The Wednesday Read: Tester, Scranton, Ethics, & More

The more you learn to live without, the more you’ll have to live with. – Frank A. Clark

These items caught my attention for this edition of The Wednesday Read:

  • Gazette & Tester
  • Montana’s Elector
  • The Ethics Complaint
  • Rep. Randy Pinocci
  • REAL ID & Montana
  • Trump & Hamilton
  • Tweet of the Week

Gazette & Tester:

I was not surprised to read about the Billings Gazette editorial board throwing some shade to U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) during his recent fundraising controversy.

The Gazette contends that Tester being ass-deep in a major fundraising controversy is nothing like what was used to defeat U.S. Senator Conrad Burns in 2006.

The Gazette made this assumption with the federal investigation into the Thornton Law Firm being just a few weeks old. It’s like the Gazette is being the local cop at an accident saying, “Nothing to see here, move along now.”

The Gazette should probably just go ahead and endorse Tester for U.S. Senate now.

I’m sure many on the right were hoping that Lee Newspapers (The Billings Gazette is a Lee Newspaper) and the Associated Press would assign some of their right-leaning reporters to follow the Tester fundraising scandal, sensationalize it, write bullshit stories about it, and add a line in every Tester story about the Thornton Law Firm. That’s what they did in 2006 to Burns only with left-leaning reporters.

Since the Gazette has already decided this issue, I’m going to miss seeing stories from them during Tester’s election cycle (from now until Nov. 2018) with words like Tester and “federal investigation” and Tester and “the FBI” and Tester and “quid pro quo” and Tester and “unnamed sources” and Tester and “sources close to the investigation.”

Here’s what we know: We do know that Tester received thousands of dollars in donations from the Thornton Law Firm for his Senate campaign. We do know that Tester was Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). We do know that Thornton Law Firm donated thousands to the DSCC. We do know because of Open Secrets and the Boston Globe that:

Jon Tester didn’t come all the way from Montana for the scrambled eggs and bacon. The senator, virtually unknown in Boston, was in a conference room at the Thornton Law Firm that June morning to cash in at one of the most reliable stops on the Democratic fundraising circuit, a law firm that pours millions into the coffers of the party and its politicians.

We do know as the Gazette reported that the Thornton Law Firm is under investigation for a straw-man scheme in which lawyers in the firm are accused of cutting high-dollar campaign checks to the DSCC and then soon after being reimbursed for the same amount or close to it.

We do know that some of the arguments the Gazette cited in their editorial would be classified as “fake news” today.

We just have the drip, drip, drip right now. We’ll have to wait and see if any favors were done. We’ll see who paid visits where. We’ll see what investigators (federal and political) find in looking at records of visits. We’ll see what people find looking at staff travels.

Here’s a challenge to those in the media writing about politics in Montana: Be “reporters” not “supporters.”

Montana’s Elector:

Like many people, I shook my head when I read the following in the Helena Independent Record (IR):

A 92-year-old Miles City man, who will be casting one of Montana’s three electoral college votes, has come under fire for his Facebook comments against gay Montanans.

Dennis Scranton was outed Sunday by the online news site Last Best News for suggesting in a 2010 Facebook conversation that gay people should be hanged.

According to the IR, Scranton was chosen during the Montana GOP delegate convention in Billings on May 13. The article showed a photo of Scranton with U.S. Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke.

Is Dennis Scranton really who the Montana Republicans want representing them? If so, shame on you.

The Ethics Complaint:

MTN News reported that the state commissioner of political practices Monday dismissed an ethics complaint alleging Gov. Steve Bullock gave illegal trips to his state commerce director, calling it a “frivolous” attempt to embarrass the governor during his re-election campaign. The complaint was filed by GOP state Rep. Brad Tschida of Missoula. Bullock is a Democrat and was running for re-election. Bullock was re-elected.

They key quote from Commissioner Jonathan Motl was this:

The complaint is dismissed because its counts are so insufficiently supported by factual allegation as to not state even a potential violation of Montana ethics law.

That line was like telling Tschida to go stand in the corner. Motl got this right; it was an attempt to embarrass the governor during his re-election campaign and nothing more.

This story may not end; MTN reported that Motl has said that Tschida broke state law by publicly discussing the complaint. That could be an expensive campaign stunt for Tschida.

Rep. Randy Pinocci:

The Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday that Montana State Rep. Randy Pinocci filed a lawsuit against a Great Falls printing company and the Montana Contractors Association, saying his refusal to support certain bills in the 2015 legislative session got him fired.

I actually feel badly for Pinocci. Seriously. It sucks to lose your job or not get hired because of politics.

Politics is a contact sport.

REAL ID & Montana:

Not surprisingly, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday that officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sent Montana Gov. Steve Bullock a letter rejecting the governor’s request to delay implementation of the federal Real ID Act of 2005.

After the DHS rejection, we get to read more obligatory press releases from Montana politicians about privacy and rights and introducing bills, blah, blah, blah.

I’ve thought that Montana should comply with the REAL ID Act since it became law. I also said our elected officials should quit acting like cowardly lions and support REAL ID because sometimes freedom is not free.

The AP also reported this:

Montana residents won’t be allowed to use their driver’s licenses to access military bases, nuclear power plants and federal facilities starting Jan. 30, and they’ll need another form of identification to board commercial aircraft a year after that, federal officials said Tuesday.

If the incoming Trump administration stays the course in making states comply with Real ID (which they should), then Montana officials have screwed over their constituents and harmed the state.

Trump & Hamilton:

It was kind of funny to see President-elect Donald Trump go after the cast of the hit musical “Hamilton” on Twitter after they aired their concerns to Vice President-elect Mike Pence who attended their show.

I heard someone on a sports radio show put this all in perspective. Yes, sports radio. They said Trump should be nice to the cast from Hamilton because Alexander Hamilton was one of the founding fathers who strongly advocated for the Electoral College (See Federalist No. 68) and that’s the reason Trump will be President. Trump is losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but he won the electoral vote.

As for a little history, Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. Trump said during his campaign, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Tweet of the Week:

If Trump doesn’t slow down, he won’t have any promises to break after he is sworn in. – @MrWordsWorth


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  1. Tester is a corrupt politician. He justifies this corruption by saying Citizen United is the law of the land, so he’s doing nothing illegal.

    Just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

  2. Gazette & Tester:
    Here’s a challenge to those in the media writing about politics in Montana: Be “reporters” not “supporters.” You could drop “in Montana” and it would still be accurate…

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