. [Rule 35, Senate Ethics Manual, p. 44.]

Burns can play himself off as the victim, but Montanans know Senator Burns is crooked. Montana voters are the victims, the taxpayers are the victim, good government is the victim. Burns is so out of touch, you would think he has been in DC for 17 years. Wait, he has. And during that time, he has become exactly what he campaigned against when he first ran in 1988.

Posted at 12:40 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Culture of Corruption, Montana, Republicans, Scandals | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Thursday, October 06, 2005

MT-AL: Dennis Rehberg Keeping Tainted Money

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana's lone Congressman Denny Rehberg is taking heat in the local papers for refusing to give back corrupt money. Rep. Rehberg is so out of touch with Montana values he doesn't even seem to have a sense of shame about the devil's money he received for his role in the GOP Culture of Corruption. David Sirota says:

It isn't surprising that Rehberg refuses to give back the tainted money from his indicted leader. As Montana Democratic Party executive director Jim Farrell notes, "It's a lot of money, and it's a lot of money in Montana" - meaning Rehberg is going to do everything he can to hold onto it, no matter how dirty it is.

But what is surprising is that Rehberg doesn't even see why he might CONSIDER giving it back in the first place. As Rehberg's chief of staff said, "There is absolutely no reason for him to return the money."

No reason? No reason? A Texas grand jury INDICTED DeLay for his use of PAC money - isn't that reason enough? The answer is yes, at least for some Republicans who have a sense of shame. As the Tribune notes, "at least two Republican House members — Reps. Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire and Heather Wilson of New Mexico — have decided to return campaign contributions received from DeLay's [PAC]." So has Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) - he gave DeLay's dirty money to charity.

Rehberg's refusal to objectively evaluate the world around him - and realize that pocketing money from someone under indictment is wrong - proves that the GOP is ever more out of touch with reality, only interested in protecting their own corrupt fiefdom in Washington. If other Republicans behave like this, we really could see a Democratic tidal wave in 2006.

Indeed. Take a minute to vote in the Great Falls Tribune poll on the matter.

Rehberg is being challenged by Monica Lindeen.

Use the comments to report other instances where crooked politicians are keep Tom DeLay's dirty money.

Posted at 03:11 PM in Montana | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

MT-Sen: Reid Billboard in Helena

Posted by Bob Brigham

The Montana Senate racing is receiving a great deal of attention from Democratic Party leaders. Former Montana Democratic Party Chair Bob Ream endorsed Jon Tester, saying, "he is the only Democrat who can beat Conrad Burns."

As the Swing State Project reported last week, Senator Harry Reid's new PAC is also getting involved in Montana.

The Billings Gazette says:

HELENA - New billboards went up in Helena, Phoenix and Albuquerque, N.M., touting a new Web site by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid that he said will provide Americans with tools to fight for Democratic control of the Senate next year.

The Nevada senator's campaign account paid for the three billboards to promote his Web site, The Helena billboard is on the corner of Montana Avenue and Poplar Street.

In a telephone conference, Reid called on Americans to join him to tell the nation's largest oil companies that gas prices are outrageous. Oil executives refused to testify before the Democratic Policy Committee last week on rising oil prices, he said.

The Democratic Western Strategy is coming together...

"I want to do whatever I can to reach out to people in rural America to let them know Democrats care about them," Reid said.

The national Democratic Party has believed if the party can win the votes in the big cities around the country, it will win the presidency and control of Congress. Although that theory worked well for years, it no longer does, he said.

"We should own rural America," Reid said. "We're the ones who have saved the family farms. Republicans are doing everything they can to help the bankers."

Democrats pushed for the Medicare changes that saved rural hospitals and saved Social Security from "the Bush onslaught," the Senate Democratic leaders said.

Posted at 02:29 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

MT-Sen: Bob Ream Endorses Jon Tester

Posted by Bob Brigham

In a major sign of momentum for Montana Senate President Jon Tester is the endorsement of former Professor, State Legislator, and Democratic Party Chair Bob Ream. In an email, Ream says:

Since my retirement after eight years as Chair of the Montana Democratic Party, I’ve managed to stay quite busy – doing “deferred maintenance” at home and taking a much-needed vacation with my family.

Now it’s time for me to get back into politics and participate in a way that I haven’t been able to in years: by getting involved in a primary.

I spent 16 years in the Montana House and I am dedicated to helping Jon Tester win both the primary and the general election.

Jon Tester is my good friend and he is the only Democrat who can beat Conrad Burns. Tester is a farmer from north-central Montana who appeals to rural and urban Montana voters. Tester knows what it’s like to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and work out in the fields. The dirt on his cowboy boots is real. He’s a third-generation Montana farmer who will take Montanan’s needs and issues to Washington without the help of Jack Abramoff or other lobbyists. (emphasis Ream)

What does this mean for the Democratic Primary campaign where Tester is being challenged by the DLC's John Morrison?

First, it is important to note that Tester is solidifying his advantage with the Democratic establishment -- even while running a populist campaign. During Ream's time as Chair, he spent countless months on the road organizing Democrats across the state, which came together in last year's Montana Miracle sweep. Ream is respected and known in all 56 counties and his support is a major coup for the Tester campaign.

Next, it is important to note that Ream wrote and even bolded that Tester is, "the only Democrat who can beat Conrad Burns.". Ream believes in straight talk and it is refreshing to see him convey the fact that John Morrison can't win.

For Democrats nationwide, the Montana Senate Primary is critical.

Tester first lined up the support of Montana bloggers which allowed him to get national blog support. Likewise, I hope that Tester's support from Montana Democrats will allow him to get support from national Democrats.

Posted at 05:04 PM in Montana | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Saturday, October 01, 2005

MT-Sen: We Did It!

Posted by DavidNYC

Extraordinary job everyone - we did it! We hit our goal of 70 donors to Jon Tester, for a total of $4202.73. That's 24 new donations since the time we started this push around ten days ago - far more than the ten new donors I had hoped we'd get.

And I've gotta admit, we didn't nag nearly as often as we could have. But for the next little while, anyhow, no more nags. Enjoy the achievement. I know the folks out in Montana are.

Posted at 01:02 AM in Montana | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Friday, September 30, 2005

MT-Sen: Today is the Last Day of the Quarter!

Posted by DavidNYC

Totally awesome - we just went over our most recent goal of 60 contributors! And on top of that, we hit an even $2000 for Jon Tester on our ActBlue page. It looks like one generous donor (#62) decided to "top us up" and give us the exact amount we'd need to his $2000 on the nose.

As the title indicates, today is the last day of the third quarter. Soon, the Tester campaign will announce its fundraising totals and file official documents with the FEC. Naturally, there are only a few end-of-quarter announcements in any given campaing season, and each one is important. Money still means a whole lot in politics, and a good showing in any given quarter can mean a lot to a candidate: Positive media coverage, which can lead to the appearance of having good "momentum," which can in turn lead to more volunteers, supporters and contributors - a very virtuous cycle, in other words.

So please help Jon Tester score big this quarter. And remember, in a state like Montana, where the cost of doing business in general is low, your dollars go very far. Join us if you can - this pickup opportunity is as good as any, and you certainly won't find a better candidate anywhere in the nation.

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

UPDATE (David): Phenomenal! Not only have we hit 66 contributors - twenty more than when we started this end-of-quarter push - but one mega-super-generous donor has plunked down $2000! Our total now stands at $4107.25. And like I say, that kind of scrilla should do a lot in the Last Best Place.

UPDATE (David): Wow - 68 contributors. I just tossed in $25.01 myself. Can we hit 70 by tonight? If memory serves, the end of the "day" is probably midnight Pacific time (or at the very least, Mountain time), meaning we have until 2 or 3am Eastern to get two more donors. Let's do it!

Posted at 11:59 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

MT-Sen: As Goes Montana, So Goes the Democratic Party

Posted by Bob Brigham

I was fortunate enough to grow up in Montana, to go to school in Montana, and to learn politics in Montana. Senator Max Baucus was the first politician I volunteered for, yet I now view him as being worse for the Democratic Party than Zell Miller.

The maturation I've experienced is a process that Democrats, for the good of our Party, need to embrace.

That is why next year's Senate Primary in Montana is critical to the future of our Party.

Nationally, the Democratic Party is divided between the DLC and the base, between those who want to not lose and those who will not back down, between big money and populism.

Democrats need to leave behind the failed ways of the DLC. And that begins in Montana.

This internal battle has played out in Montana as well. In Big Sky Country, the people are represented by Governor Brian Schweitzer and the DLC is represented by Senator Max Baucus.

Governor Schweitzer is a populist, a man of the people. Baucus is just another slick, lawyer who survives because he is an incumbent. But a Baucus style Democrat will not be sent to Washington DC by Montanans. In 1996, it was Jack Mudd who tried this approach and was toasted as another slick lawyer politician. In 1998, it was Dusty Deschampes who tried this approach and was toasted as another slick lawyer politician.

In 2000, the Max Baucus crew gave up on trying to beat Conrad Burns, but Brian Schweitzer ran anyway and almost won – even with little institutional support. The Baucus machine wasn't offered to Schweitzer, so he built his own movement of the people, by the people, and for the people – from the ground up.

Fast forward to 2004 and the "Montana Miracle" sweep of both houses and the governor's mansion…which set up Montana as one of the most crucial states in 2006.

Republican Senator Conrad Burns is the up to his cowboy hat in the Jack Abramoff scandal and is primed for a beating at the polls. The only way Burns can get re-elected is if he is lucky enough to face a challenger that can be branded as another slick lawyer.

Over the years, the slick lawyer meme has literally re-wired the brains of Montanans. If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, the Jack Morrison is totally fucking nuts. Batshit crazy. Insane.

John Morrison is a rich, big city lawyer. He comes off as the embodiment of a slick lawyer. Yet Jack's buddies in the DLC want to see him win the nomination.

If John Morrison wins the primary, he will lose to Conrad Burns. He doesn't stand a chance. Montana voters will choose a fake cowboy like Conrad Burns over a real lawyer like John Morrison any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

But do not despair, because Montana is also home to another authentic man of the people like Brian Schweitzer. His name is Jon Tester, he is the President of the State Senate and is the most authentic candidate running for the U.S. Senate anywhere in America.

Tester can and will beat Burns, but only with all of our help. Morrison is a millionaire whose only political trick is knowing how to buy races. Yet if Tester has half as much money as Morrison, he'll win the primary.

I have already made two donations to Tester and I urge you to join Swing State Project and make a contribution.

Tester doesn't need the big PAC checks, he just needs a lot of people. He needs you. Please do what you can and urge your friends and family to do the same. Today is the last day of the quarter, please give what you can.

Posted at 02:42 PM in Montana | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

MT-Sen: The Culture of Corruption - Enough is Enough

Posted by Bob Brigham

I just recommended a diary by Jon Tester:

Three stories in the last two days illustrate what's wrong with Washington.

1. Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay was indicted for criminal conspiracy today by a Texas Grand Jury for his alleged role in illegal using corporate money to influence the 2004 elections.

2. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is reportedly under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission for insider trading.

3. And in Florida, police have arrested three men for the 2001 gangland-style murder of businessman "Gus" Boulis. Two of those men now accused of murder were hired as consultants by the business partner of Jack Abramoff--the Washington lobbyist who is now under federal indictment for wire fraud and conspiracy. And Abramoff is the indicted lobbyist at the heart of a larger scandal involving Conrad Burns' former chief of staff, former appropriations staffer, and former state director.

These stories might have a place in The Godfather, but they have no place in our nation's capital.

But let me tell you something. I've been a farmer my entire life, and I can tell you from experience that no matter how hard you try, you can't convince a hog to shovel its own bull.

By the same token, we can't expect those in Washington to clean up corruption in Washington.

It's going to take all of us standing up and saying, enough is enough. We deserve a government better than this.

Indeed. Go read the whole thing.

UPDATE (David): On a related note, we surpassed our end-of-quarter fundraising goal for Jon Tester. I was hoping we'd hit 56 contributors - ten more than when we announced the push - and now we're at 57. Freakin' awesome. Counting today, we still have three days left in the quarter. I think we can definitely hit 60 contributors by then. What do you say?

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

UPDATE (David): Oh man - we're at 59! Sooo close! I know we can hit 60 by Sep. 30th. Man, I know we can do better than that, even! You guys rock!

Posted at 05:05 PM in Montana | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Senate 2006: Give 'em Hell Harry!

Posted by Bob Brigham

Senator Harry Reid has done something that every single Democrat in congress needs to do, he started his own actblue page. Additionally, he has a new website, Give 'em Hell Harry.

Washington- Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today unveiled a new online campaign headquarters - - to provide Americans with the tools to make an impact on the fight for control of the U.S. Senate.

“There is a great deal at stake. While Democrats fight for better health care, energy independence, restoring America's global strength and rebuilding our economy through innovation and reform, Republicans continue to ignore their failures and resist progress,” This website is a place where people can take action. Together, we can change the future.”

Today on, Reid called on Americans to join him in sending a clear, unambiguous message to the nation’s largest oil companies who refused to testify at a Democratic Policy Committee last week on rising gas prices. Reid also is leading efforts with his caucus on an Energy Independence 2020 effort to reduce gas prices and America's dependence on Middle East oil.

“In the face of national tragedy, our nation?s oil companies are recording record profits while Americans are paying 50% more at the pump than they did just one year ago,” Reid said. “Democrats in the Senate have set a national priority to make America safer and more secure by reducing our dependence on foreign oil by 2020. If Republicans can't lead on this issue, we will.”'s formal launch will be supported by paid advertising including billboards in three key western states -- Albuquerque, New Mexico; Phoenix, Arizona; and Helena, Montana -- reaffirming his commitment to winning in the American west.

The name of the site was inspired by an event that occurred during Harry Truman?s successful 1948 presidential campaign. While delivering a speech on a whistle stop tour in Seattle, a supporter yelled to Truman, “Give 'em hell, Harry!” Truman responded, “I don?t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it's hell.”

Go check it out.

Posted at 12:03 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Arizona, Montana, Netroots, New Mexico | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0) | Technorati

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

MT-Sen: Max Baucus Runs from Democratic Party

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Senator Max Baucus is a skittish senator known for bolting and running. In fact, Senator Baucus has quite a reputation for running. On November 22 of last year Baucus was running from something for 50 miles when he hit his head on a rock and needed urgent brain surgery. I'm no big city doctor, but I think Baucus lost his fucking mind:

WASHINGTON -- Montana Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, said Tuesday he will vote for Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. [...]

Baucus is breaking with his party's top senator in deciding to vote for the 50-year-old appeals court judge and former Reagan administration lawyer.

Why is Max Baucus running from the Democratic Party? Instead of running away, why can't Max Baucus play with the team? Call each number below and ask.

Washington D.C.(202) 224-2651
Billings (406) 657-6790
Bozeman (406) 586-6104
Butte (406) 782-8700
Great Falls (406) 761-1574
Helena (406) 449-5480
Kalispell (406) 756-1150
Missoula (406) 329-3123
Washington DC Fax (202) 224-0515

Thanks for taking 10 minutes to make those quick 8 calls. If you have 2 more minutes, use the email form.

I am totally fuckin' pissed at Baucus. Senator Reid is from a redder state, but he isn't running from what he cares about. Why is Baucus chicken?

Baucus isn't even up until 2008 and (hopefully) won't be running for re-election. Senator Baucus doesn't need to go around acting like a dipshit coward, but this isn't the first time. Matthew Yglesias explains (2.1.04):

As a result, literally none of the president's signature initiatives -- from tax cuts to the resolution authorizing war in Iraq to the Medicare bill -- garnered sufficient GOP support to pass without cooperation from some Democrats, cooperation that the White House has largely succeeded in obtaining.

Among the defectors, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) has tended to attract the lion's share of media attention for his florid denunciations of his ostensible party. But the practical effects of Miller's histrionics have been rather limited compared with the betrayals of his more low-key colleague Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). As the ranking member (and, for a period, chairman) of the Finance Committee, arguably the Senate's most powerful, Baucus, who underwent successful brain surgery on Jan. 9, has not only voted for many pieces of Republican-backed legislation but actually taken the lead in authoring much of the president's domestic-policy agenda. During the 2001 tax-cut debate, Baucus cut a deal with committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the White House to co-sponsor a slightly watered-down version of the president's proposal. In doing so, he not only gave the GOP his vote but, more importantly, his support for the tax cut effectively handed the White House the staff and other committee resources under his control.

Fellow Democrats were even more aggrieved, however, by Baucus' behavior during the Medicare battle with which Congress closed last year's session. The Senate initially passed a compromise bill with support from Republicans and some liberal Democrats like Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), while the House put forward a much more partisan piece of legislation on a narrow vote. A conference committee composed of members of both chambers was convened, but the Republican leadership, in a sharp break from precedent, said that though Democrats could be officially appointed to the committee, none would be invited to the meetings where the substantive negotiations would take place and the actual bill be written. None, that is, except for Baucus and the similarly cooperative John Breaux of Louisiana, who will retire at the end of the year.

By lending this farce a veneer of bipartisan credibility, Baucus and Breaux essentially denied the Democrats what was not only their best chance of defeating the bill in question but the party's last hope of putting a stop to a long string of Republican provocations aimed at reducing the minority party to window-dressing status. (emphasis mine)

WTF? Call each phone number and let your rage be heard. This is totally fuckin' unacceptable and you can quote me on that.

Posted at 09:30 PM in Activism, Montana, Netroots, Scandals, Supreme Court | Comments (5) | Technorati

Monday, September 19, 2005

MT-Sen: End-of-Quarter Push for Tester

Posted by DavidNYC

September 30th is the end of the fundraising quarter, when all federal candidates have to file detailed reports with the FEC and announce how much scrilla they've hauled in. That's less than two weeks away. So it's up to us to help our main man, official Swing State Project candidate #1 Jon Tester, make a good showing.

As of today, 46 hardy individuals have contributed via the SSP's ActBlue page. Can we add another 10 to that by the deadline? Any amount you can contribute is hugely appreciated - remember, Howard Dean took off not because he had a bunch of $2000 donors, but because he had a ton of small-dollar folks like ourselves. Paul Hackett was the same way. And Jon Tester will be, too.

Also, an update on the race. Rasmussen released a new poll the other day - the first any outfit has done in months. It shows incumbent Republican Conrad Burns leading Tester 51-38. At first blush, that might not look so great, but keep this in mind: Tester is unknown to 46% of Montanans. (Burnsie only gets an 8% d/k.) In a small (population-wise) state with cheap media, that gap can definitely be remedied - which makes it all the more important that we toss some scratch Tester's way. Once Tester's name recognition numbers go up, that gap will narrow.

A little more polling background here: Rasmussen reports that, even in seemingly dark red Montana, Bush's approval rating is a mere 51-48. And as of August, Burnsie's approval rating was only 48-42, according to SUSA - pretty lousy for a senator, and good enough only for 80th out of all 100 senators.

So, again, please give what you can to Jon Tester. I know a lot of people have given a lot of money lately to Katrina relief efforts, myself included, so your budget for these kind of donations may be stretched. Believe me, I understand. But if you can make a small contibution, I know it will be greatly appreciated.

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

Posted at 01:28 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (6) | Technorati

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester Values Community; Morrison Values Cash

Posted by Bob Brigham

Wow, the contrast could not be clearer. Yesterday, the two Democrats running against Conrad Burns sent an email to their supporters -- asking for contributions.

Jon Tester's Email:

So why is a U.S. Senate candidate from Montana asking you to help out?

Because it’s the right thing to do. Because this campaign isn’t just about politics—it’s about all of us pulling together to bring Montana values to Washington, D.C. and to the rest of the nation.

And in Montana, we help a neighbor in need. And sometimes that neighbor is very far away.

So please do what you can by supporting the efforts of the American Red Cross to help those affected by this disaster:

John Morrison's Email:

I must gather the resources necessary to wage a tough, modern, winning campaign -- and, therefore, I am writing to ask for your generous help.

*Please take a moment right now to make a contribution today of $2,100, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford to give.* Mail your contribution to Morrison for Montana, Box 99, Helena MT 59624, or give using a major credit card by visiting on the Internet.

Both emails also had a post-script:


P.S. Please forward this on to your families and friends. Lives really are at stake, and your efforts can make a difference.


P.S. We have 32 days until the end of our second fundraising quarter. I would appreciate it if you could forward this message to your friends and neighbors. Forward this to your friends!

I think it is clear what each candidate values. Tester wants to help people for the same reasons he wants to take Montana values to Washington. Morrison wants those $2,100 checks.

Tester is focused on doing the right thing every day. He should be applauded.

Posted at 12:52 PM in Montana | Comments (24) | Technorati

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester's Email Fundraising

Posted by Tim Tagaris

I got another one today. An email from a candidate asking for money. It's common knowledge that the more a campaign uses its email list to ask for money, people will open less of their emails down the road, and their list will become burned.

But the email I received today was different, and frankly I have never seen it before. I sign up for all kinds of campaign emails, and I am not sure I can remember a time a candidate, in the middle of a campaign, asked people to give their money to something else. Something of a more immediate concern. Something more important than one campaign.

As I write this, waters continue to rise in New Orleans, where entire neighborhoods have been flooded. Biloxi, Mississippi has been hit hard. More than 37,000 Americans are already seeking shelter in American Red Cross centers all along the Gulf Coast. And the director of FEMA says tens of thousands more will likely require shelter for weeks, if not months.

So why is a U.S. Senate candidate from Montana asking you to help out?

Because it’s the right thing to do. Because this campaign isn’t just about politics—it’s about all of us pulling together to bring Montana values to Washington, D.C. and to the rest of the nation.

And in Montana, we help a neighbor in need. And sometimes that neighbor is very far away.

So please do what you can by supporting the efforts of the American Red Cross to help those affected by this disaster:

Thank you for helping out.

Jon Tester
Montanans for Tester

P.S. Please forward this on to your families and friends. Lives really are at stake, and your efforts can make a difference.

What really amazes me with this appeal is that for many, this is the first email they received from Jon Tester. Given his recently online publicity on the front page of Kos and MyDD, he made decision to make his first contact with many an attempt solicit contributions for a greater good than his campaign.

It makes me even more proud that my second ever contribution to a political campaign was John Testers, and it speaks volumes about the man.

UPDATE: (Bob) I was blown away when I opened the Tester email -- Tester is the real deal. I also got an email from Jon Corzine asking for help. As we come together online, our networks have value far beyond any election. Together, we can make a difference regardless of the challenge. The internet allows us all to act neighborly.

UPDATE: (Bob) I just received an email from a source close to the Chris Bell gubernatorial campaign in Texas. It appears that Bell's campaign was in the middle of an online fundraising drive to mark the launch of his campaign earlier this month. Bell suspended it earlier today and will be sending an email solicitation for the Red Cross tomorrow in place of the fundraising email that was scheduled. The website says:

I read the news today, oh boy. The Chris Bell for Governor campaign is calling off our online fundraising drive out of respect for the hurricane victims. Please do what you can for those who can't do for themselves. Please do as much as you can, and then please do more. We're taking down our fundraising thermometer and putting up the link to the Red Cross...

UPDATE: (Bob) And Howard Dean, full email after the jump...

This week millions of Americans fled Hurricane Katrina. Across the South families abandoned their homes and businesses, not knowing what would be there when they returned.

Many stayed behind and suffered devastating loss and injuries -- nearly a hundred have died that we know of, and hundreds of thousands need our help.

America is at its best when we realize that we are one community -- that we're all in this together. That means that each one of us has the responsibility to do what we can to help the relief effort.

The Red Cross is a great place to start:

They are already moving people and resources into the region to help. Donations will provide clean water, food, and shelter for disaster victims. The Red Cross web site also has important information for victims and their relatives across the country.

Many local Red Cross chapters are organizing volunteers to travel to affected areas -- doctors and nurses to provide medical care, workers to build shelters, first responders to assist in rescue operations.

You can find your local chapter here to learn what you can do:

We are still learning the full story of the devastation, but there is no time to wait. Please do something now.

Thank you.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

Posted at 07:00 PM in 2005 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, 2006 Elections - State, Activism, Montana, Netroots, New Jersey, Texas | Comments (2) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Young Voters and Jon Tester

Posted by Bob Brigham

From The Missoulian:

They came from eastern Montana and Washington and Arizona. Some wore their political inclinations on their sleeves, or on their chests, their shirts proclaiming everything from the derogatory - "Bush Sucks!" - to the hopeful: "Tester For Senate." There were preteen kids in backward baseball caps, graying men in business suits, and even a few avowed Republicans. [...]

"The fact that (Pearl Jam bassist and Missoula resident) Jeff Ament is supporting (Tester) says a lot," asserted Green. "To see Jeff putting himself out there for this guy means something."

That sentiment - that Jon Tester must be cool, because Jeff Ament is cool - seemed to rule the night at the concert, which drew a near-capacity crowd to the arena on the University of Montana campus.

"I read about (Tester) in the paper," said Jenaveve Bell, a 22-year old University of Montana student. "He sounded like a good guy, and he's friends with Jeff Ament, so I'd like to know more about him."

Young people getting interested in a senate race more than a year out?

"Whether we raise a nickel, if we can get the young people of Montana fired up about this campaign, we've succeeded," said Tester, standing outside the arena greeting concertgoers before the event.

Tester is winning every day. Especially online.

Posted at 01:29 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Monday, August 29, 2005

MT-Sen: It's Tester Time

Posted by Bob Brigham

John Tester has a new blog: Tester Time!

UPDATE: (Bob) Big day for Tester online. Markos and Jerome Armstrong are in Montana and Tester just had his first dailykos post. Pearl Jam is tonight. Momentum! You can join Swing State Project in supporting Jon Tester.

Posted at 12:29 PM in Montana | Comments (3) | Technorati

Saturday, August 27, 2005

MT-Sen: National Bloggers Trek to MT for Jon Tester

Posted by Bob Brigham

Following up on the netroots success in OH-02, national bloggers are descending upon Missoula, MT to support Jon Tester.

Both Jerome Armstrong and Markos are in Montana right now. Markos has the most widely read political blog and Jerome is affectionately known as The Blogfather. As Markos notes, they are following the lead of Montana bloggers:

You know, I expect to take the lead of the local bloggers on most of these Senate races. It's why I've learned so much about Tester and this race. Local progressive bloggers, who know the two (serious) primary candidates best, have cast their lot with Tester.

Tester is loved by Montana Democrats, has real time political capability, and the national support of top bloggers will help provide the support he needs to beat Conrad Burns.

At this point, anyone who contributes to the DLC's John Morrison (who is running against Tester) is wasting their money. It will be interesting to read (and blog on) the campaign finance reports to see who is too dumb to read the writing on the wall.

Posted at 01:37 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Netroots | Technorati

Friday, August 26, 2005

MT-Sen: John Morrison Can't Win Primary or General Election

Posted by Bob Brigham

Ouch. Membership in the DLC will be the kiss of death for anyone in a Democratic primary. From Kos:

[Jon Tester is] an awesome guy, awesome candidate, the Montana netroots loves him, and he'll win his primary and take out Conrad Burns.

His primary challenger, John Morrison, is, ahem, a DLC rising star. The big knock against Tester? He's a farmer from nowhere in eastern Montana and won't be able to raise the kind of money the slick, polished, Morrison can muster. It's the classic well-connected attorney politician type versus the "real" and "genuine" candidate.

There is no way a DLC lawyer like John Morrison can beat Conrad Burns. There is too much history. Montanans will choose a fake cowboy over a real lawyer any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

Posted at 05:45 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Scandals | Comments (10) | Technorati

Friday, August 19, 2005

MT-Sen: Burns / Abramoff Link Charged with Poaching

Posted by Bob Brigham

Helena Independent Record:

HELENA — Shawn Vasell, a one-time aide to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and a former associate of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has been charged in Stillwater County with poaching.

Vasell, 32, of Arlington, Va., was charged in June with four counts of breaking state big game laws: illegally possessing big game, hunting on private property without permission, hunting with someone else's license and hunting without a license, better known as poaching. [...]

Vasell pleaded not guilty to all four crimes on June 18 in Stillwater County Justice Court. A Sept. 20 trial is scheduled. [...]

The crimes carry a variety of punishments, including fines up to $1,000, restitution of up to $8,000, six months in jail and a lifetime ban from hunting in Montana.

The missing link.

Vasell was Burns' state director for most of 2002. He quit in December of that year and ended up joining the lobbying firm of Greenberg Traurig, where he worked with Jack Abramoff, the embattled D.C. lobbyist.

Abramoff was arrested and charged with federal fraud and conspiracy charges earlier this month for allegedly duping investors into financing a $147 million fleet of gambling ships in Florida.

Abramoff's alleged mishandling of millions of dollars in lobbying fees charged to American Indian tribal clients was the subject a Senate Indian Affairs investigative hearing in June. Vasell was tapped to testify at the hearing, but cited his right not to incriminate himself and refused to answer any questions.

Abramoff lobbyists and his tribal clients gave $137,000 to Burns and his political action committee between 2001 and 2004, more than any other lawmaker, Bloomberg News reported this spring.

News reports on Abramoff's lobbying scandal have referred to Vasell as the link between the embattled former lobbyist and Burns. (emphasis mine)

Throw the book at him. This is the guy pleading the fifth in the corruption investigation. More here, here.

Hat-tip to Left in the West.

Posted at 05:49 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Culture of Corruption, Montana, Scandals | Technorati

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Dems 2008: Governor Brian Schweitzer

Posted by Bob Brigham

As Bowers noted, I showed Governor Schweitzer the MyDD straw poll on Tuesday. He said people who voted for him were "smoking pinecones."

Yet in the first 1,000 votes, Schweitzer did better than Biden, Bayh, and Vilsack -- combined.

This talk had better come to an abrupt end before we run out of pinecones.

Posted at 04:54 PM in 2008 Election - President, 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Comments (3) | Technorati

Democrats: Time to Fight

Posted by Bob Brigham

Chris Bowers has a great map of the new SUSA 50 state numbers. Bowers seems to think it is time to fight:

There isn't a single corner of this nation where Democrats are not more in line with Independents than Republicans. That's a fact. That's fifty-state potential. That's a tidal wave.

But we can't win if we don't have a candidate on the ballot. The DC crowd needs to realize this year could be tidal, but only if Democrats are ready to fight with leadership. Sirota says:

Finally, one of the top 2008 Democratic presidential contenders has the guts to take a major stand on the Iraq War. According to the Associated Press, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is announcing his support for the United States to set a firm timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Though that is a position that polls show a majority of Americans support, high profile Democrats have been unwilling to come out and make that stand. In fact, just a few weeks ago, the Democratic campaign committee in Washington is actually trying to pretend the Iraq War doesn't exist. [...]

Democrats would be wise to follow Feingold's lead, instead of either parroting right-wing lies themselves like Sen. Evan Bayh (D), or cowering in a corner on Iraq because they believe any support for withdrawal will mean they will look weak on national security. That just isn't the case. Polls show Americans believe the Iraq War has made this country less safe. That means trying to end the war and get out of the situation as Feingold is calling for is a credible pro-national security position in the eyes of the public.

Big bold move by Feingold. Speaking of big bold moves, Moveon really stepped up last night.

On Wednesday, August 17, tens of thousands of supporters gathered at 1,625 vigils to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Cindy Sheehan, her son, Casey and the more than 1,800 brave American men and women who have given their lives in Iraq—and their moms and families.

I don't know what the DCCC was doing last night, but I was at my neighborhood's Moveon vigil. Some Democrats get it, not suprising where you find them. From Montana's Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Dozens of people gathered in front of the Gallatin County Courthouse Wednesday to silently protest the war in Iraq during a candlelight vigil co-sponsored by the Gallatin County Democrats. [...]

Local Democrats sponsored the vigil along with, a liberal organization that opposed Bush's re-election. But the party invited anyone to participate, regardless their political affiliation. [...]

The vigil was mostly a silent affair with protesters holding lighted candles during a moment of silence that stretched several minutes. The names of soldiers who died in Iraq were projected onto a white screen set up below the giant yellow ribbon that has become a permanent display at the courthouse.

Tracy Velázquez, vice-chair of the Montana Democratic Party, provided protesters stickers with the names of fallen troops. When asked, she said she wasn't worried the vigil would be used by the party's opponents to portray it as against the soldiers.

Some Democrats aren't scared. Progress is coming from the ground up, people are tired of relying upon DC. Distributed models allow scale that is just beginning. The Gallatin Democrats' website is updated every morning. We need to fight, in every precinct in every district in every state. Tidal.

Posted at 11:40 AM in 2006 Elections, 2008 President - Democrats, Activism, Democrats, Montana | Comments (5) | Technorati

Friday, August 12, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester on Burns Abramoff Scandal

Posted by Bob Brigham

From a Jon Tester email:

Tester: "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Burns"

Jon Tester today spoke up about Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was indicted along with a business partner yesterday on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.

As Jon Tester said in a statement, “Jack Abramoff is now under federal indictment for wire fraud and conspiracy. The larger scandal involves alleged falsified financial documents and a mob-style hit on a businessman. Unfortunately, it also includes Conrad Burns’ former chief of staff, former appropriations staffer, and former state director.

“This is the sort of story I’d read about in a John Grisham novel. I don’t like reading about it in the press in connection with my state’s junior Senator. It raises the question that keeps coming up: Why is it that where there’s smoke, there’s Burns?”

It would be nice if the local press would ask and get an answer to that question.

Posted at 06:50 PM in Montana | Technorati

Thursday, August 11, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns in Serious Trouble

Posted by Bob Brigham

You don't have to believe me about Montana Senator Conrad Burns vulnerability, ask the Republicans. Karl Rove brought his culture of corruption to Big Sky during a bagman vacation. But Turd Blossum wasn't enough, now they need the Dick Cheney flying to Billings?

Let's talk about Billings and Burns for a minute. Yellowstone County is a traditional Republican stronghold that can be make-or-break for Democrats. I think the turning point in the campaign came a few months ago when the Billings Gazette called bullshit.

Here's how it went down, Burns tried to force op-ed columns full of disinformation on the fact he is a key figure in multiple federal corruption investigations. The Gazette said OK, we'll print your bullshit, but we're going to do our own take on the subject and print it directly above you. A few hours later, "B.S." was how Burns defense was described on a Gazette blog.

Reporters need to go read Josh Marshall and keep calling bullshit.

Posted at 10:49 AM in Montana | Technorati

Monday, August 08, 2005

MT-Sen: Big News from Big Sky Country

Posted by Bob Brigham

Get your tickets now, Montana is hosting the #1 U.S. Senate race in the nation. As regular Swing State Project readers know, I'm a Montanan (I happen to live else-where, but that doesn't really matter). I have very strong feelings on Conrad Burns.

His re-election is the #1 race right now. A couple of major developments:

1. Tester's Catapult As the internet favorite, Jon Tester had a first round draft pick he used on Matt Singer. Old timers remember Singer at Not Geniuses during the last cycle. After the election, he started Left in the West and he also writes for Campus Progress when he's not filling in for Sirota. Matt Singer can pay his own way and he is amazing at rapid response. Tester's campaign now has a real-time political capability. Add to that a notice from Kos:

Heads up -- while there's a contested primary for this Senate race on the Democratic side, the Montana progressive blogosphere has lined up behind Jon Tester. I've already spoken well of Tester, currently the president of the Montana Senate and a working organic farmer, and will start laying out the case for helping his candidacy in the week's ahead.

2. Party Passion The Montana Democratic Party is fired up. Democrats nationwide use the term, "Montana Miracle" to describe last year's sweep of both chambers and the Governor's mansion. In a ground came spread out over almost 150,000 square miles, passion is worth a couple of points. The MDP has just launched the air war and is ready to keep the streak alive.

3. Party Politics The final update is that I just bought a Pearl Jam ticket. As always, if you can't make it in person, Swing State Project will try to keep you in the loop.

Posted at 12:01 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Netroots | Technorati

Friday, August 05, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester Stands Up for Fair Trade

Posted by Bob Brigham

As regular readers know, Montana state Senate President Jon Tester was the first candidate to make the 2006 Swing State Project Official Candidate List.

We endorsed Tester because he is the type of Democrat who will make us all proud in the U.S. Senate. I just received an email from the campaign, Tester is standing up for workers, full email in the extended.

Last week, Republicans in Washington, DC, pushed through the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) — an act that Jon Tester knows is bad for Montana agriculture.
Jon’s farm has been in his family since his grandfather homesteaded near Big Sandy in 1916. Jon and his wife Sharla raise wheat, barley, lentils, buckwheat, millet, peas, alfalfa and hay.

Jon knows that CAFTA will hurt the viability and profitability of family farm and ranch operations across Montana by handing trade advantages to foreign interests. CAFTA also will harm Montana’s domestic cattle industry and Montana sugar beet growers.

That’s why Jon Tester opposed CAFTA, and that’s why he met last week with leaders of R-CALF USA, a group of Montana and American stockgrowers who helped lead the fight against the bill.

He’s committed to standing against unfair trade agreements like CAFTA that hurt our communities and our way of life.

That’s the kind of leadership we’ll get when Jon Tester is in the U.S. Senate. But we need your help to get him there.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be kicking this campaign into high gear. We’ll be updating you more frequently about Jon’s efforts on behalf of working Montanans, and about what you can do to help.

But today, you can take one simple action to help build the campaign that will bring Montana values to Washington, D.C.:

Forward this email on to your friends and family. You’ve taken the first step by joining the campaign — now ask others to join you. They can join the campaign by clicking here:

Jon also has two important fundraising events next week in Helena and Missoula. Click here for information on how you can attend and meet Jon:

And finally, you can still buy tickets for the Pearl Jam benefit concert in Missoula on August 29th. Click here for information:

Be sure to send this email on to your family and friends. It’s time for us to work together for Montana.

Bill Lombardi
Montanans for Tester

Posted at 04:07 PM in Montana | Comments (1) | Technorati

Monday, July 25, 2005

MT-Sen: Jeff Ament on Air America on Jon Tester

Posted by Bob Brigham

Let's face it, backing Jon Tester's senate bid in Montana is the cool thing to do. Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament is on Majority Report. He's talking about The Concert and Jon Tester.

Posted at 08:08 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

MT-Sen: Post-Broadcast Campaigning

Posted by Bob Brigham

We've all been there. You're out with some political hacks, drinking accordingly…it is way late and the conversation is focused on campaign strategy. Then some wiseguy says something like, "Instead of locking the candidate in a room for call time, we don't we get him out campaigning and throw a giant concert to raise the money." At this point, you'll know who is the most "experienced" campaigner in the room: the first to slap the wiseguy upside the head. You'll know it is time for bed if the wiseguy responds, "But wait, we could rent the largest venue in the state, get Pearl Jam, fill it with 10,000 people all paying $50 and raise enough money in one night to finance the entire primary campaign."

In the post-broadcast era, the internet allows campaigns the ability to quickly build a movement – from scratch. Instead of wasting the candidates time calling people who were inspired to write a big check for somebody else, a campaign can go out and inspire people. Throwing a Pearl Jam fundraiser actually makes far more sense than dialing for dollars.

Forget what you've been taught, 10,000 people investing fifty bucks is what you need, not 500 people maxing out. The latter will give a campaign twice as much cash, but the former will give a movement an army.

For the life of me, I do not understand why a candidate would settle for running a campaign when they could just as easily organize a movement. Maybe it is habit, or ignorance, or cowardice, but I think it probably has more to do with a lack of imagination of how campaigns are evolving.

We're seeing this play out in Montana's senate primary, with John Morrison's campaign focusing on doing the same-ol' stuff – but better, and Jon Tester's movement focused on inspiring and leveraging at a grand scale. While Morrison works to be the fastest Pony Express rider, Tester is an engineer and the train is leaving the station.

Morrison is going to waste a ton of money, but he can't compete with Tester because Morrison can't scale. By Labor Day, Morrison's dialing discipline will allow him to get money out of a bunch of out-of-state donors. But when Tester gets on stage with Pearl Jam, 7,500 people will be chanting his name. And each will be invested with a $46 donation. For most, it will be their first political donation. Many will register to vote for the first time. And with 9 months until the primary, the leverage will kick in as people go back to their towns after the concert. Mark my words, they're going to come from all over Montana (when I lived in Bozeman, it was commonplace to travel 400 miles round trip to Missoula for a concert).

Morrison's big money can't gloss over the contrast. Morrison's another lawyer, another politician. Montana's Governor Brian Schwietzer says, "Don't dress like a lawyer. Don't talk like a lawyer." Hmmmmm.

Populism is possible. The internet allows candidates to have people-powered campaigns – of the people, for the people. There is no need to settle for "not as bad" candidates when it is possible for "real deal" candidates like Brian Schweitzer and Jon Tester to win.

Jon Tester
Big Ideas in Big Sky Country – Jon Tester's Campaign

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

Posted at 03:06 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (3) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Pearl Jam Concert News

Posted by Bob Brigham

The rumors are confirmed, Pearl Jam will be playing a fundraising concert for Jon Tester, Democrat for US Senate in Montana. Not only that, but the Tester campaign has made a bold decision and is hosting the event at the Adams Center (holds 7,500 people -- 1/8th of the entire county's population over 18). It is a very big room, but it will be full.

Pearl Jam – Jeff Ament
Peal Jam's Jeff Ament at Jon Tester's Kickoff in Missoula, MT

Via Big Sky Democrats, Courtney "scoop" Lowery has the scoop at New West:

Rocker Jeff Ament and U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester have a lot in common. They're both Big Sandy, Mont. boys who want Jon Tester in Washington D.C.

And Ament is ready to help. He and his buddies (who you may know as the multi-national rock band Pearl Jam) are playing a benefit concert in Missoula on August 29 to help finance Tester, who is currently president of the Montana state senate and aims to take on Sen. Conrad Burns next year. Tickets go on sale June 23 and are available through or locally at Rockin' Rudy's. Regular tickets will be $46 and require concert-goers to sign a disclaimer acknowledging they are making a campaign contribution. There will also be some more expensive special tickets up for grabs that include a reception afterward with Tester and the band.

Ah yes, the smell of a thousands getting together to fund a grassroots candidate.

Ament told us in May that Pearl Jam was trying to scrape something together to show support for Tester because "we have to keep rural Montana alive." Jon Tester, he said, is the man for the job. Tester and Ament go way back. In fact, Jeff's dad, George, gave Tester his very first signature flattop haircut.

(check out Tester website for pics of the famous haircut.

The announcement is not only exciting for Missoula, which has been waiting for two years to see Pearl Jam live again, but it also may just be the money fillip Tester needs to first fight a rough primary battle against long-time politician and State Auditor John Morrison, and then to challenge a large and in charge incumbent like Burns. A farmer from the hi-line, Tester has admitted that keeping up financially could be a struggle.

Morrison has already raised $400,000 - and with his strong political pedigree, solid performance as state auditor, and good reputation among the state's intelligentsia, he's a formidable candidate. But Tester has something that Morrison can't match, and may be crucial in mounting a credible challenge to Burns: he's a plain-spoken working man from rural Montana, and voters in this state tend to respond to that. For national Democrats who salivate at the prospect of taking down a right-wing incumbent in a red state, Tester may ultimately be the more appealing candidate.

If you can't fly to Montana for the concert (which you should), you can join Swing State Project in supporting Tester now with a contribution

Posted at 09:44 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (3) | Technorati

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dems 2008: Brian Schweitzer

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the (subscription only) Roll Call:

It’s forest fire season in the Mountain West.

But if disaster were to strike in drought-stricken Montana, many of the people who would be expected to fight the fires are half a world away.

Fully half of Montana’s National Guard — and most of its helicopters — are deployed in Iraq. And Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is fired up about it.

Schweitzer wants to start a dialogue about the way the military has changed its ratio of active-duty to Reserve and Guard forces — a policy in place long before the war in Iraq but one whose full impact is only now being felt.

“One of the things they didn’t consider in this policy,” said Schweitzer, “is that there are governors who are commanders-in-chief of the Guard and they have important missions for them at home.”

It is this willingness to criticize Republican policymakers in plainspoken ways that has some Democratic activists touting Schweitzer as a dark-horse candidate for president in 2008.

“I’m still waiting to see if the Democrats will get behind a pro-choice, red-state governor, who says what he means and means what he says,” wrote Bob Brigham, co-creator of the Swing State Project, a Web log affiliated with a political action committee for Democratic bloggers. “Bonus points for a western candidate, double bonus points for speaking Arabic. Triple bonus points for a dog named Jag.”

Schweitzer’s supporters think the governor, a rancher and farmer who picked a Republican state Senator to run with him as lieutenant governor last year, has a knack for critiquing GOP policies in a way that sounds more populist than partisan.

Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas Zuniga is also backing Schweitzer, whom he called “a genuine version of Bush’s fake ranch.”

Because Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is seen as the overwhelming early favorite for the Democratic nomination, and because so many better-known politicians are gearing up for 2008, the idea of Schweitzer running for president may seem preposterous. Brigham doesn’t think so.

“What do the insiders know?” he asked. (emphasis mine)

I'm glad reporters are realizing you can quote posts just like you quote on the phone...

But, Swing State Project is not affiliated with any polical action committee, this is just another online magazine. And I'm not a co-creator, I'm just a dude. But I'm a dude who wishes Montana had all of the tools necessary to fight this year's fires.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane doesn’t think anyone can be elected president in 2008 who is not seen as strong on national security. But the former spokesman to then-Vice President Al Gore does not think Schweitzer is at risk of looking weak.

“The way he communicates, the way he looks, the way he talks — he obviously is a hunter,” Lehane said. “His whole character and personality profile make it clear that he is no softie.”

And on domestic issues:

Schweitzer also has taken issue with the Bush administration’s domestic priorities.

When the nation’s governors gathered at the White House in February, Schweitzer likened the president’s pitch, which emphasized Social Security over Medicaid, to a livestock auction that fails to tempt buyers. The headline in the next day’s Los Angeles Times read: “Montana Governor Isn’t Cowed by Bush.”

The governor’s populist touch also on display last year when he brought hunters and fishermen into his camp by exploiting GOP vulnerabilities on field and stream access. On the same day that President Bush was trouncing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) by 20 points in Montana, Schweitzer managed a 4-point win.

Schweitzer counts prescription drug subsidies for seniors, purchasing pools to make health insurance more affordable for small businesses and a college scholarship program among his first-year achievements.

Money quote:

Another potential problem for Schweitzer would be time on the ground in the states that host the early contests. Warner will be out of office starting in 2006. Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), another Democrat hoping to upend the Clinton train, is already out of office.

But in a party with a history of nominating heretofore obscure governors, nobody is writing Schweitzer off just yet.

“It’s a huge leap to go from being the governor of Montana to a presidential campaign in a couple of years,” Lehane said. “On the other hand, the guy seems to be a huge talent. He could be the Jimmy Carter of 2008.”

UPDATE: (Bob): Sirota has more at the Huffington Post.

Posted at 11:22 PM in 2008 President - Democrats, Montana, Site News | Technorati

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

MT-Gov: Schweitzer up at 5:30 AM Eastern

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Helena Independent Record:

Montana's new governor has a strong personality. He walks into a newspaper's board room without minders and without notes and talks nonstop, displaying an energy that, he said, got him up at 3:30 that morning.

Two time zones away, Schweitzer still gets up earlier in the morning than most of the D.C. insiders...and it shows.

Posted at 01:18 PM in Montana | Technorati

Thursday, June 30, 2005

MT-Sen: Support Jon Tester

Posted by Bob Brigham

The Top 10 reasons why it is critical to contribute to Jon Tester:

  1. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) has a re-elect number of only 36 % -- conventional wisdom says an incumbent Senator with a re-elect number under 40 is pretty much screwed.

  2. Senator Conrad Burns is bolo-tie deep in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, in fact, he's a key figure in multiple federal investigations along with Shawn Vasell, Burns former State Director, who just pleaded the 5th and is also under investigation in Montana for a major hunting scandal.

  3. While the netroots are loving on Tester, Montanans are not donating to Conrad Burns.

  4. The Montana press are not buying Burns' spin and are taking extreme steps to call him on his bullshit.

  5. Burns wants to test pesticides on kids, as Kos and DavidNYC reported yesterday.

  6. Montana State Senate President Jon Tester has lots of momentum following a very successful legislative session.

  7. Tester is running the type of populist campaign that elected Brian Schweitzer Governor and allowed Tester's leadership to deliver a sweep of both legislative chambers in 2004.

  8. Wellstone had the bus, but Tester has an 18 wheeler.

  9. Jon Tester is on track to beat Conrad Burns.

  10. We need to keep the Montana Miracle moving. Jon Tester is the who can both pick up a Senate seat and make us proud when he gets to DC. We need Jon Tester!
Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

Posted at 05:03 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati

Join Swing State Project

Posted by Bob Brigham

We ask two things of Swing State Project readers: 1. Keep us up-to-date on what is going on in your state via the comments and email; 2. Don't be a stranger and feel free to stop by anytime.

Today, we're asking one more: Join us in contributing to Jon Tester (contribute TODAY, the final day of the reporting period).

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

As you know, Jon Tester is the President of the Montana Senate and is positioned as one of the best senate pick-up opportunites for Democrats. The netroots have embraced Tester because he is one of those rare candidates who people support not just because he can win, but because he's hella good people and would be a U.S. Senator that would make us all proud.

In 2004, the Montana Democrats (with Tester's leadership) swept both chambers of the legislature and elected Brian Schweitzer Governor. This year, Senator Conrad Burns is in serious trouble and Tester is on track to beat him.

By serious trouble, I'm talking about Burns pushing pesticides on kids. Burns is also bolo-tie deep in the Abramoff corruption scandal and his former State Director is pleading the 5th. Burns troubles are taking a toll and his re-elect number is under 40.

Invest in keeping the Montana miracle momentum moving -- make a contribution TODAY:

Jon Tester (MT-Sen) $

UPDATE: Right now, Swing Staters have contributed only $885 while Left in the Westers have contributed $1,040. Help put us over the top!

Posted at 11:02 AM in Montana | Technorati

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Supports Testing Pesticides on Kids

Posted by DavidNYC

Well, I threatened to do it over at DailyKos, and so here I am. The story formerly known as "EPA Human Pesticide Testing & Anti-Democracy Republicans" has been appropriately re-christened.]

GOP opponents of the filibuster like to claim, among other things, that it's undemocratic. But it's no surprise, of course, that the GOP is utterly hypocritical when it comes to issues of democratic process. While I could probably spend a lifetime documenting GOP hypocrisy - and while the Republicans may never be shamed by it - that won't stop me from highlighting a current egregious example.

Today, the Senate passed an amendment (proposed by Sen. Boxer) by a wide margin (60-37) prohibiting the EPA from testing pesticides on humans. What the EPA has been doing is pretty awful: They promise families some cash in order to carry out experiments, often on kids and often in low-income neighborhoods. Take this one example:

The tests include a 2002-04 study by University of California-San Diego in which chloropicrin, an insecticide that during World War I was a chemical warfare agent, was administered to 127 young adults in doses that exceeded federal safety limits by 12 times.

Lovely. But believe it or not, the typically incorrigible House also passed an amendment barring this practice, with language identical to the Senate bill. What's the problem, you ask, apart from a potential veto threat by Bush?

A nasty little thing called the conference committee. Conference committees are supposed to hammer out differences between House and Senate bills so that one bill can be presented to the President. But they've been repeatedly abused by the GOP to kill legislation even when there are no disagreements to work out. And guess who's behind this?

Ordinarily, approval by both House and Senate would ensure the language is retained in the final version of the bill. But GOP floor manager Conrad Burns, R-Mont., opposed Boxer's amendment, and as lead Senate negotiator on the bill, is well-positioned to kill it in future talks with the House.

Ahh, our good friend Conrad Burns. So one lone jerk (though probably tacitly backed by his 36 other GOP colleagues who also voted against the Boxer amendment) stands between a bill supported by majorities in both houses of Congress. Now that's democracy!

Anyhow, I could have headlined this piece "Burns Supports Testing Pesticides on Kids" and it would have been entirely accurate. While I don't expect the GOP to change course and actually allow the Boxer amendment to become law, at least we can hope that Jon Tester can turn this into a powerful issue on the campaign trail in Montana.

And even if Burnsie does back away from his conference committee trickery, he is still on record as voting against the Boxer amendment. Would you want this man protecting your children?

Posted at 06:35 PM in Montana, Republicans | Technorati

Monday, June 27, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns Staff

Posted by Bob Brigham

Normally, I don't make too much of who a politician keeps on payroll. But Burns former State Director is now pleading the 5th (i.e. not talking because he could incriminate himself) in a major corruption investigation. In fact, 3 former Burns staffers -- Will Brooke, Ryan Thomas, and Shawn Vasell -- are the focus of multiple investigations.

So my question is, how do you get hired by Conrad Burns?

When I visited Sen. Burns in Washington I had a chance to chat a while with a couple of his sprightly young interns. Both had thick southern accents. I remember how overly eager I was to ask them what they thought about some of the pressing issues that were facing my home state at the time. And I was surprised to find out that neither had ever even been to Big Sky Country. When I pointed this out to Burns he just chuckled, patted me on the back, and divulged in his raspy voice, "I don't hire the cute ones for their brains, kid. I hire 'em cuz they are easy on the eyes." (emphasis mine)

If Burns personally hires the interns, I think it is safe to assume he personally had a role in hiring senior staff.

Posted at 05:17 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Scandals | Comments (3) | Technorati

Sunday, June 26, 2005

MT-AL: Monica Lindeen Challenges Dennis Rehberg

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Billings Gazette:

HELENA -- Eastern Montana legislator Monica Lindeen launched her congressional campaign Wednesday with announcements in Billings and Helena, saying she knows how to get things done and is willing to cross partly lines to provide better access to health care and a world-class education system for Montanans.

Rep. Lindeen, D-Huntley, said she would emphasis a background as a businesswoman and legislator in seeking the U.S. House seat of Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.

Rehberg is a rube and I'm glad to see him getting serious opposition this year. You can find out more at

Posted at 01:39 PM in Montana | Technorati

Friday, June 24, 2005

MT-Sen: New Report on Conrad Burns - Jack Abramoff Scandal

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Roots:

The latest installment in the Jack Abramoff sleaze-fest that's been playing out in Senate hearings this week involves Republican Conrad Burns and his questionable ties to Abramoff.

A few days ago, former Conrad Burns (R-MT) staffer Shawn Vassal invoked his right against self-incrimination before a Senate Committee investigating DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his former boss. Vassell began his career as an analyst for Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff’s old lobbying shop. After that, he went on to serve as state director for Conrad Burns.

In January 2003 Vassell returned to Greenberg Traurig to serve as director of governmental and administrative affairs. The Constitutionally protected silence of Shawn Vassell is the latest news in an unraveling story detailing Senator Burns’ ties to scandal-plagued Jack Abramoff.

The link also has the PDF of a new report on the scandal.

Posted at 02:18 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Scandals | Technorati

Thursday, June 23, 2005

MT-Sen: Shawn Vasell Pleads the Fifth

Posted by Bob Brigham

Swing State Project has written on Shawn Vasell before:

Now the Washington Post reports Shawn Vasell took the Fifth Amendment when asked to testify under oath about his role in the Conrad Burns & Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

Abramoff, who is also at the center of a corruption investigation by the Justice Department, laundered tribal money by directing the Indians to donate to tax-exempt groups that the lobbyist later used for his own purposes, the Senate committee said. [...]

Three former associates of Abramoff and Scanlon who were summoned to testify declined to do so, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. They included former Greenberg lobbyist Kevin Ring, who continues to represent the Choctaw tribe as a lobbyist, and Shawn Vasell, who like Ring was a congressional aide before joining Abramoff's lobbying team.

Big Sky Democrats and Left in the West have more.

Posted at 07:23 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Scandals | Technorati

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Progressive Legislative Action Network

Posted by Tim Tagaris

An interesting email I had forwaded to me this morning by David Siorta. Check out their website.

A coalition of present and former state legislators and policy experts today announced the upcoming launch of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN), a new organization to support forward-thinking, progressive state legislators with the policy, communication, and strategic resources to help them fight the progressive battle at the state level.

The organization will be co-chaired by Steve Doherty, the former Minority Leader of the Montana Senate, and David Sirota, who will be leaving his position as a Fellow at the Center for American Progress to assume his new role at PLAN.
The kickoff event will be headlined by John Edwards and and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The release itself, was also datelined Montana--home of Swing State Project endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester.

Posted at 05:57 PM in Montana | Technorati

Saturday, June 11, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester Email Shows Grassroots Focus

Posted by Bob Brigham

I signed up for emails from Jon Tester, Democrat running for U.S. Senate in Montana. The first email I received was short, to the point, and shows his grassroots focus:

Saturday morning's headline reads …
Bush, Congress hit skids in poll

WASHINGTON — When it comes to public approval, President Bush and Congress are playing "how low can you go."
>> More of this story

Americans say they want change in Congress. I'm ready to provide that change as your next U.S. Senator from Montana. I'm running because Montana's challenges are plenty, but our opportunities and dreams are greater. But I need your help. Tell five friends about Forward this email. Send money to Montanans for Tester .

Together we will make a difference.



Short and sweet. Good stuff.

Posted at 07:45 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Dean: Our Values are More Consistent with Montana Values

Posted by Bob Brigham

Big weekend for discussions about Democrats' western strategy. From the A.P.:

The Rocky Mountain West, long a Republican stronghold, is fertile ground for Democrats hoping to take back Congress and the White House in coming years, Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean told supporters here Saturday.

Democrats have more in common with Westerners than the GOP, the former Vermont governor said.

They appreciate the free-spirited, independent thinking that dominate states like Montana, and understand the wish for a balanced budget and a strong military, as well as treating soldiers well when they get home, something Dean said the Bush administration has neglected.

"I think we're going to have a very appealing message in the Rocky Mountain West," he said. "We want to be everywhere. We don't think just because George Bush won this state by a lot of votes means that Montana is going to be Republican state forever.

"I think our values are more consistent with Montana values than Republican values are."

A true national party needs a winning strategy everywhere. Expanding infrastructure often yields only modest returns if you are scoring by wins and loses. But we need to get away from milestone evaluations. By moving away from wins and loses, Democrats can focus on a winning strategy every day.

Dean, speaking to about 100 people at a meeting of the DNC's Western States Caucus, continued his call for unity and consistency among Democrats, calling on local and state leaders to rally voters on key issues and no longer allow Republicans to "define our party."

"The Democratic party for too long has been a group of constituencies instead of a party. ... We're going to define our party. I'm not going to let them do it anymore," he said.

Dean's comments drew heavy applause from Democratic leaders representing more than a dozen Western states, as well as several key Montana officials. The audience included state Superintendent of Public Education Linda McCulloch, a handful of state lawmakers, and Senate President Jon Tester, a leading Democratic candidate to unseat U.S. Senate Conrad Burns, R-Mont.

None of us know whether Montana will be a swing state in the 2008 presidential race. But it will be a swing state in the 2006 battle for the senate.

Montana is one of the most cost-effective states when it comes to outside political investment. That is why everyone in D.C. is planning to get involved -- it is cheap, Democrats have the momentum, Jon Tester is a dream candidate, and we need to do better out west.

The 2006 backlash narrative is brewing and it could be a very powerful force during the mid-terms. I'm glad to see the DNC realizing the importance of a western strategy (Governor Dean will be back in Montana on July 16 for the State Party convention in Great Falls).

Win the west. Contribute to Jon Tester:

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 12:47 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, DNC Chair, Democrats, Montana | Technorati

Saturday, June 04, 2005

MT-Sen: Campaign Fundraising for 2006 Senate

Posted by Bob Brigham

In a discussion on saving Amtrak from Republican attacks, Montana state Senate President Jon Tester commented in the Havre Daily News:

"I think the president misreads the can-do attitude of the people of Montana, particularly those along the northern tier," Tester said.

Bush would be wise not to misunderestimate Montanans, especially not a hi-liner like Jon Tester.

Montana Senator Conrad Burns underestimated a Montana farmer with no name recognition in 2000. That farmer was Brian Schweitzer and Schweitzer almost beat Burns -- even though he only had $2 million to face incumbent Burns' $5 million.

This year, Burns is in such dire straights politically that he thinks he'll need "$8 million to $10 million" to buy a fourth term (after he promised he would only serve 2 terms).

For the life of me, I have no idea what a campaign would have to do to spend $10 million in Montana. Forty bucks a vote? In Montana?

The key isn't to outraise Senator Burns, a credible candidate can run a great campaign with half of that -- I mean, we're talking about Montana. Total saturation will happen...the question is whether Tester will be able to establish himself before the Burns slime operation kicks into high gear.

Everyone who gets to know Tester loves the guy, but he has plenty of room for improvement, according to the editorial board at the Helena Independent Record:

What's it take to get a little recognition in this state? Well, judging by a recent poll conducted for Lee newspapers in Montana, it apparently takes a lot.

The poll included questions designed to measure the name recognition of four prominent Democrats who have announced or are considering running against either Sen. Conrad Burns or House Rep. Denny Rehberg, both Republicans.

Essentially, the response was: "Who?" [...]

Jon Tester, president of the state Senate during the last legislation session and the lawmaker who probably had the most to do with the session's outcome, had 14 percent favorable and 4 percent unfavorable recognition. Sixty-one percent of the voters never heard of the guy.

But the IR also points out the solution:

None of this means that name recognition can't be achieved. Look at Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who came out of political nowhere just half a decade ago and almost upset Burns in his last Senate race.

But it does help us understand why little-known campaign challengers need more than a solid political agenda. To even stand a chance, they need a war chest brimming with gold.

Jon Tester is a Montanan you don't want to underestimate. Thanks to everyone who is helping give Tester the resources to compete against Burns' big money.

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 12:49 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, General, Montana | Technorati

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns and Mason-Dixon

Posted by Bob Brigham

From Kos:

And take a gander at these historical M-D numbers:
May 2000
Burns (R) 54
Schweitzer (D) 30
September 2000
Burns (R) 48
Schweitzer (D) 39
October 23-24, 2000
Burns (R) 45
Schweitzer (D) 44
Final Results, November 2000
Burns (R) 51
Schweitzer (D) 47
Burns starts weaker today, over a year out, than he looked four months before the 2000 election against a then-unknown Schweitzer.

That really puts in perspective the new Mason-Dixon poll. Via Kos:

Mason-Dixon. 5/23-25. MoE 4%. (No trend lines.)
Burns (R) 49
Morrison (D) 34

Burns (R) 50
Tester (D) 26

While I generally don't get involved in primaries, I will be strongly backing John Tester, the MT Senate Majority Leader, in this race. I have no doubt he will win both his primary and the general election come November 2006.

Burns dropped a solid five points during the spring 2005 Republican legislative disaster.

Same poll, trend lines from Mason-Dixon 12/29/2004, 625 self-described voters:

Senator Conrad Burns Job Approval

Approve 59 (64)
Disapprove 39 (33)

I've never had much respect for Mason-Dixon in Montana, so I usually calculate that Dems are actually in better shape than their sample suggests. Regardless, Burns is trouble, especially contrasted with Jon Tester. As the (subscription only) Hotline headlined: MONTANA: Poll Finds What Instinct Already Was Saying, Burns Is Probably Going To Be Vulnerable

Kos also brings up an important point:

Tester's name ID is a mere 39 percent, compared to 69 percent for Morrison and 99 percent for Burns. In a small state like MT, it doesn't cost much to get your name ID up there.

We starting early and have a great candidate, join Swing State Project by helping with an early contribution.

As TMO said in the comments:

I sent in a small donation, enough that I'm going to stay interested.

Montana is a great pickup possibility for us because of the tiny population, as Kos mentioned. At a little over 900,000, it's smaller than many left-leaning cities and urban counties. For the same power as a California senator, we only have to reach 1/30th the number of voters as in California.

Tester is an ideal western candidate and we have a huge opportunity. TMO won't be the only one to "say interested" in this race. Within months, I fully expect to see long drawn out debates over the Iron Triangle strategy, Reservation registration, and the sign war highway-by-highway.

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 10:10 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati

Monday, May 30, 2005

MT-Sen: Populism Needed in Red States

Posted by Bob Brigham

I really had intended not to post over the long weekend, but there is an online discussion of Democratic populism that is critical to the future of our Party, so I decided I'd rather examine it today than worry about it during the chaos of next week.

Paperwight started the discussion with a precinct-by-precinct examination of how Congressman Bernie Sanders out performs Republicans in the reddest areas of Vermont. David Sirota had more to say and then linked it back to the Montana miracle of Democrats winning in the west.

With all eyes on Montana Senator Conrad Burns re-election campaign and a new poll being released (Left in the West explores it), let's look back at the roll populism has played in Big Sky elections since Burns was elected in 1988.

In American politics -- and especially in the Senate -- incumbents have a huge advantage over challengers. It is difficult for a senator seeking re-election to lose. Absent a major scandal, the most vulnerable election for an incumbent is the first re-election campaign.

For Conrad Burns, that campaign was his 1994 re-election. In that race, Montana Democrats fielded Jack Mudd, a Missoula attorney and Dean of the Law School to challenge the newbie senator. Mudd was what we now refer to as a DLC Democrat, he focused on following polls to try to find a way to not anger voters while avoiding a message of economic populism. Mudd lost.

In 2000, Burns was much stronger of a candidate and had the luxury of being on the same ticket as George Bush after eight years of a Democratic White House (as an aside, Clinton visited and won Montana in 1992). The insiders said Burns would cruise to an easy re-election and not a single Democratic elected official challenged him, instead three statewide officials chose to fight it out in the gubernatorial primary rather than take on Burns. But an unknown farmer named Brian Schweitzer decided to take on Burns -- with little institutional support -- running on a message of economic populism.

Comparing the 1994 and 2000 outcomes shows the power -- especially in the "red states" -- of running a man of the people with a message of economic populism.

Here are the 1994 and 2000 results (PDFs):

218,542 Votes (62%)
131,845 Votes (38%)

208,082 Votes (52%)
194,430 Votes (48%)

That is an astonishing difference in outcomes that can be attributed 100% to running a candidate who is a farmer -- not a city lawyer -- with a message of economic populism.

As everyone knows, Schweitzer went on to be elected Governor of Montana during the 2004 "Montana Miracle" sweep that voters allowed as Democrats stood proud and promised to fight as populists. Governor Schweitzer now enjoys a 57% approval rating, four points higher than President Bush.

Montana Democrats are now faced with deciding between keeping the populist winning streak alive or returning to the DLC message that has wrought nothing but heartache and failure.

Democrat state Senate President Jon Tester is another fiery farmer with a bread-and-butter message of economic populism, while State Auditor John Morrison is another city lawyer on track to suffer the same fate as Jack Mudd and Dusty Deschamps (1998 Montana congressional candidate who was stomped).

There is a Da Vinci code for Democrats and that involves fighting as a populist. There is no reason why the 2004 sweep can't carry over to 2006, all that is necessary is a will to stand strong for the people and ditch the DLC, polled-based, boring campaigns of old.

That is why I'm proud that Swing State Project is supporting Jon Tester. I expect Tester to beat Burns and in the process, continue Schweitzer's trail-blazing of a message that resonates in the heartland, in rural areas, in red states.

Join us with a contribution:

Posted at 02:38 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Democrats, Montana | Comments (3) | Technorati

Friday, May 27, 2005

MT-Sen: Tester for Senate Website (+ Weekend Break)

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana state Senate President Jon Tester now has a website for his bid to oust embattled U.S. Senator Conrad Burns:

Contribution amount: $

UPDATE (Tim): You can track your progress at this link; let's see if we can't get this number up to 25 contributions of $25.01 by the end of the weekend. The candidate even includes Swing State Project and other blogs on his In The News page.

UPDATE (David): The Swing State Project will be taking a short vacation for this Memorial Day weekend. Please check back in with us on Tuesday. And in the meantime, please consider helping out Jon Tester in his bid for the US Senate. I can't think of a more deserving candidate.

P.S. Have a great weekend!

UPDATE (Bob): Thanks for helping get Tester off the ground. After you join us in helping out Tester, please join us in unplugging and enjoying the weekend. Remember America's heros this Memorial Day. See you Tuesday.

Posted at 03:29 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati

Thursday, May 26, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester Announcement News

Posted by Bob Brigham

Jon Tester, Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Montana, received a ton of good press during his state-wide announcement tour. Swing State Project has adopted Tester and since this is an amazing pick-up opportunity for Democrats, we will be following this race very closely.

To allow everyone to see how this race is shaping up from the start, I've compiled a collection of reports on the kickoff, including news on the Pearl Jam involvement.

If you like what you see, help Tester get his campaign up and running with an early contribution.

First, The Missoulian:

After 45 minutes of snaking through Missoula traffic, a large gray tractor-trailer parked at the University of Montana's College of Technology on Wednesday afternoon. The driver, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester, emerged - promising to stand up for Main Street Montana.

A former music teacher and a Democrat, Tester, 48, has been on a state tour promoting his candidacy for U.S. Senate since Tuesday.

The tour began in his hometown of Big Sandy. He has driven through Havre, Great Falls, Billings, Bozeman, Butte and, finally, Missoula.

When Tester wins, he'll be one of a handful of senators who know how to work a double-clutch on a big rig.

Tester said his campaign will focus on issues that affect the overlooked populations in the state, namely the middle class and American Indians.

Too many working-class people in Montana have been pushed into the ranks of the working poor, Tester said.

After his initial swing through the state, Tester said he will begin a tour of Montana's Indian reservations. "You can't address Montana's economic issues unless you address the employment issues on reservations," he said.

He added that the state needs to start working with tribes on a government-to-government level.

And who was with him in Missoula?

Pearl Jam bassist and youth vote proponent Jeff Ament was at Wednesday afternoon's stopover in Missoula, and said he agrees with most of Tester's political agenda.

Ament, who grew up in Big Sandy with Tester, said preserving rural Montana is key to gaining young votes.

"Keeping rural Montana alive has so much to do with the youth of Montana," Ament said. "You see these small, rural communities dying and it's killing the hope for the youth. If he becomes a part of the federal Senate, he could make a big difference."

More on Pearl Jam and the concert rumors in a minute. Now to the Lee Newspapers state bureau:

Tester, 48, said in a cell phone interview from his truck that he is seeking the U.S. Senate seat because he believes many Montanans have been overlooked by the federal government.

"I just feel small business, family farmers, agriculture, working people have been kind of under attack for the last 15-20 years," Tester said. "I think the federal government needs to make these people a priority. The middle class has built this country, and we need to make them whole."

Other top issues, he said, are opposing President Bush's Social Security plan to let some people put some of their Social Security money instead in private investment accounts, and the soaring federal deficit, which threatens Medicaid and highway funding.

"More than half of our (state budget) money is federal," he said. We've got to work to protect them."

This article has more on the issues:

Tester said he decided to jump into the Senate race because of the strong support he received from fellow Democratic legislators, constituents and folks around the state.

He cited his track record as a senator helping Main Street Montanans with some of this legislation:

  • A law passed this year to create a comprehensive prescription drug benefit program for Montana's seniors, disabled and uninsured.
  • A 2005 law to create jobs and strengthen the state's economy by reinstating the "Made in Montana" promotion program the Martz administration had ended.
  • A law this year to encourage renewable energy development across the state and to help bring jobs to rural Montana and lower energy rates for consumers.
  • His efforts to guide passage of a bill that led to a historic increase in public school funding.

Here's why he needs your help:

Tester said he will try to raise the $600,000 to $800,000 that people have told him he will need for the primary election. Defeating Burns in the general election will take at least $6 million, he said.

"We'll handle the money as frugally as we can," Tester said. "We'll do the best we can with what we have to work with. I'm used to working with budgets that are pretty close to the table."

Contribution amount: $

Now back to the Pearl Jam rumor, from Courtney Lowry at New West:

When you find things you thought were no longer possible, it's hard not to get excited. Wednesday afternoon, I came across two such things -- a political candidate I actually like and the possibility of hearing actual music in Montana.

It seems we're lacking both these days, so to see Jon Tester and Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament standing together in the mid-afternoon Missoula sun with a tractor-trailer in the background was enough to give a person hope. [...]

Ament was there to support him sporting a white T-shirt with "Tester 2006" written in black marker across the chest.

The connection here is that both of them are from Big Sandy (a small farming community on the hi-line) both have watched the fabric of Montana change as the agriculture economy dropped and small businesses struggled, both want to get Conrad Burns out of the U.S. Senate and both think Jon Tester is the man for the job.

I'm guessing that is the first campaign shirt of the season, a rock star wearing a hand made t-shirt.

I've said this before, but I always use my old farmer Dad as a litmus test for how a Democrat is going to fare in Montana. My Dad is the old guard of the real family farmer and if you want to be a Democrat and win in Montana, you've got to appeal to the Clyde Lowerys of the world. My Dad and Jon Tester would be friends. They would spot each other in a room and talk for hours about the weather. My Dad wouldn't know what to do in a room with John Morrison.

But I digress. The real news here for Missoulians is that Ament has thrown his superstar weight behind Tester and that, my friends, could mean a lot for Jon Tester (and even possibly a benefit concert from Pearl Jam.) Arment said there's a lot of things to be worked out (like campaign donation laws and whatnot) but he and the boys are going to help out in anyway they can, "I want to do it and the band is totally behind it," he said. The band is going on tour in Canada this fall and their working on finishing an album, so there's a lot to be ironed out still.

Pearl Jam is famous for their philanthropy and one of Ament's pet issues is aid to family farmers. He said the band has contemplated doing Farm Aid shows in the past, but it never quite fit. By supporting Tester, Ament says he feels like he's still supporting family farmers.

"The thing that gets me most excited about Jon being involved on a federal level is that I think he could turn the farm program around," he told the small crowd. He later told me that "we have to keep rural Montana alive." Tester, he said, is the best chance.

This is going to be a helluva a race to watch. Let's give Tester the tools he needs to win!

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 01:18 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Comments (2) | Technorati

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Swing State Project's Official Candidate List

Posted by Bob Brigham

Swing State Project writes on the most important races in the country. Following all of the races lets SSP identify the best candidates in races where your support can make a crucial difference.

Our first candidate is Jon Tester, who is running for Senate in Montana. This is THE BEST pick-up opportunity for Democrats—anywhere in the country.

Last year, the revitalized Montana Democrats sweep the Governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature. This year, they are going to send their best and brightest to Washington.

Since this is Montana, your contribution practically doubles in value as soon as it crosses the stateline.

Montana -- the Last Best Place -- has this year’s best Senate candidate. Join us in supporting Jon Tester, he’ll make us proud.

Contribution amount: $

The U.S. Senate needs Jon Tester, send him $25 dollars today to help get his campaign up and running. When you send an email to your friends asking them to join you in helping to win this race, include a link to:

UPDATE (David): I'm incredibly excited that we've launched our new candidate list. Longtime readers will remember the tremendous success we had in supporting Ginny Schrader, who ran for Congress in Pennsylvania's 8th congressional district. We wound up raising nearly $7,000 for her, far exceeding our initial goal of $1,000. Based on our past success, I know we can do a bang-up job for Tester. Let's get to it!

Posted at 10:45 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana, Netroots, Site News | Technorati

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester to Beat Burns

Posted by Bob Brigham

UPDATE: (Bob - Tester is the first SSP candidate in 2006.

UPDATE: (Bob) - Get to know the best Democratic Senate candidate in 2006, check out the video (click on video link). Also, pics of Tester here.

UPDATE: (Bob) - Kos calls Tester, The next senator from the great state of Montana.

First of all, let's review why you need to pay attention to Senator Conrad Burns re-election in Montana:

In 2000, Burns barely won (against an unknown opponent)

Burns re-elect number is 36%

Burns is having trouble raising money

Burns is a key figure in multiple corruption investigations

Burns lies to Montanans

Over the weekend, I posted on Jon Tester. His campaign is now official, according to the Havre Daily News:

Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, began his first official day of campaigning for the U.S. Senate close to home today.

He planned to greet a few of his local supporters in Big Sandy before heading to Havre in a tractor-trailer decorated with lettering advertising his bid for the seat now held by Republican Conrad Burns.

Jon Tester is the real deal and as the best Democrat pick-up opportunity, this is a race Swing State Project will follow closely.

Tester needed to talk about it with his family first, he said. One consideration was the operation of his family farm, which his grandfather homesteaded. "It's not like it's a disposable piece of property," he said.

The other was the move to Washington, D.C. Tester said his family was in full support of the decision to run.

"You've got common sense and leadership abilities," he said he was told by constituents, who have also urged him to run.

Tester isn't a politician, he's a leader. I think that is why the people in Montana I've talked to are so excited by his effort. This won't be another typical campaign between two politicians, this will be a man of the people bringing people together to ensure that the people have a voice in D.C.

Tester is finishing his fourth term in the state Senate, his last due to term limits. In the Legislature he has focused on health care, education and jobs.

"The experience I got in the Montana Legislature, particularly as the leader of the Senate, has prepared me to represent the people of Montana well in Washington, D.C.," he said today.

Tester said he thinks one of his biggest assets as a candidate besides his experience in legislative leadership is his background.

"I think I can take that small business perspective and do some good things for the state of Montana," he said.

On national issues:

Among national issues, Social Security and Medicare are Tester's biggest concerns.

"I think the issue of privatization of (Social Security) and the risk of losing that program is not healthy," he said.

As for Montana's relationship with the federal government, "The federal government plays a huge role in the state's budget, particularly in the Medicaid account," he said. "It helps our elderly and disabled. That's a critical component from the D.C. level."

Not only can he win, but I fully expect him to:

Tester said he thinks he can defeat Burns in an election. "It's going to be very difficult," he said. "It's going to take a lot of work. He's an incumbent and he's been in there a lot of years."

But Tester said his background gives him an advantage: "The fact that I've lived in this environment my entire life and made a living here and understand the challenges that Montanans have. [...]

"He's got a quicker start but this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon," Tester said. "It's a lot of work. He who gets out there and hustles usually wins these things."

Two weeks ago, Tester traveled to Washington, D.C., to test the waters among party leadership. "We were treated very well," he said. "Everybody was very supportive of me running. They thought I had the right profile to win."

Damn straight.

Contribution amount: $

UPDATE: (Bob) Here's Tester's travel schedule for Wednesday:

Big Sandy Farmer Drives Tractor-Trailer Rig Across State to Listen to Montanans

Montana Senate President Jon Tester, a third-generation family farmer from Big Sandy, is announcing his candidacy for the United States Senate Wednesday in Bozeman, Butte and Missoula.

Driving his tractor-trailer rig, Tester started his statewide tour from his Big Sandy home and farm on Tuesday.

Today, Wednesday, May 25, Tester will be in his truck in Bozeman, Butte and Missoula at these times and locations:

Bozeman 9:30 a.m. Conoco gas station, off North Seventh Avenue and Baxter Lane near I-90

Butte 12 noon Red Lion Hotel, 2100 Cornell (Agri-Business Days)

Missoula 3:30 p.m. College of Technology, East Campus, 909 South Avenue West

“I’ll roll up my sleeves and work hard for Montana’s working families, just like my parents and grandparents taught me,” Tester said. “Montanans want leaders who work together and use common sense. And Montana families are stronger when they have good-paying jobs, quality public schools, and more affordable, accessible health care.”

Tester said that as a farmer and businessman from small-town Montana he understands the importance of working together -- neighbor to neighbor -- to get the job done.

“I’m working for the working people of Montana, for Main Street Montana, for those families who work hard and want their kids and grandkids to live, work and raise their families here,” Tester said. “My track record as a citizen-legislator demonstrates my deep commitment to moving Montana forward.”

“Jon Tester’s the real deal, and he gets the job done for Montana,” said state Representative Monica Lindeen of Huntley. “Montanans have a great opportunity to send a family farmer and proven leader to the U.S. Senate.”

Tester will drive his truck around the state this week to listen to Montanans. Tester is stopping in Havre, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, Great Falls and Montana towns in between.

Contribution amount: $

Posted at 08:19 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Technorati

Schweitzer on Lou Dobbs Tonight

Posted by Bob Brigham

From an email:

Governor Schweitzer Live on CNN's Lou Dobbs Nightly News Show Tonight

Governor Brian Schweitzer will give a live interview tonight on CNN's Lou Dobbs Show about the polarization of politics in Washington D.C., what it is like to be a democrat in the west and the great state of Montana. The nightly news show airs from 4:00-5:00PM MST on CNN. The Governor's appearance will be during the interview section of the show which is scheduled to start at 4:34 MST

Posted at 04:21 PM in Montana | Technorati

Saturday, May 21, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester: "Pretty Damn Serious"

Posted by Bob Brigham

UPDATE: (Bob) - Join Swing State Project by supporting Jon Tester:

Contribution amount: $

I found this via Left in the West, but I'll be setting up Google News Alerts on this one. From the Billings Gazette:

Although the primary election is more than a year away, state Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, is setting up a contest for a chance to unseat U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., in 2006.

Tester, fresh from visiting with Democratic Party leaders in Washington, D.C. last week, said Friday in Billings he is putting together a statewide announcement tour for next week. It could begin as early as Tuesday.

"We're pretty damn serious," he said while visiting with labor leaders at the Northern Hotel at the AFL-CIO state convention.

I'm glad he's serious, because Conrad Burns is the single most vulnerable U.S. Senator in 2006.

Tester, 48, an organic farmer, is president of the Montana Senate. He is barred by term limits from running again for the Senate, where he has served since 1999.

He said it will be tough to raise money in Montana and that a lengthy campaign is "brutal" - but that is necessary nowadays.

Raising money in Montana is tough, the GOP ran the economy into the ground. That is why Burns raises most of his money from out-of-staters and lobbyists. But Tester could beat Burns with a third as much money, because he is the real deal. I know people say that often about candidates, but few measure up to Big Sandy's Jon Tester.

I remember watching the crowd in the Montana Secretary of State's office on the day of the filing deadline to run for the legislature in 1998. Everyone had heard of this Tester-guy who was running for a very Republican state senate seat up on the Hi-Line. People seemed in awe when they finally saw him, he owned the room. Imagine a high school basketball team showing up on game-night with a seven foot center, that is how people looked at him. And since then, his stature has only grown as people have watched him excel as a legislator. He is the real deal, he's ready for prime-time, and his populism will make this a race to watch.

If Tester does enter the race next week, I will do two things:

1. Send him some money

2. Change the status on this race from Leaning Republican to Leaning Democrat

Last year, Tester's campaigning helped Democrats win both chambers of the legislature for the first time in a long time. He already has a statewide infrastructure and is respected by many Montanans who don't consider Democrats who act like lawyers. He is the type of western populist that can restore a sense of pride for western Democrats.

Tester is a straight-talker, so when he says he is taking this "pretty damn serious" -- pay attention. But notice the quote, it wasn't about him. He said, "We're pretty damn serious." I think the "we" refers to almost everyone he's ever met or will meet before election day. Count me in.

UPDATE: (Bob) Montana-blog The Last Best Place:

Tester's In
Since I wasn't all that excited about John Morrison's campaign to unseat incumbent $enator, Conrad Burns, I welcomed the story in today's Billings Gazette which indicates Jon Tester, a fellow wheat farmer, will be making an anncouncement this coming week. [...]

Now, this is a campaign that I can not only get excited about, but also donate heavily to. Way to go Jon!

Posted at 02:09 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana | Comments (2) | Technorati

MT-AL: Monica Lindeen for U.S. Congress

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Billings Gazette:

HELENA - State Rep. Monica Lindeen, D-Huntley, said Wednesday she is considering running in the 2006 election for the U.S. House seat held by three-term Republican Denny Rehberg. [...]

She said she's "road-tested," having put on 30,000 miles in 2003 and 2004 driving around the state with Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, and House Democratic Leader Dave Wanzenried of Missoula to listen to what issues concern Montanans.

So far, no Democrats have expressed interest publicly about running against Rehberg, who won a hotly contested 51 to 46 percent victory for an open House seat over Nancy Keenan in 2000, with a third-party candidate getting the rest of the votes.

Keeping the streak alive?

Posted at 12:28 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Montana | Technorati

Thursday, May 19, 2005

MT-Sen: Senator Conrad Burns Lies

Posted by Bob Brigham

When Conrad Burns first ran for the U.S. Senate, he said he'd only serve 2 terms. When he ran for re-election, he renewed his promise to the people of Montana that he would only serve 2 terms so that he wouldn't become corrupted by DC. But he lied, and as he gears up to run for his 4th term, he's lying about the "nuclear option" -- from the Billings Gazette:

"The use of the filibuster to logjam judicial nominations in this Congress and the last is unprecedented," Burns said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

This isn't an off-the-cuff remark, this is a prepared lie that Burns distributed to the media.

From Media Matters:

Falsehood #1: Democrats' filibuster of Bush nominees is "unprecedented"
The most prevalent talking point put forth by advocates of the "nuclear option" is that Democratic filibusters of 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees are "unprecedented" in American history.

But Republicans initiated a filibuster against a judicial nominee in 1968, forcing Democratic president Lyndon Johnson to withdraw the nomination of Associate Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice. Then-Sen. Robert Griffin (R-MI) recognized at the time that denying nominees a vote was already an established practice. "It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote," Griffin said, according to a May 10 New York Times op-ed by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-ME).

Cloture votes were also necessary to obtain floor votes on Clinton judicial nominees Richard A. Paez and Marsha L. Berzon in 2000, and Republicans attempted to filibuster the nomination of U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who is leading the Republican opposition to Democratic filibusters, voted against cloture for the Paez nomination.
And these are merely instances when Republicans filibustered Democratic presidents' judicial nominees. The Republican-controlled Senate blocked approximately 60 Clinton nominees through other means. This included strict enforcement under Clinton of the "blue slip" policy, which at the time allowed a senator from a nominee's home state to block a nominee simply by failing to turn in the blue-colored approval papers required for the nomination process. While Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) strictly adhered to the "blue slip" policy to allow Republicans to block Clinton nominees, he relaxed the policy nearly to the point of elimination in his efforts to push through Bush's nominees.

For example, Hatch held committee votes on the nominations of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Carolyn B. Kuhl over the objections of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as well as four 6th Circuit nominees over their home state senators' objections.

Because of these numerous responses to Falsehood #1, proponents have honed their message in order to continue arguing that the present Democratic effort is "unprecedented." The argument has now been reduced to: It is unprecedented for a nominee to be blocked who 1) has clear majority support in the Senate; 2) has actually reached the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote; and 3) did not ultimately get confirmed after being filibustered.

The "clear majority" qualifier is designed to discount Fortas, even though "[i]t is impossible to gauge the exact support for Fortas because 12 senators were absent for the 'cloture' or 'closure' vote, which failed to halt the filibuster," as the Washington Post noted on March 18. The qualifier that a nominee reach the Senate floor disregards the approximately 60 Clinton nominees whom the Republican-led Senate blocked in committee. The qualifier that the filibuster be ultimately successful gets around Republican efforts to filibuster Paez and Berzon, who eventually won Senate confirmation.

Burns wants to talk about precedent? From People for the American Way:

Senate Rules and Precedents That Would be Broken Through Exercise of the Nuclear Option

Violation # 1. Rule V: The Senate must follow its Rules to amend its Rules
Paragraph 2 of Rule V states expressly that “Rules of the Senate shall continue from one Congress to the next Congress unless they are changed as provided in these Rules.” (emphasis added). The proposed nuclear option is a deliberate end-run around the Senate’s regular process (discussed below) for amending its own Rules because Senator Frist does not have the strong bipartisan support he needs in the current Senate to follow the regular order.

Violation # 2. Rule V: Suspending the Rules without amending them.
The Senate Rules provide expressly for the sole mechanism to suspend the Rules without amending them. Under Rule V, paragraph 1, the Senate may only suspend its Rules either by unanimous consent or by adopting a motion to suspend the Rules. Adoption of such a motion requires a 2/3 vote of Senators present.3 The nuclear option, by relying on a simple majority vote to change the Rules without changing the text (arguably a kind of suspension), clearly violates the 2/3 vote requirement.

Violation # 3. Rule XXII: Violating the process for changing the Senate’s Rules.
Paragraph 2 of Rule XXII establishes the requirements for ending debate on a proposed change to the Senate’s Rules. Under Rule XXII, a cloture petition signed by sixteen Senators must first be submitted to the Senate. The vote to invoke cloture (end debate) on amendment to the Rules cannot be held until 2 days after the cloture petition is filed, and the rule provides that 2/3 of Senators present and voting must consent to end debate.

Violation #4. Failing to submit a constitutional Point of order to the Senate.
Proponents of the nuclear option purport to justify their unprecedented approach by invoking the U.S. Constitution – to the point of trying to rename the nuclear option the “constitutional option.”4 Some have even argued that the filibuster of judicial nominations is unconstitutional, and that the Senate can therefore ignore its process for amending the Rules to eliminate it.5 Under long-established precedents of the Senate, when a point of order with an asserted constitutional basis is raised, the Chair does not rule on the point of order but instead submits it directly to the full Senate.6 However, such a point of order is debatable and it would take 60 votes to end debate on the constitutional point of order and bring it to a vote. Because it is not clear that Senator Frist has 51 votes for the nuclear option – much less 60 – it is likely that Vice President Cheney will rule directly on Frist’s “constitutional” point of order, violating Senate precedent.

Violation # 5. Rule XXII: Ending debate on a nomination.
The text of Paragraph 2 of Rule XXII expressly requires 60 Senators (3/5s of Senators duly chosen and sworn) to vote to end debate on “any measure, motion, other matter pending before the Senate,” including a judicial nomination. If the nuclear option is successful, and for the first time in our history Senators’ right to debate is ended by simple majority vote, this will constitute an express violation of Rule XXII’s 60 vote requirement. In essence, Rule XXII would be changed, but not in a manner provided by the Rules of the Senate.

Violation # 6. Overriding the Senate’s Parliamentarian
The Senate Parliamentarian is the officer charged with keeping the precedents of the Senate and advising the presiding officer of the Rules and precedents of the Senate if a point of order is raised from the floor. The current Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, has worked for that office as either Parliamentarian or assistant Parliamentarian since 1977 under both Democratic and Republican majorities. It has been widely reported that the Senate Parliamentarian will advise the chair that any point of order to force a simple majority vote to end debate on a nominee would violate the Rules and precedents of the Senate. Therefore, for the nuclear option to succeed, the presiding officer, most likely Vice President Cheney in his role as President of the Senate, would have to ignore the advice of the Parliamentarian in ruling on a point of order. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, such an action would “constitute an extraordinary proceeding involving peremptory departure from the established system of Senate procedure.”7

Vice President Cheney will need to ignore the Parliamentarian to invoke the nuclear option because Republicans must engineer a scenario where, as stated above, nuclear option opponents appeal a ruling of the chair endorsing the nuclear option. Frist must ensure that opponents appeal because the appeal itself is debatable, while a motion to table (kill) the appeal is not debatable. If Republican leaders try to overturn an adverse ruling by the chair through their own appeal (which would occur if the chair follows the parliamentarian), opponents could simple filibuster the appeal and a motion to table the appeal would set the opposite precedent than Frist wishes to achieve.

Filibusters of judicial nominations are clearly authorized by long-established Rules and precedents of the Senate. Should Senators wish to change the Rules and eliminate the filibuster, they should do so under the established process for amending the Rules. Basic notions of the rule of law, fairness, and commonsense dictate that the Senate should obey its rules in confronting and addressing filibusters as it has done for over 200 years.8 Senate Republican leaders have avoided this approach, because they do not have the 67 votes required to amend the Rules under the process specified by the Rules. Instead, in an abuse of power unprecedented in Senate history, they plan to break the Rules in an attempt to change them for momentary partisan advantage. As many Senate veterans of both parties have warned, such a precedent starts the Senate down the road of eliminating all filibusters through future “nuclear options,” completing the institutional destruction begun by the current nuclear option.

1. Charles McC. Mathias, A Bad Option to Take, The Washington Post, May 12, 2005, A21.
2. Statement From the Office of the Majority Leader, May 13, 2005.
3. Alan S. Fruman Ed., Riddicks’s Senate Procedure, United States Senate 1992 p.1266 (Hereinafter Riddick’s).
4. See e.g., Martin B. Gold, Dimple Gupta, The Constitutional Option to Change Senate Rules and Procedures: A Majoritarian Means to Over Come the Filibuster, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Volume 28, Issue 1 (2004).
5. In fact, there is no basis in the Constitution for sustaining a point of order that extended debate on judicial nominations is unconstitutional. The Constitution expressly gives the Senate the power to create its own Rules for determining whether to grant or withhold consent to a President’s nominees. For 200 years, the Senate has not required an “up or down” vote on each of the President’s nominees; to the contrary, the Senate has long had Committees to which nominations are referred for review, and these committees have frequently “killed” nominations without an up or down vote by the Senate. Other nominations, including to the Supreme Court, have been brought to the Senate floor, debated and postponed without an up or down vote, denying confirmation.
6. Riddick’s p. 989.
7. Richard S. Beth, CRS Report for Congress, “Entrenchment” of Senate Procedure and the “Nuclear Option” for Change: Possible Proceedings and Their Implications, March 28, 2005 (emphasis added).
8. PFAWF Report: No Defense for the Nuclear Option; A Response to the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy Article, March 16, 2005.

Any questions?

Posted at 03:07 PM in Montana | Technorati

Monday, May 09, 2005

MT-Sen: Frontier PAC Opens a Can of Open-Source on Burns

Posted by Bob Brigham

From Frontier PAC:

Repeatedly during the 2004 election cycle, we saw a great idea bubble up from the grassroots only to get incorporated in a half-hearted way by people who didn't fully get it. Frontier PAC is launching the Open-Source Campaign -- an effort to put corrupt GOP incumbents on the defensive early -- in order to avoid those same pitfalls in delivering a reform message for 2006.

This campaign doesn't speak for the netroots, it is the netroots: no consultants, no focus groups, and no conventional wisdom. Just an earnest and aggressive values-based showdown with Republicans.

How are we getting started?
By going after Conrad Burns in Montana. Burns is far more in touch with the values of Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay than with the values of the people of Montana -- and Frontier PAC is going to make that case to the voters. Conrad Burns has been bought, and we're not afraid to say that out loud. That's why we're running hard-hitting radio ads all over the states -- targeting sportsmen, small business owners, and all the other constituencies Burns puts on the line for his corporate patrons.

If you care about the U.S. Senate, your money has more value in Montana than any other race.

Here is the script for their radio ad:

Does Conrad Burns share your values? Since he took office in 1988, he's put the interests of multinational corporations above the interests of Montana families. Is Burns corrupt? His office rewrites legislation to benefit his donors and lobbyists. Is Burns cowardly? He has failed to stand up to runaway deficits and budget waste. Is Burns clueless? He told the newspaper Roll Call that he didn't even know his own Chief of Staff was taking cruises with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Corrupt, Cowardly, Clueless. Conrad Burns: he's more in touch with Washington, DC than with Montana. We need a Senator who stands up for us. Read more at*.

Paid for by Frontier PAC. This message not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Yes. This campaign is only going to be as successful as you make it. We need ideas, research and input, but we also need to pay for the air time. Frontier PAC has no support from the national party, and we can?t count on the kind of corporate-PAC money and high-dollar contributions that fund many Republican and Democratic groups alike. That's why you can rest assured that we'll stick to our economic populist principles?but it?s also why we need your help.

We'll need to raise several thousand dollars for the Burns ads alone, and we can do it if we get the right input and support from the netroots. Please contribute what you can to Frontier PAC--we need the resources NOW to put the GOP on the defensive for 2006. Whether you can afford $15 or $1000, every dollar is important.

Over at MyDD, Gary Boatwright says:

That's exactly what I'm talking about!

Christ on a crutch, it's about time somebody ran an ad like that. I'm sending Frontier Pac my $50 contribution for May as soon as I get home from work.

Everybody else is going to have to wait until June. My entire monthly allotment for political contributions has just been used up.

Absolutely fantastic!


Posted at 03:47 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | Technorati

Friday, May 06, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester Explores U.S. Senate Bid

Posted by Bob Brigham

UPDATE: (Bob) - Join Swing State Project by supporting Jon Tester:

Contribution amount: $

From the Great Falls Tribune:

HELENA — State Senate President Jon Tester, a Big Sandy farmer, is traveling to Washington, D.C., next week to talk to Democratic Party officials and fund-raisers about challenging U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in 2006.

"We'll kind of take a look around and see if this is something we want to do," he said this week. [...]

Tester is barred by term limits from running next year for re-election to the state Senate, where he's served since 1999. An organic grain farmer, Tester last year helped Democrats win their first majority in the state Senate in 10 years.

Lots of excitement around this, especially on the blogs out west...

From Western Democrat:

Although the Beltway pundits like to talk about Chafee, Santorum and Nelson (of Nebraska) as the most endangered incumbents in 2006, these talking heads once again forget to look west. Burns was nearly knocked off in 2000, a year when he was directly below George W. Bush on the ballot. Without the President's coattails this time around, Burns -- who could face ethical investigations for Abramoff ties -- will be hard pressed to eke out a victory. With a strong Democratic candidate like Tester, who engineered the Democrats' takeover of the state Senate in the fall, Burns might just find himself holding a one-way ticket to K Street.

And Left in the West:

This is great news, not just because Jon Tester is a strong candidate. The field currently has one strong candidate and has other potential ones feeling out decisions. This is great news because Jon Tester has the potential to be a great US Senator. [...]

We certainly have not had much assistance from national leadership of late. One reason I believe in a Tester campaign is that the man is deeply respected on both sides of the aisle, which is something that used to be true of virtually every member of the Upper House in DC. He is a man more comfortable talking to farmers than to donors. I think that’s a good thing. He is also someone who doesn’t have a 100% from any interest group. He votes his constituents and his conscience and he doesn’t forget what those are. [...]

I write this post to speak highly of a man who could, I think, help restore some honor to the US Senate. I hope he makes the right decision.

Indeed. Tester needs to get into the race.

Which is why I was troubled to see this in the Tribune:

Tester said he'll also find out what commitments might have been made to Morrison or other candidates considering a run against Burns.

Hopefully, none. I don't see how anyone would commit to another candidate before waiting to see whether Tester runs.

Posted at 07:05 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

MT-Sen: Vasell Scandal Began in 2000?

Posted by Bob Brigham

Via Left in the West, we have the New West Network story on Shawn Vasell:

John Byrne of Raw Story is now reporting that Vasell was one of four former Jack Abramoff associates who played a role in the Florida recount -- activities that their law firm, Greenberg Traurig, was apparently not compensated for. Byrne also reports that these four lobbyists, including Vasell, have now left Greenberg Traurig, following federal investigations into Abramoff's actions. In fact, Greenberg Traurig's website no longer shows any sign of a Shawn Vasell.

Vasell was Burns' State Director. Vasell was so critical to Burns that former Montana House Majority Leader Larry Grinde couldn't even replace him.

Posted at 10:37 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

MT-Sen: Jon Tester on Legislature: "Accomplishments Abound"

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Senate President Jon Tester is widely expected to challenge embattled U.S. Senator Conrad Burns. Here is his hometown paper (actually, Tester lives on a farm outside the next town over, but this is the closest paper), the Havre Daily News:

As far as Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, is concerned, accomplishments abound.

"It seemed like people tended to want to work together in this session than they had in the past and that was a surprise with some change over" to Democratic control, Tester said. "People took it in stride."

He is finishing out his fourth and final term as a state senator due to term limits.

As for those accomplishments, he did some good work.

Prescription Drugs:

Tester said helping Montanans get affordable health care was a goal he felt he accomplished this year. He sponsored one bill that would help make prescription drugs more affordable, and another that would help the state regulate prescription drug discount cards to protect people from scams.

The prescription drug benefit bill, SB 324, was the bill Tester said he was most proud of.

Guiding education legislation through the Senate, he said, was a major task as Senate president.


Guiding education legislation through the Senate, he said, was a major task as Senate president.

"We defined a quality education and that's something most people didn't think we could do" in one session, he said. "We pumped in a historic amount of money" as well.

Tester said more work remains, some of which will be completed by an interim committee that has until October to come up with a new funding formula for schools. Tester is on the committee, and Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller is an ex officio member.

"We've got two legs of the stool firmly on the floor," he said. "We've got one more to get down."


Tester also worked on encouraging the use of renewable resources, with a bill that would make sure wind energy producers are taxed fairly. He also sponsored a funding measure that provides money toward rehabilitating the St. Mary Diversion.

What a difference a Democratic majority makes.

Posted at 01:13 PM in Montana | Technorati

MT-Sen: Officials Investigate Shawn Vasell

Posted by Bob Brigham

After Courtney Lowery broke, The D.C. Lobbyist & the Thanksgiving Deer story, Billings Gazette writer Ed Kemmick blogged:

It sounds like Shawn Vasell, a former staffer for Sen. Conrad Burns, has some explaining to do, as do his friends here in Billings.

It now looks like Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks agrees. From Lowery's latest:

The Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Department has launched an investigation into the case of the D.C. Lobbyist and the Thanksgiving deer.

District 5 Warden Jeff Scott tells New West that an initial investigation shows that "there certainly seems to be some authenticity to this thing," referring to a story New West reported on last week. The story, which we found on now stripped Web site of J.R. Reger of Billings, detailed a seemingly illegal hunting trip Reger took with his brother and Shawn Vasell. Vasell, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, had been named as one of the personnel links between the Montana Senator and the controversial Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It seems they have the same respect for the Hunt as they do for Ethics. Here is some more on the Vasell Scandal.

Posted at 11:15 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Monday, May 02, 2005

MT-Sen: New Law to Stop Burns' Slaughter

Posted by Bob Brigham

Regular readers of Swing State Project might see the word "slaughter" in a headline about embattled Montana Senator Conrad Burns and assume that the post was about Burns' General Custeresque march into re-election (Burns' re-elect number is 36%). But no, this isn't a metaphoric slaughter, this is an actual blood and guts slaughter. And the politics are so overwhelming against Senator Burns that Congress is now considering a new law -- bipartisan legislation with 50 co-sponsors -- to undo the Burns Slaughter.

From Indian Country:

WASHINGTON - The Interior Department has abruptly halted the delivery of mustangs to buyers to investigate whether the slaughter of 41 wild horses in April violated a federal contract requiring them to be treated humanely.

Interior's Bureau of Land Management is charged with the liquidation of some 90,000 wild horses. [...]

Congress in December replaced the 34-year-old ban on slaughtering mustangs with a law permitting older and unwanted horses to be sold. Wild horse advocates warned that would allow the animals to be killed and sold for horse meat, as dog food or for human consumption overseas.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., urged Congress in April to immediately repeal the change in law that Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., sponsored last year. Rahall and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., so far have 50 co-sponsors for such legislation in the 435-member House.

There is quite a coalition coming together to stop the Burns Slaughter, from the Tribune News Service:

WASHINGTON - A coalition of celebrities, race track leaders and others have called in from across the country hoping to push forward legislation that would end or limit the slaughter of wild horses. [...]

"When you've got a coalition ranging from Willie Nelson to Nicollette Sheridan, we've got something for everyone," said Nancy Perry, the Humane Society of the United States' vice president of government affairs. [...]

Horse advocates have solicited comments from actors - including Richard Gere and Mary Tyler Moore - and have drawn support from horse racing leaders and others.

Churchill Downs Inc., parent company of the legendary Kentucky race track, supports the end of horse slaughter. Ford Motor Co., maker of the Mustang sports car, this week offered financial support to save the lives of 52 mustangs. And "Weekly Reader," an educational publication geared to elementary and middle school students, included an article on the issue.

Seeking star power to jazz up an issue isn't a new tactic. Last year, for example, actress and horse owner Bo Derek traipsed through the Capitol to gather support for a similar bill.

About that bill, from the Courier Journal:

Whitfield, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and nearly 50 co-sponsors have introduced H.R. 297 to outlaw the sales of the mustangs. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has introduced a separate measure, S. 576. [...]

"Those involved in the slaughter of wild horses and burros have blood on their hands," Rahall said during a Capitol Hill news conference.

Whitfield, R-1st District, said no horses should be slaughtered for food, particularly those under Bureau of Land Management protection.

Senator Conrad Burns is now facing a bi-partisan legislation condemning him while he's being called out as having blood on his hands. His response?

Grant Toomey, deputy press secretary to Burns, said the slaughter of the 41 horses was "awful and had nothing to do with the senator's intentions."

"This can't be allowed to happen," Toomey said, adding that Burns plans to meet with bureau officials to discuss the situation.

Is this a flip-flop or just incompetence?

Saying it can't happen would make it appear the Senator is now opposed to the slaughter. I hope this is a reversal rather than Burns trying to say he didn't know that lifting a ban on slaughtering would cause horses to become dogfood.

Burns screwed up big-time on this one.

Posted at 11:10 AM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Monday, April 25, 2005

MT-Sen: Conrad Burns and Jack Abramoff Staff Scandal

Posted by Bob Brigham

What is the one thing that makes a worse scandal than an Jack Abramoff golf trip? A hunting trip.

Shawn Vasell has made Swing State Project before. He is one of the major links between Jack Abramoff and Montana Senator Conrad Burns, having worked for Abramoff directly before and after working for Burns (he was State Director).

Vasell was already a key figure in multiple investigations and now he is at the center of a scandal that will enrage Montanans in a way that the corruption scandal never could.

Even before this latest scandal, Sen. Conrad Burns was in trouble. The Abramoff corruption scandal was hurting his campaign, he was sinking in the polls, and the press had tired of his B.S. responses to the corruption investigations. And now this...

The Thanksgiving Deer Scandal

New West Network Managing Editor Courtney Lowery has THE SCOOP:

Washington lobbyist Shawn Vasell, a former aide to Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, has already attracted some unwanted media attention in our nation's capital as a key link between Burns and controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Now we've come across an interesting little story on the Web (with photos) about Mr. Vasell and his Thanksgiving deer that if true, is not likely to endear him even to loyal Republicans.

Vasell, who Burns’ spokesman J.P. Donovan said worked as the office’s state director for about a year before stepping down in December of 2002 to go back to Abramoff's firm, was named and pictured on a Web site about hunting and fishing written by one J.R. Reger. Reger, in what can only be read as a fit of macho hubris, details the rockin' good time that he, Mike Reger and Vasell apparently had on a spur-of-the-moment, day-after-Thanksiving hunting outing. Only problem is, the story depicts the boys in apparent violation of at least four Montana hunting laws.

FOUR VIOLATIONS? Like Conrad Burns; like Jack Abramoff; Shawn Vasell appears to have a total disregard for the law.

In particular, Vasell allegedly shot a deer from the window of a pickup truck, a clear no-no. And, a quick phone call to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks licensing department tells us that state records (which search back to 2002) show there have been no hunting licenses issued to a Shawn Vasell in the state of Montana. So if that's his deer he's posing with in the photos ...

It gets better...

So what is the response?

Reger, reached on Saturday via phone, would not comment on the story or confirm or deny its accuracy, but told New West he would have time to talk about it later. Alas, he has not returned repeated phone calls since then and - surprise - his site had been taken down by Sunday morning. We figured this might happen, so we made sure we recovered it through Google's cache of pages, which is where you can read it here.

Why would anyone so brazenly brag about breaking the law?

The story certainly doesn't read like something that was made up, though it's a bit of a mystery as to why Reger would be so eager to brag publicly about things like his hunting buddy shooting a deer on someone else's land after dark. There is one clue though. Elsewhere on his site, Reger writes: "Every Monday morning I look forward to reading the paper. Moreover, I look forward to reading about one of my delinquent friends or acquaintances getting into trouble with the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. For the fine amount paid, and trust me on this one, the amount of good press you get from doing something wrong is totally worth it. I highly recommend poaching a little or doing something minor to get your name in the paper at least once a year."

Montana blogger Matt Singer points out:

This trip was illegal. If Reger reported the details accurately, multiple laws were broken. Shawn Vasell has not had a hunting permit in Montana (at least not since 2001). He apparently shot the deer from inside a car (illegal). Later, he helped one of the Regers move a deer that had been shot on a neighbor's property without permission after dark following drinking (illegal). This isn't just illegal. It violates many of the unwritten rules of landowner/hunter relations.

Violating the unwritten rules of the west will result in the worst punishment. Singer also focuses on a fact all of you Jack Abramoff scandal watchers will appreciate:

One of the most interesting points is buried in the story. Shawn Vasell's official website lists one of his accomplishments as having "obtained federal [Indian school construction] monies for participating clients." This is exactly the question at issue in the original Washington Post article that brought this former Conrad Burns staffer's name to our attention. Burns was accused of giving money to Abramoff clients because of special connections. Now, one of Abramoff's former coworkers is claiming that their firm was responsible for lining up Indian school construction monies for their clients. Hmmm....

Conrad Burns lied when he said he would only serve two terms (he is running for his fourth). He didn't want to lose touch with Montana, but he did. Burns has been spending time with some very crooked people back in Washington, DC. But that isn't as bad as bringing those crooked people back to Montana to break Montana's laws and the rules of the west.

In Montana, you don't violate your neighbor's property and start shooting. Especially after dark.

You never shoot from a vehicle. There is an exception to this rule if you have a permit saying you are disabled, but otherwise you never, ever, shoot from a vehicle.

If someone is shooting -- after dark -- on another person's property, you call the sheriff. You don't help them drag their poached deer to the truck in a conspiracy to move the game across the property line before it is gutted and tagged.

In Montana, you respect guns, you respect property lines, you respect hunting safety, you respect the law, and you respect the game. Nothing is worse than an east-coaster disrespecting law, custom, and common sense...with a gun in his cityfolk hand. Actually, there is one thing worse, when that person was State Director for a Montana politician.

Here is the contact info for the eight offices that Shawn Vasell managed as Burn's State Director:

Senator Conrad Burns - Billings Office
222 N.32nd St., Suite 400
Billings, MT 59101
Tel: 406-252-0550
Fax: 406-252-7768

Senator Conrad Burns - Bozeman Office
211 Haggerty Lane, Suite A & B
Bozeman, MT 59715
Tel: 406-586-4450
Fax: 406-586-7647

Senator Conrad Burns - Butte Office
125 W. Granite St., Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Tel: 406-723-3277
Fax: 406-782-4717

Senator Conrad Burns - Glendive Office
324 West Towne
Glendive, MT 59330
Tel: 406-365-2391
Fax: 406-365-8836

Senator Conrad Burns - Great Falls Office
321 First Ave. North
Great Falls, MT 59401
Tel: 406-452-9585
Fax: 406-452-9586
TDD: 406-761-6885

Senator Conrad Burns - Helena Office
208 N. Montana Ave., Suite 202A
Helena, MT 59601
Tel: 406-449-5401
Fax: 406-449-5462

Senator Conrad Burns - Kalispell Office
1845 Highway 93 South, Suite 210
Kalispell, MT 59901
Tel: 406-257-3360
Fax: 406-257-3974

Senator Conrad Burns - Missoula Office
116 West Front Street
Missoula, MT 59802
Tel: 406-728-3003
Fax: 406-728-2193

Posted at 11:15 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Republicans | Comments (2) | Technorati

MT-Sen: Montana Auditor John Morrison Runs for US Senate

Posted by Bob Brigham


HELENA -- Democratic State Auditor John Morrison, a former Helena attorney who has spearheaded efforts to make health insurance more affordable for Montanans, announced Monday his bid for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns.

News of the campaign was not unexpected. Morrison, 43, was considered a likely challenger to Burns and had been soliciting donations in recent weeks on a Web site offering information on how to contact his campaign.

"As a Montanan, I'm very concerned about the way things are going in Washington, D.C.," Morrison said in a written statement. "And so I've been talking with lots of my fellow Montanans about a bid for the United States Senate in 2006, and have begun laying the groundwork for a Senate campaign."

Senator Conrad Burns is heading to the slaughter house come November 2006 and whoever wins the Democratic primary will need to find a place to live in D.C.

Burns is running for his fourth term, after breaking his oath to serve only two. Burns has a 36% re-elect number, is up-to-his hat in a corruption scandal, and has a voting record that shows complete disdain for the interests of Montana families. If the feds don't send Burns to jail, the Montana voters will send him packing.

UPDATE The AP story was updated with this:

Big Sandy farmer Jon Tester, the Democratic president of the Montana Senate, is also considering a run for Burns' seat. He said Morrison's announcement will not affect his decision, which he planned to announce by mid-May.

"I've known (Morrison) was going to run for a long time," Tester said. "If I decide to run, I knew that was going to be part of the equation."

Posted at 02:30 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

MT-Gov: Brian Schweitzer's First Pardon

Posted by Bob Brigham

Billings Gazette:

MISSOULA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer exercised his pardon power for the first time Friday, forgiving a Missoula couple for colliding with his unmarked Montana Highway Patrol car in the parking lot of the city's newspaper.

"I've met Montanans in bars, restaurants and on the street," said Schweitzer. "This is the first time I've met a Montanan because he ran into me." [...]

After the vehicles bumped, causing no damage, Schweitzer said he realized he could grant pardons and sent the couple on their way.

This is yet another reason why Schweitzer is popular from Ekalaka to Eureka (in Montana) and across the country. Schweitzer doesn't wait to poll before acting, he just does the right thing and goes about the rest of his day.

Posted at 01:21 PM in Montana | Technorati

Friday, April 22, 2005

2006: Schweitzer Wins

Posted by Bob Brigham

Chick Johnson:

HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday passed out the accolades to members of the Montana Legislature for their work and for approving nearly all of the items on his agenda.

"I think that this Legislature has done a wonderful job in this session," Schweitzer told reporters at a morning press conference. "As the chief executive I would ask for little more than they delivered. While all the ink is not dry yet, it appears as though we're going to do some pretty remarkable things in this legislative session.''

He congratulated the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House and paid tribute to the freshman lawmakers who were empowered to stand up for their beliefs on the bills. At times, Schweitzer was able to persuade some freshman Republican representatives to support his proposals, even as the GOP House leaders opposed them.

So here is the press version of the laundry list:

  • Promote the production of ethanol in Montana by mandating its use in fuel.
  • Require groceries to put up signs telling people the country of origin of most meat sold in stores, even as Congress had passed a similar requirement but postponed it and is considering making it voluntary.
  • Reinvest money in state's colleges of technology, the two-year schools.
  • Put $80 million into Montana's K-12 school funding over the next two years, which Schweitzer called one of the largest increases in state history.
  • Set a balanced budget that will have a projected surplus or general fund balance of about $80 million as of mid-2007, without raising taxes and that honors the spirit of the budget spending cap.
  • Eliminate the property tax on business equipment for some 13,000 businesses by raising the exemption from the tax to $20,000 in business equipment, up from the current $5,000.
  • Crack down on methamphetamine use in Montana through a series of measures that Schweitzer said amount to the strongest package in the nation, apart from Oklahoma's.
  • Help improve access for hunting and fishing by making permanent the Habitat Montana, block management and the fishing access enhancement programs.
  • Reinstate the Made in Montana program, which the administration of Republican Gov. Judy Martz had discontinued, to promote items produced and grown in Montana.


Posted at 01:38 AM in 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Comments (1) | Technorati

Monday, April 18, 2005

MT-Gov: Schweitzer's First 100 Days

Posted by Bob Brigham


HELENA - With a red carnation perched on his lapel and sprouting a small banner proclaiming "100 Days," Brian Schweitzer sat casually in his Capitol office and grinned.

And why not? Montana's first Democratic governor in 16 years reached this landmark of his new administration with little to complain about.

While Schweitzer has little to worry about, the same can't be said of the GOP:

They don't like that he wears jeans with his tie and sports jacket [...] GOP leaders complain that Schweitzer bullies contrary lawmakers

Of course, Schweitzer denies he bullies those poor, wittle wepublicans.

But nobody is spending worry about Bob Keenan and game because they are too busy admiring Schweitzer's budding legacy:

Craig Wilson, who heads the political science department at Montana State University-Billings, said Schweitzer has reason for satisfaction.

"He's gotten what he's wanted," he said, attributing the successes to Schweitzer's elaborate preparations for becoming chief executive.

"You've got to have some ideas to start with, some policy proposals to start with," Wilson said. "You have to hit the ground running. He has some ideas to start with. He showed that coming out of the box."

Schweitzer's successes are all the more remarkable in the face of GOP animosity, Wilson said.

"Democrats elected a governor for the first time in 16 years and there were bad political feelings going into the session," Wilson said. "He won and Republicans are angry over reapportionment. They were mad about what happened from the beginning, were loaded up and wanted to take shots at the governor."

Schweitzer readily ticks off his wins _ programs to promote the ethanol and moviemaking industries, provide college scholarships, make prescription drugs more affordable, help businesses insure their employees and give Montana-made food a label declaring its birthright.

So Montanans are happy, anyone else?

While coping with the hectic pace of the Legislature, Schweitzer also has managed to attract national attention.

Schweitzer's election, in the Republican bastion of the intermountain West and in a year of few Democratic victories nationally, raised plenty of eyebrows. He got noticed for his hard-line approach to downstream Missouri River basin states' demand for water. His request that the Pentagon send Montana National Guard troops and water-toting helicopters home in time for the summer fire season made national news.

Schweitzer shrugs off the notoriety, saying it means nothing unless a benefit to the state. Still, he's not shy in explaining his national appeal.

"I'm a straight shooter. I tell it like it is and that is a diminishing commodity among politicians," he said.

Holding his first elected office, Schweitzer admits awe at where he finds himself daily.

"It's hard for us to imagine all the conversations that have occurred in this room in the last 100 years," he said.

"I sometimes early in the morning or late at night sit back and ponder about the magnitude of this office and the difficult decisions that have been made in this office over the last 100 years," he said. "It's a remarkable responsibility and it's not something I take lightly at all."

The first 100 days of the new dawn in Montana are a success.

Posted at 11:18 PM in 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Technorati

Sunday, April 17, 2005

MT-Sen: Burns Spins Out of Control

Posted by Bob Brigham

It can be a beautiful thing to read a good writer thoroughly smackdown a United States Senator.

Embattled Montana Senator Conrad Burns published an Op-Ed in this morning's Billings Gazette. A few hours later, columnist Ed Kemmick posted his response on the Billing's Gazette's City Lights Blog:

[H]is opinion piece is a textbook example of political B.S. It’s not a particularly skillful or polished piece of B.S., but it is a fine example of all the little tricks of the trade that politicians employ when they want to dodge an issue. This one starts with a good-old-boy “Old West” line, with Burns just wishing he could settle his feud with Montana Democratic Chairman Bob Ream out in the street at high noon, with, you know, real guns and stuff, instead of this damned pussyfooting bang-out-your-thoughts-on-a-computer malarkey.

Luckily, the Gazette decided that reprinting he said/she said would not accurately show what was going on. So the Gazette took it a step further with some truth says:

Fortunately, just above Burns’ guest opinion, we have the Gazette’s editorial on the same subject. It fills in the many holes deliberately left in Burns’ piece. The editorial points out that the Washington Post reported that Burns “pressured the Interior Department to put the Saginaw Chippewa project in the school program, even though it didn’t meet requirements.” It didn’t meet the requirements because the tribe is filthy rich, thanks to its casino operations. Ream, and others, see some connection between the fact that Abramoff was a lobbyist for the tribe and also donated $130,000 to a political action committee formed by Burns. Nor did it seem a coincidence to some that Abramoff, or some of his clients, paid for things like trips to the Super Bowl for aides to powerful lawmakers. Anyway, the Post reported that when Burns’ efforts on behalf of the Michigan tribe were unsuccessful, “Burns earmarked $3 million for the Saginaw Chippewa school anyway.”

You’d never know any of this from reading Burns’ piece. He makes it sound as though he was simply doing a favor, for reasons of his own, for the Democratic senators from Michigan.

He plays the same selective game with the subject of the Super Bowl junket. He says the trip was perfectly allowable because it was thought at the time that it was paid for by a tribal government, and Senate Ethics Committee rules allow the acceptance of gifts from sovereign nations. He acknowledges, however, that given Abramoff’s misleading statements, “the staff have subsequently been unable to determine who actually paid for the trip.”

In other words, they found a loophole, so what’s the problem? The problem is that “the good people of Montana” don’t think a senator’s staffers should be accepting expensive junkets from anybody — not from lobbyists, not from sovereign nations, not from connected fat cats. Burns’ willful blindness on this is the result of living in D.C. for too long.

Way too long.

Via Left in the West.

Posted at 10:32 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Saturday, April 16, 2005

MT-Sen: Montanans Not Donating to Burns

Posted by Bob Brigham

Senator Conrad Burns vulnerability has been once again demonstrated by his latested campaign finance disclosure. Of interest, 40% of Burns cash is coming from PAC's, not people. Of the contributions from people, 40% are out-of-staters. No wonder Burns' re-elect number has dropped to below 40%.

Support for Burns is so thin that the embattled Senator is actually worried about being being outraised by a challenger:

Burns said he may not be able to out-raise the Democrats ''but I intend to definitely outwork them.''

In response, Brad Martin, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said, ''That's the press release of a senator in trouble''

''Our poll shows him down 15 points because of bad votes on Social Security, the farm budget, veterans health care and a host of other issues important to Montanans,'' Martin said.

Burns is so likely to lose that there might even be a crowded Democratic Primary:

Democrats who are considering running against Burns are former state House Speaker Daniel Kemmis of Missoula, R-CALF President Leo McDonnell of Columbus, state Auditor John Morrison of Helena, former state Rep. Paul Richards of Boulder and state Senate President Jon Tester of Big Sandy.

If there is a primary, it will double limits on contributions to Democrats. Kos says Tester will be getting in soon and notes,

Should be a fun primary, and the winner will have a great deal of momentum against dead-in-the-water Burns.

Posted at 04:23 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

MT-Gov: Republicans Help Schweitzer Craft Legacy

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has been in office for only a few months, yet already people are talking about a "legacy" crafted on support of small business and smart energy policy. From the Great Falls Tribune:

HELENA — Three major Schweitzer administration proposals won slim approval in the House on Friday, as a handful of Republicans defied party leadership to hand the Democratic governor key victories on ethanol, wind power and business taxes.

The dramatic votes came during a daylong floor session, interrupted three times by party meetings where Republican leaders strongly urged their brethren to use their 50-vote block to stop the Democrats' initiatives. [...]

[House Republican Floor Leader Michael] Lange also gave a fiery speech against the wind-power bill, calling it an "abomination" and an attempt by Gov. Brian Schweitzer to start crafting his own "legacy" for the state.

"I want to kick it right in the governor's teeth with this bill," Lange said. "So vote no."

Yet on each bill, at least one Republican declined to follow the party line.

Ethonal and wind energy are great legacy issues in Montana. And the business tax issue wasn't a tax increase, rather it exempted 13,000 small businesses property taxes by freezing the rate on business equipment taxes and increasing from $5,000 to $20,000 the amount of equipment exempt from taxation. Those 13,000 small business owners will remember Schweitzer achieved bipartinsan support to lower their bills, the farmers love ethonal and wind power will pay dividends for years to come.

Posted at 03:28 PM in 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Technorati

Friday, April 15, 2005

MT-Sen: Daschle v Thune in Big Sky Country?

Posted by Bob Brigham

One of the most talked-about examples of the power of blogging is the story of how Senator John Thune paid bloggers to attack the media and how this allowed him to beat for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. This story became even more interesting after information came out on how GOP prostitute and fake report Jeff Gannon, "worked in tandem with the local bloggers, picking up on their complaints about the Argus Leader."

Are we already seeing this play out in other states?

In Montana, there is a new blog hyping embattled Senator Conrad Burns. As Montana blogger Matt Singer uncovered, one of the bloggers, Dave Holman, lives in Virginia where he works for the American Spectator. The other blogger lives in California and Washington, DC.

The Montana GOP lists the out-of-stater's blog on the front page of their website, calling it "the best you’ll see about Montana politics."

And it appears the blog was started with the goal of mimicking the Daschle v Thune blog, from the first post:

And expect there to be a lot of dirt-throwing, from the Democrats and the (shall we say bias) media outlets in the state of Montana. This blog will be the light between dirt.

Dave Holman, noted the following on his east coast blog:

Click on over to the new blog started by an anonymous buddy, Dirt Between Light Bulbs. It'll be your first stop for daily updates on the Montana 2006 Senate race, Sen. Conrad Burns's defense of his seat, which is one of the most vulnerable GOP seats next year.

Who is this "anonymous buddy"? The Dean of the Montana blogosphere, Granny Insanity, offers her theory:

I think the guys are pros. Consider the timing of their appearance then read their stuff. I’m a crazy old woman and I can see the standard nonsensical arguments.

I think somebody is paying them to guard a couple of seats here.

The timing is interesting, considering it followed Senator Thune's briefing to GOP Senators on how to use blogs.

My hope is that Montana journalists will be smart enough to resist rolling over for these guys.

Posted at 03:38 PM in 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana, Netroots | Comments (1) | Technorati

MT-Sen: GOP Acting VERY Defensive

Posted by Bob Brigham

Everyone following Montana's 2006 Senate race knows Conrad Burns is extremely vulnerable. This includes the Montana Republican Party, who have thrown a hissy fit because State Auditor John Morrison has a website. Talking about running scared, the fact the GOP is scared of a (pretty crappy) website demonstrates their defensiveness as they attempt to recover from losing the Governor's mansion, the State House, and the State Senate during the 2004 cycle.

If being spanked last year wasn't bad enough, this year the Montana GOP is stuck with Corrupt Conrad Burns at the head of the ticket.

Matt Singer says:

The GOP is scared about next year. They’re already on the offensive against potential opponents and no one has even declared. Maybe that’s because Burns’ reelect numbers are lower than those Appalachian Hills that East Coasters call mountains.

While it takes little to scare the Montana GOP, instead of fearing Morrison's third rate website, maybe they should be worried about this.

Posted at 01:24 PM in Montana | Technorati

Monday, April 11, 2005

Conrad Burns scandal is a huge story

Posted by Bob Brigham

The corruption saga surrounding Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) is a national an international story:

Members of the Senate are also feeling pressure over their ties to Abramoff.

Last month, Democratic leaders in Montana demanded that Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, who is considered vulnerable in his re-election bid next year, return $137,000 in donations from Abramoff and his tribal clients.

Ouch. Across the pond they are talking about the vulnerability of Montana's junior senator.

Posted at 07:43 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (5) | Technorati

Senator Conrad Burns caught in a lie

Posted by Bob Brigham

From Matt Singer:

Conrad Burns today is saying that the Abramoff-connected trip taken by two of his staffers “shouldn’t have happened, but it did.” He also says, “A lot of things happened that I didn’t know about.” [...]

But even stranger is that Burns says “his office is unaware of anyone giving clearance” while only two weeks ago he referred to his office checking Senate rules. Did people in his office approve the trip or not. Were they aware of what gifts their staffers were taking or not? Who is running the show at Camp Burns?

You can find out more about Senator Burns involvement in multiple corruption investigations. Burns re-elect number has fallen below 40 and getting caugh lying isn't going to help things.

Posted at 05:24 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Sunday, April 10, 2005

TX-22: Tom DeLay Corruption News

Posted by Bob Brigham

Three big stories for those following the corruption scandal that has engulfed the GOP:

Jack Abramoff is indicating he'll cut a deal with prosecutors and says, "Those S.O.B.s. DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."

Congressman Chris Shays bucks DeLay, calls him, "an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party."

• A Washington Post story on DeLay's offensive notes, "DeLay is continuing his high-decibel comments -- including his warning last week about "a judiciary run amok" -- on the theory that he is going to remain himself and not bend to the opposition, friends say."

Remember, Clinton suffered the worst damage not from Republican attacks, but when Lieberman joined the Republican chorus attacking Clinton. Now that Chris Shays is playing the same roll the momentum will increase faster than any other milestone short of the indictments.

The Abramoff story is also key. In addition to saying he had the goods on DeLay, he also said, "There are e-mails and records that will implicate others." Which could be devasting to Republicans in the 2006 mid-term election. When Senator Conrad Burns was implicated in an Abramoff scandal his re-elect number dropped to 36 and the White House had to dispatch Karl Rove to Montana to clean things up. Can the GOP afford to have any others implicated?

The DeLay offensive that the GOP is plotting will probably be remembered as the best thing to ever happen to the Democratic Party in a long time. The GOP seems to be going out of their way to tie Republicans to a corrupt lawmaker who is so unpopular he'll lose his re-election if he isn't locked up first.

DeLay's days our numbered, but thanks to the wingnuts, this will drag out far longer than it should.

The 2006 backlash is coming.

Posted at 01:01 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - House, 2006 Elections - Senate, Connecticut, Montana, Republicans, Texas | Technorati

Schweitzer for President?

Posted by Bob Brigham

Opinion Journal

Not only had the citizens of the nation's fourth largest state elected a Democratic candidate as governor for the first time in 20 years, they'd also rolled back GOP dominance to a 50-50 split in the state House, taken a 27-23 majority in the Senate, filled virtually every position of real authority in the state's higher offices with Democrats, and defeated referendums on re-allowing cyanide leaching in mining (despite millions of dollars of industry lobbying money promoting the idea) while approving of the medical use of marijuana. [...]

Red, blue or purple--color-coding Montana's patterns of voting is just too simplistic, and Brian Schweitzer fits the non-conformist mold to a T. A prosperous farmer/rancher from the area of Whitefish in the tony Flathead Valley country, Mr. Schweitzer cultivates a well-spoken, gun-owning, dog-loving, native-ritual-doing, shot-of-whiskey-drinking true-west style somewhere between that of Jeanette Rankin (a famously antiwar liberal Republican elected to the U.S. Congress before women's suffrage was passed) and Mike Mansfield (the conservative Democrat senator and former ambassador to Japan whose voting record, taken as a whole, was more liberal than that of George McGovern).

Schweitzer for President?

How all this sorts itself out over the short term is anybody's guess, but Mount St. Schweitzer is certainly stirring things up--from driving himself around the state with his pet dog, Jag, to flying the tribal flags of the seven Native American Indian reservations in Montana in rotation above the rotunda in the capital, a unique symbol of the governor's maverick streak.

That streak came to the fore at the annual state governors' meeting at the White House, where Mr. Schweitzer upbraided both President Bush and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. He likened the president to a bad cattle auctioneer and Mr. Leavitt to a cowpoke "riding for the brand." National Democrats swooned at the audacity of the freshman governor from the Mountain West. And some even started to whisper a number: 2008.

Tribal flags at the White House? There's always a first time.

UPDATE: Find out more about the story behind:

Posted at 12:52 PM in 2008 Election - President, 2008 President - Democrats, Montana | Comments (2) | Technorati

Thursday, April 07, 2005

MT Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan is a pansie

Posted by Bob Brigham

Via Left in the West we have George Ochenski's lastest must-read:

Everyone has come home from the store with some purchase or another only to discover the label won’t come off. First it tears away in strips, then you’re reduced to scraping at it with a razor blade until finally only a sticky residue remains, tenaciously defying all attempts to remove it. The same thing happens in politics—and sometimes those sticky political labels spell long-term trouble. [...]

Comes now the 2005 Legislature, with its own sticky labels. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has done a commendable piece of work in scraping off some of the Demo’s “tax and spend” label with his opposition to new taxes and commitment to holding the line on spending. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his hapless opponents who, through a failed strategy of their own devising, have now stuck themselves with a sticky label that reads “Whining Republicans.”

Take, for example, Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan, who has been a constant Schweitzer critic. Perhaps rightfully shocked at his first legislative experience in the minority party, Keenan has gone over the edge of credibility in his role as Chief Whiner. Unfortunately, he pulled his party over that edge with him. Now, people on the streets regularly talk about “whining Republicans”—to say nothing of the flood of letters to the editor in papers across the state echoing and condemning exactly that image. [...]

The real trouble, however, may come in the future. Sticky labels, by definition, are tough to remove. Keenan and some of his Repub pals, whether by design or accident, have concocted a very negative label for their party that doesn’t appear to be fading with time. Should that label stick until the next election—and it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t—the results may last far beyond the end of the 2005 legislative session.

The 2006 election in Montana will see both competitive races for congress and the senate. I've met Bob Keenan and he's a wimp. When Democrats win at least one of the GOP federal seats, I'll send Keenan some flowers and thank him for all of his whining. I'll probably send pansies.

Posted at 10:04 PM in Montana | Comments (2) | Technorati

Monday, April 04, 2005

Montana Senator Conrad Burns "beatable"

Posted by Bob Brigham

Emmett O'Connell has a look at the Montana's 2006 senate race at Western Democrat:

The 2006 Senate races will be a big time in the West. Its an opportunity to show that the Democratic Party is the real deal in the West, with most of the western states having contested Senate races. If you were to choose on Western Republican to go after, it would be Senator Burns of Montana.

Montana is the romantic heart of the Western Democrat movement, with our sweep last year. Only Colorado came close to matching the enthusiasm in Montana, and they have an open race for Governor to hang their hat on in 2006.

Burns is looking everyday like a more vulnerable candidate. If Bush’s Social Security fiasco can be hung around his neck or he can become the Judy Martz of 2006 (a Montana Republican known far and wide as being corrupt), and if his lackluster re-elect numbers stay low, I think he’s beatable.

O'Connell goes on to throw a nod towards Dan Kemmis. While I love Kemmis, I think he would either have to move or turn in his law license to have a chance. There is just too much history in Montana, Democrats nominating a Missoula lawyer is running joke. The frames invoked are simply too powerful for even Kemmis to overcome.

That said, it will be very interesting to see how the primary plays out.

Posted at 04:54 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Saturday, April 02, 2005

U.S. Senate "Nuclear Option" and 2006 midterm elections

Posted by Bob Brigham

Over at DailyKos, Kargo X has kickstarted a conversation on the coming "Nuclear Option" -- the Republican scheme to end the filibuster and gain absolute power.

If the GOP pushes forward with this power grab, it will force a major backlash against Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections. During the Schiavo usurpation, Bush dropped 10 pts in the time it took for Santorum to permanently tie himself to the issue.

If the GOP continues their quest for absolute power, the backlash will be severe. Already, Democrats have 12 Republican Senators (facing re-election in 2006) on record with their Social Security vote.

It has become conventional wisdom that Americans oppose the GOP plan to privatize Social Security. If the GOP moves for absolute control of the Senate while Bush forces privatization then the storyline gets a villian in a potent way. Add Tom DeLay as the public face of Republicans in Congress, a splintering of the conservative coalition, and a united Democratic Party. Together, this could result in a major restructuring of party perception in a nationalized 2006 midterm election cycle.

Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) wants to be President so he needs to protect his record. In addition, the following Republican Senators need to worry about running for re-election in 2006:

  • Senator George Allen (R-VA)*
  • Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT)*
  • Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)*
  • Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH)
  • Senator John Ensign (R-NV)*
  • Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)*
  • Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)*
  • Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ)*
  • Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)*
  • Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)*
  • Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)*
  • Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
  • Senator Jim Talent (R-MO)*
  • Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY)*

* Social Security: on record voting in favor of "deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt."

In addition, such a move would allow the following Democrats a hero vote to bolster their 2006 re-elections:

  • Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
  • Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)
  • Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE)
  • Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)
  • Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ)
  • Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN)
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
  • Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)
  • Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT)
  • Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)
  • Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)
  • Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Posted at 06:36 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Nuclear Option, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming | Technorati

Friday, April 01, 2005

Montana Senate 2006: Third Degree Burns

Posted by Bob Brigham

Via Left in the West, I've learned that some Montanans want to give Montana Senator Conrad Burns the dreaded Third Degree. In fact, they have a Federal Political Action Committee and a website:

This PAC was founded to make a "big impact" by running "negative attacks" as part of a strategy that plans, "to run early and repeated negative ads" in an attempt to "raise those negatives so high that they can not be overcome" as part of a "truly grassroots effort, fueld by constituent anger."

Conrad Burns has consistently voted against the interests of the people of Montana and the United States since he's been in office. In 2000 he won re-election by a mere 3% - fewer than 15,000 votes.

The 2004 election proved the power of negative campaigning. The persistent raising of doubt, early in the cycle, creates an enormous obstacle for a candidate. True or false -- and we have the advantage of truth-- negative attacks make a big impact.

To that end we've founded the Third Degree Political Action Committee. The Third Degree PAC is dedicated to shining the light of truth on the actions of Montana Federal candidates and politicians. With an eye towards the future, Conrad Burns is only the first target. The plan is to raise money with which to run early and repeated negative ads - probably on radio at first - against Burns. Raise those negatives so high that they can not be overcome.

This is a truly grassroots effort, fueled by constituent anger. We need more volunteers, for research, web and ad design, strategy, and more.

You heard them, they need:

  • Volunteers
  • Reseach
  • Web Design
  • Ad Design
  • Strategy
  • "more"

Visit the forums.

Posted at 12:14 AM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Activism, Montana, Netroots | Technorati

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Montana 2006 Senate: New Poll

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Senator Conrad Burns only has a 36% re-elect number. The new poll, by the DSCC, shows Burns to be one of the most vulnerable Senators in the land.

A re-elect number under 40 means that Burns is seen by the voters as a failure who does not deserve to return to DC.

This new poll is the latest sign that Burns will probably lose his seat, even if he isn't indicted for his role in the Abramoff corruption scandal.

Posted at 05:47 PM in Montana | Technorati

Karl Rove worried about Burns scandal

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana Senator Conrad Burns' re-election campaign is in such dire straights that Karl Rove is travelling all the way to Helana, Montana in a desperate attempt to bail Burns out:

While President Bush's visit kicked off discussion of Social Security privitization and reforms, Rove's appearance could bolster Sen. Burns' re-election run, according to Craig Wilson, MSU-Billings political science professor and pollster. A big-time event could help Burns shake any negative publicity surrounding what some have said are improper financial ties with a lobbying firm and a Michigan tribe, Wilson said.

For the record, Burns' problem is not "improper financial ties," but rather the fact that Burns and many of his staff are key figures in multiple corruption investigations.

But my favorite line came from the local GOP Central Committee Chairman Bill Snoddy:

Snoddy said he thinks local activists are being rewarded for all of their hard work during the 2004 campaign.

"Folks worked really hard to make a difference," Snoddy said.

Rewarded? The GOP was spanked in Montana last year. The GOP lost the Governor's mansion, the State House, the State Senate -- the Democrats had a full sweep.

Rove isn't there to reward the GOP for screwing up, he's there because all signs are indicating that it will be another bumper cycle for the Montana Democratic Party.

Senator Conrad Burns is a few depositions away from a perp walk and Congressman Dennis Rehberg (MT-AL) has been playing out of his league for so long that the odds may be catching up with him.

Posted at 02:26 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

2006 Montana Senate: Conrad Burns flip-flops

Posted by Bob Brigham

Montana's Junior Senator, Conrad Burns, is flip-flopping in a desperate bid to shore up sinking support.

Kalispell Daily Interlake:

"This money will go to help Montanans transition from one line of work to another," Burns said. "These folks have been put into a difficult place and this award is a much welcome example of a good program going to good people. It's a good first step, and I'll continue doing everything I can to make sure small mills like Owens and Hurst don't ever face this kind of struggle again."


Conrad Burns Twice Opposed $678 Million for Job Training Programs.
Burns twice voted against investing $678 million in the Workforce Investment Act which provides funds for job training programs. [HJR2, 1/23/03, #24; S Con Res 23, 3/25/03, #102]

Conrad Burns Twice Opposed Extending Unemployment Benefits.
Twice in 2004, Conrad Burns voted against providing an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for people who have exhausted their state jobless benefits. [S 1805, 2/26/04, #18; S 1637, 5/11/04, #88]

Conrad Burns Twice Voted Against Overtime Pay for up to 8 Million Workers.
Burns twice against overtime pay for up to 8 million workers. In September 2003, Burns voted to implement regulations that would take away overtime pay eligibility for American workers. Again, in May 2004, Burns voted against a proposal to block the Labor Department from implementing new rules to overhaul eligibility standards for overtime pay. [HR 2660, 9/10/03, #334; S. 1637, 5/4/04, #79]

Conrad Burns Voted Against Increasing Unemployment Insurance Funding.
Burns voted against increasing spending on unemployment insurance by $16.3 billion in 2003 and 2004, offset by a reduction in tax cuts. The amendment would double the program's length the 26 weeks and expand it to include part-time and low-wage workers. [S. Amdt 315, 3/25/03, #85]

Conrad Burns extremely vulnerable and is a key figure in a major corruption scandal. This flip-flop is a sign of desperation. Even without an announced opponent, this seat is looking like it belongs in the Toss-Up column.

Posted at 08:36 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

2006 Senate: Conrad Burns' scandal hurts re-election

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

State Democrats are demanding Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., return $137,000 in campaign contributions connected to a lobbyist now under investigation for allegedly buying favors from lawmakers.

The charge came the same day that a Washington D.C. newspaper reported that Burns had hired a GOP lawyer to mount a legal defense to clear his name. [...]

Burns has received $137,000 in campaign contributions from Abramoff and his tribal clients, the Post reported. Also under scrutiny is a 2001 trip to the Super Bowl for two Burns staffers that may have been paid for by Abramoff.

$137,000 and Super Bowl Tickets? Yes, Conrad Burns is a key figure in multiple corruption investigations. Remember, Conrad Burns almost lost in 2000 and is rumored to be retiring to work as a lobbyist (for Abramoff????????).

The Washington Post reported in early March that Burns had diverted a $3 million grant meant for impoverished Indian schools to the Saginaw Chippewas in Michigan, one of the richest tribes in the nation.

The tribe was a client of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for allegedly buying legislative favors with campaign contributions and bribing Congressional aides.

Senator Burns needs to give back the dirty money.

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Brad Martin said Monday Burns' acknowledgement of Abramoff's actions should be justification enough to return the money.

"That alone should give him pause about whether that money should spend another minute in his bank account," he said.

But that money is no longer around to give back, Burns' spokesman J.P. Donovan said.

"It's all spent," he said.

Whoops, Burns spend the dirty money. Too bad, because now Burns needs a ton of money to pay big-shot lawyers for his legal defense:

Also on Monday, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that Burns had hired GOP lawyer Cleta Mitchell to oversee his legal defense as questions were raised about his connections to Abramoff.

Donovan said Mitchell was brought in as an outside observer to deal with some of the ethics allegations made against him. She is not part of any legal defense, he insisted.

Martin was a bit more skeptical.

"You don't hire someone like Cleta Mitchell if you got a press problem," he said.

Posted at 02:49 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Conrad Burns key figure in multiple investigations

Posted by Bob Brigham

Anytime Senator Conrad Burns votes for Native Americans, you know something must be crooked. So crooked that there are now three different investigations (FBI, Justice Department, and the Interior Department inspector general).

A $3 million grant from a federal program intended for impoverished Indian tribal schools went to one of the richest tribes in the country under pressure from Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who oversees the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The tribe that last year received the money for a new school, the Saginaw Chippewas of Michigan, was at the time a client of Jack Abramoff, a prominent Republican lobbyist whose practices are the subject of multiple federal investigations. Abramoff, his associates and his wealthy tribal clients have been an important source of Burns's campaign funds, providing 42 percent of the contributions to his "soft-money" political action committee from 2000 to 2002, according to federal election records.

Burns pressed for the appropriation over the objections of Interior officials, who said that the grant was not intended for such a purpose.

It gets better...

The FBI, the Justice Department's public integrity section and the Interior Department inspector general are investigating Abramoff's lobbying practices, focusing on tribal clients that paid him and a public relations associate $82 million between 2001 and 2003. Among the areas investigators are examining, former Abramoff associates and tribal representatives said, are whether legislative favors were granted in Congress in exchange for tribal campaign contributions, and whether Abramoff opened doors on Capitol Hill by wooing congressional aides with the promise of jobs, as well as tickets to sporting events, trips, meals and other gifts.

Abramoff's lobbying team had strong connections with Burns's staff. Among their ranks was an appropriations aide who shuttled back and forth between jobs on Burns's staff and Abramoff's shop. Another Burns appropriations staffer and Burns's chief of staff were treated to a trip to the 2001 Super Bowl in Florida on a corporate jet leased by Abramoff's team.

As chairman of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, Burns controls funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and is in a key position for tribes seeking special projects. His political action and campaign committees have received $137,000 from Abramoff lobbyists and their tribal clients since 2000; Dorgan has received $45,000 from them.

Ryan Thomas is at the heart of the scandal.

Ryan Thomas, a Burns staffer on the appropriations subcommittee, took the lead in tangling with Interior officials over the funding, former department officials said. He did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Thomas had close ties to some members of Abramoff's lobbying team, former Abramoff associates said. He and Will M. Brooke, Burns's chief of staff, traveled to the 2001 Super Bowl on the Abramoff corporate jet, along with several staffers from the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

Ouch, connections to Abramoff and Delay??? Will Brooke is also facing the heat:

Brooke left Burns's staff and went to work for Abramoff's group at the end of 2003, two months after the adoption of an Interior Appropriations conference report that included other provisions benefiting Abramoff clients, among them the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. That language urged the Bureau of Indian Affairs to move on the tribe's long-standing request for recognition, a first step toward gaining the right to open a casino.

And Shawn Vasell also makes the story on the scandal:

Shawn Vasell, another member of Abramoff's lobbying team, served as client manager on the Mississippi Choctaw account, and shuttled between jobs in Burns's Montana office and Abramoff's shop. Vasell was registered as a lobbyist for the Choctaw and Coushatta tribes in 2001, joined Burns's staff in 2002, then rejoined Abramoff's team as a lobbyist for the tribes in 2003.

Posted at 02:36 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Technorati

Monday, March 21, 2005

Montana Senate 2006: Conrad Burns to retire?

Posted by Bob Brigham

From Kos:

State Democrats made huge gains in 2004, and are eagerly looking forward to taking on Republican Conrad Burns. Burns won narrowly in 2000, 51-47 against the then-unknown Schweitzer (now governor). Attorney General Mike McGrath and Senate majority leader John Tester are possible opponents. Rumors out of MT say that Burns may opt to cash in on K Street, rather than face a tough (and possibly losing) race.

Last week Burns chose to toe the party line instead of playing safe for re-election when Burns voted for deep benefit cuts and a massive increase in debt. In Montana, the, "intensity of feeling about private accounts was much greater on the oppose side than it was on the favor side."

Moreover, look at how Montanans feel:

Deep Benefit Cuts
Support/Oppose: 15%/75%

Massive Increase in Debt
Support/Oppose: 18%/73%

If Burns was planning on running for re-election, then positioning himself against 3 out of 4 Montanas (on the biggest issue of the day) would have been political suicide. Burns is voting like a future lobbyist, not as a vulnerable candidate.

If the seat opens up, then the odds flip:

Rumors abound that Burns will cash in to K Street rather than face another tough battle, in a state that is increasingly hostile to Republicans. Hard to believe, but Montana Democrats took control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature in a 2004 election-night massacre.

Montana Democrats feel confident that either Senate Majority Leader Jon Tester or AG Mike MaGrath could put a serious dent in Burns' mojo. I've got this race as "lean GOP" so long as Burns is in the race. If Burns retires, then an open seat race leans Democratic.

Posted at 03:36 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Montana | Comments (1) | Technorati

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Vote on Social Security

Posted by Bob Brigham

Yesterday, the Senate gave the following statement an up or down vote:

"It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt."

Here are the 12 Senators (standing for re-election in 2006) who voted for deep social security cuts and massive debt:

Allen, George VA
Burns, Conrad MT
Chafee, Lincoln RI
Ensign, John NV
Hatch, Orrin UT
Hutchison, Kay Bailey TX
Kyl, Jon AZ
Lott, Trent MS
Lugar, Richard IN
Santorum, Rick PA
Talent, Jim MO
Thomas, Craig WY

Here is the link to the vote.

Posted at 09:24 AM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming | Technorati

Friday, February 04, 2005

Taking it to Bush in Omaha

Posted by Tim Tagaris

President Bush arrived in Nebraska this morning to campaign for the corporatization of social security. The University of Nebraska (Omaha) College Democrats met the president, 300 strong, to protest.

You can find the entry on their blog. The group also has photos from the protest that you can take a look at here. We certainly need more of this type of on-the-ground reporting through the blogosphere. I am thankful they took the time to detail, online, the days events through photos.

It is worth noting that 4 of the five states on the president's current trip have contested US Senate elections in 2006. Three of those states, Nebraska, Montana, and Florida have Democratic senators and are all "red states."

In Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson has dodged two bullets in the early stages of the campaign. First, Governor Mike Johanns was named Secretary of Agriculture in the president's administration. Then Nebraska football coach and beloved congressman, Tom Osborne, decided he would stay put in the House, for the time being.

Nelson eeked out a victory in 2000--51% to 49% over Republican Don Stenberg.

Posted at 08:02 PM in 2006 Elections, 2006 Elections - Senate, Florida, Montana, Nebraska | Technorati

Friday, December 31, 2004

Montana Senate 2006

Posted by Bob Brigham

From the Roots has information on Montana Senator Conrad Burns that notes:

In 2000, with all of the powers of incumbency and more than two and a half times as much money, Burns only received 51% of the vote. And that was against an unknown challenger who had never run for office.

Last time, Burns fell victim to LCV Dirty Dozen targeting that minimized his financial advantage with $292,000 in hit ads and a full time earned-media operative. Conrad's 0% score will likely ensure another bulls-eye is painted on his back by the conservationists. LCV is expected to be joined by other independent organizations as the blood in the water is noticed by the DC crowd following this year's Montana Miracle by Democrats.

The jockying to replace Burns will officially begin at 10 AM Monday when a 19-gun salute kicks of the Montana legislative session. Since Montana's citizen legislature meets for only 90 days every other year, this will be the last legislature to meet before Burns answers to the voters. Incoming state Senate President Jon Tester is one candidate to keep an eye on.

Posted at 01:56 PM in Montana | Comments (9) | Technorati

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

MT Supreme Court RULZ

Posted by Bob Brigham

Democrats get a clean sweep in Montana. Democrats won the governor's mansion, the state senate, and now they have tied the state house meaning they win the speaker's gavel!

From the AP:

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a decision that determined a disputed legislative race was tied, likely giving Democrats control of the state House of Representatives.

The 6-1 decision threw out a lower court ruling from earlier this month that seven contested ballots had properly been counted for Constitution Party candidate Rick Jore.

The high court declared "one or more" contested ballots in the tied race invalid. Throwing out even one of those ballots means the vote tally swings to Democrat Jeanne Windham, the Supreme Court said.

That, in turn, creates a 50-50 tie between Republicans and Democrats in the House and means the next House speaker likely will be from the party of Democratic Gov.-elect Brian Schweitzer. The party that controls the governor's office in Montana breaks ties in electing House speakers.

Here is some more on the Seven illegal ballots in HD 12.

If anyone wonders why I believe in a 50 state strategy, it is because of quotes like this from the Billings Gazette:

Democrats now claim control of both House and Senate, as well as the governor's office. Before the November election, Democrats held no major positions of power.

I feel more confident now proclaiming that Montana is a Swing State.

Posted at 08:08 PM in Montana | Comments (1) | Technorati

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Montana as a Swing State

Posted by Bob Brigham

When Kos titles a piece, "Montana on the Road to a Swing State" I think SSP should take notice. While Montana might not go for a Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, it will have competive Senate and at-large House races in 2006. Additionally, I've been thinking a great deal about the 2024 presidential campaign and when doing so I have a hard time imagining Democrats being successful in 20 years if we don't embrace a western strategy now.

In 2006 Montana is going to have two federal races with weak incumbents. Since Montana has a lone House seat, both campaigns require state-wide efforts and thus the crowd jockeying to go to Washington will look long and hard before deciding which incumbent they want to take on.

Senator Conrad Burns has build his image as the caricature of the hill-billy politician. A darling of the energy companies, he has had a most unremarkable time in DC. Historically, Montana sends legislative titans to DC and Burns has failed to meet these obligations. In 2000, he was nearly knocked out by a complete unknown, never-run-before candidate with little backing from the Party.

In 1988, Burns ran for Senate as an outsider who would serve only two terms if elected. He lied. Now Conrad has become exactly what he was elected to counter which may explain why he is desperately seeking a golden parachute from the telecommunications industry. If Burns is on the ballot in 2006, this will be one of the best pick-up opportunities in the country. If he isn't, it will be one of the most competitive open seats in the country.

Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, also excels at being unremarkable. He couldn't even beat Max Baucus in 1996 after Max voted for the Brady Bill. The problem is, nobody trusts Rehberg. Considering this distrust extends to his Republican colleagues on the Hill might help explain why he has accomplished nothing. However, Rehberg's mediocre reputation as a lawmaker should not be confused with his campaign abilities. Rehberg's paranoia, limited intelligence, phony image, and notorious temper cause a blundering style of campaigning that is statistically due to fail.

I'll be writing more about this as things heat up during the legislative session. Most candidates realize a strong surfacing campaign allows them to choose to face the weaker of the two incumbents. Of course, most would rather be in the Senate, with the possible exception of Larry Jent, who would consider trying to stand out among 435 members and having to run every other year to be more of a personal challenge.

Posted at 04:40 PM in Montana | Comments (2) | Technorati

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