Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chief U.S. District Judge sends racially charged email about president

bildeChief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers.

Cebull, of Billings, was nominated by former President George W. Bush and received his commission in 2001 and has served as chief judge for the District of Montana since 2008.

The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address on Feb. 20 at 3:42 p.m., reads: "A MOM'S MEMORY."

The forwarded text reads as follow:

"Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

"A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?'" the email joke reads. "His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"

a mother's love

A photo accompanying the offensive e-mail

Cebull admitted Wednesday to sending the email to seven recipients, including his personal email address.

The judge acknowledged that the content of the email was racist, but said he does not consider himself racist. He said the email was intended to be a private communication.

"It was not intended by me in any way to become public," Cebull said. "I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended."

Cebull said his brother initially sent him the email, which he forwarded to six of his "old buddies" and acquaintances.

Cebull email

He admitted that he read the email and intended to send it to his friends.

"The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan," Cebull said. "I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama."

Travis McAdam, executive director for the Montana Human Rights Network , said the email contained highly racist rhetoric unbecoming of a federal judge.

"It's one thing if the judge is not a fan of President Barack Obama, but you would think someone in his position would articulate that in a way that criticizes his policy decisions or his position on issues," McAdam said. "We have a hard time believing that a legitimate criticism of the president involves distributing a joke that basically compares African Americans with animals."

Cebull said he does not consider himself prejudice against people of other races or ethnic backgrounds, and that his actions in his courtroom have demonstrated that.

"I have never considered myself that way," Cebull said. "All I can emphasize is I've treated people in my courtroom all these years fairly. I don't think I've ever demonstrated racism. Nobody has ever even implied it."

Montana immigration attorney Shahid Haque-Hausrath was on the receiving end of a racially charged email sent by a top Immigrations and Customs Enforcement official last fall. That official was suspended after sending Haque-Hausrath an email implying that Muslim Americans must prove their allegiance to the United State.

Haque-Hausrath, who is in an interracial marriage and recently fathered a child with his wife, said Cebull's e-mail was "deeply troubling."

"Another federal official who is entrusted to do his duties fairly and impartially has yet again sent an email from his work account during work hours that espouses deeply racist and bigoted views," Haque-Hausrath said. "The reason why I think it's so troubling, is it espouses the deeply racist view that interracial sex is equivalent to bestiality. For a federal judge to be equating the two, and say since Barack Obama is of mixed racial background, that his mother was somehow committing acts of bestiality is incredibly racist and troubling.

One of the recipients of the email Cebull sent forwarded it to another person, who in turn forwarded it to another person. The email was eventually passed along to the Great Falls Tribune, who contacted Cebull. Cebull said he was surprised the recipients of the e-mail passed it along with his name on it.

"This is a private thing that was, to say the least, very poor judgment on my part," Cebull said. "I did not forward it because of the racist nature of it. Although it is racist, I'm not that way, never have been."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

‘Doomsday bill’: Coming to #MTLEG near you?

Every legislative session Montana lawmakers regularly talk about how  ‘North Dakota is doing this’ and ‘We need to be more like Wyoming that…” It seems there’s always a certain level of envy with our neighbors to the east, south and west.

Also each session we tend to see a raft of similarly constructed controversial anti-federal government bills pop up in states throughout our region. Bills to nullify federal laws, empower sheriffs as the supreme law enforcement officials in the land and bills requiring states to do business in gold are just a few that come to mind. Many of these bills seem to be predicated upon the notion that the federal government is an enemy of the states and/or is doomed to collapse in the foreseeable future.

So when I saw this interesting story about a Wyoming lawmaker’s attempt to pass a “doomsday bill” in that state’s legislature, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll be seeing a similar bill introduced in the 2013 Montana Legislature:

Fearing an economic and political collapse nationwide, Wyoming lawmakers are moving ahead with legislation to deal with a doomsday scenario -- complete with plans to create a state currency.

“Things happen quickly sometimes — look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” the bill’s GOP sponsor State Rep. David Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper. “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.”

According to the Star-Tribune, House Bill 85 would create a state-run “government continuity task force,” to prepare Wyoming for potential disruptions in food and energy to a complete breakdown of the federal government.

Miller is also asking for the task force to look into creating its own state currency in the event the dollar loses value entirely.

 According to the Star-Tribune, the Wyoming House narrowly defeated the bill today by a 30-27 margin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Top Santorum funder expects to back Rehberg

According article in the latest issue of The New Republic (subscription required) the “eccentric Republican billionaire” Foster Friess will, “for sure,” spend some money in Montana this election cycle.

Friess, now of Jackson, Wyo., made a fortune managing a multi-billion-dollar mutual fund. Now retired, Friess is a prominent financier of conservative causes and he’s GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s biggest financial backer. According to the The New Republic Friess has pumped $331,000 of the $730,000 raised by Santorum’s Super PAC, the Red White and Blue Fund and is responsible for a third of the $150,000 raised by Leaders for Families, another Santorum Super PAC.

According to The New Republic’s Molly Redden :

Rich eccentrics are nothing new in politics. But, thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and the unlimited Super PAC donations it allows, these eccentrics can now sustain campaigns that would have otherwise dropped out of view long ago. Newt Gingrich has Las Vegas magnate Sheldon Adelson; Ron Paul has PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel; Santorum has Friess. And, no matter what ultimately happens in the GOP presidential primaries, Friess is already beginning to contemplate which races he might be able to influence next.

One of those races is likely to be Montana’s very own U.S. Senate race between Democratic incumbent Jon Tester and Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg.

Redden reports:

…Friess is hoping to haven an even bigger impact on several crucial races for the fall. He told me he plans "for sure" to give to eight or ten key Senate races. His favored candidates include Denny Rehberg, who is currently locked in a virtual tie with Montana's vulnerable Democratic senator, Jon Tester; Josh Mandel, who is challenging liberal Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown; and Dan Liljenuist, a far-right primary challenger to Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. In all three races, a large cash infusion could make a big difference.

If Foster Friess’ name sounds familiar, it’s probably because of the headlines he generated last week when he weighed into the debate over contraception in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rumor Mill: Jim Murry favorite for CPP spot

Rumor has it that Gov. Brian Schweitzer wants to appoint longtime labor leader Jim Murry as the next commissioner of political practices. Murry was executive secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO from 1969-1991.

The governor’s office did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment yesterday. However, I’ve been told the governor’s office wants the two Democrats on the panel – Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams  and House Minority Leader Jon Sesso – to nominate Murry to replace former commissioner Dave Gallik, who resigned last month amid allegations he misused his state office for private business.

Schweitzer doesn’t have to choose from the list of nominees he gets from the four-member, bi-partisan panel made up of Republican and Democratic legislative leaders. He can appoint anyone he wants to the position.

Whomever Schweitzer appoints will presumably hold the post at least until the Legislature convenes in January 2013. If Republicans control the Senate in the next session, Schweitzer’s appointee could face a tough confirmation process. Republicans blocked former commissioner Jennifer Hensley’s confirmation earlier this  year, leading to Gallik’s appointment. 

The State Administration and Veterans’ Affairs committee will hold a conference call Thursday morning – just prior to when commissioner of political practices selection committee is scheduled to meet – to discuss Peterson’s request that the committee ask the Department of Administration to not delete any files from Gallik’s computer.

Murry’s appointment – if it happens – would likely irk already irritated Republicans. There are rumblings that if the GOP isn’t satisfied with Schweitzer’s appointment they’ll consider attempting to call themselves into special session. Regardless of what happens, the political drama surrounding the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices is likely to drag on into the 2012 election season.