A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

27 May 2017

Petitioning at the polls


During voting at the Flathead County Fairgrounds on 25 May, volunteers for Water for the Flathead’s Future collected signatures for a ballot measure that would effectively prohibit the water bottling plant proposed for Creston. And yes, those are plastic bottles of flavored, and possibly carbonated, water that you see on the table. I would have decanted my drink into a reusable container lest I appear a hypocrite.


26 May 2017 — 1117 mdt

Quist has best Dem 2-party numbers in last four U.S. House elections

Libertarian Mark Wicks was not a factor in the just concluded special congressional election, receiving 5.7 percent of the vote and serving as minor distraction. In that situation, examining the two-party vote is the best way of assessing the strengths of the two major party candidates. In the last four elections for Montana’s seat in the U.S. House, Rob Quist turned in the strongest two-party performance.




26 May 2017 — 0725 mdt

Special election’s turnout almost identical to 2014 election’s turnout

Would Rob Quist have defeated Greg Gianforte in a Presidential election year? That’s certainly possible. Steve Bullock defeated Gianforte in an election year. But the electorate that voted in Montana’s special congressional election was Montana’s midterm electorate, which is smaller and much more Republican than Montana’s Presidential year electorate. Here are the salient number from Flathead Memo’s updated spreadsheet for Montana’s turnout for 1920 through the present:


In 2014, the percentage of absentee ballots returned was 12 percent higher than in the 2017 special election, although 12 percent more of the ballots were cast by absentee ballots. The registration rolls may be bloated. And given the dismal tone of the campaign, many who received absentee ballots may have not voted as a way of expressing their disgust.



25 May 2017 — 2336 mdt

Rob Quist campaigned hard and gave Democrats hope


Democrat Rob Quist conceded Montana’s special congressional election to Greg Gianforte a few minutes ago, after the Associated Press called the election for Gianforte.

Quist worked hard and gave Democrats hope. Enduring savage, scurrilous, attacks, he kept smiling, strumming, and running, preaching the progressive gospel throughout Montana’s far-flung valleys and plains. It was a campaign for the history books — and there’s a book in his campaign that I hope he writes. With his knack for telling stories, it would be a best seller.

I thank Quist for running, and I’m proud to have been among the first to endorse him.

Greg Gianforte begins his legislative career as the least senior member of the U.S. House, and with a cloud over his head from his altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. I hope Gianforte represents Montana well, and votes to protect the interests of Montana’s middle class from the cruel policies proposed by President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.



25 May 2017

Election Day notes with time-stamped updates

I’m posting updates as information becomes available, with the newest updates listed first. Go to Flathead Memo’s Election Day Page.

…read the rest


25 May 2017 — 0832 mdt

“Get the hell out of here!”


25 May 2017 — 0714 mdt

Greg Gianforte charged with assaulting newspaper reporter
Gazette, Missoulian, Helena IR, rescind endorsement editorials


Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte cracked under the strain of the election yesterday evening, choking, throwing to the floor, and punching, a newspaper reporter, according to witnesses that included a news team from Fox News. After the Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies concluded their investigation, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault.

Gianforte’s public relations staff argued the “liberal” reporter provoked the wealthy businessman by asking questions too assertively and getting in Gianforte’s personal space, a spin the Fox team rejected:

…read the rest


25 May 2017 — 0600 mdt

Special election absentee return rate at 72.5 percent

The return rate for absentee ballots in federal elections in Montana is higher for general than for primary elections, as displayed in the graph below. Also displayed on the graph, the return rate as of 1637 MDT for the special congressional election that concludes today. That return rate will increase a few percent as more absentee ballots are returned today, but to me it appears that the return rate will be closer to that for a primary than a general election.



24 May 2017 — 1250 mdt

Joe Lamson’s model predicts narrow Quist victory

Old political hand Joe Lamson believes that the 22 May Gravis poll is an outlier. Here’s his analysis, which he graciously allowed Flathead Memo to publish.

Guest post by Joe Lamson

Here’s what my model’s showing:

I ran some projections based on different projected turnout, 5/22 Absentee returns, projected absentee return rates and different projected Quist percent in a three way race in the absentee and election day votes.

My model showed Quist could win with less than 60% turnout. In fact he did better if turnout was near normal of 56% for last two off year elections. And better still with lower turnouts.

To date absentee ballot return rates for all Montana general elections have averaged 93% with a low of 89% in 2014. So far 67% of the absentees have been reported as returned. If you assume a low of 90% absentee return rate, it would result that overall 82% of the voters would vote absentee and 18%, around 72,000, will vote on Thursday at the polls.

Under that scenario, if Quist receives 51% of the the absentees, GG 47% and Wicks 2%. And on election day if Quist receives 42%, GG 56% and Wicks 2%. Then Quist wins by about 2652 votes. It turnout is 60% under that same vote scenario Quist loses by 1262 votes. If the turnout is 52%, Quist wins by 6568 votes.

Looking at all my various scenarios, I think Quist wins with a 1/2 to 1% margin




23 May 2017 — 1547 mdt

Latest Gravis poll has Gianforte leading by 14 points

A Gravis poll of Montana special congressional election that was released today and apparently conducted yesterday reports Republican Greg Gianforte is leading Democrat Rob Quist 49 to 35 percent, with eight percent favoring Libertarian Mark Wicks and nine percent undecided. Gravis sampled 818 likely voters.

Earlier in May, a Google Consumer Survey of Montana reported Quist was leading Gianforte 48.5–41.9, with 95 percent opting for Wicks. The sample for this survey was small, and it was not weighted to compensate for the demographic differences between the sample and the population surveyed.

First, the polls presented graphically. After that, some discussion.

…read the rest


22 May 2017

A reminder: deliver your absentee ballot in person

Even if you live in Kalispell or another county seat city with a Zip Code ending in 01, do not mail, not even at the main post office, your absentee ballot for the special congressional election. Deliver it in person to your county elections department. Surrendering your ballot to the U.S. Postal Service adds a time consuming step — there’s a reason it’s called snail mail — to the process and could result in your ballot not reaching the elections department by 2000 MDT on Thursday.


22 May 2017 — 0606 mdt

President Trump taking budget axe to means tested programs

A fine, sunny, spring day in the Flathead — with chilling news out of Washington, D.C. According to the Washington Post, President Trump’s budget, scheduled for release tomorrow, calls for huge cuts in means tested anti-poverty programs. Social Security and Medicare are, for the moment, mostly being spared. I’ll explain why below.

Medicaid, which provides health insurance for millions, would be cut $800 billion over the next decade, kicking as many as 10 million people out of the program.

The nation’s primary anti-hunger program also is in the administration’s crosshairs:

…read the rest


21 May 2017 — 0312 mdt

Special congressional election turnout update

As of late Thursday, 18 May, 698,912 of Montana’s 804,400 member voting eligible population were registered to vote; 351,681 absentee ballots had been sent out, and 217,329 had been returned. Those are the latest numbers available to me yesterday on the Montana Secretary of State’s website, which does not report realtime tallies, and which seems to be two days behind in reporting end of the day numbers.

Below, the latest results, presented graphically. Flathead Memo’s 1920–2016 voter turnout spreadsheet is also available for download.

…read the rest


20 May 2017 — 1036 mdt

The book on the white working class that all Democrats should read

Two days after Donald Trump’s stunning defeat of Hillary Clinton, the Harvard Business Review published a provocative essay by attorney and class expert Joan Williams, What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class, that became the most widely read article in the HBR’s history — and the genesis of a book, published this week, that all Democrats who want to do right by their nation, and to win elections, should read: White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.

Williams defines the white working class not as the poor, but as high school educated middle income people. They resent the poor and the professional managerial elite (PME), and admire the wealthy.

And in 2016 they voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, partly because Hillary Clinton’s campaign decided they didn’t deserve to be members of the Democratic coalition:

…read the rest


19 May 2017 — 0708 mdt

Our democracy cannot survive many more
elections as ugly as Gianforte v. Quist

The special congressional election that ends on 25 May has become Montana’s most expensive congressional election, and possibly its dirtiest. Some of the right wing attacks on Rob Quist are so ugly they qualify as depraved, and liberals have lowered themselves to suggesting that Greg Gianforte may be in cahoots with Russia and is guilty of carelessness that gives aid and comfort to the terrorists of ISIS. In my judgment, the GOP’s excesses have been far worse than the Democrat's.

Politics has never been beanbag, but the current level of viciousness has few historical precedents, and if continued will erode, and erode rather quickly, our ability to govern ourselves. What’s kosher in a civil society society is defined not just by a constitutional structure and law, but also by social and political norms, by which I mean generally accepted informal boundaries on what is legitimate in political discourse and governing.

Yale law professor Jack Balkin addressed that earlier this week in a must read essay, Constitutional Rot and Constitutional Crisis. Here’s an extensive excerpt that should sober even the most reckless among us:

…read the rest


18 May 2017 — 0121 mdt

Flathead Electric overstates the advantages of hydropower

In the May, 2017, issue of its newsletter, Light Reading, the Flathead Electric Cooperative presents a list entitled Advantages of hydropower. Some of the alleged advantages don’t make it past a quick fact check.

…read the rest


17 May 2017 — 1726 mdt

Come on, Democrats: Gianforte is not bankrolling ISIS

Today’s Huffington Post reports that Greg Gianforte, whose wealth may exceed $300 million, has an individual retirement account that includes $47,000 of stock in LaFargeHolcim, a French cement company with a factory in Syria. According to HP:

Payments made to local armed groups to secure the factory may have unwittingly ended up in ISIS coffers, the French newspaper Le Monde reported last year. CEO Eric Olsen resigned from the firm last month.

This is neither a BFD nor a LFD, neither a tempest in a teapot nor a squall in a saucer. It’s just an attempt to smear Gianforte, who has not displayed conspicuous enthusiasm for settling Syrian refugees in Montana, as a funder of terrorists who have beheaded Americans.

It’s dirty politics, opposition research run wild.

Almost everyone with a diversified investments portfolio owns a piece of something that stinks. That’s the price of fiscal prudence. Neither Gianforte nor anyone else orders his investments banker to buy stocks in slimy corporations that bribe foreign officials and finance lunatic insurgencies.

This is the second time Montana’s Democrats have tried to question Gianforte’s patriotism by flagging a dubious stock in his investments portfolio. A few weeks ago, the MDP tried to tie him to the Russians because he owned Russian stocks.

Give it a rest, Democrats. Gianforte’s problem with wealth is not the stocks that he owns. It’s that like Mitt Romney, he’s lost touch with the middle class.



17 May 2017 — 0548 mdt

An old tune for a new President’s apologists

Here’s a song for all of the people who don’t let pride or shame get in the way of serving, supporting, and sprinkling hosannas on, Donald Trump. The clip below is from an obscure English film shot in the 1930s. The lyrics first appeared in the 18th century.

In good Prez Trumpy's golden time,
When Donald came in fashion,
A zealous White House aide was I,
And sucked up with a passion.
To keep my job I lied and lied,
And sent the truth a-crashin'.
Loyalty left me pie-eyed,
But Donald blessed my bashin'.



16 May 2017 — 1712 mdt

The long, lonesome, journey of a ballot from Whitefish

A friend mailed his ballot from Whitefish at the end of last week. It was postmarked in Missoula on 8 May, received by the Flathead County Elections Department on 12 May, time-stamped with that date, and on 15 May entered into the state’s database as accepted. My friend believes the elections department processed his ballot efficiently, and I agree.

But the U.S. Postal Service’s handling of his ballot was the antithesis of efficiency.

…read the rest


16 May 2017 — 0614 mdt

Mail ballot postmark law, angel of political death

Montana law should allow ballots postmarked on or before election day to be counted. Officially, election day is the last day voters can cast a ballot. But for Montanans who vote by mail, the de facto last day is actually the last day they can mail a ballot and have a reasonable assurance that it will be delivered to the elections office. That day may actually be a week to ten days before the election ends given the snail’s pace at which the U.S. Post Office moves mail.

An election day postmark law is not a new idea. California accepts ballots postmarked on election day:

Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 3 days after Election Day.

Montana should do adopt a similar law, but accept ballots that arrive five days after the election closes.

Everything that Hillary Clinton touches turns to defeat. She’s baaaack, reports the Guardian, with a new group called Onward Together (her failed Presidential campaign’s slogan was Stronger Together).

Clinton said in the email that the organization is “dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election”. The figure is a reference to her popular vote victory over Trump, a fact that apparently continues to irritate the president.

On Twitter, Clinton said Onward Together would start by supporting a handful of liberal organizations, including the prominent Swing Left and Indivisible, which are Democratic groups focused on winning the House in the 2018 midterms. She also cited Color of Change, which is focused on criminal justice reform, Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office, and Run for Something, which helps recruit and support millennials running in down-ballot races.

The vision her campaign advanced was Make Hillary Great by making her the first woman to be elected President. She botched the election, inflicting Donald Trump on the nation and placing 80 years of social and economic progress at terrible risk. No one should forgive her for that, or forget what she did. No Democrat who wants to win in 2018 should have anything to do with her. She’s an angel of political death.



15 May 2017 — 1516 mdt

Latest turnout and absentee ballot statistics for Gianforte v. Quist

As of late Sunday night, half of the absentee ballots for the 25 May special congressional election had been returned, and the current registered voter turnout for the election was just over 25 percent. The voting eligible population turnout was 21.8 percent.

Flathead County’s return rate no longer is a low side outlier. But some ballots mailed on 5 May still have not been recorded as returned.

I’ll update these numbers at the end of the week. Here are the latest graphs:

…read the rest


15 May 2017 — 0742 mdt

Flathead Dem dinner was 400% as expensive as a 1970 DFL bean feed

In October, 1970, Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer-Labor Party held a big dinner — a DFL Bean Feed, to use the party’s lingo; and yes, beans were on the menu — at the Minneapolis Armory. Former Peace Corp director Sargent Shriver was the headline speaker. The featured politicians were former U.S. Senator and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, running again for the senate, and Wendell Anderson, running for governor. Both won their elections.

The price of a ticket? Two dollars. Adjusted for inflation, approximately twelve 2017 dollars.


Two days ago, Flathead County’s Democratic Party held its big spring dinner at the Hilton in Kalispell. Sen. Jon Tester and congressional candidate Rob Quist were the featured speaker. It wasn’t a paper plate and Campbell’s Pork ‘n Beans affair like the DFL bean feeds I remember. Tickets were $45 at least three days in advance. Nevertheless, the dinner sold out. Financially, it was a resounding success.

But socially and politically, it was another example of how far Democrats have moved from the poor and middle class voters they used to represent. Forty-five-dollar tickets to the party’s major dinners are beyond the means of the party’s Widow Murphys, who live on triple-digit Social Security payments, and who volunteer for hours stuffing envelopes and making telephone calls.

A burgers, beans, and beer, bash at a union hall for $15 a head would be a lot more affordable for low earning working people and for impoverished seniors. It might be an unsettling experience, an exercise in slumming, for the snooty Clintonites who still control the Democratic Party, but for some of us it would be a return to the party’s roots and the road to winning elections again.



14 May 2017 — 1926 mdt

Kalispell Quist rally draws overflow crowd

Yesterday afternoon, an overflow crowd of at least 100–125 Democrats, assembled in Kalispell’s picturesque Central School Museum to hear Sen. Jon Tester lead a rally for congressional candidate Rob Quist. The rally was followed by a sold-out Flathead Democratic dinner at the Hilton.

Below, a few images from the rally.


Quist addresses the crowd, which spilled into the hallway and an adjoining meeting room.

…read the rest


14 May 2017 — 1904 mdt

Three Lee newspapers endorse Gianforte

Today the Billings Gazette, Missoulian, and Helena Independent Record, three of the four major Lee Enterprises newspapers in Montana, endorsed Greg Gianforte for Congress. This is no surprise given Lee’s reputation for unbridled greed.

None of the newspapers was crass or honest enough to write an endorsement editorial that said “We’re endorsing Greg Gianforte because he’s the best bet for our corporate masters to make more money.” Instead, each editorial writer strung together a list of weak arguments before concluding, in the manner of a sad but wise parent, that Gianforte is the lesser evil.

But, I believe, the endorsements were made fundamentally because Lee wants Montana represented in the U.S. House by another Republican. That provides the highest odds that Congress will pass, and President Trump will sign, legislation lowering taxes on businesses and the wealthy. And that’s why the Gazette’s high command had Tom Lutey writing stories presenting Rob Quist in an unfavorable light.

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba examines the arguments in the editorials, and Pete Talbot reports on the increasing concentration of right wing news media in Montana.



14 May 2017 — 1807 mdt

Real estate law expert sets record straight on Quist’s barn

Guest post by Rich deJana, Esq

As a lawyer who practices property rights and real estate law in Kalispell, I was shocked to read a “Billings Gazette” article that overtly implies wrongdoing by a Flathead County resident who actually did nothing wrong.

It didn’t take me long to realize the reporter, Tom Lutey, doesn’t understand property rights and taxation law, in fact, even the headline was incorrect. Let’s start there.

That headline, “Quist has ties to rental property not listed on state tax rolls,” is patently false. This accusation has every property rights lawyer in the state laughing. The Quist property is on the tax rolls. MDOR has assessed it as rural residential (not commercial). The current MDOR classification AAB2 accurately identifies the barn as a residential structure in fair condition. Yet the article goes on to imply that because the structure is technically described by MDOR as a “Standard Barn” the Quists are committing some sort of wrongdoing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

…read the rest


13 May 2017 — 0801 mdt

Montana special election voter turnout updates

How long does it take the U.S. Postal Service to carry mail ballots from Whitefish to Kalispell? In one case, at least a week, perhaps longer. Last night, a friend in Whitefish reported he had mailed his ballot on 5 May, and it still wasn’t listed in the Montana Secretary of State’s online database of accepted mail ballots. Another friend who lives ten miles east of Kalispell, near the Swan Range, also mailed his ballot on 5 May. It was received by the Flathead County Elections Department on 11 May.

Six days to travel ten miles. One-hundred-forty-four hours to travel 52,800 crow flying feet. How fast is that? It’s 1.22 inches per second. One mile per hour is 17.6 inches per second. Try walking that slowly. It’s not easy, but we know it can be done because that’s how fast the postman is carrying ballots from east of Creston to Kalispell.

Most mail ballots are entrusted to the U.S. Slowpoke Service twice. Once from the elections department to the voter, once from the voter to the elections department. Now I know why ballots are mailed out 30 days in advance of the election’s close.

And that’s why I’ll vote in person on 25 May. The elections department worker hands me my ballot directly. After mark my ballot in a privacy booth, I’ll walk, at approximately 50 inches per second, to the ballot counting machine, insert my ballot into the machine, receive the message that my ballot has been accepted, and head home knowing that neither rain nor snow nor a snail-paced letter carrier kept my ballot from being cast before the polls closed.

Almost 23 percent of Montana’s registered voters have cast their ballots already. In the 2016 Montana primary, 45.2 percent of the registered voters, and 26.7 percent of the voting eligible population, cast ballots. In the 8 June 1993 special sales tax election, the turnout of registered voters was 69.2 percent; VEP turnout was 50.6 percent.

Here are the county-by-county turnout figures through 11 May, followed by the absentee ballot return rate through the same date.

Bernie Sanders will campaign in Montana next weekend. According to Rob Quist’s campaign, Sanders will hold rallies in Missoula, Butte, and Bozeman, on Saturday, 20 May, and in Billings on Sunday, 21 May. Quist’s campaign says the events are open to all, but they want you to RSVP. There’s no charge for attending, but RSVPing surely will generate a plea for dollars, and the campaign just might check your name against a list of known Republicans.

Also, “Press credentials will be required for all media to attend.” That’s how Republican and right wing media trackers will be excluded from the rally.

Sanders is appearing late in the game for a 30-day stretch of voting, but his presence should pep up Quist’s GOTV operation, and might get the favorable attention of fence straddlers who increasingly doubt the wisdom of sending Greg Gianforte to cheer, and vote, for the Trump-Ryan bills to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

Flathead Democrats big dinner is tonight. You can buy tickets at the door — and once inside, bid on the Quist cowboy hat that’s being silently auctioned off. Sen. Jon Tester is the headline speaker.

Kalispell Women’s Event with Bonni and Halladay Quist runs from 1300 to 1430 today. Bonnie is Rob’s wife. Halladay is his daughter.



11 May 2017 — 0733 mdt

Flathead has lowest absentee ballot return rate in Montana

Updated 14 May. Montana’s absentee voters had by 9 May returned 33.7 percent of the 346,916 absentee ballots sent out thus far in the special congressional election than ends on 25 May. Teton County, at 48.8 percent, had the highest rate of return, while at 11.9 percent Flathead County had the lowest — and the lowest by far. The next lowest, Missoula County, had a return rate almost ten percent higher. The Flathead’s return rate is so low that it could be a data reporting anomaly, but for now I accept the Montana Secretary of State’s numbers as accurate.

…read the rest


10 May 2017 — 1216 mdt

Blame the Gazette’s high command, not Lutey

Yesterday, the Billings Gazette published another story on Rob Quist’s finances. Citing the newspaper’s 24 March interview with Lutey, and written by political reporter Tom Lutey, the story alleged Quist is connected to a rental property that is improperly taxed.

Writing on his personal Facebook page, Missoula County Treasurer Tyler Gernant, an attorney and Democrat, took issue with the story, but focused his ire on Lutey.

I’m unclear what the story here is. Bonnie Quist acted as Power of Attorney for her daughter and collected rent on her behalf, something that I helped numerous clients do when I was practicing law. The Department of Revenue does not tax the property correctly, something which I deal with routinely in my role as County Treasurer. So in other words, a totally normal sequence of events occurs but Tom Lutey feels the need to write an ominous story about it. This is awful reporting on so many levels that I can’t even begin to comment.

Gernant, and the rest of Lutey’s critics, should focus their ire not on the Gazette’s reporter but on the newspaper’s high command. Adverse stories can have far more impact on the outcome of the election than any editorial page support for a candidate. The people Lutey works for are the ones who ultimately are responsible for the tone, content, and timing of his stories on Quist’s finances.



10 May 2017 — 0653 mdt

Tester & Quist headline big Democratic dinner in Kalispell Saturday


Sen. Jon Tester and Democratic candidate for Congress Rob Quist will speak at the Flathead Democratic Party’s big spring dinner and fundraiser at the Kalispell Hilton on Saturday, 13 May. Tickets are still available and can be purchased online at www.flatheaddemocrats.com or by mail or at the door.

Luke Walrath and Betsi Morrison will provide entertainment.

The hat may or may not be passed, but participants in the silent auction will be able to bid on one of Quist’s big cowboy hats from the campaign trail.

For more information, call Terri at 406-730-2741 or visit the Flathead Democratic Party’s website.



9 May 2017 — 1146 mdt

Them polls, them polls, them damn polls —
They still show Greg’s leading Rob

A month ago, a Gravis poll reported Greg Gianforte was leading Rob Quist by 12 percentage points. Last Thursday, the day the U.S. House voted to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, another Gravis poll reported Gianforte’s lead had shrunk to seven points. Gianforte has dropped below 50 percent, and undecideds have increased, but Quist is holding steady at slightly below 40 percent.

…read the rest


8 May 2017 — 1559 mdt

Guest post by Mary Moe — Why I voted for Rob Quist


By Mary Moe

I have known Rob Quist since I was in college, where his wife and I were good friends. But that’s not why I voted for him.

I have watched Rob evolve as a musician – from a talented Jubileer at the U of M to a guitarist/singer in the popular Mission Mountain Wood Band to the respected singer/songwriter/player of many instruments that he is today. But that’s not why I voted for him.

I have observed Rob raise two great kids but care for many more, and struggle with his health and finances but contribute his time and talent over and over again to many Montana causes. But that’s not why I voted for him.

Over the course of nearly half a century, I’ve known Rob Quist to be a man of heart. Year after year, decade after decade, he has shown himself to be unfailingly kind to, concerned about, and truly interested in everyone he encounters. Because he cares about people, he respects varied points of view, understands that the experiences of Montanans are as varied as Montana’s landscape, and has spent his adult life trying to hear, understand, and express those perspectives and experiences in ways that will make all our lives better.

Year after year, decade after decade, Rob has shown the deep love he has for the land we call Montana, the science and history and art that have shaped it, and the people who rely on it, not just for a livelihood, but for a way of life that goes deeper than economics or even recreation, a way of being that becomes core to who you are.

I want an individual with that kind of heart representing me and you at a time when truly caring about the human agenda and being candid about what your part in that agenda really is have never been more important. That’s why I voted for Rob Quist. I hope you will too.

Moe is a former State Senator from Great Falls. Flathead Memo is honored to publish her essay explaining why she voted for Rob Quist.



8 May 2017 — 1149 mdt

Notes on the special congressional election

Another poll confirms that the Quist-Gianforte gap is narrowing. A Garin-Hart-Yang poll conducted 25–27 April for the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group, found Republican Greg Gianforte leading Democrat Rob Quist by six points, 44 to 38 percent, among midterm voters who said they will vote in the 25 May special congressional election in Montana.

The sampling margin of error for GHY’s 601-person sample is four percent. The probability that Gianforte is leading is 93 percent.

Among “enthusiastic” voters, Gianforte’s lead was just one point. If I were trying to raise money or pep up volunteers, I would cite the enthusiastic number. But because 95 percent of the voters polled said they intended to vote, and an unenthusiastic vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic vote, I’m going with the 44–38 percent margin.

The GHY one-pager contains cherry picked data arranged to present the best case for Quist. It’s partly propaganda, so curb your enthusiasm.

New DCCC anti-Gianforte ad is an exercise in political blackjacking. If Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte were a refugee from Syria, the Montana and National Democratic Parties would welcome him to Montana with open arms. But because he’s an American who once lived in New Jersey, and who earned hundreds of millions of dollars in Montana, the DCCC’s message makers consider him a form of life lower than the beheaders of ISIS. Here’s the DCCC’s latest effort to pull politics deeper into the gutter:

Don’t send the DCCC any money. It doesn’t know how to spend it wisely.



8 May 2017 — 0847 mdt

Flathead Electric rate increases for 2010–2017 run ahead of inflation

My bill from the Flathead Electric Cooperative arrived in my email traffic over the weekend, together with a not unexpected, but still not welcome, announcement that residential rates are going up.

FEC’s residential rates increase annually by a few percent. Each increase seems small in isolation, but over time they add up. The table below displays the rates for 2010 through 2017, both in current dollars and 2017 dollars. For the multi-year period, the price is increasing faster than inflation.

…read the rest


7 May 2017 — 0754 mdt

Flathead Memo is standing down today

The time usually allocated to writing is being temporarily re-allocated to mowing the green, green, and all too tall, grass of my lawn. Back to blogging tomorrow.


6 May 2017 — 0732 mdt

Quist-Gianforte polling gap down to single digits

Two weeks ago, an Emerson College poll reported Republican Greg Gianforte was leading Democrat Rob Quist by 15 points, 52–37 percent. Yesterday, in a story on Gianforte’s two-faced statements on his support for the Trump-Ryan health care sabotage bill, the New York Times reported the race had tightened:

Polling by both parties has indicated that Mr. Gianforte is leading in the race, but only narrowly, which the Republican acknowledged on the call.

“We’re in a single-digit race,” he said, adding that the left would relish the symbolic importance of snatching a Republican-held House seat. “The Democrats would like nothing more than to put one up on the board and take this away from us to stop the Trump Train and block tax reform and block the regulations we’ll be able to peel back.”

Quist, against heavy odds, is on the move. That’s why Vice President Mike Pence, and prairie dog assassin Donald Trump, Jr., are headed for Montana to stump for Gianforte.

Gianforte’s old hunting mistake is not a BFD

Seventeen years ago, Greg Gianforte was fined $70 for illegally killing an elk in Park County.

“Greg was out hunting and spotted a handful of elk in a timber area,” Gianforte spokesman Shane Scanlon said. “After observing an elk he believed it had brow tines and he shot it. Unfortunately upon approaching he had mistaken tree branches for brow tines.

“Knowing that this was a violation of local hunting rules, he tagged it, field-dressed it, left it in place and immediately traveled to an area in cell service and reported the downed elk.”

Gianforte’s critics should not succumb to the temptation to accuse him of poaching or a cover-up. His experience was nothing more than an embarrassing bout of buck fever. There’s no legitimate tie-in to the election.

Candidates never learn that excess candor with donors costs votes

Remarks made privately to fat cat donors always leak — and political candidates never seem to learn from the misfortunes of other politicians.

  • Mitt Romney was surreptitiously video recorded telling a room full of high roller that 47 percent of Americans are tax avoiding bums who mooch off the makers.

  • Hillary Clinton was video recorded telling high dollar donors at a fundraiser that members of the white working class were deplorable homophobes and racists.

Both lost, and both lost partly because they said stupid things in a effort to elicit a substantial campaign contribution.

If Gianforte loses this election, he’ll lose it at least in part because of his conflicting statements on the Trump-Ryan health care sabotage bill. Voters don’t like being lied to — at least not so egregiously.

Can Quist exploit Gianforte’s health care blunder?

Yes — but only, I suspect, if hospital executives and board members, who generally are horrified by Trump-Ryan’s gutting of Medicare, stand up and endorse Quist. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. In Montana, most of those people are Republicans, and lack the wisdom and courage to take a stand in public.

Don’t watch or listen to political ads

Change the channel or radio station, or turn off your television or radio. You’ll learn nothing useful from a 30-second ad. The same goes for printed propaganda that candidates and meddlesome third parties inflict on voters. Rip the cards and brochures to shreds and set them on fire.



5 May 2017 — 0956 mdt

Democrats want to make a deal, Republicans want to make a point

Last night, I rebuked Sen. Jon Tester for what I consider his excessively enthusiastic devotion to reaching across the aisle in search of compromise, which he seems to regard as an intrinsic rather than an instrumental good. Such gestures, I opined, would be greeted not with a handclasp but with a refusal to make common cause. That observation put me at odds with some Democrats and fellow bloggers.

Their pushback provides an opportunity to recommend Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, by Matt Grossmann and David A. Hopkins (Oxford University Press, 7 September 2016). Here are a few excerpts:

…read the rest


4 May 2017 — 1948 mdt

Is Jon Tester going rogue on the Affordable Care Act?

He might, reports The Hill:

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said Thursday that he is open to repealing and replacing ObamaCare even as his party’s leadership demands that Republicans drop their effort to nix President Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Tester’s spokesman, Luke Jackson, said the senator does not support the bill just passed by the U.S. House.

But Tester clearly wants voters to think he’ll reach across the aisle and take the extra step to reach a compromise because, well, Democrats think compromise is intrinsically meritorious and that making a deal, even a bad deal or a dumb deal, is blessed by Heaven because it feels so good to make a noble sacrifice. Which is to say, Tester is trying to appear reasonable.

After today’s health care vote in the U.S. House, it should be clear that anyone who believes Democrats can cut acceptable deals with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan is delusional. It’s time for Democrats — and that includes Tester — to lay down their olive branches and pick up their swords and shields. It’s time to fight.



4 May 2017 — 1422 mdt

Quist rips U.S. House’s approval of Trump-Ryan ACA repeal bill


A couple of hours ago, the Republicans in U.S. House voted 217–213 to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and replace it with a stingy system that the rich will love and the poor will recognize as closely akin to the status quo ante. Twenty Republicans voted against the bill. No Democrat voted for it.

Following the vote, Rob Quist, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in the 25 May special election to replace Ryan Zinke, issued the following statement:

The House of Representatives today passed a bill that would kick thousands of hardworking Montanans off of their health insurance and raise premiums by hundreds of dollars a month. This bill ends protections for people with preexisting conditions and would force older Americans to pay even more. The list goes on.

I oppose this bill because it would hurt the people of Montana and hardworking families across the state. No real Montanan would vote for it.

This is exactly why we need an independent voice standing up for Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives.

We know where my opponent stands. Greg Gianforte stands with the special-interest authors of this bill – they’re the ones bankrolling his campaign. And he’s standing with millionaires like himself, who get a massive tax cut from the bill while the rest of us are left paying more for health care.

He’s standing with politicians who want to get in between women and their doctors. He’s all for defunding Planned Parenthood – which this bill does.

And he’s standing with a Washington, D.C. Super PAC that has spent an astonishing $2 million to attack me on his behalf.

Montana deserves a Congressman who will speak out when special interests are rushing through something as disastrous as this bill, which will raise health care costs for hardworking Montanans.

In the House of Representatives I will fight for you, not the special interests.

No decent human being would vote for such a bill, either. But Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte would — which is why it’s in the enlightened self-interest of decent Montanans to vote for Rob Quist.



4 May 2017 — 1126 mdt

Why is Quist talking about Gianforte’s Russian investments when the
U.S. House is ready to pass the meanest health care bill in history?

Quist should be talking about health care today — and only about health care. Yet, his campaign is issuing press handouts flogging the dead horse of Greg Gianforte’s minor investment in a few Russian companies of dubious character. This is nuts. And it’s how Democrats lose elections.


4 May 2017 — 0716 mdt

Get medical treatment now while you still have health insurance

If you’ve been putting off elective surgery, schedule it now, while you still have health insurance. The U.S. House is voting today on the latest iteration of the Ryan-Trump bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The repealer is a Devil’s Christmas tree, festooned with toxic tinsel, radioactive ornaments, policy bombs, and naked bribes. As Kevin Drum notes at Mother Jones, there’s no text, no CBO score, etc:

This is a depraved piece of legislation. It’s a windfall for the rich and promises nothing but misery for the poor. How is it possible that 90 percent of House Republicans are happily voting in favor of this moral abomination?

It’s possible because these legislators don’t give a damn whether poor people live or die. If this bill fails, Trump and Ryan will cobble together another bill, and another, until something, anything, passes. Then the U.S. Senate will be on the spot — and the Senate will pass some kind of repeal bill. If you need a triple-bypass, get it now while you can still pay for it.

$200k cut to CSKT Compact implementation emits unpleasant aroma

Gov. Steve Bullock invested considerable time and political capital to get the CSKT Water Compact approved by the Montana Legislature. The agreement, still awaiting Congressional approval, places certain implementation obligations on Montana, according to DNRC Director John Tubbs. Reports Lee reporter Jayme Fraser:

[Tubbs] said the work … includes flow monitoring of all the streams on the Flathead Reservation so the department will have accurate usage and flow data to support aspects of the CSKT Compact.

But the money to pay for it, a $200,000 appropriation for the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, was removed from the budget last week by a bipartisan committee because it was thought wrongly that it wasn’t needed.

[Bullock’s budget director, Dan] Villa also did not specify where the original idea started and did not answer a question about when it became apparent the proposed cut would jeopardize the Compact Implementation Technical Team. Other members of the conference committee who approved the cut after less than two minutes discussion also echoed Ballance and said they did not know the money paid for anything more than commission meetings.

Tubbs said it was adequately explained when the cut had first been suggested. He said it should have been obvious that the reduction would affect operations simply because the dollar amount was so large. Meetings of the commission were cheap, just a few thousand dollars a year to cover travel and hotel rooms.

This affair has a stinkwater aroma to it. Someone knew what was happening. Therefore, everyone’s “Gee willikers, how did that happen?” means someone is lying.

After investing so much in getting the compact passed, it’s inconceivable that Bullock ignored the need to fund implementation and the obligations to which the compact obligates Montana. Those obligations will be met by messing around with the DNRC’s funding, so the failure to appropriate the $200,000 amounts to a de facto cut to the DNRC’s budget.

Why would Bullock, or Villa acting on Bullock’s behalf, accept that backdoor cut? Most likely to protect a $200,000 pot of money for other purposes. Less likely, but still possible, B & V relaxed their guard, letting Ballance sneak one past them.

Someone needs to step forward with the truth.



3 May 2017 — 1016 mdt

Rob Quist kicks off election month by voting early

Smart political candidates always vote at the earliest possibly moment, making the event a photo opportunity for the local news media. Back in the day, before election day became election month, and photographers used 4x5 Speed Graphics and No. 25 flashbulbs, the event was quite a production. If staged well, the event resulted in a big black and white image of the beaming candidate depositing his ballot in the box being splashed above the fold of the local evening newspaper. Presumably, that incited procrastinators to vote before the polls closed.

Now there are 30 consecutive election days, small digital cameras, and a lot less drama. But the custom of early voting is still observed. Here’s Rob Quist voting in Kalispell yesterday.


To echo J.M. Brown over at The Western Word, if you’re voting by absentee ballot, there’s a good argument for not marking your ballot for at least a couple of weeks given how much is happening with the election.



3 May 2017 — 0952 mdt

Even with a mail ballot, School District 5 turnout was shamefully low

Betty Albright, an incumbent trustee, and Diane Morton Stout, were elected to the board, defeating Rebecca Linden and Scott Plotkin. Just 21.7 percent of the 17,008 ballots were returned. The unofficial results are posted on the school district’s website, and will be ratified at a school board meeting later this month.

No one should be surprised by the shamefully low turnout. The election was non-partisan. There were no issues (such as more football vs. no football). It was simply a contest of competing credentials and promises to work hard and make good decisions.



2 May 2017 — 1017 mdt

Do mail ballots present an identity theft risk?


With considerable reluctance and misgivings, I cast my school election ballot by mail late last week. Normally, I deliver the ballot in person, and thus have given no thought to the implications of having my signature on the outside of the return envelope.

But this year, I had to consider the issue. Placing my signature on the outside of the envelope, in plain sight, puts it as risk of being photographed by a rogue USPS employee using a cell phone or a concealed camera. Because it’s an official signature, it has value to an identity thief.

To reduce the risk, I placed my signed return envelope, my ballot inside in the security envelope, in a plain white envelope and cast my ballot that way. I also enclosed in the plain white wrapper a tart note admonishing the school district for putting signatures at risk.

Don’t believe public officials when they aver mail ballots are secure. They are not, and the postcard privacy level afforded to one’s official signature is an invitation to identity theft.

Are voters required to vote for two candidates, or can they vote for just one? The ballot reads “VOTE FOR TWO.” As far as I know, voting for just one candidate is legal. I therefore think the ballot ought to read “Vote for no more than two candidates.”

I did vote for two, but with misgivings. School trustee elections are nonpartisan. Without knowledge of the would be trustee’s politics, I have no way of ascertaining the candidates values and policy preferences. I try to make an informed choice, but it’s really just a crapshoot. I sometimes wonder if not voting would reduce the odds that the worst candidate might win.

Finally, as long as a mark is within the box, or unambiguously identifies the candidate the voter has selected, the ballot should be counted. Trying to limit voters to an “X” within the box is not consistent with a voter friendly policy, but it’s fully consistent with the anal retentive mindset that one finds in authoritarian institutions such as schools.



1 May 2017 — 0810 mdt

Will the “Tu QuoQue, Gianforte,” strategy
negate attacks on Quist’s personal finances?

Republican attacks ads featuring Democratic candidate Rob Quist’s untidy personal finances are doing considerable damage to Quist. He cannot change his past, but he can argue that Greg Gianforte’s finances are just as untidy, thereby inviting voters to conclude that Quist’s and Gianforte’s sins negate each other. That’s why Quist’s campaign is pushing the preposterous notion that Gianforte’s Russian financial assets make him a security risk and may violate sanctions against Russia.

Gianforte is telling Quist, “Your finances stink,” and Quist is retorting, “Yours don’t smell so sweet, either.” Gianforte is accusing Quist of irresponsibility. Quist is accusing Gianforte of hypocrisy, and hinting that two wrongs make a right.

Politically, this might work. Although the “you’re another” comeback, the tu quoque fallacy, is an argument that’s quickly shredded in formal debates, it can be a powerful response in the real world.

Quist, as noted at Logicosity this morning, is not gaining traction. Time is running out. Absentee ballots are in the mail. Voting begins this week. Praying is not enough. That’s why Quist’s throwing a Hail Mary pass to drag the receiver and defender down in the mud.