“Running on Empty” Speaker Jeff Essmann Runs From Constituents


Earlier this week, I received several invitations to the Billings stop of the “Running on Empty” bus tour by Americans for Prosperity.  Slated to speak at the event were Sen. Jeff Essmann (author of the infamous “black market” marijuana bill, SB423), Rep. Tom McGillvray (who at at an RLCC fundraiser stated that Montana was wasting its money on meth prevention as our real problem in Montana is medical marijuana) and Rep. Krayton Kerns, who pretends to be more constitutional and liberty-minded than he is in reality. The guest speakers were greeted by far more protesters than conservative supporters. Someone in the crowd called McGillvray a “commie”, Kerns was asked if he’d returned his federal farm subsidy welfare check and the cowardly star speaker, Jeff Essmann, couldn’t be bothered to attend. Prior to the event, representatives from the Ken Miller for Governor campaign were overheard calling to warn others of the opposition. Why are so many candidates for governor afraid of their constituents?  Opponents of McGillvray and Kerns outnumbered supporters at least 3 to 1 although some reports indicated that over 100 protesters attended while 20 or so were friendly.

Where’s Essmann?

Essmann may have been home analyzing the results of the recent solicitiation letters he sent to constituents as he explores a potential Gubernatorial bid.  Oddly enough, he omitted authoring SB423 in the lengthy resume’ he included in the letters.  He has repeatedly claimed that droves of his constituents begged and pleaded for a repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, so it does seem strange that he didn’t mention let alone herald that particular accomplishment. Perhaps he was using medical marijuana. Oh yes, that’s right, he has never done such a thing…. or has he?    Perhaps Essmann was home proposing legislation for the biggest tax increases in Montanans’ lifetimes.  Oh, never mind.  He already did that! Maybe he was providing statements to police, hoping to ensure a newly unemployed cannabis caregiver would be charged with a violation of the dreaded “privacy in communications act”.  Yeah, he already did that too.  Perhaps Essmann was out looking for Rep. James Knox, word on the street is that he’d like him to be his lieutenant governor.  Unfortunately for Essmann, Knox is apparently planning to leave the state, presumably taking his $733/mo in health benefits, compliments of Montana taxpayers, with him.

Anyway, back to the Americans for Prosperity event.  I wasn’t in attendance, but reports of McGillvray and Kerns being loudly booed were consistent.  One Republican politician- who actually lobbied Essmann and company to abandon plans for repeal in favor of thoughtful legislation during the session- left early because he was uncomfortable with the number of union thugs shouting down the speakers.  He said that he was not there to support the speakers but to support the local effort to elect new leaders who understand the need to live within our means and recognize that over-regulating is not the conservative way. Josh Daniels, an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights as well as a member of Patients for Reform, Not Repeal , said  “Overall it was a sad showing for them.  As a libertarian I do agree with the general concept, but the MT Tea Party is working for a nanny state with the LDS church on cannabis regulation.”  Mr. Daniels held a sign that read “SB423, Welcome Back Blackmarket”.

The Bozeman and Helena stops on the bus tour Thursday afternoon were also attended by a sizable group of protesters.  Friday’s stops include Kalispell, as well as the liberal university city of Missoula.  Similar events in Florida last week drew smaller than expected crowds. Perhaps Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, should do a little research on their prospective speakers. I’m pretty sure that a speech by Republican Representative Mike Miller wouldn’t have drawn such opposition.

Most of those in attendance cited the need for jobs in Montana.  Note:  McGillvray, Kerns and Essmann all voted to eliminate the thousands of jobs in Montana’s medical cannabis industry.  Times certainly have changed since the last conservative bus tour stop in Billings. When then-GOP chairman Michael Steele brought the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour to Billings prior to the 2010 elections, hundreds of smiling and cheering supporters attended the event and I don’t recall seeing even one protester.  If only we had known then what sort of fools we were electing to represent us.

I See Dumb People


 

Montana’s GOP renounced the tea party in dramatic fashion earlier today.  Jennifer Olsen, Queen of the tea people was defeated in her quest to become Vice Chair of the Montana GOP.  Incumbent Chair Will Deschamps defeated his less moderate challenger Mark French as well (although I don’t necessarily consider French a tea person- certainly not the same flavor of tea as Olsen anyway).  Jennifer, from Billings; is the co-founder (with her father Eric Olsen) of Montana Shrugged, Tea Party Patriots.  Montana Shrugged is known for its divisive tactics and inconsistency in following the principles it espouses.

Pardon me while I laugh.  Upon viewing the preceding clip, I was initially certain it was a joke.  Seriously.  Never before have I encountered a more contentious person in the Republican party.  Not even A.J. Otjen…. although she often makes me laugh as well.  Representative Cary Smith, of medical marijuana GOP God Squad infamy, nominated Jennifer Olsen for Vice Chair of the MT GOP and in doing so mentioned that she is actively involved with the Young Republicans.  As someone who actually IS actively involved with the Young Republicans, I can attest that there isn’t much farther from the truth…. which isn’t surprising considering the source.

Audrey Walleser, newly elected Chairwoman of the Montana Young Republicans, and current Treasurer of the Yellowstone Young Republicans issued the following statement:

“Ms. Olsen on numerous occasions has slandered and libeled the Young Republicans.  She has shown nothing but contempt and disrespect for the Montana Young Republicans and their missions and goals.  She has also never attended a YR event nor paid dues to any YR club or organization, therefore is not a member of either the Yellowstone Young Republicans or the Montana Young Republicans.”

I offer the following screenshots as evidence of her loyalty to the Young Republicans, apparently fighting for our principles is easier than living up to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contrast the preceding screenshots with this one:

 

 

 

I am a big fan of individual liberty and personal responsibility as well as fiscal constraint, all principles that are typically associated with the tea people.  I don’t abhor everything Tea, my problem is primarily with Montana Shrugged- more specifically its leaders. Although they claim to be a patriotic force- and one to be reckoned with- independent from the GOP, two of their three leaders are now members of the executive board of the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee.  Yellowstone County is a bastion of RWNJ ideology- most members of the GOP God Squad call that area home- Representatives James Knox, Cary Smith, Tom McGillvray, and Ken Peterson as well as Senators Jeff Essmann, Ed Walker…. and those are off the top of my head.  Forgive me if I’ve forgotten any key prohibition players in Yellowstone County.

It is no secret that I’m disillusioned with both the tea people and the current hypocritical majority of the Montana Republican Party and I doubt anyone would accuse me of being a uniting force in the party these days.  However, I do believe we need to either expand our tent or distance ourselves from the uneducated extremists in the party or we will face blowing defeats in 2012 elections.

Mainstream Republicans have to know that the Tea “party” gave us a group of legislators responsible for the most ridiculous legislative session in recent history.  Some of their legislation was purely symbolic, many bills were blatantly unconstitutional and some of the profoundly flippant legislation bordered on obsessive…. all of which obscured any successes of the GOP in 2011.

The Petty Perspective From Within King Schweitzer’s Glass House


Brian Schweitzer and Kendall Van Dyk think Republican legislators are hypocrites and boozers.

Governor Schweitzer really loves Montana’s legislature.  In light of the high rate of compensation ($10 or so/hour) the lawmakers  rake in at work, he wants them to provide their own personal laptop computers for legislative use.  After all, they are making the big bucks while working during Montana’s biennial session.   Today Schweitzer blasted Republican leadership for approving laptop purchases for legislators, calling them hypocrites for campaigning on fiscally conservative platforms.  Schweitzer said that he stopped all computer purchases in the executive branch a few months ago to save money. He says he now only purchases computers if absolutely necessary.

There is no word on whether the governor’s staff uses their personal computers at work, but House Majority leader Tom McGillvray doesn’t seem to think so.  Schweitzer’s comparison to the ban on new executive branch computers is flawed because none of those state employees are required to use their own personal computer. And neither should lawmakers, McGillvray said.

The “feed bill”, which pays for operation of the legislature was approved Monday containing a computer stipend capped at $1000 for lawmakers.   Since 2007, legislators have been given a stipend of up to $1,500 to buy a laptop computer for their own use.

Some democrats plan to oppose the bill.   Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings said tea party-backed Republicans who have trashed government spending need to live by their own rhetoric. He pointed out lawmakers get to keep the laptops even if they lose their next election.  “Before they do any legislative action up here they sign up for a free computer and free health care all on the taxpayer dime,” he said. “Given the economic times where you are talking about a Republican majority that is looking at cutting $360 million, maybe they should back away from the government trough before they start making cuts to education.”

“On one hand they come to town and they want to cut the size of government — does that mean all of government except themselves?” Schweitzer said. “I think if you are running for public office you probably have a personal laptop and that should be good enough.”  Last I checked, Brian Schweitzer was indeed an elected official.  I’m guessing he probably doesn’t use his own personal laptop for work but I could be mistaken.  Where does Governor Schweitzer live?  Perhaps he should forgo his accommodations at the Governor’s Mansion in favor of an more economical Airstream?  Surely the state could make some extra money by turning the governor’s house into a Bed and Breakfast… although I doubt Travelocity and Expedia would assist.  And Sen. Van Dyk…. I’m guessing you are working without compensation or health insurance?

Anyone who has known a state legislator (or has cared to research the issue) is probably aware that the service they provide is a substantial sacrifice.  Their compensation is actually rather minimal and they reside away from their families during the session.  Governor Schweitzer has consistently criticized the entire legislature for everything from being “boozers” to being fed by lobbyists.  For a guy who keeps talking about bipartisanship and working together to pass an adequate budget, he sure has an interesting way of displaying his affection.

I’m not sure how things work in the Montana state government, but I’ve never had an employer expect or even allow me to use my personal computer at work,  primarily due to security concerns.  I do believe that the computers purchased with legislative stipends should probably belong to the state and that upon leaving the legislature, they should be returned.