Chuck Baldwin (2021)
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    Montana Conservative Alliance 2023: GOP Legislator Voting Record Analysis, By Roger Koopman

    Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2024

    Montana Conservative Alliance

    2023 GOP Legislator Voting Record Analysis

    A precise conservative index, based on courage & principle, not politics


    Introduction – an Appeal to Principle and Truth

    You’ve no doubt seen a number of purportedly “conservative” ratings of legislative voting records, put forth by various groups.  Generally, these indexes mimic the positions of the house and senate GOP leadership, and not surprisingly, almost all Republican legislators score high.

    Is this approach a reliable indicator of true conservatism?  We think not.  Often, these reports are very misleading, and help return to office, Republican politicians who are fundamentally not free market conservatives, and who should be replaced.  There is, in fact, a significant percentage of Republican legislators who are guilty of:

    (1)  voting with the Democrats to defeat key conservative legislation, with the best bills usually getting killed in committee.  Thus, session after session, the conservative agenda goes nowhere.

    (2)  introducing a flood of bills that are anti-market, anti-liberty, and that progressively increase the size, power, cost and interventionism of state and local government.  Because these big government measures are “Republican sponsored,” they stand a much better chance of passage.  Republicans who we think should know better, line up to support their fellow party members.  As a result, no matter how large the GOP majority, state government continues to grow every time the legislature meets.

    MCA has always refused to play the “party politics game.”  Those who do so only perpetuate the problem.  Our rating system is quite unique – independent of any “party” and totally focused on ideas and principles rather than on currying favor from appreciative politicians.  Let the truth be told, unapologetically, and trust that an informed citizenry will then be equipped to do the right thing. 

    When you take a close look at GOP legislative voting patterns, suddenly something screams out at you.  The assumption that most elected Republicans believe and understand the philosophical foundations of freedom, free markets and constitutional government is simply not true.  They may be very nice people, who “say” conservative things, but if they truly understood the ideas and principles that undergird our free republic, they simply could not, in good conscience, vote the way they do.

    Here are a few illustrations, taken from the current bills.  If you’re a reasonably well-read, philosophical conservative, you’ll have no trouble answering these questions.  They all fall under the category of “when does freedom fail us?  When can freedom not be trusted, and government must step in?”

    1.  Do we need to have government force insurance companies to provide certain kinds of coverage, or do these companies respond to the demands and “signals” of the marketplace, offering a wide variety of competitive consumer choices on their own? 

    2.  Do we need to have government induce private companies to do more hiring, through subsidies, tax credits and other incentives, or are private companies capable of deciding for themselves how many employees they should have, based on their own risk capital and the actual needs of their operation?

    3.  Is it sometimes necessary for a government program to step in and assist employers in the cost of training incumbent or new workers, especially with trade skills, or is worker training a normal private business expense, and the wisdom of this investment best determined by the company itself?

    4.  Do we need government licensing of 70 or 80 different professions, trades and other business types, to ensure quality, safety and to guard against “uncontrolled, excessive and disruptive” market entry, or do consumers, voting with their dollars in a free and competitive marketplace, do a better job of deciding what kind and how many businesses should exist?

    5.  Should government remove all business risks from private monopolies that provide essential services (like power utilities,) or should monopoly regulation include policies that function like market competition, providing risk and reward incentives and company accountability to its customers?

    For most of us, these and other questions are easily answered.  We trust freedom, and do not believe government is a substitute for the free market and the individual decisions of free people.   Yet most of the Republicans we send to Helena will vote exactly opposite to the way we think on these kinds of basic issues.  Truth be known, most Republican legislators never stop to ask the most fundamental question for all lawmakers:  Is this a proper role and function of government?   They view their job as “passing bills,” and many of those bills are not constitutionally authorized roles and powers of government.

    A true conservative, in our view, is not only guided by principle, but is ideologically and philosophically consistent.  Looking at any given bill, a conservative instinctively knows if that measure is based on a proper and constitutional function of government.  He instinctively knows if the bill advances or diminishes human freedom, and votes accordingly.  He doesn’t compromise.  Legislation that has “good intentions” is not good enough.  Bills that are “half good and half bad” are bad bills.  Period.  Push the red button – even if you are the only one in the room who does.

    When the average conservative, pro-liberty score among 101 GOP legislators is 37 percent – meaning that, based on the index bills MCA carefully selected, the typical Republican legislator voted to defend your freedom just over one-third of the time – we are led to ask the obvious question: are the Democrats any more consistent as liberals, than the Republicans are as conservatives?  Or perhaps an even better question is, are the liberal Republicans more consistent and more dedicated to what they believe than the self-described conservatives?  To both forms of the question, the answer is YES! 

    We have not bothered to score the Democrats in this report, but it’s fair to say that they would average no more than 5 to 10 percent conservative.  That’s being generous.  Every single Democrat among 49 legislators would fall under the “statist/left” category.  They are ideologically very consistent.  But consider the Republicans, where only 16 out of 101 made it into the conservative zone, while 36 scored either liberal or far left.   Why, then, do liberals vote so philosophically consistent, while the best of conservatives cannot get scores above 81%?

    This constantly vexing question can only be briefly addressed here.  But the short answer is this:  It is easy for a politician to be a liberal, and much harder to be a conservative.  If you are a liberal (Republican or Democrat,) you simply accept the assumption that while freedom might be a quaint idea, when it comes to solving problems, government must step in.  You buy into the statist notion that the purpose of government is to fix what freedom and free people mess up.  As a lawmaker, you lock in to the premise that every problem requires a government response.  (Never mind that government intervention created the problem in the first place.)  This elevated view of one’s job is a heady and prideful experience, that makes a legislator feel extremely important – even indispensable!   By believing that every problem has a government solution, these so-called “solutions” become easy to vote for.  Every recipient of your “generosity” will appreciate you on election day!  Not surprisingly, the left wing of Republican legislators actually even calls itself “The Solutions Caucus.”  When the session ends, these liberals can go home and brag to their constituents about how many government “solutions” they supported -- while at the same time complaining about the “obstructionists” on the far right, whose only answer to everything is more freedom and less government.  Guilty as charged! 

    Liberals have no imagination.  No ability to dream, since they lack the knowledge of where dreams come from:  the human heart -- not political programs!  Because they look only to government, they cannot comprehend the creative energy of a free society – unplanned by laws and politics.  Because the miracles of freedom are, by their very nature, unpredictable and unplanned, liberals find it impossible to trust freedom itself.  Faith in the free society is faith in the yet unknown and unseen.   It is exactly this faith in the “unseens” of freedom that makes the conservative message much harder to articulate.  Faith in free markets.  Faith in free exchange. Faith in the right to property and the right to contract – unincumbered by government.  These are philosophical abstractions that most public schooled individuals have never heard before.  It’s much easier for a voter to hear about some highly visible government spending program that appears to provide blessings out of thin air, than being required to contemplate the confiscated wealth that paid for those programs, and imagine what greater good could have been accomplished if that wealth had been left in the free hands of those who created it.  Yes, it is a much easier sell to be a liberal.   Consequently, even the best of the Republican legislators currently find themselves voting for “government solutions” from time to time, possibly against their own consciences.  Freedom may be spoken rhetorically in the legislature, but very seldom is it truly understood or boldly asserted.

    We don’t wish to imply that having a bad voting record makes you a bad person.  It just makes you a bad legislator.  Maybe taking time for personal study into the words of our founding fathers or the works of great thinkers like Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Adam Smith and Frederic Bastiat will provide the enlightenment necessary to turn these men and women into wise lawmakers someday – assuming they have the public-spirited humility to listen, to learn and to grow.  In the meantime, it is quite evident that they lack the philosophical foundation needed to honor and protect our freedom.   

    These 33 house votes and 33 senate votes were carefully selected to provide the most accurate picture possible of who, among the Republicans in our state legislature, are the liberty protectors and who are the pretenders.   In some cases, you will probably be shocked at the degree to which their record does not match their rhetoric.  Our intention is strictly to inform.  Once informed, it is entirely up to you, what action you feel individually called upon to take.  The stakes are high, and we all need to do our part.


    Roger Koopman, president, Montana Conservative Alliance

    811 S. Tracy Ave., Bozeman, MT  59715


    Scorecard Breakdown

    60-100: generally conservative, 40-59: centrist, 20-39: generally liberal, under 20: statist/left



    81  Steve Hinebauch

    78  Theresa Manzella

    69  Tom McGillvray

    65  Daniel Emrich

    59  Carl Glimm

    53  Becky Beard

    53  Forrest Mandeville

    53  Mark Noland

    50  Dan Bartel

    50  Dennis Lenz

    50  Keith Regier

    50  Barry Usher

    47  Ken Bogner

    47  John Fuller

    44  Bob Brown

    44  John Esp

    44  Mike Lang

    44  Shelley Vance

    39  Daniel Zolnikov

    38  Greg Hertz

    38  Jeremy Trebas

    34  Brad Molnar

    28  Chris Friedel

    28  Jeffrey Welborn

    25  Jason Ellsworth

    25  Steve Fitzpatrick

    22  Russ Tempel

    16  Bruce Gillespie

    13  Wendy McKamey

    13  Terry Vermeire

    10  Mike Cuffe

     9  Walt Sales

     6  Daniel Salomon

     0  Jason Small





    81  Caleb Hinkle

    77  Lola Sheldon-Gallaway

    75  Jedidiah Hinkle

    69  Paul Fielder

    69  Braxton Mitchell

    69  Jane Gillette

    68  Bob Keenan

    66  Terry Falk

    66  Lyn Hellegaard

    63  Brandon Ler

    61  Steven Gallaway

    61  Jerry Schillinger

    59  Amy Regier

    56  Jennifer Carlson

    56 Ron Marshall

    56  Matt Regier

    56  Tanner Smith

    55  Fiona Nave

    54  Nelly Nicol

    53  Rhonda Knudsen

    53  Terry Moore

    52  Greg Kmetz

    50  Bob Phalen

    48  Bill Mercer

    47  Zack Wirth

    44  Neil Duram

    42  Sherry Essmann

    41  James Bergstrom

    41  Lee Deming

    41  Steve Gunderson

    41  Kerri Seekins-Crowe

    39  Joe Read

    38  Edward Butcher

    31  Katie Zolnikov

    29  Jodie Etchart

    29  Mike Hopkins

    28  Larry Brewster

    26  Casey Knudsen

    25  Steve Gist

    25  Scot Kerns

    25  Russel Miner

    25  Linda Reksten

    25  Sue Vinton

    22  Tony Brockman

    22  Joshua Kassmier

    22  Marty Malone

    19  Marta Bertoglio

    19  Julie Dooling

    19  Greg Oblander

    19  Michael Yakawich

    16  Gary Parry

    16  Wayne Rusk

    13  Michele Binkley

    13  Llew Jones

    13  Courtenay Sprunger

    10  Edward Buttrey

    9  Fred Anderson

    9  David Bedey

    9  Ross Fitzgerald

    9 John Fitzpatrick

    9  Tom Welch

    7  Brad Barker

     7  Paul Green

     6  Denley Loge

     6  George Nikalakakos

     6  Kenneth Walsh

     0  Gregory Fazer






    35 Index Bills used in this MCA Scorecard:


    House Bills                                                 

    HB 2  (N)

    HB 15  (N)

    HB 37 veto OR  (Y)

    HB 41  (N)

    HB 55  (N)

    HB 115  (N)

    HB 245  (N)

    HB 257  (N)

    HB 263  (N)

    HB 284  (N)

    HB 302  (N)

    HB 317  (N)

    HB 332  (N)

    HB 338  (N)

    HB 352  (N)

    HB 449  (N)

    HB 458  (N)

    HB 520  (N)

    HB 527  (Y)

    HB 562  (Y)

    HB 601  (N)

    HB 648  (N)

    HB 652  (Y)

    HB 665  (N)

    HB 819  (N)

    HB 837- blast  (Y)

    HB 889  (N)

    HB 965  (Y)


    Senate Bills

    SJ 15  (Y)

    SJ 29  (N)

    SB 337  (Y)

    SB  370  (N)

    SB 458  (Y)

    SB 516  (N)

    SB 522  (N)

    SB 558  (N)


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