Thursday, May 31, 2007

Familiar pattern from the state Democratic party -- and yet other eerie similarities

It's perhaps not accurate to call a series of two events a pattern -- a trend perhaps?

Not long ago, the state Democratic party manufactured a "scandal" involving one of Denny Rehberg's staffers (proven to be completely groundless.) They just happened to time their press-release for same day when news came out that the Montana Democratic Party was being socked with a hefty fine by the F.E.C. for campaign-finance violations during the Burns-Tester U.S. Senate race.

Today, dueling headlines in the Gazette indicate something similar at work. The state Republican party had been raising questions about the governor's recent junket to the Kentucky Derby for a Democratic fundraiser, and yesterday they filed a formal complaint with Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth.

The process had been in the works for several weeks, and it is interesting that the Democratic party just happened to file a complaint against Republican business executive Steve Daines of "" fame on the same day as the Republican complaint was filed. Their timing is uncanny.

Some might consider the Republican complaint to be picky. After all, by this point Montanans are hardly going to be surprised to learn that our governor jetted to a big-wig event outside Montana to raise moolah. We now yawn when we hear he's going to be in California in some TV studio or another.

Even if the Kentucky Derby trip turns out to be technically illegal (which it perhaps is, if one follows the details of Montana law and the logic the Republicans are advancing,) in order for there to be political gain for Republicans, Montanans would have to be shocked. And news that the governor was sipping mint julips on the dime of an organization that takes corporate contributions isn't going to shock many Montanans -- unless they've already decided that they don't much care for the governor's style.

But if the Republican complaint can be faulted for being technically valid but perhaps politically useless -- the Democratic complaint is merely laughable. Exactly how is Commissioner Unsworth going to be expected to find Daines guilty of running his website as a "'phony front group' for a possible gubernatorial campaign" if Daines hasn't declared that he is running for governor? And even if Daines ends up running for governor, how is anyone going to prove that he had decided for certain to run for governor at the time he started the "GiveItBack" campaign?

The Democratic complaint is frivolous, and Unsworth said as much immediately -- whereas the Republican complaint is going to take some investigation, even though an outcome in the Republicans' favor is by no means certain. It is hard to see the Daines complaint and its timing as being anything but a calculated distraction on the part of the state Democratic party.

There are a couple more observations worth making about Democratic hyperventilation over Steve Daines and his unsuccessful public service campaign to try to get more money rebated to Montana taxpayers.

The first observation is that for some reason that we can't figure out, Daines has Democrats worried. Why would the governor have appeared recently with a sign behind him saying "We Gave It Back?"

Everyone knows good and well that the surplus wasn't given back -- and Democrats are proud of the fact that they spent nearly all that money on "essential services" rather than giving it back in tax credits or cuts. For them, it was a major political victory won by a no-compromise stance that the money wasn't given back -- a victory they should be proud of. So why the sign saying "We Gave It Back?"

The second observation is that the Democratic hyperventilation about Daines has seemed eerily familiar to Montana Headlines. It was difficult to put a finger on it, but then it all became clear: it reminded us of Republican reactions to a certain mint farmer some years back -- a guy with no political experience and who used non-traditional means of getting headlines. Republicans could never make any of their accusations or ridicule stick, and their attempts to do so were, if anything, counterproductive. We all know how the story ends.

So in that sense, the fact that Democrats are frantically going after Daines -- with nothing -- may perhaps bode well for the Republican party's prospects in the 2008 elections.


Anonymous said...

I think Daines' ads were much more effective at challenging the governor's plans for the budget surplus than were the tactics/arguments of the GOP legislative leaders. His ads were simple and humorous, easy for most folks to relate to. I think that's why Democrats are so nervous about Daines. He seems to be bright, capable, and apparently he's got some financial wherewithal. Sounds like they should worry.

Montana Headlines said...

Excellent analysis -- agreed.

It was amusing that one lefty blogger said it was pretty suspicious because it didn't make business sense for someone to invest several thousand dollars to get a $1000 tax refund.

I guess it is hard to believe that conservatives can do things for selfless reasons (never mind the fact that studies show that conservatives give significantly higher percentages of their income to charity than do liberals.)

The money was probably pocket change to Daines (or at least hardly lifestyle impinging.) But even so, by this logic, anyone who puts their money into a public service campaign from which they won't personally benefit is a suspicious character.

And if anyone who gains public attention by giving a lot of money to a non-profit ends up running for public office -- those donations to charity should be treated as campaign dollars.


any rand said...

it is time to take the libs to task. We conservatives, when attacked, shrug our shoulders and hide in the closet. It's time to "come out" and use tactics that expose the dems for what they are.

Montana Headlines said...

It's just fine to file a complaint against the Dems when they appear to have broken a campaign law. In fact, it's necessary.

But at the same time, we should treat it like taking out a stinking bag of trash -- it's gotta be done, there's no pleasure in it, and we would prefer that the trash wasn't stinking in the first place.

The Montana GOP, rather than treat this like a big deal -- as though we've really caught the governor in something bad (which no-one is going to get worked up about) -- should just matter-of-factly file a complaint when the Dems get caught in their own laws and rules.

Then, we should remind people that as Republicans we don't think that there should be all of these restrictions on campaign contributions in the first place. But if the Dems want to claim to be the party of the squeaky clean, we'll hold them to it.

And then, we should move on and treat such shenanigans as being as boring as they really are.

The goal at the end of all of this is to get at least 51% of Montanans to vote for our people, and Republicans have always done better at getting that 51% when we act like the adults.

Anonymous said...

I think that is a good assessment. It isn't a big deal. But it would good to let the governor know that the rules apply to him as well as to Republicans. So let's find out who was paying for the steak and booze he was feasting on in Kentucky and California. Who was picking up the tab for the plane tickets. What does he do for for those freebies? Is he fundraising for other organizations, or for his own campaign? He said he wouldn't take money from corporations, but is he taking money from corporate executives, and is that a distinction without a difference? Where does his brother fit into all this? Is he earning money as a campaign fundraiser? If he is fundraising, is he leaning on businessman and companies that do business with the state? Why am I asking these questions -- and the press is not?

Montana Headlines said...

No argument on any of the above questions. If there are rules, everyone needs to follow them -- when something ties a Republican politician in Montana to corporate money, we certainly hear about it then.

I think the point I am making is more one of style. I just suspect that the Montana press will be more inclined to follow up on leads that aren't presented as though the sky is falling.

It certainly keeps us from looking silly in front of the Montana public if things turn out not to be true.

And at the end of the day, what is the message that Republicans are trying to convey by picking at Schweitzer's minor wrong-doings? Are these the best points that Republicans can make regarding why the state would be better off with a Republican as governor?

These sorts of things run the risk of having Republicans defining themselves as being against the governor. It didn't work well for Republicans against Clinton, or for Democrats against Bush.

In both cases, the tide turned because of a combination of self-destructive acts by the party in power and positive messages by the party out of power.

That's what we need to concentrate on here in Montana. People will eventually tire of the act -- the question is whether we give them an alternative that they will immediately turn to.

gop girl said...

"Are these the best points that Republicans can make regarding why the state would be better off with a Republican as governor?

These sorts of things run the risk of having Republicans defining themselves as being against the governor."

In a time when we have no declared candidate for Governor (on a side note - RUN, DAINES, RUN!) the state party's job is to keep Schweitzer accountable.

In a time when the media isn't willing to do the heavy lifting when it comes to investigative reporting, it falls on the shoulders of the state party to shine some light on the activities a governor who gets a free pass.

And lastly, we ARE against the governor. Anyone who has had any interaction at all with this man knows that he is a bully and a snake oil salesman. It is only through continuous scrutiny that the people of Montana will finally see the light - and the arrogance of our govornor who believes himself to be above reproach. Some of the accusations may seem petty, but sooner or later they will add up.

And with no one else stepping up to the plate, it seems to me that the state party is simply doing their job.