FAQ: Is PSC Restructuring Causing War in the MT GOP?

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It may seem, ahem, inconceivable, but this ordeal was started by former Republican Representative, Joel Krautter. He proved successful at convincing Richland County that he was a conservative – but only once – he lost to incumbent fence-builder, Brandon Ler. Ler has since gone on to gain popularity in Richland and Helena counties that Krautter never had. Ler, who after fighting to put a stop to HB702 summarily left town before bringing out the pitchforks and torches.

Working with both Raph Graybill and Upper 7 Law Firm (two sets of attorneys suing this publication for free speech), Krautter seems to be taking after his mentor, Bob Brown, and is making much (at least on Twitter) of lurching hard left in a way that he never would have dreamed of, if he were still hoping for an office in Richland County. Instead, the GOP is facing pushback from their prodigal, or bastard child (depending on how you look at it).

Either way, Krautter and Brown’s lawsuit to recarve the Public Service Commission is an attempt to place at least a Democrat or two on the PSC by a campaign of gerrymandering through the courts. Which PSC is currently run by 5 Republicans and one Republican firebrand, Derek Skees. Skees is promising to run if the lines are properly drawn. Another Republican, Joe Dooling, has also promised to run if conditions are to his liking, and the resulting chaos has left everyone wondering which map might emerge – if any – and who would be running for what. This FAQ might help:

FAQs

What does the PSC do?

The PSC is as old as Montana itself and was invented to ensure that monopolistic train companies weren’t giving preferential treatment to some Montanans over others. Originally designed to protect the taxpayer, today the PSC has judicial oversight over railroads and over the approval of rate hikes or changes by utility companies, and until recently, had oversight over taxi cab drivers as well.

How is the PSC Structured?

The PSC is an invention of the state legislature, and therefore its districts are controlled, or drawn by the legislature. What Krautter and Brown hope to do is basically a liberal Democrat’s dream; that is, to make the court redraw the map to favor leftist Democrats. The court, famously liberal, would no doubt make this attempt to circumvent the legislature. Unlike other districting issues this legislative session, the Montana legislature failed to line out how the PSC map should be drawn (population requirements, proportional geographical areas, no gerrymandering, etc). Currently, all 5 PSC candidates are Republicans, and Democrats with the help of accomplices like Krautter would love to change that.

Can the Court usurp the role of the legislature and draw a PSC Map?

It depends on who you ask. Certainly, the Montana Supreme Court feels it can do anything it wants, at any time, despite the law, including refusing to recuse itself from matters pertaining TO itself, including refusing to hand over their public emails for instance. Certainly, at least some justices would have no problem illegitimately legislating a PSC map. After all, they regularly legislate from the bench already.

What can the legislature do to prevent the court from redrawing a corrupt gerrymandered map?

The answer is simple, but not easy. It can call a special session. This is certainly legal due to the reservation of a ten day extension at the end of a session just for matters like this one, keeping the legislature from exceeding the length of it’s constitutional operation. It takes 76 votes between the two chambers to call a session. No time requirement is then required. They must write letters of request to leadership, and if the threshold of 76 is met, it is called. It can also be polled by the Secretary of State and with the same 76 member requirement, but in that case does not take 30 days to certify. The deadline is currently March 4, which means the only way it can conceivably be done now is by the polling method. However, it has to include the participation of the Secretary of State, who as of late, seems to be busy with a career in Social Media.

Are There Dangers in Calling a Special Session?

Yes. Good legislation, already passed by slim margins could possibly be brought back to the floor and defeated. For example, Geraldine Custer has admitted regret in voting for HB702. Even though it would require a majority to accomplish, we could conceivably see good legislation go away.

Can A Special Session Be Seen as an Alternative, Easier path than the 76 Member Agreement method?

Yes. The Governor may freely call a special session at his state executive discretion. That would solve a lot of problems.

Why Doesn’t Governor Gianforte Just Call Such a Special Session?


No idea. Governor Gianforte is not your classical liberal or classical conservative. He leads often by polling, does not like to fail, and likes to make sure his efforts are a success before making a call or decision, which he does very much by design. If possible, Gianforte would prefer to pass the buck to others to make controversial decisions, as he did with the masking mandate, before eventually and thankfully making the right call. It could be Gianforte is waiting to see what the legislature will do.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Support a Special Session?


This is trickier to answer. Some simply don’t think it’s needed. Some are legitimately worried about what else might be brought to the floor (for example, HB702). But the fear for at least two legislators who have worked tirelessly for election security, is that that issue will not be addressed along with the redistricting issue. As is the rumor; a special session is not supported by Gianforte or Jacobsen, neither is it therefore supported by either Speaker Galt or President Blasdel of the Senate, who are largely seen as taking marching orders from the governor. The Montana Daily Gazette has spoken to two legislators who have promised not to vote for the special session if Election Security is ignored.

A third legislator – one who has supported the session but only marginally – told MDG that he was promised by party leaders that a Special Session would be called in exchange for a Select Committee on Election Security, thus securing his vote. A Select Committee grants subpoena power and the power to investigate election security. A Special Session is not necessary for a Special Session to be called. This legislature has allocated roughly 100k and then 50k a day to run a Special Session, when a select committee doesn’t cost anything (albeit this Election Security select committee has asked for 50k (roughly) to operate.

The Governor did indicate he would, if given the opportunity, vote against the Special Session if he felt he was being misled simply to get his vote.



FAQ MAPS, MAPS, AND MORE MAPS

Many maps have been proposed, by both Republicans and Democrats. They range from common sense to the absurd. Lola Sheldon Galloway, for example, has seen only one map, which seemed designed to put Joe Dooling in James Brown’s district. MDG called Dooling about this map because he supposedly claimed (according to another source), “I own land in three of these districts. I’ll run wherever I want.” When we asked Dooling about this, he began his blunt response with a single word: “Rumors.” He then added, “False, false, false.” He further continued, “It’s where your voter registration is. That’s a false rumor. I live in precinct 2 in Helena. If I get zoned out, I’m zoned out.”

Other maps would have Dooling challenging Pinocci, with a sliver off Eastern Montana and picking up a portion of Helena, which would include Dooling. According to another MDG source, Dooling will not challenge Pinoccci.

Yet another map leaves Rep. Derek Skees viable to run. However, this is not perceived as “the best” map. It would leave two districts very subject to blue areas (so the rumor goes).

Ultimately, MDG has heard of as many as nine maps floating around, but the best one does indeed seem to leave Skees without an opportunity to run.

THE RUMOR

Near as we can tell from seemingly reliable sources, Don Kaltschmidt met with Skees to break the bad news to him – that the best map would not include him. Skees is said to have replied that he would accept whatever map was best for the party. No “quid pro quo” was offered in exchange for Skees not opposing the map. Don “K” hoped that Skees would not “be trouble” for the party and oppose the map that best promised a 5-Republican majority. Reportedly, Skees told Don K he would bow out of the race in exchange for the Special Session approving the topic of Election Security, a topic that Don K doesn’t seem to care much about as party chairman (odd, we know).

This rumor was flying throughout the day yesterday, thanks to – as best we can tell – a misquote to Lola Sheldon Galloway (VP of the Montanan GOP) – by a “journalist” with the Helena Independent Record. Reportedly, the term, “wheeling and dealing” was used in reference to the Skees-Kaltschmidt conversation. This has brought the ire of some, who act as though ‘wheeling and dealing’ doesn’t happen in Helena, but also by the Skees himself, who insist this rumor is false and absolutely nothing was promised in exchange for his support. Sheldon Galloway insists she was mis-cited. After speaking to various sources, MDG believes both; Skees made no deal, and Sheldon-Galloway’s remarks were either not made at all or taken grossly out of context.

Ultimately, everyone we have spoken to about this incident denies this bargain was made, except for the Helena Independent Record, who although does have a building in Helena, is neither Independent (it’s owned by an out-of-state liberal conglomerate) nor does it accurately report the record.

MDG can report that parleys were held today between all factions, and miscommunications were properly cleared up. Sheldon Galloway will be making further clarifications regarding the incident soon. By all appearances, this seems in the end, like much ‘ado about nothing.

One caveat should be made, however. If it is accurate that Derek Skees accepted a map that would not allow him to run for office because it was best for the party, he has the character and integrity we were all sure he had to begin with.




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