Stop Those Montana Extremists!

Montana BASE 2A group of “responsible” Republican Montana legislators, led by Sen. Jim Peterson, Sen. Llew Jones, and Sen. Ed Buttrey, has banded together to “stand up against political extremists.”  The group, Montana Business Advocates for Sensible Elections (BASE), is seeking donations from businesses, for whom they promise protection from the forces of evil.

Who are these extremist bad guys?  Democrats?  Environmental whackos?  Overreaching federal bureaucrats?  Al Qaeda?  Nope, Montana BASE says the bad guys are:  conservative Republicans.  I guess these would be the “irresponsible” Republicans, the other 93%.

The BASE website warns:

“. . .  an extremist group of outsiders has begun operating within the Republican community. These zealots rarely understand or even care about business friendly economic conditions or jobs, yet frequently choose to attack Republican Business Candidates over social issues, state militias, or other non-business issues.  We must recruit problem solvers as the antidote to extremism.”

The group’s website bullet-points say education is good, natural resources are good, infrastructure is good.  High insurance rates and frivolous lawsuits are bad.  Pretty fresh, out-of-the-box thinking, eh?  I guess they think this distinguishes them from the “extremist” Republicans.  Looking at the list of claimed legislative victories on their website, I have to question – how did those bills get passed without voting help from the “extremists” they want to eliminate?

What they don’t mention is any concern about federal overreach into state affairs, restrictive state administration and regulations, or Montana’s massive unfunded liabilities, largely due to union government pensions.  They don’t promote running the business of Montana using Zero Based Budgeting, as every private business does.  The tax reductions they claim to have supported were vetoed, yet they claim as successes increased spending on government projects.

Senator Peterson and Montana BASE joined forces with Democrat Governor Bullock against “dark money” after, according to the AP, “some Republicans were attacked in primaries last year as too liberal by anonymous conservative groups.”  No mention of unions (mostly government employees), and the corrupt kickback scheme that is the butter to Democrat bread.  And there is an unsettling similarity between the enforcement features of Peterson’s dark money bill and the actions of the IRS against conservative groups which are currently under intense national scrutiny.

Another strange bedfellow emerges, as Montana BASE has aligned with and frequently quotes the Center for Public Integrity, which claims to be “one of the country’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organizations.”  Nonprofit, maybe – but nonpartisan?  A quick look at their board of directors reveals a Who’s Who of liberal media bigwigs:  a half-dozen hotshots from NPR and the NY Times; a class-action tort lawyer extraordinaire; Arianna Huffington (needs no introduction); Steve Kroft (60 Minutes correspondent and Barack Obama’s favorite reporter), Henrick-Jan Laseur (UNICEF/Union for Conservation of Nature/SustainAbility/Agenda 21), Dr. Gilbert Omenn (associate director of OMB for Jimmy Carter).  Every business in Montana should want to be advised by Jimmy Carter’s Office of Mgmt. and Budget, wouldn’t you think?

I can’t criticize the “responsible” Republicans for any position they take on bills or issues.  They are elected representatives and their votes should reflect the wishes of their constituents and their best individual judgments.  But I can see why some constituents are alarmed when their representative campaigns one way and then sides with the opposition after the election.  The voters in Sen. Peterson’s own district did not view the redistricting loss of their elected Republican seat to a Democrat from a distant district as “responsible”.   As Senate president, Peterson had, or should have had, considerable influence over redistricting.

Senator Peterson and friends have been roundly criticized for voting with the Democrats and against the majority of Republicans in the Montana Senate.  How does voting against the majority of one’s party, on its own, make one “responsible”?  Would any Democrat break ranks to vote with the Republicans?  Who are the extremists?

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes
Too high or too low, there ain’t no in-betweens
And if I stand or I fall
It’s all or nothing at all
Darling, I don’t know why I go to extremes

I Go To Extremes – Billy Joel

Montana Coal Development Needs “Loser Pay”

Montana has more coal than any other state, according to the MT Dept. of Commerce – the kind of clean-burning, high BTU coal that is much sought-after by energy-hungry, fast-growing Asian nations.

This is great news for a state that has languished for years near the bottom of the list in GDP (49th), per capita income (43rd), and economic growth (bottom quartile).  Montana needs jobs and additional tax base.  Our nation needs cheap energy, not to mention a positive pop to our balance of trade.  New technology has mostly eliminated environmental concerns about coal use.  What could be wrong with mining and shipping this efficient natural resource to an eager world-wide market?

Well don’t worry, the usual suspects who are opposed to any kind of economic progress will think of something.

This morning’s headline screams “Environmentalists Threaten to Sue PSE Over Montana Coal Mine“, featuring our old friends at the Sierra Club.  “Coal Foes Warn of Northwest Rail Traffic Spike” wails another, courtesy of the anti-everything Western Organization of Resource Councils.  

The littany of complaints runs from “coal dust on my windows” to “coal trains make noise” to “residents from the ‘poor’ side of Billings will not be able to get to medical facilities on the other side of the tracks.”

It seems that any time there is an opportunity for economic progress, the radical left immediately starts throwing up roadblocks.  The formula seems to be “if it looks like it will improve standards of living, stop it.”  This is especially vexing in Montana, where we are practically an economic third-world state in spite of a tremendous wealth of natural resources.

One way to deal with the anti-progress groups (who ironically call themselves “progressives”) is to make them pay for their incessant legal attacks.  Our court system allows attorneys for these obstructionist groups to file frivolous suits which hold up projects for years – sometimes longer than investors or developers can wait.  A “loser pays” legal structure would prevent the stalling and obfuscation that takes food from the mouths of Montanans and damages our nation’s economic outlook.

“Loser Pays” is a common legal structure in other countries, but in the US only Alaska has a well-developed and tested application of the concept.  Other states are interested, though, and are beginning to implement the loser pay process in stages.

With all the nonsense Montanans have been through, and all that is at stake here, our state legislature should be taking a long, hard look at “Loser Pays”.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Down around the corner,
Half a mile from here
See them long trains run,
And you watch them disappear

Long Train Running – Doobie Brothers