A piece in yesterday’s Billings Gazette offered another striking example of incredibly lazy national political reporting in Montana. The piece, a discussion about the growing problem of elder abuse and neglect in Montana, discussed the need to fund 2010’s Elder Justice Act. According to the article, there were over 5,000 cases of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of elderly Montanans in 2010 alone.
Bob Blancato of the National Elder Justice Coalition specifically suggested that people call Representative Rehberg’s office to push for funding the bill, given Rehberg’s role as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education.
Representative Rehberg’s spokesman Jed Link was given space to offer this quote:
“Protecting vulnerable, elderly Montanans is a top priority for Denny, which is why he used his authority last year to preserve funding for programs to combat elder abuse. While Washington needs to tighten its belt, Denny will continue to do everything he can as chairman to make responsible investments in federal programs that work for Montana.”
What the story fails to mention is that Rehberg actually VOTED AGAINST the Elder Justice Act discussed in the story. Rehberg is not only failing to fight for funds to combat elder abuse, but he voted against a bill designed to protect them.
The bill Rehberg voted against included this provision that would have been quite helpful for those Montanans he claims are a “top priority”: Special programs to support underserved populations including rural, minority and Indian seniors.
It seems like a program that would “work for Montana” to me. Voting against protecting the elderly, against Medicare, and against Senior Corps hardly sounds like the record of someone interested in protecting Montana seniors.
I didn’t attend journalism school or anything, but it seems to me that doing a 15 second Google search to confirm how a Representative actually voted on a bill would be a bit more newsworthy than asking his communications director for another platitudinous remark.
Reporting on how a member of Congress actually voted and what he actually said doesn’t constitute writing “gotcha” stories; it describes journalism–and would be nice to see some of it practiced more frequently by newspapers in the state when it comes to our Congressional delegation.