Posted: April 24, 2014 at 7:17 am

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to….

…Steve Zabawa the anti-medical marijuana crusader who appeared in the Billings Gazette after his attempts to get in on a share of a medical marijuana business came to light.

For proposing a ballot initiative to ban the possession, use or cultivation of marijuana in Montana after trying to get in on the profits from the sale of it, Zabawa is this week’s hypocrisy hero.

Let’s here it for Zabawa, dear readers.  It takes a special kind of hypocrite to campaign to eradicate something after you failed to profit from it personally.

But it gets better….or worse. As the Republican blog Montanafesto reported in 2011. Zabawa, is the owner of the Rimrock Auto and Mercedez dealerships in Billings. Rimrock Auto  had been plagued with problems, including federal probes into its business practices, the Billings Outpost reported. In hopes of righting his business he hired the infamous Tony Woolery to manage and run his west end  location to help the struggling business around. Tony Woolery’s wife has terminal bone cancer, so has been a registered medical marijuana card carrier and relies on medical marijuana for pain medication.

But hypocrites and conservatives aren’t bothered by the plight of other people.  That’s what makes them what they are.

So get out there in one of your Mercedes and celebrate your success Mr. Zabawa. As a religious man, you don’t need to you ask yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” because you know the answer. As you cruise the cosmopolitan streets of downtown Billings with your convertible top down, don’t waste a thought on  your business partner’s wife’s terminal illness and suffering.

The Montanafesto blog has also reported on Zabawa’s crusade over the years, including about his organization called “Safe Community, Safe Kids:” read it here.

Posted: April 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Another Email Takes Aim at TEA Party Lawmakers

A second email is making the rounds in GOP circles this week from an anonymous gmail account called “Concerned Montanans.”  Here’s the first email.

While there’s no word yet on who’s behind these, it is interesting to note that the emails appeared to be focused on the house rather than the senate. Except for Matt Rosendale,  the Senate’s likely new TEA Party leadership candidates, Fred Thomas and Jennifer Fielder, appear to be escaping the flack so far.  Jason Priest isn’t running.

“Facts are Stubborn Things!” – John Adams 

Assault on a child and wife

Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday, February 12th accusing state Sen. Jason Priest of throwing his 4-year-old daughter, shoving his estranged wife and breaking her boyfriend’s rib and then struggling with an officer who intervened in the incident…

Read more:

Sen. Jason Priest (R-TEA Red Lodge) Yellowstone County Detention Facility mug shot.
Sen. Jason Priest (R-TEA Red Lodge) Yellowstone County Detention Facility mug shot.



The state political practices commissioner released findings Tuesday, April 1st, 2014  showing he concluded that Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign.

Later Tuesday Commissioner Jonathan Motl filed a civil complaint against Wittich, a Republican legislator from Bozeman, in District Court in Helena.

Read more:




Ken Miller violates Montana Code 45-8-216 with his Robo Calls in the 2012 primary.

The commissioner of political practices is rejected Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Miller’s request to dismiss a campaign complaint, and warning his campaign to stop making automated telephone calls that are technically illegal.

Read more:


Miller and Rosendale  coordinate on a regular basis.

Wittich has held fundraisers for Rosendale in Gallatin County and elsewhere.

Be on the look-out for Dark Money coming Rosendale’s way since he can’t raise any of his own. Wittich and Priest will probably funnel it through the Montana Growth Network!



Posted: April 23, 2014 at 7:38 am

GUEST POST: Sun shines on Montana grassroots fundraising

Mary Ann Dunwell is the progressive Democratic candidate for Montana House District 84. She welcomes your questions and comments at (406) 461-5358, or

Mary Ann Dunwell
Mary Ann Dunwell

Dark money and U.S. Supreme Court rulings that lift political contribution limits and call corporations people are enough to make those who believe in democracy throw up our hands in despair. Like many of you, I’m alarmed by the implications that the wealthy one percent may soon own our elected, representative form of government.

But, I’m also inspired that we won’t let it happen. The Dunwell for Montana House District 84 campaign has raised money from about 170 contributors. Most are hard-working Montanans or those on fixed incomes who stretch to give $10, $25 or $50. Some have given $100 or even maxed out at $170. I know they’re giving up something in exchange for something much greater in which they believe.

These Montanans have their say and engage in the democratic process. These Montanans speak for people who haven’t had a voice in the legislature. These Montanans step up with me to make sure all of our neighbors have equal opportunity to thrive, prosper and succeed.

I’ve met many people on the campaign trail who don’t have a voice or don’t enjoy equal opportunity. There’s the single mom fired from her job because she couldn’t find a sitter and can’t pay the rent,  the parents who work yet struggle to pay for preschool and night school, the college graduate strapped with huge student loans and no job, the young adults who want to go to college and medical school but have no way to pay, the  mother whose adult daughter took her life, the young woman whose teenage brother took his, and the parent who needs help caring for her child with mental illness. There’s the former Asarco employee kicked out of work and left with contaminated property and a polluted well, the teacher who won’t take her elementary students to the Capitol anymore during Legislative Session because of the disrespect, the WWII Veteran who’s endured a broken promise all these years, and the 30-something who couldn’t go to the doctor and now can.

Our campaign is grassroots. Those grassroots will grow under Montana’s Big Sky, nurtured with sunlight, watered with full disclosure and fertilized by the people’s voices participating in a transparent, democratic process. No way can our grassroots campaign fundraising compete with dark money mega-dollars and corporate influence. But all together, Montana voices are speaking up, being heard and demonstrating that our votes are not for sale. Priceless!


Posted: April 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm

TEA Party Land Takeover Will Cost You Big $$$

TEA Party congressional candidate Matt Rosendale and a militia-affiliated TEA Partier state senator have glommed onto a likely unconstitutional land grab idea pushed by out-of-staters that is a financial black hole for Montanans and a nightmare for Montana’s economy and environment.

Here’s why the plot copied from Utah by Jennifer Fielder, the TEA Party state senator who is vice-Chair of the Montana GOP, and Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Yosemite Sam) is so poorly conceived and is more about pushing state sovereignty anti-government uprising ideology.   It’s certainly not about jobs or fiscal responsibility.

Our federal public lands are what make Montana so great. The TEA Party land grab targets the Rocky Mountain Front, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Beartooths, the Bitterroot-Selway, the national forests and scenic areas surrounding our national parks including Going to the Sun Road, and all of our national wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. These are the places where we go to ride horses, hike, hunt, fish, ski, bike or just relax outside with our pets, friends and families.  These public lands don’t belong only to the 2015 Montana legislature and the special interests who would sell them off– they belong to all Americans for generations to come. Rosendale and Fielder say they will exempt National parks, reservations , and national monuments, but not the lands mentioned above.

Perhaps most obviously, the TEA Party land grab would limit public access to public lands. If this TEA Party and grab succeeds many of these lands could be sold or developed, strip mined, strip malls. Whatever. Montanans can expect to encounter a whole lot of “No Trespassing” signs.

What’s more, the Fielder/Rosendale attack on our public lands could cost also Montana taxpayers untold millions of dollars. Consider what’s happening in Utah, the state which recently passed the dubious law which the MT TEA-bunch is modeling their land grab scheme after.  The Utah legislature’s own lawyers have said that the land grab bill will only trigger a costly and ultimately futile legal battle because it has a “high probability of being declared unconstitutional.” The litigation costs to taxpayers will likely run into the millions of dollars.

And that’s just the litigation to defend this unconstitutional nonsense. That’s not even including the cost to manage the federal lands, which Montana taxpayers would now have to assume.

In Utah, the federal government spends between $200 and $300 million per year managing public lands (including fire fighting)–Utah has about 35 million acres of federal land.

In Idaho, the federal government spends more than $300 million per year in managing public lands–Idaho has about 33 million acres of federal land.  These numbers also include the costs of fighting wildland fires.

If you’re wondering what the federal management costs in Montana are, consider that we have about 27 million acres of federal lands.

Compare that with the fact that the state of Montana can barely manage to fully fund its own state parks budget because legislators refuse to appropriate the needed funds.  The state of Montana spends a measly $600,000 in state funds to manage our state parks.  That means that’s the only state money the legislature would allocate to manage our state parks public lands–that doesn’t come from hunting and fishing licenses or federal funds anyway.  If Montana did gain control over federal public lands, Montana taxpayers would be stuck with the cost of managing federal lands too–to the tune of a couple hundred million.

Some right-wingers may say “well let’s just clearcut log federal land to pay these costs.”  In fact, the  Idaho Department of Lands came up with an estimate that the state could raise $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts from federal land.

But one cost not figured into Idaho’s estimate would actually negate any anticipated revenue gains.  That’s what are called “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” or PILT funds.  These payments make up for former timber revenues and compensating for the fact that counties can’t tax federal land–they amount to $58 million in Idaho.  If the lands weren’t federal, local governments would lose those funds. The situation is the same in Montana–and other states.  (Also, earth to the pro-logging crowd It’s not environmental protections that dictate how much logging is done –its demand for timber in the free market economy.)

That’s why TEA Party Republican Jan Brewer, who is Arizona’s Governor vetoed a land grab bill in her state because it would have overstressed the state’s budget and land management abilities. As the Salt Lake Tribune commented,

“[t]hat’s a much more logical view than the pipe dream held by Utah lawmakers, that the seizure of public lands would be a fiscal bonanza for the state.”

The Rosendale/Feilder TEA Party assault on our public lands is also bad for business.  Nearly eleven million visitors come to Montana each year, spending $3.7 billion dollars and supporting 13,000 jobs–largely to enjoy our public lands.  Just as important, our public lands are the single greatest reason why many people and businesses chose to locate and invest in Montana.  An increasing number of studies show that rural counties in the West with protected public landscapes see better economic and job growth than counties lacking protected landscapes. To the contrary, Feilder’s and Rosendale’s TEA Party agenda is to sell off and exploit – not protect and promote – our great places to fish, hunt, and recreate.

The Rosendale/Fielder plan will create enormous regulatory quagmire for grazing, drilling, and mining interests who now hold or are seeking permits and leases on our federally-managed public lands. This uncertainty will deter, not encourage, appropriate mineral, agriculture and energy development.  No business wants to come here and embroil itself in endless morass of risks and unknowns. This seems like an obvious point, but the TEA Partiers don’t seem to get it.

Finally, Fielder and Rosendale claim this is about “returning” federal lands to the state – the state never owned these lands in the first place, the federal government took them from Native Americans.  So if they are to be “returned” to anyone, it should be the tribes.

After all, just because an idea is ludicrous never stopped imbeciles in the TEA Party from forcing Republicans to swear oaths to support it.   Check out this TEA Party video of a GOP primary candidate forum co-hosted by the Flathead County Republican Women and the NW MT TEA Party Patriots.

The TEA Partiers asked only three questions.

Would the candidates support denying tribal sovereignty and water rights to the First Montanans?  (By blocking this, Republicans are costing the state of Montana yet more untold millions in legal fees through years of litigation.)

Would they reject federal funds to pay for 100% of the health are costs for 70,000 working poor and Veterans in Montana?  Montana loses $1.8 million every day that these funds are refused.

And would they support this unconstitutional TEA Party land grab to tank Montana’s economy, which would also cost the state millions.

The candidates answered as the forum organizers demanded – even though the TEA partiers’ ideological positions are the opposite of fiscally responsible.


Posted: April 22, 2014 at 6:42 am

Baker Too Wacky for School Board

TEA Party school board candidate told the Great Falls Tribune this week that local voters should not attract businesses and increase their real estate values by funding public schools and supporting the Great Falls mill levy.  The reason? “Obamacare.”

This levy would make sense if there were not additional insurance costs of $2 million to $2.5 million per year due to kick in October 2015, but because that is the reality of Obamacare.

Cyndi Baker (left) and Rep. Cleve Loney R-Great Falls (right)
Great Falls TEA Party leader Cyndi Baker (left dressed as the statue of liberty for some reason) is running for school board.  The TEA Partier with her is Cleve Loney, he’s running for legislature as a TEA Party republican.

In fact, the entire levy is only $1.6 million, and will be used to improve public school classrooms with technology upgrades, gifted and talented programs, reduce overloaded classrooms and pay for operations.   District employees who are eligible for the district’s health plan are not even eligible for the Affordable Care Act, as a memo to employees clearly states.

Baker has a history of doing and saying odd things.  She boycotts Girl Scout cookies.   She believes new math and reading standards are a United Nations conspiracy.

But did you know that Baker, a former Jaker’s waitress, was caught last year attempting to publicly demean the restaurant’s democratic customers and community leaders on her TEA Party blog?

Baker has since taken down the blog post, but The Western Word wrote about the incident here.  Apparently, she wrote posts claiming that democrats and community leaders had supposedly written comment cards criticizing her political views and that they were bad tippers.  The customers deny Baker’s claims.

Cyndi Baker (with polyester "torch") at a TEA Party rally of some sort.
Cyndi Baker (with polyester “torch”) at a TEA Party rally of some sort.

Apparently the managers at Jakers didn’t think this was a great way to treat its customers. As Great Falls Tribune reported,“A manager at Jakers on Friday said the restaurant does not condone Baker writing about the comment card and said internal action has taken place.”

Baker filed for unemployment and was denied, then sued the state.  As someone who rails against government spending, it is indeed interesting that she is suing the government to collect her unemployment check.

You can read text of the Aug. 5, 2013 Great Falls Tribune story that’s referenced in the Western Word blog here, since that story is no longer online.

Continue reading

Posted: April 19, 2014 at 6:49 am

GUEST POST: The Primary Hypocrite Wittich

Note: This is a guest opinion piece by Rep. Jesse O’Hara (R-Great Falls).  As I mentioned earlier, the Cowgirl Blog welcomes guest post submissions.  The blog has in the past an will continue to consider guest opinion pieces from conservatives/Republicans subject to my discretion.  Rep. Jesse O’Hara, while of a different political party and with whom I and readers here will disagree on many points, has a reputation for being a thoughtful and effective lawmaker who puts his constituents first.  Note also that Wittich is said to be seeking a leadership position in the house after recruiting primary opponents against current members of the house. The piece below came with the following introduction:

My name is Jesse O’Hara and I am currently serving as a State Representative from Great Falls Montana, albeit I am vacationing at my winter home in Florida at the moment.  I can be reached at 1-406-781-3333, or emailed at or    My Great Falls address is: 2908 Wells Fargo, Great Falls, Mt. 59404.

Last session I was the longest serving member in the Montana House.   What I witnessed was an extremist group going to almost any lengths to purify the Republican Party.   Senate Majority Leader Wittich consistently spoke to the positives of every Republican having a primary, even saying that he planned on having one.  He constantly prattled on that primaries were good in that they allowed the voter to pick between Republican ideologies, and that the voter would pick the extreme ideology.    Then, in the last few minutes of the last day, he fled from a primary to an uncontested race.   It seems he was and is a hypocrite.  Primaries are only good for others.

In my five decades of political activity, including serving as both a State Senator and Representative, I have never seen anything quite like this.


Sometimes, to defend poor choices, a man’s bravado has his mouth writing checks his butt can’t cash. This appears to have been the scenario facing Senator Wittich in the final hours of filing for legislative office.

First, a history lesson: Wittich and his associates, while safely nestled in the warm embrace of Dark Money, have made it their mission to inform Republicans that primaries are good for the party. They justified this claim by stating that primaries have a uniquely “purifying” power that forces candidates to “own their vote.”

It seems an opponent was listening. On the final day of election signups, Wittich had the opportunity to put his hollow maxim to the test – to finally live by the words he preached. A primary loomed.

Nervous and caught unaware, Wittich began to ponder …

Maybe his singular dubious accolade, a stellar rating on Koopman’s cherry-picked scorecard (TAB), didn’t have the star power envisioned?

Maybe the verdict on his failed leadership would haunt him? Would anybody actually believe the fable that his failure to lead was somebody else’s fault?

Maybe he feared that the voters would uncover his efforts to dismantle public education?  Or his reference to volunteer school trustees as members of a ‘commie’ club?

Or maybe, just maybe, it was the zero he received on the Montana University System scorecard? Bozeman is a university town and his constituents might find it unsettling that Senator Wittich’s only support for the university was empty lip service.

By closing time, Senate Majority Leader Wittich had decided that an open discussion of his record, his leadership failure, and his looming legal troubles was a sure recipe for defeat. He disowned his principles and fled the primary to an uncontested House race.  Can anyone say – hypocrite?

Representative Jesse O’Hara

Posted: April 17, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Oathkeepers to Rally for Guns, Bunkers Saturday

The Daily Inter Lake’s daybook includes a listing for an Oathkeepers Rally this Saturday in Kalispell, the Flathead Memo reports.  

The event is sure to include discussion about the Bunkerville rebellion in Nevada. (Unless the Oathkeepers have all departed already for that state.) In which case attendance may be limited to GOP legislative candidates hoping to burnish their TEA Party creds without having to actually point a gun at a federal official but rather to just casually fondle it.

Certainly the uprising has  already drawn representatives from some Montana militia groups, including one ”Cap. Rick Lovelien Company Commander MTDF, state wide (Libby).”  This same individual has also signed his name to a list of “Patriots” willing to put the hit on the Kenyan socialist president Obama. So there is that.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center both name-checked the group in their reports on rising anti-government extremism, and it would be most interesting to see which GOP legislative candidates attend.

Posted: April 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Republican Email Circulating Takes Aim at TEA Party Legislators

An email making the rounds in Republican circles today urges GOPers to stop the TEA Party “from doing any further damage to our beloved Montana GOP.”

The email take particular issue with Art Wittich, Jason Priest, Matt Rosendale, and Tom Tuck and the Gallatin County Republican Central Committee, was forwarded on by a tipster.  It is pasted below in its entirety so you can decide what to make of it yourselves.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Concerned Montanans <>
Date: Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 1:38 PM
Subject: Montanans on the Issues

Dear Concerned Montana Republicans,

Please boycott the Radical Tea Party members claiming to be Republicans and any future events they may have.

To find out why please read below: 

As many of you know radical Tea Party members are attempting to take over the Montana GOP and although we would agree on many of the issues they are promoting, the Tea Party has been taken over by criminals, liars, and cheats!!!

For example, the state political practices commissioner released findings on, Tuesday, April 1st, showing that Senate Majority Leader ART WITTICH violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign. THIS IS A FELONY CRIME!! Later that same day, Commissioner Jonathan Motl filed a civil complaint against ART WITTICH.

Is this someone we want our children looking up to?

For more information on ART WITTICH’s criminal activity please see the Billings Gazette article at:

ART WITTICH and other GOP Central Committee members, claiming to be Republicans, such as TOM TUCK, the Gallatin County Republican Central Committee’s chair, also work very closely with JASON PRIEST whom was arrested last February on suspicion of partner family member assault and resisting arrest. Priest is also is a founder of a nonprofit group called Montana Growth Network which supports U.S. HOUSE Candidate MATT ROSENDALE.​

Is this someone we want out children looking up to?

To find out more pertaining to the coordination between JASON PRIEST and ART WITTICH click below:

What is the one thing all these criminals have in common, they all rabidly support, U.S. House Candidate, MATT ROSENDALE! The Gallatin County Republican Central Committee even held a vote last February, which TOM TUCK feverishly supported, to solely support MATT ROSENDALE and his criminal cronies in the primary election.

Please help stop these criminals from doing any further damage to our beloved Montana GOP by boycotting, not only the Central Committee’s like Gallatin County, but also all future events.


 Thank you and God Bless!


Montanans on the Issues

Posted: April 17, 2014 at 7:34 pm

New Report: MT Loses $1.8 Million Every Day Thanks to TEA Party Legislators

A new report by the Montana Budget and Policy Center released today indicates that Montana is missing out on millions of dollars every day, in addition to thousands of jobs, by not expanding the state’s Medicaid program so more Montanans can gain health coverage.

Because TEA Party obstructionists in the Montana legislature voted down a bipartisan measure to accept federal funds to pay for health care for the working poor, Montana has been losing as much as $1.84 million of federal funds every day.

The report also found that Montana’s economy is losing $1.3 million in increased labor productivity from the 12,000 jobs that expansion would create. This increased labor income would also help generate $135,205 in state and local tax revenue every day.

Says the MBPC:

Medicaid expansion is an important opportunity for our state, and every day it is delayed Montana loses out on millions of dollars that could be used to create jobs, support our economy, and provide health care coverage to 70,000 low-income Montanans.

You can download the full report here.

Posted: April 17, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Supreme Court Unanimously Tosses TEA Party Lawsuit

MonfortonTinFoilThe Montana Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by TEA Party AG Tim Fox and a TEA Party legislative candidate to block a citizen’s initiative to accept federal funding for health care for the working poor and veterans today.

In a unanimous ruling, the justices ruled that Fox’s and the TEA Partier’s attempt to invalidate Fox’s own fiscal statement and have it rewritten–an attempt to force the pro-Medicaid expansion signature gatherers to throw out thousands of signatures already gathered and start over at a later date, thereby severely restricting the amount of time they have to gather signatures.

It did not go unnoticed by the Supreme Court justices that these same obstructionists failed to voice their supposed concerns during the public comment period, thereby making their attempt to invalidate current signatures pretty obvious.

Montana Attorney General Tim FoxRemember also that it was Tim Fox himself who was charged with writing the fiscal statement.  He didn’t voice any concerns about his own work at the time he wrote it, yet instead decided to sign on to a lawsuit filed against himself, which speaks to his lack of competence if nothing else.

TEA Party Republican legislator Fred Thomas responded by saying any justice that disagreed with him “shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court.”   I guess he means all of them, including the arch conservatives on the court, since the ruling was unanimous.