Why Does John Bohlinger Not Believe in Voice Mail?

Unlike certain “Democratic” strategists (irony alert) in Montana, I’m not one to suggest that a candidate’s age determines her eligibility for office as  I believe that voters should choose the best candidate regardless of age. However, when a candidate’s age perhaps suggests a fundamental lack of understanding about the modern world and its forms of communication, age may just become a factor to consider.

John Bohlinger seems to be demonstrating that lack of understanding.

I finally had the opportunity to read the Constitutional Amendment he’s proposed as part of his all-in-one Senate/Special Session/Constitutional Convention Comedy Tour, and the language is disconcerting–because rather than protecting the rights of Montanans, something even Bohlinger admits it won’t do, the text of the amendment will make illegal practically every form of communication invented since the emergence of the Internet.

The text of the Bohlinger Amendment reads (the ALL CAPS signify changes):

11. Searches and seizures. The people shall be secure in their persons, papers, COMMUNICATIONS IN ANY FORM, INCLUDING DIGITAL, homes and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures, OR FROM ANY FORM OF INTERCEPTION, REPRODUCTION, OR STORAGE OF COMMUNICATIONS, INCLUDING DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS, THAT IS NOT AUTHORIZED BY A WARRANT. No warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing shall issue without describing the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized, or without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation reduced to writing. THERE SHALL BE NO ISSUANCE OF GENERAL WARRANTS.

Grammatically, the first sentence, despite its length, is really clear: there can be no unreasonable search and seizure (the old language) and that Montanans wouldn’t be able to make a photocopy or save a voicemail message without first obtaining a warrant (the Bohlinger language).

Off the top of my head, the amendment that Mr. Bohlinger is proposing would make recording a favorite TV show on TIVO (STORAGE), listening to This American Life on the radio (INTERCEPTION), saving a Word file on a computer (STORAGE), and roughly 6.4 million other functions of day to day life illegal in the state of Montana. It would even make it illegal for a certain campaign strategist to endlessly retweet the same news on #mtpol all day (REPRODUCTION).

[WARNING TO REPUBLICANS : Hyperbole is one of the most common forms of satire.  Hyperbole can be used to heighten effect, to catalyze recognition, or to create a humorous perception.]

I suspect legal scholars would also raise serious objections with the nature of the amendment. By specifying a subset of communications (digital), the amendment would actually take a blanket protection of the rights of Montanans and make it narrower.  Anything not explicitly defined would suddenly be called into question because it would lack the specific protections afforded digital communication in the amendment.

Now, given the incredible precision and focused nature of the Bohlinger campaign thus far, I hesitate to suggest that this constitutional amendment proposal was scrawled on the back of a napkin in a Helena coffee shop before being rushed over to the Montana Secretary of State and the political media for another moment in the spotlight, but it certainly wasn’t vetted, wasn’t researched, and wasn’t even written well.

Serious candidates don’t make up  constitutional amendments and propose ballot initiatives because they generate attention. The people who work on ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments pore over legal scholarship and yes, even proper grammar and syntax to ensure that what they propose will actually improve the state of the law.

This political dog and pony show certainly won’t do that.

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.

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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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  • That’s beyond ridiculous. Constitutional “Search and Seizure” limitations only apply to limit the actions of government against the people.

    You seems to have an obsession to display repeated thunderations against Bohlinger. Meanwhile you give Walsh a pass who doesn’t seem to have any real opinion of substance on anything except his support for the Keystone pipeline. Just when is Hilltop Public Solutions going to tell him what his positions are so you can rave about them? There are many reasons to be concerned about Bohlinger, but being vacuous like Walsh is not one of them.

    • Diagram that sentence, Craig, and tell me what it says about search and seizure. Are you familiar with the function of the word “or” in the English language?

      I’m not daft. I know what Bohlinger is pretending to do with this nonsensical amendment he’s proposing, but its language is suggestive of the entirety of his campaign. It’s just a series of stunts that have nothing to do with the serious business of running a Senate campaign.

  • Mr. Moore is right. Poggie’s obsession with Bohlinger is getting beyond weird. While I will reserve opinions on Walsh until we actually hear something from him or dark money Hilltop, Rep. Daines got endorsed by the tea party express and voted against the budget deal. Is Poggie tired of talking about the real problems with our democracy, or is he vindictive from the primary loss? I find it ironic that ‘progressives’ like Poggie will browbeat a candidate that is doing progressive things like protecting our privacy, yet ignore tea party candidates like Daines and the corporate Baucus machine.

    • And that’s my point. Very few of us in Montana think that the NSA should be spying on us. Writing a ham-handed, awkward mess of a constitutional amendment won’t do anything to fix the problem. You don’t just sit down and make up an amendment to “the best state constitution” in the country on a whim or for political advantage.

      • I’m pretty sure that what NSA is doing is well-covered in the original document. What would the amendment say? From this day forward, we must behave ourselves and pay attention to what it says already?

        Face it – when lawmakers don’t follow the law, amending the governing document won’t fix our mess.

  • Dons absolutely right on this! If Corporations do something wrong, considering this law. and the corporations are already able to influence elections with money, are they people also, in regards to this ridiculous Amendment ? Is this proposed protection on changing the first amendment in the constitution that general?

    Are we living breathing beings actually closing the door to protect us from rummaging through Corporate data storage, their emails and their voice recordings. during a suit of their wrongdoing???
    I am really not liking the language of this Fake proposed constitutional Bill . Way too general an interpretation, and not geared towards living breathing people?

    Naw, I agree with Don….. its a publicity stunt!

        • I do that to Norma on a regular basis, as she always leaves out the apostrophe. It’s just to needle her, as she is always on my case, even cyber-stalking me, trying to get CO authorities to knock on my door.

          Otherwise, I don’t care. You might also have questioned my use of the word “implies.” It does not seem to fit. Does it.

  • Yes, yes, yes. I come here to see what “progressives” are up to.

    I also go to DaneCook.com for recipes, and Phil Plait for my astrological forecast for the day.

    This label business is confusing, not so much for what Don might call others, but rather for what he presumes himself to be.

  • Racing straight to a solution is common and reflects a compulsive need to respond. Rewards await those who appear to be “decisive” and “confident.” However, given too much weight, these traits turn menacingly into “rash” and “reckless.” It’s as though a bunch of 14-year-olds are in charge.
    Turning instead to deliberate and cautious thinking seems slow and ineffectual. However, this thoughtfulness is desperately needed.
    It is good privacy in electronic communication a a serious concern, but unfortunate that the question and some rational discussion didn’t precede some options for solution.
    If we don’t want people jumping to hasty solutions, we have to stop rewarding that behavior wherever it appears – not just in the Bollinger campaign.

  • Bohlinger is running for the U.S. Senate. And, NSA spying is a federal issue. So why does he propose amending a state constitution to address a federal problem that can only resolved at the federal level?

    • The Democratic hive is buzzing now, Bohlinger the object. perhaps he wants this, as any publicity is good publicity as long as the name is spelled correctly.

      Pogie is obviously a Walsh water carrier, and says nothing about him even as he rails on Bohlinger.

      Seems no one is up front about what they are up to. ain’t politics fun.


      • I’m pretty damn clear about my intentions. I’m in the business of pointing out the absurdity of the Bohlinger campaign.

        Fortunately, they make it pretty easy to do.

        • Don, if as you say, it’s your business to attack Bohlinger, just what is your business in supporting Walsh which is completely vacuous at this time? Other than supporting the Keystone pipeline, here is all that Walsh stands for. http://www.johnwalsh2014.com/act/join-the-campaign?sc=ad_g_s_us-search-hp_name_av1&gclid=CIbQvY7Ls7sCFcN_QgodgAsAmAhttp://www.johnwalsh2014.com/act/join-the-campaign?sc=ad_g_s_us-search-hp_name_av1&gclid=CIbQvY7Ls7sCFcN_QgodgAsAmA

          I’m running for the U.S. Senate because Montana deserves leaders who will live up to their obligations and responsibilities, put service ahead of self, and have the courage to make the tough decisions while protecting the vulnerable.

          Meanwhile Bohlinger has a record and is on the record as to his positions and opinions. Other than Harry Reid declaring Walsh as the Dem’s candidate, just what lights your fire to being so obtuse regarding Bohlinger? Did you know Bohlinger was at RootsCamp while Walsh was nowhere to be found? Just when is Hilltop Public Solutions going to tell Walsh what his opinions and positions are so your can write a fawning post in praise of such enlightenment?

          • Putting aside your typical concern trolling about Democrats, why not focus on your candidate?


            This is the whole of Mr. Daines’ take on the issues:

            As Montana’s Congressman, Steve Daines is committed to always putting Montana first as he works to bring real change to Washington and fights for common sense solutions to get our country back on track.

            Try again?

            • Given that you have decided Bohlinger is your business and this topic is about him, why stray into Daines matters who has a history, voting record, and positions on the record apart from the broad statement on a Bohlinger post? Here’s what may be helpful, since the major contest is far off, why not compare and contrast Bohlinger and Walsh? .

              • I blog the things I’m interested in. Right now, both Daines and Walsh are being awfully quiet–for strategic reasons. I get that. If, in due time, Walsh starts acting like the crazy train that is the Bohlinger debacle, you can be sure I’ll be critical of that.

                Just not too likely to happen.

  • I think Rob Kailey has pretty much demonstrated the proper outlook regarding this and other elections: he writes about football. Same subject, same effect, different venue.

    • You blaspheming little cur! Football is 100 times more honest than politics. MSU’s Brad Daly didn’t have to promise sacks and tackles. He delivered, performed, and that’s how he won the Buck Buchanan award today. So watch your mouth, smart guy!

      The most salient thing in this thread was from James Conner. There is precisely no point to attacking a federal mandate with a state amendment, save scoring cheap and useless political favor. Isn’t that what we chide the TeaPeep secessionists for on an almost constant basis? Neither Walsh nor Daines have anything at all to to with this charade/debacle on the part of Bohlinger. Don is 100% right about that.

      • I have the same feeling about baseball. No matter the quality of the people involved, the game remains honest.

        I presume you have inside knowledge on Walsh and Daines and their lack of involvement in Bohlinger’s quixotic campaign. My own outlook in all politics is to first follow the money, second to ask cui bono? I readily admit having no answers. Usually as well in politics, as with, Tester’s last-minute rescue last November, we only have the information we need to make proper judgment when it is too late to be useful.

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