About that Daines TeleTown Hall…(Guest Post)

Guest Post by Katie Clarke

Dear Senator Daines,

In the absence of an opportunity to meet with you face-to-face and have the opportunity to voice my concerns over trust and transparency related to your recent words and actions, I met with your representative Ron in your Kalispell office. He is really nice, and I appreciate Ron’s time. But, I want to ask you, can we, your constituents, set up a time to meet, face to face, with you? A lot of your constituents are looking for an opportunity to ask you a few questions face to face.

I am concerned you are not representing me, and I am concerned about issues of trust and transparency between you and your constituents who elected you to represent us and vote in our best interest. To illustrate this concern and highlight my questions, I’d like to use your recent (2.16.2017) broadcasted telephone call-in, which you call a “tele-townhall,” as an illustration of chasms between your words and behaviors, lack of transparency, and failure to use data or facts in arriving at your voting decisions.

Because, at this time, there still isn’t a recording of this “townhall” on your Facebook page or website or anywhere, I am having to rely on notes from the call. Why isn’t a recording of the phone call readily accessible and available to your constituents?

The first question was about rule 19 and Elizabeth Warren. You spoke about civility and decorum, and how important it is for you as a representative of Montana to be respectful no matter what party affiliation. Do you think we can’t see your “Elizabeth Warren, take your seat!” campaign that you posted on your Facebook page? How can you speak about respect and civility when, the day after you enforced rule 19 on the Senate floor, you launched a campaign asking for money to defend you from Warren and her liberal, leftist army? When my senator declares war on liberals, where does that leave me as a liberal? Also, why was this rule used to silence Warren when other male senators were allowed to read the very same letter she was asked to stop reading? Does enforcing rule 19 only apply to females?

The next question allowed in on the call was about the 9th circuit. You said you were in favor of splitting it as it is the biggest circuit which results in delays in dispensing justice. This is not true, the 9th circuit is not as slow as two other circuits that are actually less busy. And, we haven’t forgotten, speed of justice wasn’t your top concern when you were blocking the last supreme court nominee. Why don’t you feel accountable for telling your constituents the truth?

The next question was about Betsy Devos. You said you voted for her because she spent a lot of time in your office and had a lot of volunteer experience, you also said Obama didn’t send his kids to public school. How are volunteer service or Obama’s kids going to private school relevant to choosing to appoint Devos as Secretary of Education? The data shows her policy failed. The three school districts in Michigan where Devos invested her influence and money experienced overall decline in educational outcomes, the majority of charter schools started under her influence failed.A failed pilot study, or her family’s personal contribution of $46,800 to your campaign should have at least caused you to recuse yourself. How many people from Montana contacted your office asking you NOT to vote for Devos? And, why are you denying access of this information to reporters? This is a freedom of information act issue, as your constituent’s concerns are tallied and recorded by staff and on CRM software our tax dollars pay to fund.

Next, you did a Gorsuch survey. What were the results of that survey? Again, we have an issue of access to information and transparency.

Wendy from Dunton asked about healthcare. Her experience was a decreased premium & lower deductible. You dismissed her experience and said it wasn’t the norm. Have you read all the stories in our local papers about people covered by ACA who depend on coverage to receive needed care? Letters from our hospital doctors and administrators that outline how ACA has helped them help patients? Helped rural hospitals in Montana survive? What defines “the norm” to you?

Ron from Lewiston asked about investigations into Trump’s ties with Russia. You did not answer the question. Why don’t you feel accountable for answering your constituent’s questions? You discussed a bill you are introducing about cyberattacks. Are you going to push to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia? Are you going to push for the President to release his taxes? Knowing where our President has conflicts of interest is imperative to our safety and to the future of our democracy. It is your responsibility as our senator to push for an investigation into the Trump admin and campaign ties to Russia and to push for Trump to release his taxes. You could be a hero by being a GOP guy who holds people accountable regardless of what party they claim.

Then we had another poll about vets or military family members on the line. Again no results shared. What was the purpose of these polls? What are the results of the telephone surveys about military people on the line?

Kirsten in Fishtail asked why you are voting for Pruitt when his plans endanger MT waters, air quality, and land. You talked about Merle Haggard and hiking implying that you enjoy our natural landscape and will protect it. Why didn’t you mention that your words promising to protect MT land don’t align with your actions?

Tricia from Helena said, “CSPAN records indicate that you cast 562 votes as a Senator. Do you know how many times you voted against your party in that 562 times and can you speak to the importance of bipartisanship now?” The answer, which you did not offer, is 1. Why do we spend tax dollars on your salary, offices, staff, etc if you are nothing more than a rubber stamp? You answered the question championing bipartisanship, while failing to acknowledge you also sent out a letter to your supporters asking for financial and moral support to protect you from Warren and her liberal army. And again, why don’t you feel accountable for answering the question your constituent asked?

Julie from Missoula made comments that she supports Betsy DeVos; her health insurance premium is rising, and she wants to shop for health insurance across state lines. Julie wants full support on cabinet positions and full support for President Trump. You responded to her by talking about the failings of the affordable health care plan but outlined no plan for replacement or repair, you didn’t mention health insurance premiums were rising at a much higher rate before ACA than they have been rising since its inception.

Rick from Livingston heard there was a movement in EPA that allows coal sludge into streams. Your response: “Yeah, it was the stream protection rule.” You said this repeal will save a billion dollars, and that the rule affected jobs. Could you direct me to data about this?

Data seems to indicate the Stream Rule DOES NOT affect jobs as Daines indicated

Duane from Huntley said refugees get $2500/mo and lots of assistance, he asked why don’t vets get all this assistance? You didn’t answer Duane’s question. You talked about refugees and said Montanans are concerned about safety. You mentioned “Radical Islamic Extremism” twice stating that this is why Trump approved the 120-day temporary ban. Fact check: the ban was found to be unconstitutional and odds of being killed by a refugee are 1 in 3.6 million. Being hurt by a refugee is not a valid concern for Montanans, especially when we already have a very effective vetting system in place.However, vet assistance, which was what the question was about, is a valid Montana concern. And again, why don’t you feel accountable for answering your constituent’s question?

Jody from Potomac was concerned about WOTUS for those in agriculture and seemed to imply your position on this was a threat to farmers or ranchers seasonal water supply. I am not a farmer or rancher and don’t understand this issue fully. Do you?

Jackie from Helena said, “With a yes or no, will you vote for any changes to health care law that result in Montanans losing insurance?” You did not answer her question with a “yes” or a “no.” Why don’t you feel accountable to answer your constituent’s questions? Instead you said Montana needs a solution for Medicaid while failing to mention Montana’s Medicaid Expansion plan was bipartisan, unique, 1st of kind and covers 60k people. You used national statistics to discuss percentages of people who might lose insurance which are actually much less significant than Montana statistics where our medical uninsured rate has dropped by roughly 2/3 post ACA, from 20% to 7.4%, which implies the repeal of ACA, without a replacement ready to go, could result in A LOT of people losing their healthcare insurance. That’s significant. Why do you cherry pick data that doesn’t tell the truth about what is happening in Montana?

Then, we had a survey yes or no repeal ACA, can you share the results of that survey?

Kathleen in Stevensville asked for a live town hall. You said telephone town halls were better because families could listen together on speakerphone. Plus, who would travel to a townhall? I would. Meanwhile, there was no advertising on your Facebook page, no emails received, and nothing on your twitter or webpage letting people know this phone call was happening until moments before it happened when you posted a photo on Twitter. Many couldn’t call in or got dropped from the call. While you’ve posted photos of the call and retweeted (only flattering) related tweets about it, there is no recording of the event. There was no way for the audience to weigh in on responses. And, there was no way to follow up on questions when your responses didn’t answer them. Even if you do think this is the best forum, which it is not based on the actual experience many had, is there a reason you can’t do a telephone event AND a live town hall? Is there a reason you can’t do a phone call that is broadcasted live and recorded for people to access later via your Facebook page so people can weigh in on comments? You claimed you have a desire to field constituents concerns by touting your secret shopper program, yet the forum you choose to address your constituents, and your failure to provide access, directly negates this claim.

Brittney from Baker asked about President Trump and the Keystone XL Pipeline. She asked what was the hangup or the problem? You said environmental extremists, as XL is safest way to transport oil, creates jobs, creates energy independence, lower electric rates, $80 million in tax revenue, and “Eastern Montanans are not out there protesting every day.” Does that mean you think protesting for what we support would bring results?

Next question made no sense to me. A young man called, said he was a millennial from Troy, referred to millennial as “that’s a dirty word,” he commented about Berkeley riots, CIA watching Senators, Flynn as a private citizen and how do we protect the 1st Amendment? You wrapped things up with a pitch for the Supreme Court nominee. What were the results of that supreme court nominee poll?

Overall, this telephone call didn’t answer most of the questions that were posed. The responses weren’t entirely based on facts. Data that was offered wasn’t representative of Montana data.

I don’t feel like you have Montana people at the forefront of your concerns, or that your words about bipartisanship or soliciting feedback from your constituents aligns with your actions. I would like to press for the data about how many messages your office received related to Devos and how many were in favor and against. I would like you to answer the “yes” or “no” questions with a “yes” or a “no” and the “how many times” questions with a number. Based on the tone of an overwhelming number of sentiments posted in comments on your facebook page, overall trust in you is low across Montana. We need more transparency from you, and more accessibility to you. You are in Montana all week for a recess, when can we meet in person?

Thank you, a concerned citizen and voter,

Katie Clarke

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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  • I’m sure that having a ‘teleconference” town hall meeting is more appealing to Mr. Daines (I do not refer to him as a senator since he clearly does not represent the people of Montana in the senate) because he doesn’t have to face real people and answer their carefully thought out and informed questions. How this person can claim to represent the people of this state is a complete mystery. Over the past few weeks I have tried to call all of his offices, both in Washington and around the state. All calls were referred to voicemail with a message that the voicemail was full. One day I went down to his office here in Helena and the door was locked, and it wasn’t even lunchtime. At what point are these ill informed people who watch Fox News and listen to Rush, who voted for Daines, going to realize they have been conned. Wait till they lose Medicare and SS and then they will take notice. It’s our responsibility to get out and vote in 2018 so we can overcome the influence of the Koch Bros, AFP and all the other well funded out of state organizations which have so far given us Tim Fox, Elsie Arntzen, Matt Rosendale (for SOS ffs) and that Supreme Court Judge Laurie McKinnon, and elect representatives at all levels of state government who will truly stand up for us.

  • Katie, this is a very good letter. I hope I can meet you one day. Everyone in this state and country needs your input and intelligent thoughts. Thank you.

  • Great letter Katie, Its very disturbing that we have both Daines who votes against MT interests , and then Zinke who has not even shown up to vote since the election. Neither one is doing their job of representing MT .

  • I really appreciated your letter. I had to work, and couldn’t listen. I appreciated your summary, and it sounds like Mr. Daines was his usual unhelpful self.

  • An excellent post, thank you. While I despair of getting a meaningful response to my letters and comments to Daines (Several responses I have received weren’t even on the issues I addressed in my comments, written and by phone, to his office, but were on other unrelated issues!) I think it is important that we all continue to contact his office and attempt to hold him accountable.

  • This is an excellent letter and thank you for sharing it. I have had the same experience and results as others in my attempts to reach Senator Daines. The online survey posted on his website was terribly biased as well.

    • Your letter is great! I was just on his Facebook page yesterday, and was amazed that his consistent dodge Of all questions that pointed out the difference between his words and actions. The other thing that jumped out was how his followers typically said things like; “nice job, Steve!”,, While, When asked a specific question pointing out these contradictions, just like their favorite son Daines, did the classic avoidance maneuvers: Label the questionnaire, label the question, talk about something different, but never provide evidence About the stated contradiction. This predictable process was seemingly true No matter what the issue was – DeVos, Him not speaking out against big oil being appointed Secretary of State, Sec. of labor, veterans, a known racist now as our Atty. Gen., Trumps new FCC guy has a history of attacking net neutrality, Showing up at a homeless shelter, yet cutting funds for them in the last budget – just like he does with veterans, etc.

      • YES! This! You nailed it. It’s not just him, it’s also his supporters. Which, on the phone call and in the facebook comments seem to be even fewer than 1 in 10. But, among them, this strategy of dodge, dismiss, and deflect all evidence seems to be a catching epidemic. From a critical thinking perspective, it’s alarming. Thank you for sharing this observation, it’s astute.

  • Excellent letters and speaks for many of us. I too was embarrassed to see his boastful the Senator will sit down tweet, he was trying to stretch his 15 minutes of fame into another day. Thank you for obviously taking great notes and calling him out. We have to make sure he knows,we don’t believe he represents Montana,at all.

  • Beautiful work – all in all – from Intell Discont this session. So nice to see some straightforward, er, blunt language. More is needed in this gawdawfuel parallel media universe. Thou shalt not mince thy verbiage! More More More.

  • What a great summary of the things I’ve wanted to ask Daines (and actually have through emails) for a long time. Good job.

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