Letters to the Editor
May 13, 2020 | View PDF
I am saddened to see politics in Richland County more vicious than I have ever seen it. Based on recent letters to the editor, petty personal attacks cast a cloud on real issues that need to be addressed. We need discussion on how adequate funding for our public schools and rural healthcare can be sustained in the current economic climate.
On a positive note, I met a gentleman the other day from Glendive who is running for Senate District 18, which encompasses Wibaux, Dawson and Richland counties. His name is Pat Mischel and I think he would be a great replacement for our current Senator who I think does not reflect the views of a majority of voters in District 18. We talked about he double whammy of COVID-19 and the collapse of oil to our local economy. Pat is a huge supporter of Public Education and using it to retrain workers who have lost oil related jobs. I think we need someone like Pat with new ideas instead of our current Senator who offers little but the word “No”.
The other issue that is near and dear to Pat’s heart is access to public lands for hunting, fishing and tourism. He wants to insure that our public lands remain public, so that future generations of Montanans can have the same access that we have today. Pat Mischel is running unopposed in the primary but I encourage you to consider him in the November election
Greg Miller, Sidney
Krautter Delivered Results For Area
Two years ago we supported Joel Krautter’s campaign to be our area’s Representative in Helena. The reasons we did so then were that we believed Joel would go to Helena to find solutions and would keep the needs of our area first, ahead of politics. We also believed Joel would stay informed about the challenges to our area and be a thoughtful, dedicated problem-solver in Helena.
Having spent a legislative session working with Representative Krautter on various legislation and following his votes, we can say that Joel Krautter delivered on all of those things and then some.
Representative Krautter successfully restored a funding stream of oil and gas tax revenue for local cities and towns that had been diverted after the 2017 legislative session. This legislation was a priority for Sidney, Fairview and other eastern Montana communities, as well as counties, whose officials traveled to Helena to support the legislation.
Joel was also well aware of attempts by other legislators to steal money away from local governments to pay into the state’s public defender system. Had this passed it could have resulted in local tax increases to make up for the loss of this revenue to the state. Joel also supported historic investments in infrastructure.
Joel maintained an open line of communication on a daily and weekly basis with local government officials and community leaders on happenings from the Capitol, which we appreciated. Additionally, Joel didn’t just show up at the Capitol to vote and go home, he went above-and-beyond to support our agriculture and business communities, receiving recognition by both the Montana Farm Bureau and Montana Chamber of Commerce for his work.
Joel Krautter delivered results for the people of Richland County in Helena in his first term and he has earned our personal support for re-election to House District 35. We know his work at the legislature will continue to benefit all of the residents of Richland County.
It bothers me that good, old-fashioned common sense is missing from politics on both the state and national level. The ability to find solutions and stay levelheaded, has evolved into name-calling and ineffective governing. The art of working together and finding common ground seems to have completely left the building and the ones left hostage to this type of politics are us, the citizens in every county and state across America.
However, in House District 35 we have a person who is solution minded and result driven and will do what is best for all the residents in our county. That person is Joel Krautter.
Joel Krautter’s common sense, conservative leadership style brings results to Richland County and Eastern Montana. He is a good listener and more importantly a learner and a doer. I’ve watched him lead and listen to many groups, committees and industries in Richland County and all are better from his involvement and leadership. He is focused on building relationships and finding solutions to problems facing Richland County. He sincerely wants to grow our economy and take care of infrastructure needs, schools and hospitals. He did not abandon his conservative principles during the legislative session but proved he will work to bring results to Richland County. Voting no on every single bill because it doesn’t include everything we want does not move this county forward.
The fact that the Montana Stockgrowers and Montana Farm Bureau have endorsed Joel make it clear to me he is the candidate we want in office. Both associations worked extensively with Joel during his first legislative session. He was awarded the Rookie of the Year legislator from the Montana Farm Bureau, as the first-term legislator who went above and beyond in serving agriculture and rural Montana. This is the kind of person I want representing my interests in Helena. The one who will go above and beyond for Montana’s number one industry, agriculture!
My family’s livelihood is agriculture and I want a Representative who understands and most importantly will learn about the issues facing farmers and ranchers in Eastern Montana. Joel understands the importance of agriculture and has proven he will work hard to make sure our voices are heard. This is the leader I want representing me in Helena.
I strongly support reelecting Joel Krautter for House District 35. Please join me in voting for him on June 2, 2020.
A political flyer recently arrived in my mailbox entitled Health Care Matters, Now More Than Ever. It was sent by a Republican candidate running for House District 36 (Wibaux/Dawson Co.) and he pledged to support quality Healthcare solutions. The flyer also stated the viability of our local hospitals is dependent upon the Legislature’s support of healthcare funding. In House District 35 (Richland Co.) the current Republican legislator voted for extending the Medicaid Expansion Program. It’s good to see some Republicans embracing this important program, which benefits eastern Montana, but there are still those who would cut the program entirely. As a candidate for Senate District 18, which encompasses Wibaux, Dawson, and Richland Counties, I want you to know specifically how and who this program effects, and the true cost. Here are some reasons I will continue to support Medicaid Expansion and work with both parties to make it a better program. Montana residents who earn less than $16,000 a year or $33,000 for a family of four need real coverage with benefits like a doctor, access to hospitals and emergency care, adult dental care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, rehabilitation services and supplies, family planning, and yes, maternity and newborn care. As of March 20, 2020 there are 926 people enrolled in Expanded Medicaid in our three counties. During the current enrollment period there have been 160 breast cancer screenings, 106 colon screenings, 19 cancer conditions averted, 494 outpatient mental health treatments, and 52 inpatient mental health treatments. All this and the above-mentioned services from adult dental to newborn care are paid for by the Medicaid Expansion. Montana Department of Health & Human Services affixes a dollar amount of $5,754 per member a year, of which the United States DPHHS reimburses Montana 90%.
The end price of this lifesaving program is $5,328,204, all of which is spent at local hospitals or to private and public health providers. These dollars are well spent compared to the 46 billion the United States spends on foreign aid per year. Access to quality healthcare and preventive care is less expensive than emergency care. One final thought, as we go through this downturn in our economy, many hard working Eastern Montana families who have contributed to build our communities will be laid off and lose their insurance, these people are our friends and neighbors. Medicaid Expansion is a program that can help.
*All facts sited in this letter are available at: http://www.dphhs.mt.mt.gov/healthcare.
Pat Mischel – Democratic Candidate for Mt. Senate District 18
I regret that while all of us were sheltered in place, I wasn't able to visit every county in person during this primary election. I am writing to share why I am running for governor.
Montana is at a crossroads, facing an urgent set of new challenges that will require a new skill set in the Governor’s office, and someone who shares Montanans’ core values.
• Tackle the high costs of healthcare and drive down the cost of prescription drugs
• Expand access to quality public education across Montana, from prekindergarten, to affordable community college, universities, and apprenticeship training.
• Rebuild our economy, creating good-paying jobs and addressing the impact of wealthy out-of-staters coming in, buying up land, taking it out of production, and driving up the cost of housing.
• Protect our greatest asset, Montana - our clean air, clean water and public lands - so everyone has equal access to the natural treasures that we Montanans love.
I’m a sixth-generation Montanan and business woman who founded my own, successful company two decades ago that works alongside Fortune 500 companies and charities to solve complex problems - just like those Montanans face every day, like opening new markets for crops.
I build bridges, I listen, and I work with fierce urgency to solve problems.
I respectfully ask for your vote.
Democrat Governor Candidate
As a close associate of the late Phyllis Schlafly and former state director for Eagle Forum, I have a vested interest in maintaining Schlafly’s legacy work of supporting constitutionalism, expanding liberty, and ensuring conservative values remain triumphant in American government. I was present in St. Louis in 1990 when Schlafly announced the formation of the Republican National Coalition for Life. Under her direction I worked hard to elect pro-life delegates and worked hard at the 1992 Republican National Platform Committee in Houston. I have spent much of my adult life ensuring that pro-life, conservative individuals only lead the Republican Party. To this day, I try to continue the Schlafly legacy of conservatism over compromise.
In many ways, the contest for HD35 in Richland County mirrors the fight waged at the Eagle Forum for decades. Election after election, principled conservatives have had to work hard to ensure that Democrats remain in their own party instead of infiltrating the Republican Party. We have had to work hard to make sure candidates are honestly representing their views and, if they do not uphold the party platform, to say so.
Rep. Joel Krautter is precisely the kind of candidate we worked hard to counteract. You may not realize it, but even outside of Richland County, Joel Krautter is famous for tricking your conservative district into thinking he shared your values. Tales of Krautter flaunting his Democratic pedigree in Helena, while having run as a Republican, are far-reaching. His dishonest trickery is so far-reaching that a former state director for Eagle Forum has taken notice.
Krautter voted against Republicans 213 times in the last session. He voted for Medicaid Expansion, which according to the Montana Family Foundation, the Susan B. Anthony Foundation, Doctors for a Healthy Montana, and the Montana Pro-Life coalition all agree provides for taxpayer funded abortion. Krautter has voted for tax-increase after tax-increase. The majority of his donors are lobbyists, attorneys, and special interests that all profit from larger and more-intrusive government.
Krautter’s supporters include Democratic officials and locally, Walt McNutt, who helped to found the ‘Solutions Caucus’ that is now serving Democratic Party interests more than the interests of hard-working Montanans. Meanwhile, Krautter is opposed by virtually all conservative Republicans in Montana, including House leadership and his neighboring colleagues. Perhaps Krautter and McNutt both would sleep better at night if they just joined the right party that most aligns with their values.
Meanwhile his opponent, Brandon Ler, best exemplifies the conservative values espoused by Phyllis Schlafly and Eagle Forum. He is against higher taxation, he is against abortion of all kinds (especially that which would be paid for by taxpayer money), and he is against a larger government and bloated state spending. Those who wish to consider the legacy of conservatism in America should consider Ler the only candidate that exemplifies those values.
Cathy Mickels Former State Director, Eagle Forum
Many conservative legislators around the state are working hard to mitigate the influence of the leftist Solutions Caucus, which was founded several years ago in a partnership between the extreme left wing of the Republican Party and the Democratic Governor’s office. These caucuses of Republicans are in the minority, but because they vote with Democrats on crucial bills, they have allowed the balance of power to shift to the left. The Solutions Caucus has worked hard to recruit and support liberal candidates who, in any other place, would be on the Democratic ticket.
Having served alongside Joel Krautter in the Montana House, I can say with a degree of experience and authority that Krautter is a proud member of the Solutions Caucus and has done everything in his ability to convince Richland County voters that he’s a conservative when his voting record screams otherwise.
Krautter is depended upon by Democrats in Helena to regularly vote with them against his Republican counterparts. They know that he’s a trustworthy ally against Republican leadership, and this is why Republican leadership has been so vocal opposing him. Simply put, Krautter would be in the Democratic Party if he were a more honest candidate.
It's one thing to pose for campaign photos at a branding to act like he’s vaguely familiar with agriculture, or to talk about hunting pheasants when defending the Second Amendment. These are all just pictorial exaggerations common in politics. But it’s quite another thing to be dishonest about his voting record or to use the term “conservative” when describing himself. Anyone who has served with Krautter knows he’s not conservative by any Montana standard.
Most recently, Krautter sent out a mailing advertising himself as providing “conservative solutions.” This is the name of his Democrat-leaning caucus, which is now calling itself the “Conservative Solutions Caucus.” Yet all of the members of this caucus have F-ratings in party loyalty from Legislates. And nearly all of them vote with Democrats against Republicans. The term “conservative” is designed as a dishonest misnomer to confuse voters back home. Don’t fall for it.
While these Democrat-crossover voters are more common on my side of the state, Krautter stands out as a big blue dot in what is otherwise a sea of red throughout most of Eastern Montana. He is, beyond a doubt, the most liberal legislator in your part of the state since Walt McNutt. Krautter has voted for many tax increases, supported taxpayer-funded abortion through Medicaid Expansion Renewal, and has sided against business regarding tax hikes on aviation fuel, hotel taxes, and vehicle registration. If re-elected, he will vote for many more tax increases, emboldened by Richland County’s decision to send a Democrat-in-Republican clothing back to Helena.
Representative for House District 85
On Monday, May 11 a business meeting of the Public Service Commission, commissioners were asked to begin their consideration of the proposed censure of Commissioner Randall Pinocci. Brought by Commissioner Roger Koopman, the censure resolution involved 10 specific allegations of misconduct by Pinocci, in violation of the PSC’s written code of ethics and potentially, civil and criminal law.
The charges included repeated acts of libel, slander, intimidation, retaliation, the filing multiple false reports to law enforcement, fraudulent use of the chairman’s signature stamp, the breaching of PSC data security, repeated spying on Koopman’s emails, hiding of similar data violations by a collaborator, violating Koopman’s personal privacy, and wide dissemination of patently false, malicious, defamatory and humiliating gossip about Commissioner Koopman. The commissioners had been provided 10 pages of exhibits and information on these extremely serious allegations, approximately one month ago.
The censure motion was not even discussed or debated. Apparently by previous agreement, no commissioner would second Koopman’s motion, and the censure was instantly killed, before its merits could even be considered. In effect, PSC commissioners were saying that no commissioner would ever be held accountable for their bad behavior. The commission would simply close ranks and close the books. The PSC’s official position would be, “we don’t want to discuss it and we don’t want to know.”
Reflecting on, in his words, “the shameful and alarming dereliction of duty by the commission”, Commissioner Koopman sees this latest embarrassment as an example of what he has been warning about for some time: a PSC dominated by “Johnson’s political ambitions and intimidating, authoritarian approach to the chairmanship.” His additional comments on today’s developments are as follows:
For some time now, I have expressed my concern that the PSC, under Chairman Johnson’s control, has become more a commission of politicians than a commission of commissioners. By that, I have meant that political loyalties and grudges have taken center stage, and have replaced our thoughtful and unbiased deliberative process. This, in my opinion, has seriously compromised the public mission of the PSC itself. We have turned our public service culture into a culture of politics, where fresh ideas and Independent thinking are not tolerated. Commissioners either toe the line or pay the price. The betrayed people of Montana are paying the biggest price.
This is the manner in which Brad Johnson “leads”, and the manner in which the other commissioners compliantly follow. Arguably, it has created the worst mess, and the lowest morale, in the history of the PSC, and I have been the only one willing to swim against the current – and speak openly about the frequent problems and breakdowns.
As bad as this situation has become, I did not think for a moment that it could result in in the travesty we have just witnessed. Here, facing allegations of truly reprehensible commissioner conduct, the Public Service Commission put on its blinders, and told every Montanan that we were unwilling to discipline our members or enforce our own written code of ethical conduct. The PSC would “take care of its own” by simply looking the other way.
It is one thing to lock arms on public policy questions, while pretending to be listening to all sides. The Johnson majority does this all the time. It’s quite another to be so politically-driven (and resentful of an outspoken member like me) so as to refuse to even view the evidence that addresses an extremely serious set of ethics-related allegations against another commissioner. And yet, that is exactly what Commissioners Lake, O’Donnell and Johnson did in this matter, and as a public servant, I find this both inexplicable and inexcusable. It amounts to thumbing their noses at the public they serve, while lowering their respect among the staff that serve them. It is an appalling example of moral cowardice, and an apparent inability to express even a modicum of moral indignation.
As I pointed out in my opening remarks, this censure motion was all about protecting the honor, the integrity and the professional reputation of the PSC itself. Voting to allow consideration of the facts did not constitute a final judgment; it was simply saying we had our eyes open and we wanted to know the facts. To vote “no” was to say that the PSC intended to protect its fellow commissioner, no matter what the evidence would have revealed. We aren’t interested and we don’t want to know.
That is the level to which the Public Service Commission has sunken. Unconcerned about the ethical conduct of commissioners, the reputation of the PSC, the personal and professional harm and humiliation that has been visited on this commissioner. Dedicated to having their own way, even when it means sweeping major legal and ethical offenses under the rug for politics’ sake, and never allowing them to see the light of day.
There may be a swamp in Washington, but there is an ethical cesspool in Helena at the PSC. It is conceived by Brad Johnson, but the other commissioners are fully complicit, as they have once again poignantly proven. With much sadness and regret, I must conclude that these commissioners are not public servants, and are not fit for public office.
Roger Koopman, Commissioner, PSC District 3, May 5, 2020