Joel Krautter is a freshman representative in the Montana Legislature, working hard for his second term in office. With an F-ranking in party loyalty and with Republican House leadership united in opposition against him, it will prove to be difficult. Krautter wore an “F” lapel pin while at the capitol, bragging rights among ‘Solutions Caucus‘ Republicans who received the score from Legistats for routinely voting with Democrats. And yet back home, Krautter and his supporters swear up and down that he’s a real conservative.
The Solutions Caucus, which has now added the word ‘conservative’ to their name, is comprised of Republicans who – like Krautter – vote with Democrats against Republicans. The caucus was created by liberal Republican Llew Jones (Conrad) in partnership with then-Governor Brian Schweitzer. The caucus has steadily recruited and supported young Democrat candidates to run in Republican primaries. And now, the Solutions Caucus is teaming up with Democrats to steal Republican county central committees away from conservatives in a concerted effort and under-handed blitzkrieg this primary season.
Krautter failed in his first election bid but seized an opportunity after the resignation of Rep. Scott Staffanson to win the Republican Primary against first-time candidate, Tanya Rost. Krautter’s chief supporter was former Rep. Walt McNutt, whose daughter ran unsuccessfully for the spot in 2012, who largely tanked after proudly announcing her pro-choice position at a town hall meeting. McNutt was also instrumental in creating the Solutions Caucus back in 2007 and, term-limited out, wishes to maintain a strong liberalizing influence on the Republican Party in Montana. For McNutt, Joel Krautter is important to his pro-liberal legacy in Richland County.
However, little did most Richland County residents know about Krautter’s past, not as a liberal Republican, but as a proud Democrat.
Krautter, whose father is a Baptist minister, attended Liberty University, the largest Christian University in the world. The organization is run by Jerry Falwell Jr., who has occasionally had troubles of his own, from having to cover-up sensational photographs of his wife that for some reason the ‘pool boy’ was in possession of to drawing the ire of conservatives for endorsing a pro-gay marriage Republican last year to appearing in photographs dancing at a nightclub (which would not be controversial if Falwell wasn’t known as a fundamentalist Christian who frowns upon such things). Falwell had even endorsed Krautter in a letter-to-the-editor last election cycle, convincing some voters that Krautter must be a legitimate conservative.
However, Krautter’s days at Liberty University were not characterized by budding conservatism, but hardcore leftism. He was busy campaigning for Barack Obama.
The local newspaper, News and Advance, covered Krautter’s work for the Democratic Party and President Obama in an article on November 6 of that year.
They wrote, “Liberty University students Brian Diaz and Joel Krautter spent most of election night glued to a big-screen TV, watching restlessly as the returns poured in over a period of hours…these two young students joined a boisterous party of local Obama supporters, an event crowded with eager Democrats.“
They went on to describe, “Diaz dished out a high five to a friend, while Krautter took a picture of a TV screen bearing the historic words ‘President-elect Barack Obama.’
They continue, “The LU Democrats held an inaugural meeting shortly before the election. Krautter said a group of around 90 showed up. The club plans to maintain an active presence on campus, and contribute to future elections.”
“This is just the beginning,” Krautter said.
Krautter claimed that his work for the Democratic Party was “just the beginning.”
Krautter reveled in serving the Democratic Party in the midst of a conservative Christian school. As the child of a minister, he knew how to walk, talk, and pretend to be a conservative evangelical. He was perfectly poised to pretend being one thing, but actually being another.
In reality, Krautter had to threaten to sue Liberty University to get them to approve his Democrat Club. In doing so, Liberty had to move away from officially recognizing the Republican Party on campus so it could avoid accusations of discrimination. In short, Krautter got the College Republicans booted from the university by threatening litigation.
As Virginia turned blue last year and Governor Northam began to sign anti-gun legislation and persecute Christians during the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020, Richland County voters should be reminded that Krautter took an active lead back in 2008, trying his hardest to make the state go Democrat. Unfortunately for gun-owners, Krautter succeeded.
NPR covered Krautter’s work on campus to shift Virginia blue in an article roughly a month before that primary. In an article entitled, “Can Falwell’s University Tip Virginia to McCain?” they cite Krautter as one of two leading Democrats at the university.
“Eventually, two Obama supporters are located, not through the College Democrats club — there isn’t one here — but through the Obama campaign…But Diaz and sophomore Joel Krautter believe they’re making inroads. Recently, they manned an Obama table on campus, and Krautter says they were thrilled with the results.”
“Oh, we had a great turnout here,” Krautter is quoted. “We had an astounding number of people sign up for the campaign.”
“Well, it’s a start,” they write. “And both men believe Virginia can go blue.”
As late as 2011, Krautter was still supporting Democrats in Montana. He wrote a letter-to-the-editor to the Missoulian, claiming that Max Baucus – a huge Democrat big-spender – would be best to manage public tax dollars and curtail waste. His letter was entitled, “Debt reduction: Glad Max Baucus is involved.”
After serving as staff for Max Baucus in law school, Krautter went on to apply for the Commissioner of Political Practices. This office is appointed by the Governor and is used as a political weapon to punish Republican candidates. It is not an impartial office, but a partisan one. The CoPP is weaponized by the Democratic governor to enforce draconian and often hard-to-interpret and hard-to-understand campaign rules against Republicans. It is well known in Montana that this office is little more than a tool to combat conservative candidates.
By applying for the CoPP under a Democratic governor, Krautter was enlisting in an anti-Republican army. It’s just not something that a conservative would ever do. Bullock would have to be sure that his CoPP pick would be a Democrat, willing to do his bidding to harass conservatives around the state each election year. Even the Wall Street Journal acknowledged that the CoPP is used to harass conservatives in Montana. This was only in 2013.
The next year, Krautter began to campaign for the upcoming 2016 election, trying to fit in around the small town as Sidney where he first re-branded himself as a Republican. The first official connection between Krautter and the Republican Party came during this period fo Krautter’s political career, as he decided to run in the GOP primary against Scott Staffanson (he lost by 20 percentage points).
Krautter eventually succeeded convincing voters he was a strong conservative candidate, however, and he was elected to office by only 165 votes in 2018. But Krautter’s disguise was soon lifted as his voting record became known during the 2019 session.
It turns out, Krautter is not a born-again Republican. He is, if anything, a false convert who under false pretences has represented himself falsely to Richland County voters. And if his voting record is any indication (and it is), Joel Krautter is still very, very much a Democrat.
Krautter is opposed by Montanans for Limited Government, Doctors for a Healthy Montana, Conservatives United for Richland County, Legistats, Republican Party leadership at both the county and state level, all neighboring legislators, and earned a stinging rebuke from the Montana Family Foundation in regard to his claims about Medicaid’s funding for abortion. Meanwhile, he is endorsed by members of the Richland County Democratic Committee and three members of the leftist Solutions Caucus.
Meanwhile, Krautter’s donors are majority Democrat (see below):
By falsely presenting oneself in the wrong primary and under the banner of the wrong party, our entire election process is compromised. Joel Krautter seems to be skilled at infiltrating conservative places for the sake of the Democratic agenda. First, it was Virginia and Liberty University. And now, Richland County.