Life Lessons Via Montana Politics


Over six months ago, I wrote “the girl without a party”. It was one of the lowest moments of my life politically.  I posted it on my personal blog because I wasn’t yet comfortable associating my name with montanafesto.  Concern about my political reputation and the potential for retribution was quickly outweighed by disdain for the actions of the people I’d helped elect. Ron Paul- supporting Republican cannabis activists aren’t the most popular people in the GOP.  In the last year, I have learned some tough lessons and I’m an infinitely better person as a result.

I learned that sometimes I needed to separate politics from people. Democrat State Senator Kendall Van Dyk and I were friends long ago, early in his political career.  I was even in attendance when he originally announced he was running for the Montana House. Differences in our political ideology created some distance between us and next thing you know, I was campaigning against him in the 2010 election and bashing him publicly.  I’m rather sure I referred to him regularly as a socialist.  Donning my finest liberal looking faux eyeglasses, flat hair and earth tones, I attended a lovely Forward Montana fundraiser in Kendall’s honor.  Certain my disguise was adequate, I brazenly carried on as if I fit right in with the liberals at the event.  Until, that is; that Kendall recognized his old friend and decided to politely but publicly, call out my ridiculous behavior.  I was mortified….. not because it was embarrassing, but because I was WRONG.  My partner in crime was a tea person, actually the founder of Montana Shrugged’s boyfriend and after the awkward situation, we rehashed the night’s events at length.  The overall consensus was liberals suck and KVD deserved the criticism.  I, however; wasn’t convinced that my behavior was justified so I sent Kendall a lengthy and sincere Facebook message apologizing for my heinous behavior.  The rest is history.  During the last legislative session, he was in regular contact with me- asking questions, offering suggestions.  We’ve even found a number of issues we agree on.  Life isn’t always black and white.

I learned to think twice before accepting an invitation to a politician’s holiday dinner.  Last Thanksgiving, I dined with the Representative James Knox family.  I was certain that after Knox tasted my truffles and experienced delightful and intelligent dinner conversation compliments of my honor student middle school daughter and yours truly that he would consider the possibility that Montana’s state-licensed cannabis community wasn’t entirely composed of dangerous criminals.  No dice.  While dinner was lovely, James Knox later invented statements I’d supposedly made at the dinner to use against me with his fan club, Safe Community, Safe Kids.  He sent my personal information, cell phone number, Facebook url, email address, you name it, to the entire email list of SCSK with the instructions to “flood my inbox” with harassing messages.  He threatened to sue me for defamation for posting actual business contracts he’d entered with a prominent local medical marijuana caregiver.  He accused me of photoshopping vicious statements in screenshots that I’d taken from his personal Facebook wall.  I could have forgiven him for most of it, but claiming his brother was “stolen by marijuana” as he cried on cue in legislative testimony….. it was just too much.

I learned to value behavior over beliefs. I never liked Senator Dave Wanzenried’s politics, after all, he’s a yikes, Missoula liberal.  I sure like his character though.  Although I assume he probably answered every email he received, I definitely noticed that he responded to all of mine, all of my father’s, and all of my grandmother’s.  Considering that none of us live in his senate district and none of us are democrats made this especially unusual.  As a result, I paid more attention to his politics and discovered he wasn’t THAT liberal.  Although not at all surprised, I was disappointed he withdrew from the Gubernatorial race.

I cannot respect politicians who will not respect their constituents. I never liked Senator Jeff Essmann’s character and the last legislative session only reinforced my opinion. Prior to the 2010 elections, then RNC chair Michael Steele stopped in Billings for an event on the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour.  I worked the door for the event and directed incoming traffic to one side or another depending on if they had paid for their entrance in advance.  Dutifully, I greeted the smiling Republicans as they entered the event…. until Senator Essmann arrived.  I asked him if he’d paid in advance and I will never forget the look on his face.  He looked me slowly up and down, finally steadying his gaze, as he angrily snarled “Excuse me! I sponsored this event. You’ve got to be kidding me.”  He glared at me and stomped away.  As others in line stared at me, I was certain they were shocked that a lowly nobody like me would dare request that someone as important as dry cleaning millionaire Jeff Essmann pay the family entrance fee of $35.  US Congressman Denny Rehberg…. he paid.  Former Senator Conrad Burns….. he paid.  Gubernatorial candidates….yep, they paid too.  In Essmann’s eyes, I’m apparently a nobody.  I was, at the time; the elections director for the Young Republicans…. nowhere near as important as him. Although that day, I was dirt under Essmann’s shoes, he created plenty of mud in the following months, and I can’t wait to sling it at him.  He plans to announce his run for Governor of Montana soon and I intend to show him some of the love he showed me.

I learned that currently, the only big tent in Montana’s Republican Party is a CIRCUS tent. The tent is big enough for all of the hatred and all of the tea people/extremists/religious zealots but there is only room enough for people like me right around election time when candidates need some help placing signs and knocking on doors.  Sorry boys, this cycle I won’t be helping you, but I’m not going away and neither are the thousands of Montanans who are just like me. We will hold you accountable.

I’m not giving up hope. 


Truth is Treason in the Empire of Lies UPDATED with VIDEO


I am well aware that no politician is likely to ever please me on every issue at every opportunity, but I take no pleasure in this post.  I never dreamed that Senator Chas Vincent, R- Libby, would deviate from intentions expressed in public statements, he simply doesn’t strike me as the type.  Maybe i simply set the bar too high after hearing he leans libertarian, expecting someone with the integrity and consistency of Dr Ron Paul, which isn’t quite fair.  To put it bluntly, I’m very disappointed, not only in Senator Vincent, but in most of our legislature and especially the Republican Party.  In a few short months, we’ve abandoned all campaign promises of smaller government and more freedom in exchange for an agenda of power and control.

Since the session began, I’ve watched the GOP work hard so gay people are considered just a little less than human by utilizing hateful bigoted people who under the God- umbrella can get away with statements about putting them to death simply to ensure we can still retain the unconstitutional laws declaring their behavior felonious.  Instead of working with patients, growers and  physicians, the GOP went in their own direction, choosing arbitrary numbers as limits, regulating not only all access, but also supply and demand of a medicine in our new marijuana socialism game.  Instead of fixing a law to benefit patients and business, we wasted time on ridiculous legislation to force the US to leave the United Nations and to return to the gold standard, but now it is clear that the GOP is entirely heartless.  Drunk on our own power, seeking more control and regulation, we are a party I don’t even recognize.  I commend Sen Murphy for his courageous stand in opposition to the Republicans in the legislature and I must admit I was impressed by the testimony of Sen. Wanzenried and Sen Gillan, who of course are democrats.

Don’t get me started on dishonesty.  Montana’s legislators are well aware that hearings are live streamed and later available in the archives- so one would think they’d pay greater detail to honesty while testifying in legislative hearings. They know very well that someone could easily use their words against them.  According to the Billings Gazette:

Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, who previously opposed the repeal bill and helped write the repeal-and-overhaul bill, said he felt compelled to vote for the repeal after what happened Wednesday.

He talked about drug abuse in schools and contended that organized crime is involved in medical marijuana here.

“I have no choice,” he said. “I did all that I could. I’d encourage everyone in my caucus and the few of you that are not satisfied with the status quo to give (HB161) the green light.”

Poor Senator Vincent appeared somewhat reluctant,  frustrated and at times almost desperate as he lamented the wasted time spent on Essmann’s reform legislation as well as the Senate game-playing.  He also said:

“Talk about political suicide, for crying out loud,” he said. “My county didn’t even vote for medical marijuana. It went down in my county. I’m in the minority in my caucus, and I’m going against my base for what I believe to be a principled decision.” VIDEO here

When  he informed us that his district, SD1 had rejected I-148 – voting against it in 2004,  I sincerely sympathized with his position in the lonely minority and almost felt guilty about it.  His vote did disappoint me but I found it difficult to remain angry at him because this was, after all; his job, doing the best by his constituents, who apparently weren’t supportive of our cause.  I couldn’t expect much more from him.

My brain doesn’t take many breaks.  I truly wasn’t aware of SD1’s opposition of  Initiative 148 until Vincent’s testimony, so I decided to determine just how many others I wasn’t aware of.  The following is a screenshot from 2004’s elections with final tallies on I-148 for Vincent’s district, Lincoln County.

Clearly, Lincoln County did NOT reject I-148. 61% approved the measure.

This sounds like a completely different Senator Vincent than the one portrayed here, in an article titled “Republican State Senator Stands Out in the Pack, Opposes Repeal of Medical Marijuana“.  Also in the article:

“I am not going to support the repeal,” said Republican Sen. Chas Vincent, a 33-year-old former logger who holds a key vote in the judiciary committee. “I believe that cannabis has real, beneficial impacts to those who need to use it for medicine.”

I’m going to give Vincent the benefit of the doubt about his knowledge of his senate district’s position of  I- 148 in 2004, but just this once.  Perhaps he was nervous or is clueless about his district.  Surely the guilt involved with abandoning principles to appease party leadership making the best decision for his constituents wouldn’t inspire lies  in effort to convince us of his sincerity, right?  Because Vincent’s most compelling argument for me was the one that we now know isn’t true, I am no longer willing to forgive his vote.   I have a  difficult time believing that any member of this particular session’s leadership is capable of convincing a principled senator that the courageous vote is the one with the rest of the party.  Where is that libertarian streak we keep hearing about?  I know that Ron Paul without a doubt wouldn’t have voted to repeal Montana’s medical marijuana law.