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Montana Editorial Roundup

January 16, 2019

Billings Gazette, Jan. 16, on Montana campaign rule withstanding Supreme challenge:

Eight years of litigation to abolish Montana’s campaign contribution limits ended Monday with two words from the U.S. Supreme Court: certiorari denied.

Lair v. Mangan was among dozens of cases that the nation’s highest court declined to review in an order issued Monday.

The high court order allows the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to stand. The court upheld Montanans’ authority to limit how much money a contributor may donate to a candidate for public office.

Doug Lair was one of three individuals, who along with American Tradition Partnership, Montana Right to Life Association PAC, Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity, Lake County Republican Central Committee, Beaverhead Republican Central Committee, Jake Oil LLC, JL Oil LLC and Champion Painting Inc., filed a lawsuit in September 2011 in U.S. District Court in Billings.

The lawsuit was one of a series involving American Tradition Partnership (originally named Western Tradition Partnership) that sought to overturn Montana campaign laws, including the state’s century-old voter-approved ban on corporate campaign contributions and newer statutes requiring truth in political advertising among other things.

ATP and its associates succeeded in getting most of the campaign laws thrown out. A week before voting started in the 2012 Montana General Election, U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell ruled in favor of ATP and Lair, nullifying Montana contribution limits, too.

The Republican Governors Association quickly donated $500,000 to the campaign of Rick Hill, the GOP nominee for governor. Lovell’s decision was appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reinstated the Montana campaign limits pending appeal, so the limits were off for just six days.

The Hill campaign asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and allow unlimited donations pending appeal, which the high court declined to do. Eventually, the circuit court upheld the donation limits’ constitutionality and the law’s foes appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

What this long legal battle means is that Montana must not take our campaign finance laws for granted. Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan, who has the duty of enforcing those laws, needs adequate staffing and resources to fulfill his vital watchdog role.

The flurry of court action in the 2012 General Election erased any doubt that even greater sums of cash would flood into our elections if we had no limits.

“Montana’s limits leave candidates with the ability to conduct an effective campaign for office,” Commissioner of Political Practice’s Chief Legal Counsel Jaime MacNaughton said in a news release Monday. “Our limits allow individuals to associate with the candidate of their choice through their own speech, volunteering, discussing their merits with their neighbors, and through making their voice heard at the ballot box. Montana secured a victory today for transparency and accountability in our government and elected officials.”

The Montana Attorney General’s Office successfully defended the state contribution law, starting when Democrat Steve Bullock was attorney general and concluding under the leadership of Republican Tim Fox.

“I’ve never heard any Montanan say we need more money in politics and I’m glad to see the Supreme Court for once agrees,” Bullock said Monday. Montanans troubled by recent growth in campaign spending across the political spectrum will agree with the governor.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2DdouAP

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Montana Standard, Jan. 13, on ending the shutdown and getting back to work:

There is a reason why the Congress has an 18 percent approval rating.

One of the least popular political ploys in recent memory is the government shutdown, something that is employed every few years when the executive and legislative branches, and/or the parties, are at loggerheads. What’s particularly distasteful about this, every time, is that more work seems to be done in attempting to cast blame for the shutdown than in efforts to end it.

But the worst of it is that the little guy gets hurt while the leaders of our government wrangle and posture.

Montana, it turns out, is disproportionately affected by the ongoing shutdown. Obviously, our national parks are one of the most visible parts of the federal bailiwick under the Big Sky. But there are many others — not the least of which are federal Superfund sites like Butte and Anaconda.

EPA Region 8 Administrator Doug Benevento is determined that the current shutdown will not slow down the cleanups here. But some fallout seems inevitable.

Other government shutdowns have been petty power plays. But this one, as it becomes the longest shutdown ever, seems to take the prize.

There is not a crisis on the border. Violent crime is not up, there or elsewhere in the country. It is at a 14-year low. Immigrants here illegally do not commit a disproportionate amount of crimes. In fact, they commit less, on a per capita basis, than native-born Americans do. And a wall is not viewed by experts as the best tool to use in enforcing border security.

Why, then, is this worth shutting down the government?

Many federal workers here in Montana are working without pay. Others have simply been furloughed. Either way, their families are suffering needless hardship.

We absolutely concur with Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines, who has said repeatedly that members of Congress should not get paid while the government is held hostage, and has introduced a bill to that effect. “In Montana and across our country, folks are suffering at the expense of the political games being played in Washington,” he added.

Very true. And we also applaud Sen. Daines for his legislative effort to forestall future shutdowns.

But that begs the question of why Sen. Daines and his political allies in the Senate Republican caucus do not simply vote to reopen the government.

We urge them to do so, immediately.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2VVhtM9

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Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Jan. 11, on computer museum being worthy of support:

Barbara Keremedjiev is doing a courageous thing. Faced with the unexpected death of her husband George, she is vowing to keep open the museum he founded and tended with loving care.

Keeping the doors open to a museum may seem simple enough. But it takes money — for rent, insurance, utilities, etc.

George Keremedjiev started what is now the American Computer & Robotics Museum almost 30 years ago as a tribute to the evolving field of human communication. The museum has grown into a stunning collection of artifacts that draws distinguished visitors from all over the world.

But it is not just a destination for techno-nerds. The museum’s collection includes items from NASA’s Apollo space program to Shakespeare and spans some 4,000 years of human communication history. It has been ranked No. 1 among Montana history museums by TripAdvisor and one of the top 10 free museums in the nation by USA Today.

Barbara Keremedjiev will need help keeping the museum open. She is getting some of that from museum supporters and faculty at Montana State University where George served on a board of advisors for the College of Engineering. With help she has developed a plan to keep the museum open and even expand exhibit space so more of the collection — much of which is in storage — can be displayed.

But it all hinges on money.

The doors are open now and one thing we can all do is to take the time to stop in and visit the remarkable things the museum has to offer. It can be found at its unassuming location at 2023 Stadium Dr., just west of the MSU Bobcat football stadium. It will be an educational experience for young and old alike.

And make a donation while you are there. Those who are able should consider a larger donation. The museum is an IRS-approved 501(copyright)(3) nonprofit organization.

Bozeman is a better place because of the American Computer & Robotics Museum. Let’s pull together and keep it open.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2RQm3Mp

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