In Helena, Art Wittich overplays his hand

Rep. Art Wittich (R-Belgrade) reviews a bill to outlaw puppy mills in favor of puppy incinerators

Rep. Art Wittich (R-Belgrade) reviews a bill to outlaw puppy mills in favor of puppy incinerators.

I’m sure you remember, but around New Year’s I boldly predicted that 2015 would be the year conservative Republicans in Helena overplayed their hand. I didn’t know what I was talking about, of course, but I happened to be right. Last week, the Montana House passed campaign finance reform and narrowly defeated a “religious freedom” ballot initiative. Meanwhile, the Senate moved incrementally closer to accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

All three of these squeakers came about because moderate Republicans voted with Democrats. I can’t prove it, but I think we have Art Wittich to thank. That’s my contention in this week’s Missoula Independent, where I argue that the Representative from Belgrade has inadvertently encouraged bipartisan cooperation with his relentless attacks on moderates in his own party. The snowball became an avalanche last week, and it all started with the dark money bill.

Wittich said that bill to require disclosure of donors to 501(c)4 organizations was about “hurt feelings and elections.” Either that or it was about the obvious scumbaggery of Western Tradition Partnership, a group whose connection to Wittich is currently the subject of his own political practices indictment. His trial is set for January 2016; if he loses, he will be fined and removed from office. I kind of hope he sticks around for a long time, though. He’s just brazen enough to be likable, and—as last week in Helena suggested—just clever enough to fuck up. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.

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