Down the Ballot

Breaking down the choices this election season

Election Day 2016 is looking to be America’s worst ever. We’ve always gotten the government most of us deserve, right? Facing not just one, but four of the lousiest candidates for president, ever – I’ll shuffle down to the polls, squinch my eyes, bite my lip bloody, and vote for the least worst – again. Yep. For Donald Trump.

Why? Because if Hillary Clinton wins and her “victory” spills down the ballot to Congress, she’ll be able to pack not only the U.S. Supreme Court, but the entire United States federal court system with young, diverse, healthy leftist radicals. Once that happens, our great experiment in self-governance of, by and for the people, is over. Don’t think so? Well, my condolences.

But I’m not going to just be voting for president, I’ll be going right down the ballot, voting like a good Republican should – even way down the ballot for the initiatives. Marsy’s law? Maybe. The pot initiative? Nope, dope. Biomedical? Sorry, but against billions spent nationwide, $2 million a year is utter waste. Trapping ban? Animal-rights fetishism, period. Heck no.

Finally, I’m going to crawl all the way down the ballot and vote in the “nonpartisan” judicial races. This year we get to vote on three Supreme court seats, two unopposed. The incumbents, Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justice Jim Shea, must still stand for “retention” elections in which 50 percent of the ballots cast must be marked. I’ll leave McGrath blank. But, when Jim Shea was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock, I studied the applicants and Shea was the best pick.

Then we have the open-seat Supreme Court contest (to replace retiring liberal Justice Patricia Cotter), between Dirk Sandefur of Great Falls and Kristen Juras of Missoula,

Is there a difference that matters? Sure – the court has power over the other two branches of Montana’s government.

Don’t let that “nonpartisan race” horsepucky fool you, either. For many reasons, the Montana Supreme Court is fully partisan.

For an example, give yourself a whirl through Google for recent writings by and about two former Montana justices, James C. Nelson, and Terry Trieweiler, who upon his resignation from the court in 2003, was pegged by media as having “anchored the liberal wing of the Montana Supreme Court for a dozen years.”

Then there was a study on “State Supreme Court Ideology” done by Stanford wonks in 2012. Using a system that tracks campaign contribution records, these geeks determined that Montana’s Supreme Court was the sixth most liberal in America. Really? Even stranger, the elected court was well to the left of the elected Legislature. How come?

Well, that’s simple. Without “party” political infrastructure to support these expensive statewide “nonpartisan” races, there needs to be a substitute to “inform voters” – especially if you are a lawyer who makes a living in front of these judges.

Therefore, as duly reported by Jayme Fraser of the Billings Gazette, starting in “2002, political action committees, primarily those backed by the Montana Trial Lawyers Association (MTLA), began fundraising and spending more than the candidates.”

For 2016’s Juras/Sandefur race, MTLA and “other attorneys — via three political action committees: Montana Law, Montanans for Experienced Judges and Montanans for Liberty and Justice — have collectively raised more than $400,000 since early last year” and are expected to support Sandefur.

MTLA is opposed in the money race by the nationwide Republican State Leadership Committee, (fronted by the “Judicial Fairness Initiative”), which Fraser reported has a fat national kitty but has allocated fairly little to Montana – so far. If they spend, it will be in support of Juras.

Obviously, large businesses with deep pockets, and trial lawyers seeking to drain those pockets, have the most at stake before the Montana judiciary, and it’s appropriate that they “invest.” But it’s a sad thing when we see deceptively named PACs on both sides playing word kabuki in order to manipulate voters – I mean, who doesn’t like “Experienced Judges” or “Judicial Fairness?” I sure do, but I prefer they be conservative, too – so, I’m muting all the ads and voting for Juras.

  • reggiewhitefish

    So you want a Republican President so we can continue on with our radical right SCOTUS and get more (legislating from the bench) decisions like “citizens united?! Then, you obviously believe corporations are people and money is speech…. right?

    Regarding your claim that Trump is the lesser evil, how do you know? Because he has claimed to support both sides of so many issues, which do you believe is true?…..why?

    Not being able to figure out his position on several important subjects is why I will reluctantly vote for the (maybe not lesser evil) devil we know, not an unknown billionaire devil who’s entire history has been exploiting everything for personal benefit.

    • Perrico de los Palotes

      Better run back to your safe space, baby boy! LMAO

      • reggiewhitefish

        If you are not scared of corporate/wealth domination of our political arena since “citizens united” re-wrote our constitution, you don’t understand what is going on.

        • Perrico de los Palotes

          But the wealth — & influence — is all on Hillary’s side: Soros, Buffet, the Rothschilds, etc. You’re a joke.

          • reggiewhitefish

            The Koch brothers (and other wealthy interests coordinated with them) will spend almost 900 million dollars on this election. More than either the Democratic or Republican parties. Eclipsing all other funders of either side, perhaps by orders of magnitude.

            You are misinformed…..dramatically.

    • Dave_Skinner

      So hinge Scotus vote Kennedy is “radical right” to you, Reg? Pegged.

      • reggiewhitefish

        Didn’t address individual judges, only the 30+ (?) year domination of SCOTUS by conservative majority that has reached so many radical bad decisions. With “citizens united” as probably the worst in history.

        Again I ask, do you believe corporations are people and money is speech? Or do you just ignore the democracy destroying decision because it was inflicted on us by conservative SCOTUS?

        • Dave_Skinner

          I know it won’t dent your bubble, but for those interested —
          No limits, but with real time disclosure. Soros writes a check, it’s posted immediately. Exxon cuts a check, boom, disclosed both by donor and recipient.
          Politicians are pretty much bought, and the peasants deserve to know by whom — BEFORE they vote.
          Tell ya what….rent a room, pay me, I’ll give you a brainful.

          • Dave23

            So you’re OK with bought and payed for as long as we know who’s paying. I personally think that leads to the elite having way more say than you or I and I’m not OK with that. One person one vote unless you have the money to buy more.

          • reggiewhitefish

            You haven’t got a brain full of anything but propaganda. Although it is currently true that politicians are bought, it is not good for we general public, destroys government “of, by, and for the people, and defeats democracy.

            The preamble of our constitution starts with “WE the people……” because government ruled by money was so common and so detrimental to the general public that our founders intended to avoid those problems in the United States.

  • Caddisfly

    Dave, outside of I-177 I will be cancelling out your vote on all the contested races straight across the board. By the way Juras is fully funded by out of state dark money groups, she has been a shill for big corporations and agriculture for years. She is also a rabid Evangelical who wants to force her 15th century views onto the people of Montana. I really am not a big fan of Larry Jent, but I just remember Tim Fox before he became Attorney General and he was quite a bit more radical then. Fox wants to be Governor and I personally do not trust him. I think that he is keeping his radical views in check until he becomes Governor, and then everyone will find out that he is just a clone of Kansas’s Brownback.

    • Dave_Skinner

      And Sandefur being funded by in-state ambulance chasers is okeydoke? The sick fact is we shouldn’t be electing judges, but appointing them as is done at the federal level.

      Nonetheless, I’m proud I could help you cast an informed vote, cad.

      • Caddisfly

        So you agree with Juras that Montana’s stream access law should be abolished and that we have no right to go onto School Trust Land, even though it is owned by the people of Montana.

        • Dave_Skinner

          I’m not a lockups lover, but property rights are due more respect than they currently get.
          The trust land mandate is simply that — these lands are held in trust to produce education revenues. That could be changed with a state constitutional amendment, but I’d only support permitted recreation kind of like the conservation license model, or parks pass. Otherwise taxes would need to be raised elsewhere.

        • Luke Juras

          Caddisfly, get your facts straight. Juras has said that the current stream access law gives a good balance between the public’s right to access and the rights of private property owners. She doesn’t want to change a thing about them. See her letter in the Northern Ag Network here http://www.northernag.net/AGNews/AgNewsStories/TabId/657/ArtMID/2927/ArticleID/6856/Montana-Stream-Access-Law-Is-Settled.aspx

          • Caddisfly

            For some reason I just do not believe a word she says. It could be the fact that her client list is a group of people who have been detrimental to the interests of the average Montanan, or the fact that she, like Gianforte will look to their interpretation of the bible instead of to the rule of law. We do not need people like her sitting on our State Court.

          • Luke Juras

            Caddisfly, can you name more than two of her clients? I can tell you that the vast majority of her clients are small businesses from Montana, non-profits from Montana, and individuals from Montana. As for your second point, she has publicly stated many times that “we live under the United States constitution, not the Christian Bible Constitution” and that she will decide cases based on the Constitutional rights of Montanans, not based on what the Bible says. EVERY SINGLE JUSTICE has to make decisions without being influenced by their personal beliiefs, whether it be religious or otherwise: “Religious-based animus has no place in a campaign for any public office, but especially for a judicial office. Citizens must be able to trust that the courts will make decisions based on the law, without regard to a person’s beliefs. Such campaign attacks undermine confidence in the courts and demonstrate an unacceptable willingness to sacrifice the fundamental principle of impartiality for political gain.” – Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice http://helenair.com/news/opinion/guest/endorsing-kristen-juras-concerned-about-tenor-of-race/article_0cf7deb5-3c72-546a-8d1d-b1e0e40ae7ef.html

          • Caddisfly

            And Jim Rice has publicly endorsed your mother, that shows a lot of impartiality. Your mother is a zealot as she has made this clear in past statements, now that she is under fire for this she is taking cover.

          • Luke Juras

            No, she is not taking cover at all: she is still uncompromising in her personal religious beliefs. She is just stating the obvious, which is that Supreme Court justices must leave their personal beliefs and opinions out of the courtroom and judge according to constitutional law. Sandefur will also have to leave his opinions and beliefs outside the courtroom.

          • Luke Juras

            If you are using sarcasm, it’s not coming across very well. If you aren’t using sarcasm, then I agree that his endorsement supports her impartiality.

          • Caddisfly

            How would an endorsement from Rice of all people show impartiality, he is to the extreme right and also one who has a hard time hiding his personal agenda in court rulings. He is radically anti union and worker and always sides with big business, no we do not need to give him an ally on the court.

          • Luke Juras

            Where are you getting that information from? (I’m not trying to attack you, I’m asking this question in good faith.)

          • Luke Juras

            Can you name more than two of her clients? I can tell you that the vast majority of her clients are small businesses from Montana, non-profits from Montana, and individuals from Montana.

      • reggiewhitefish

        In state trial lawyers are often the last hope for justice for the common man fighting wealthy interests. So yes, I prefer them, and their choice, to out of state wealthy exploiters funding their preferred candidate (with dark money) for Montana Supreme Court……and other offices.

        • Rhett the Butler

          The Wisconsin Supreme Court is an abject example of buying SC justices.

      • Rhett the Butler

        What a minute. Isn’t it your side that is always railing against un-elected judges?

  • Joel

    So in trying to choose between two horribles for president you say the Supreme Court is the deciding factor. Unimportant then would be the candidate’s views on domestic and foreign policy, taxes, spending, health care and all the other issues that affect ordinary Americans.

    You, of course, realize that a president can only appoint justices and other judges with the advice and consent of the Senate. Republicans have shown that they can and will use the rules of the Senate to block an appointment they fear and they will even take the unprecedented step of leaving a Supreme Court seat vacant.

    And think beyond the Second Amendment. Do a little research about how conservative jurisprudence has eroded our Fourth Amendment rights of being secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects. That’s what should really scare you.

    • Perrico de los Palotes

      But looking towards the future, do you honestly believe that the globalist, New World Order represented by Hillary will respect your 4th amendment rights? And the government already mines Facebook & other social media sites for information from the users dumb enough to use those services. Really, your point, if you even had one (seriously, how do you think Rep.s impacted the 4th amendment?) is irrelevant.

      By the way, your suggestion that the US Supreme Court doesn’t affect “ordinary Americans” as much as tax & spending issues is very mistaken. Brown v Board of Education (forced integration) & Roe v Wade (abortion) have affected every American.

      VOTE TRUMP!

      • Joel

        Brown v. Board of Education was a repudiation of Plessy v. Ferguson and a reaffirmation of the 14th Amendment. You don’t like Brown because it treats people equally. I doubt you personally experienced the evils of Jim Crow. We will not be going backwards in this country. Your fantasy will not come true.

        • FourisOn

          I guarantee you it will come true faster than your equality fantasy.

          It is unfair to people groups to treat them as if they were all the same. And a gigantic waste of money and social capital. This Tower of Babel is coming down. What cannot stand, will not stand.

          • Joel

            You guarantee huh? Most likely worthless considering the source.

            I have no idea what you mean by “people groups.” Over the past three years I have traveled to 18 states of this already great country and it is self evident that the only race is the human race. Your “Tower of Babel” thinking is an anachronism.

          • FourisOn

            Wow, 18 states! I retract my statement!

  • Christopher Cunningham

    Aside from the initiatives I found most of the ballot discouraging. I wrote in a ticket for the Presidential contest, reluctantly backed some Democrats whose views are quite different than mine, and steered clear of the judicial selections since I shouldn’t be choosing from among candidates I know next to nothing of importance about.

    No matter who wins I don’t expect to be satisfied with my representatives.

    • Dave_Skinner

      You’re not alone, Christopher. Welcome to the club, I hereby bestow upon you a free Life Membership.

  • Glen in Great Falls

    Your an idiot if you vote for either…which of them has said anything about protecting our border…I know Canada is not the threat it once used to be…but there both morons if they think we can trust our neighbors to the north…everyone wants the american dream

    • Rhett the Butler

      Heh.