The Billings Outpost

Sorting through little-known court candidates

Political Potpourri

Brad Molnar

In this election cycle, as in all election cycles, there are many below-the-radar races. Some candidates struggle without hope to get the press to cover their races so people will share in their enthusiasm for the importance of being the one to govern/protect/represent you. Others struggle as hard to make sure that no question will get a direct answer.

Such is the case with Supreme Court justice races. Quick, pick the trifecta for the three candidates hoping to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice James Nelson.

I feel your pain: attorney Elizabeth Best, District Judge Laura McKinnon and attorney Ed Sheehy. Candidate Best has the most visible campaign with yard signs proclaiming she is Best For Montana. Get it? Sheehy uses billboards to promise “Justice” in letters 15 feet tall. McKinnon is the stealth candidate relying on a few mass mailings.

How is a mortal voter to decide for whom to vote? Seems almost a conspiracy of silence but despair not. I am here to shine the Light of Truth on these, “The Unknown Campaigners.”

Actually much can be gleaned about these candidates sworn to silence by the judicial canons. Recent financial reports show that Best for Montana had raised $72,000 in large part from high profile attorneys who hope to practice before her, environmentalists who hope to have her rule favorably on their suits against industry, and members of similar PACs. Ms. Best loaned her campaign $18,000. Larger than life Sheehy raised $7,600 but most came from himself. He’s toast.

Ms. McKinnon raised $29,000, of which $3,800 was her own. Some came from no-name attorneys but most from a wide slice of occupations. A PAC run by conservative legislators has adopted McKinnon and paid for at least one mailing.

How important is it to you that lawyers are major funders of judicial campaigns? How about “independent expenditures” by special interests? Should judges recuse themselves when these known and “shadowy but known” political movers and shakers bring a case before those they put in power?

How important is it to you that a nonpartisan judicial candidate consistently donated to only one party before becoming a nonpartisan judicial candidate?

Best admits donating to a long list of Democratic candidates but never a Republican. Best is endorsed by the Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers (the state’s largest union), Betsy Griffing (of American Civil Liberties Union fame), and the Montana Conservation Voters (the bipartisan group that in the waning moments of each campaign season sends out huge, bifurcated, four-color postcards explaining why the liberal is the anointed one and the conservative (or rank and file Republican) candidates were elected by morons, should be shunned by their mothers and should never receive another vote).

Elizabeth Best successfully sued the city of Billings because police officers who told the truth under oath had been harassed for doing so. Good job, Elizabeth!

She is perhaps Best known (I can be as clever as she), however, for asking the Supreme Court to establish that the Legislature could not be trusted to write environmental law but rather the court should just declare the atmosphere a societal trust, obligating the state to protect the atmosphere. This much to the delight of the global warming crowd (Oh geez, Liz).

Perhaps that is why Ann Hedges of the Montana Environmental Information Council (which brings lawsuits to enforce its version of justice) is on Best’s endorsement page and donor list. Elizabeth Best donates only to the Democratic Who’s Who in partisan races. Her yard signs are delivered by the Democratic machine to Democratic yards. Yet this is labeled a nonpartisan race. shows that McKinnon’s claim to have never contributed to any political races is true; Oops, no quid pro quo for her. Laurie (I call her Laurie) is most famous for ruling in favor of ranchers opposing their land being condemned for a subsidized transmission line (MATL) to deliver electricity subsidized by Americans to Canadians. She surmised that perhaps such did not meet the definition of “public purpose” used to trigger the eminent domain laws of Montana. That perhaps the commercial application had evolved beyond the original intent of the legislature and legislature should revisit the issue.

That really upset some very powerful and well financed corporations. Lord, is she going to get squashed … but first Sheehy. Two of the three candidates will advance to the general election, so we have to torture McKinnon a while longer.

This will be a matchup of conservative ideals and back slapping vs. liberal ideals and cash in the coffer. It will end the same way all the others have. No reason for it not to.


Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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