Sunday Apr. 20, 2014
A forum on Montana & Flathead Valley politics.
Montana Local & State PoliticsMontana Local & State Politics

HELENA — Montana officials are condemning a new delay in the decision whether to approve construction of an oil pipeline from Canada.

The U.S. State Department said Friday it is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline.

Part of the pipeline would run through Montana, and reaction was swift from Democrats and Republicans.

Democratic U.S. Sen John Walsh called on President Barack Obama to show leadership and end the uncertainty by making a decision.

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, who is Walsh's likely opponent in November's Senate election, accused the Obama administration of basing its decision on politics.

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock says the pipeline has been pending for five years and that Montana's economy would grind to a halt if he made decisions that way.

“It’s unacceptable for the Obama Administration to continue to delay this project. Montanans want good-paying jobs, a safer way to transport natural resources and a path away from dependence on Middle East oil. Americans have waited long enough. It’s time for the President to show the leadership Montanans deserve and make a decision because continued uncertainty doesn't help our nation."

“President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he will do everything possible to block this job-creating project—once again choosing political expediency over the needs of the American people. The Keystone XL pipeline would create hundreds of good Montana jobs and grow Montana’s energy sector by providing needed infrastructure to support production on Montana’s Bakken oil field,” Daines stated today. Montanans have waited far too long for the President to act— that’s why I helped introduce and pass legislation to take approval out of President Obama’s hands, and allow for the Keystone XL pipeline to be approved. Unfortunately, the Senate has refused to take up this common sense bill for nearly a year—instead standing by the President’s refusal to put Americans back to work and approve this shovel-ready project. Enough is enough—no more delays, no more excuses. It’s time for the Senate and the President to get serious about creating American jobs and build the Keystone XL pipeline.”

“I am very disappointed in today’s decision by the Obama Administration to once again unnecessarily delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This project will be a shot in the arm to our economy by creating much-needed jobs, and will advance our domestic energy security. This has been pending for over 5 years. If we made decisions on permits this way in Montana, our economy would grind to a halt. At a time when our national unemployment rate remains near 7%, Montanans demand decisive action from Washington, DC, not further delays.”

“I’ve long supported the Keystone XL Pipeline and continue to support building it with respect for private property rights and to the highest safety standards. It is time for the administration to approve building the Keystone pipeline, an important step in getting Montana oil to market and securing our nation’s energy independence.”

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HELENA — U.S. Senate candidate Champ Edmunds says he found a backpack containing more than $12,000 in cash outside a Missoula church.

The Republican jokingly told Lee Newspapers of Montana his first thought was that somebody had left money for his campaign.

Edmunds found the backpack Sunday outside Journey Christian Fellowship in Missoula, where he is a deacon.

He says he called police after finding crisp $100 bills inside. The pack also contained six cellphones, an electronic tablet and forms with the name of someone with outstanding arrest warrant.

Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh says the department is searching for the backpack's owner and trying to determine whether it's connected to a crime.

Edmunds is seeking the GOP nomination for Senate against Rep. Steve Daines and newcomer Susan Cundiff.

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HELENA — Two of three legislative candidates who listed the same Bozeman residence as their home in campaign filings are homeless and used a friend's address because they didn't have their own, one of the candidates said Thursday.

A Lamme Street house turned up in the Montana Secretary of State candidate filings as the home address for House District 62 candidate Dane Peeples, House District 63 candidate Laura Springer and Senate District 32 candidate Harry Pennington.

All three are running as Democrats, though Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee director Lauren Caldwell said she was unfamiliar with any of them.

That has prompted calls to state campaign regulators questioning the candidates' legitimacy, even as party officials accuse conservatives of "dirty politics" by entering candidates in Democratic primaries to trip up the nomination process.

Peeples told The Associated Press on Thursday he lives at the Lamme Street address with his disabled father and his daughter. Neither Springer nor Pennington live there, and Peeples said he did not know why his address was listed on their candidate filings.

Springer said in a separate interview Thursday that Peeples told her she could list his home address as her own because she is temporarily homeless and living in a motel.

Springer and Peeples became friends after meeting through the Human Resource Development Council, a Bozeman nonprofit agency that helps the homeless and the poor. The agency employs Peeples.

Pennington is another homeless client of HRDC, Springer said. There was no contact information listed for Pennington.

Peeples said he is a Democrat, and he is running for House District 62 against incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom Woods because he wants to make a difference.

But he may drop out of the race because his employer has a policy that prevents employees from running for office, he said.

"I would love to be able to represent the people of District 62. At the same time, do I want to give up what I love to do?" he said.

HRDC officials did not return a call to confirm that such a policy exists.

Springer said she recently moved to Bozeman and is originally from Eureka. She used to be a Republican but became disillusioned with the party, prompting her to run for the Democratic nomination against candidate Zach Brown, Springer said.

"I can't make any promises where I'll stand next year, but I'm standing with the Democrats at this moment," Springer said.

But like Peeples, she too may drop out of her race to care for her ailing father, she said.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said he has received multiple calls about the Bozeman address, but nobody had filed a formal complaint by Thursday afternoon.

If a complaint is filed, Motl could investigate to determine whether any of the candidates lied about their address, which can be grounds for a judge to remove the candidate from the ballot.

Candidates also are required to register with Motl's office by close of business Tuesday. If they don't, they are automatically disqualified from the ballot, Motl said.

As of Thursday afternoon, Peeples, Springer and Pennington were among 68 candidates who had not registered with the commissioner's office.

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BILLINGS — The Yellowstone County Republican Party asked congressional candidate Drew Turiano not to attend a party event this weekend, saying they will not give him a platform for his racist views.

"There is simply no place for racism in this party," party chairwoman Jennifer Owen said Wednesday.

The Yellowstone County Republicans on Saturday are holding their Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner, where all major Republican candidates for statewide office — other than Turiano — will get a chance to speak. About 300 people are expected to attend.

Turiano told The Billings Gazette he is being turned away because he is a self-described tea party member. Owen denied that claim.

Turiano allowed that Owen might have been offended by his support for "Operation Wetback," a proposal to deport all immigrants living in the country illegally along with their American-born children.

When Turiano announced his candidacy, the Helena real estate investor said he was concerned that in coming decades white Americans would become a small minority and possibly exterminated by the nonwhite majority.

Bowen Greenwood, executive director of the state Republican Party, said that since Turiano launched his campaign with an "offensive racial epithet," many Republicans have decided not to associate with him.

Turiano said the Yellowstone County Republicans have been the only ones to turn him away.

Turiano's challengers in the Republican primary are Elsie Arntzen, Matt Rosendale, Corey Stapleton and Ryan Zinke.

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HELENA — Former Montana House Speaker John Driscoll is making another bid for the Democratic nomination for the state's U.S. House seat.

Driscoll filed his paperwork Thursday with the Secretary of State's Office.

Driscoll served in the Montana House from 1973-1979. He also was a member of the Montana Public Service Commission and is a retired National Guard colonel.

The 67-year-old Driscoll lost to former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg in 2008.

Driscoll said Friday he won't accept campaign contributions unless he wins the primary election in June. He also did not accept contributions in the 2008 race.

He says if elected, he intends to ask Montana Democrats to expand the party to include non-tea party Republicans and change their name to the Democratic Republican Party.

He faces John Lewis in the primary.

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HELENA — Former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger says he will continue his campaign for U.S. Senate a month after saying he would probably drop out.

The Helena Democrat said Friday he was convinced after making a speech in Butte Wednesday, when several people approached him and asked him to stay in the race.

Bohlinger said in February he would "probably" drop his campaign after Democrat John Walsh was appointed to serve the remainder of former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus' term.

Walsh, Bohlinger and Dirk Adams of Wilsall are vying for the Democratic nomination for the open seat.

Bohlinger said then he knew he couldn't win a 100-yard dash if his opponent has a 40-yard head start.

He amended the metaphor Friday, saying he could still win if his opponent stumbles.

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BILLINGS — U.S. Sen. John Walsh says he's taking the lead role to advance a bill that would expand wilderness protections along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Walsh on Wednesday joined fellow Montana Democrat Sen. Jon Tester as a co-sponsor of the measure. It was introduced by former Sen. Max Baucus before he was named ambassador to China.

The bill would add 67,112 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It also proposes designating 208,160 acres as a Conservation Management Area. That would limit roads but is not as restrictive as a wilderness declaration.

It passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last fall.

Republican Rep. Steve Daines is Walsh's potential opponent in the November election for the open Senate seat. Daines has not decided whether to support the proposal.

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BILLINGS — Newly-named Ambassador to China Max Baucus has unloaded almost $1.7 million from his campaign coffers since he announced he was leaving the U.S. Senate last year, including a recent major donation to a Democratic committee.

Campaign finance reports show Baucus on Jan. 31 gave $475,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee as it seeks to retain the party's slim Senate majority in the November elections.

The donation came as Baucus' nomination for ambassador was pending.

The former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee had amassed $4.9 million in campaign money before unexpectedly announcing last April that he would not seek a seventh term.

Campaign reports show he has since refunded at least $1.2 million. That includes $683,000 to dozens of political action committees and $520,000 to individual contributors.

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