Montana Politics

Rehberg’s Transparency Problem

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It’s funny—last night I decided to write a post about Denny Rehberg’s lack of transparency in the past year—and then today the Congressman provided even more ammunition, issuing a sad little letter demanding public discussion from the Congressional subcommittee working on deficit reduction:

“The American people deserve to know what their elected officials are negotiating in the way of deficit reduction,” he wrote in a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “I have said it before and I’ll say it again – an open, transparent process leads to better policy.”

That’s a fascinating position for someone who sat in on Dick Cheney’s secret energy policy meetings and who stood by while a sheriff kicked a cameraman out of a public meeting to take, but it’s especially hard to accept given Rehberg’s recent secrecy and lack of public accountability.

Most egregiously, Rehberg crafted a massive appropriations bill in secret, without any input from the public or even other members of Congress on the committee. He cancelled meetings, denied input from other members, and finally released his proposal without any meaningful input from the public.

Rehberg’s not listening to Montanans either. As the Associated Press noted a few days ago, Rehberg seems to have abandoned the “listening sessions” he spends so much time bragging about now that he’s in the position of actually having to legislate.

It makes sense that Rehberg wouldn’t want to listen to the students he’d deny Pell Grants, the sick he’d deny community health centers, or the men and women whose health he’d jeopardize.

How can Representative Rehberg keep claiming to speak for us when he won’t speak to us?

Want a specific example of Rehberg’s lack of transparency? Just ask his brain, Erik Iverson. This is simply amazing. When challenged by the conservative blog to defend HR 1505, his bill which would give transfer enormous power to the Border Patrol, Rehberg’s spokesman said this:

“The hearing was held on August 28, 2006 in Hamilton, MT. Among other things, we learned how drug traffickers used Forest Service and National Park property to land helicopters out of Canada and unload their cargo. Because of the remoteness and inaccessibility, it was a tremendous challenge to interrupt the criminals.

That’s right. The champion of transparency and public involvement justified massive federal intrusion into Montana on the border with Canada because he had a meeting five years ago, two hundred miles from the border.

Rehberg’s call for transparency from another congressional body goes beyond hypocrisy; it speaks to his fundamental dishonesty. While he gives lip services to openness in government, it’s nothing more than political theater and the occasional press release.

The only thing transparent about Representative Rehberg is his willingness to do and say anything to get elected—anything, that is, other than to communicate honestly with his constituents.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it’s a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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