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Jon Tester Montana Politics

Senator Tester Voted to Block PRISM—in 2008

One of the reasons I have so enthusiastically supported Senator Tester has been his consistent opposition to overreaching federal policies like the PATRIOT Act and FISA Amendments of 2008 Act. The latter was specifically identified by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, as justification for the PRISM program, which allowed the NSA and FBI to tap “directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs.”

Back in 2008, Senator Tester voted against the FISA Amendments Act, just as he voted against extending the PATRIOT ACT. Representative Rehberg, along with almost the entire Republican House, voted for the bill.

It’s easy for politicians to decry the abuses of the NSA after they’ve been revealed, but we should credit Senator Tester for seeing the danger of NSA overreach five years ago. In fact, Tester was the sole Senator from the Rocky Mountain region to oppose the bill that year.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I just wish he hadn’t voted against the Dreamer Act and undercut Obama on closing Gitmo by using the foolish NIMBY argument.

  • Voting records are a poor indicator of an elected official’s true agenda. There’s too much monkey business with interest group tagging certain bills and then putting out scorecards, so it should come as no surprise that vote counting and vote agreements are common.

    Say for instance on PRISM that Tester secretly favored it, or feared the repercussions of voting against it (more likely). The bill comes before them, and the pressure to pass it is intense – remember that NSA has already wire tapped these guys, knows all about them and their and secret accounts and extramarital affairs, so that if they have any dirty laundry, they are already Post Toasties. So the bill comes up, and it’s a given that it will pass, and the question becomes who can be let off the hook. Tester petitions his party leadership that his vote is not needed, and trades it for a yes vote on something else. On the condition that he knows that he will not be allowed to stop such legislation, he is allowed to vote against it without punishment. He is, after all, useful in that he appears to be against state intrusions into privacy even though he is compromised and useless. Should a close vote ever come up, he’ll be a wiggling bowl of Jello, and not a dependable ally.

    It appears to me Don that your observations on the political process are a surface-feature dusting, and that you don’t really grasp the intricacies of politics or the bargaining and posturing that goes on, or the ease with which a politician, if he labels himself a Democrat, can fool you.

    • Pogie, please! Embarrassing! You seem to know nothng of intrigue, as if politics were written in Braille. If you profess to have expertise in something and write extensively on it you really ought to understand it better than your readers.

      • Tomato, Do you have any evidence that Tester petitioned his party for permission to vote any particular way? Or do you just assert this to show off how fashionably cynical you are? Strutting around pretending to be someone with special knowledge about how things really work doesn’t work with me.

        You’re a big phoney.

        • It is politics as it really works. Imagine that big money invests in Tester because they know he is compromised. These are not bettors. They are investors. Millions get spent on JT because ROI is assured.

          Proof? What planet? Realpolotic! Earth, US, circa 2012. That’s how it works, you pollyannas! There are no Mr. Smith’s. There are only men like Tester, bought. Fat, stupid, lazy, not even photogenic. That’s your man.

          • Realpolitik is spelled precisely how I spelled it there. Rarely do I bring up spelling, but as a one time student of the German language I thought I’d point it out.

            The thing is, Mark, you’ve got a fantastic theory that is very difficult to disprove – only if there is a substantial policy issue decided by exactly one vote will there be any proof that what you’re saying is false. But it requires a great deal more imagined complication that a simpler reading of the situation – Tester opposed these programs because he was pretty sure it was a bad idea, and pretty sure Montanans would agree with him, and by the way he wasn’t up for re-election for another four years so he had a little more leeway than others. He was in the minority not as the result of some vast conspiracy but simply because ‘homeland security’ was still such a potent charge at that time.

            One good thing to come out of this NSA business, though, is that I think it really will solidify the opinions of the American people on the issue. For so long Republicans were willing to pretend that only those dirty Muslims were being spied on so it couldn’t be so bad. And while some Democrats are blindly following the president, trusting the program they opposed simply because there guy is in the White House, many, many more are doing the right thing and calling for this to stop, regardless of the president in charge.

          • Nothing will come of the exposure. The American people are mesmerized at best, distracted by hobgoblins most of the time – terrorists, cheesy politicians like Tester – you lack substance. Your noble expression of faith in a politician is merely signs of weakness – you don’t have the balls to hold him accountable because you are scared of the other party.

            You continually refer to public opinion as if it were a cogent body of thought when it is nothing but a reflection of the slivers of disinformation supplied by TV screens, the rest supplied by imagination. It can be, should be, and is ignored by leadership. The problem is, leadership is corrupt. You know this!

            That wasn’t a good response above, I realize. We’re traveling, driving long hours, and it was written by demon beer. I vaguely remember writing it. Embarrassing.

            But you say that “Tester opposed these programs because he was sure it was a bad idea…” as if you knew the man. That’s weird, man. It’s an expression of faith. absent are the necessary elements of citizenship I tend to respect – incredulity, distance, holding him accountable. Votes are indeed meaningless unless they are tiebreakers. That is not disputable. Since that is the case, since we don’t have him in those situations, we have no reason to trust him when that situation does arise. This blind following without accountability is discouraging.

            This blog, man … Democrats good, Republicans bad … is a symbol of the mindless nature of American politics. Your references to public opinion, as if it was original and reliable, as if there were anything to mine there, is a stone wall around you allowing you to proceed without thought or skepticism.

  • Congrats Jon, our protector from a snooping government.

    “According to the proposed rule the government will collect Americans’ personal medical data to determine risk scores and state averages. This, the rule-makers suggest, will ensure “a robust risk adjustment process” which will help compare different programs’ performance and outcomes.

    HHS is considering three possibilities for data collection, including a “(1) A centralized approach in which issuers submit raw claims data sets to HHS; (2) an intermediate State-level approach in which issuers submit raw claims data sets to the State government, or the entity responsible for administering the risk adjustment process at the State level; and (3) a distributed approach in which each issuer must reformat its own data to map correctly to the risk assessment database and then pass on self-determined individual risk scores and plan averages to the entity responsible for assessing risk adjustment charges and payments.”

    Read more:

      • Revealing statement, Don. You take Tester at his word, without question or skepticism. You call the words of a politician “evidence.” Of what?

        • I will return to ignoring your drivel in moment, but have you ever considered how tiresome your one note observations are? You imagine that you are somehow a more sophisticated student of politics because you see past the party dichotomy, but that’s not sophistication when it’s the same line over and over again.

          Once again, you believe that the system is absolutely broken and corrupt. I (and others) believe that it matters if we choose one politician over another, because sometimes they do the right thing. We all get it. You’re not persuading anyone by repeating your claims.

          I’m not saying any of this because I’m threatened by the depth of your insight. It’s just not insight.

          • But Don, you’re a one-note Sally if ever there was one! Democrats good, Republicans bad. Everyone who reads your posts has the total depth of Pogie in one sentence. I could do a blind taste test and you would not know if you were drinking Democrat or Republican talking points. You have to know the party label before you agree or disagree.

            And you say I lack insight.

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