Let’s all roll over and concede the congressional special election to Republican Greg Gianforte. That’s what a few of the political pundits are suggesting. After all, Democrat Rob Quist has received some bad press lately.
The negative press comes in the form of a couple of stories written by Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette and picked up by the lackadaisical Montana media. Lutey’s articles focus on some tax liens and debt incurred by the Quists around 2011.
Let’s put that in perspective, which Lutey fails to do. Do you remember 2011? The height of the Great Recession? All the foreclosures and bankruptcies?
At that time, Bonni Quist was a realtor and contributed to the Quist family’s bottom line. The realtors in Montana who had a successful 2011 can be counted on one hand.
Then there were Rob Quist’s health issues which prevented him from performing full time.
This spawned the second and more damning story by Lutey. The headline was, “Quist told bank he was too sick to make payments in 2011, but played 35 shows.” You do the math. There were 365 days in 2011. So, Quist played fewer than ten percent of the possible gigs he could have that year — considerably less than one a week. Granted, few bands play seven days a week, 365 days a year, but the Quist numbers seem particularly low.
It’s known as misdirection — the bad press and negative TV campaign — also called “keep your eye on Quist, not the guy who’s laying low.” (Gianforte has been out of the public eye since an appearance at the Billings St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 18.)
Another Lutey accusation is that Quist is drawing a salary from his congressional campaign coffers. It’s worth repeating what Tyler Gernant, a former congressional candidate and current Missoula Clerk and Recorder, wrote:
I get that the debts and liens are a story of interest, in fact I think it actually makes him more relatable to most Montanans. The part that bothers me is Rob Quist drawing a salary from the campaign. The article says that the practice “isn’t illegal.” To be clear, the practice not only “isn’t illegal,” it is completely legal and was passed with the specific intention of inducing people like Rob Quist to run for public office.
The FEC passed a change to the rules allowing candidates to draw a salary in 2002. The express purpose for passing the rule was to encourage candidates that were not independently wealthy to run for office. To be clear, the rule has not worked. Most candidates for federal office are still quite wealthy. The reason is that you have to be wealthy or willing to go deep into debt to run a successful campaign for federal office. Campaigning is more than a full time job. Life doesn’t go away when you run for office, you still have to pay your mortgage, power bill, and oh yeah, you need to eat too. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to work and run for office. The rule only allows you to take a salary at the lesser of the job you held before running or the salary of the office you are seeking. There is no extravagance in paying yourself what you were making before you had to quit to run for office. In fact, it is quit noble to put yourself at such financial risk for the sake of serving the public.
Now if Greg Gianforte starts paying himself a salary, I think we would all have cause for concern. He is independently wealthy and is expressly the kind of candidate that the FEC was trying to avoid in passing this rule. The simple fact is that Congress needs fewer millionaires in office, not more. I hope that Tom Lutey does a follow-up on this part of his story, because he did a severe injustice to Montana when he wrote his flippant comment. It’s not that it “isn’t illegal” to encourage typical people to run for office, it’s the whole damn point of the law.
But it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me most. Opposition researchers are busy, leveling charges of financial malfeasance against Quist and feeding them to the press. Have they not looked at the record of their Commander-in-Chief? Six bankruptcies, and, according to USA Today:
At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.
Then there’s the 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.
The double standard is mind boggling. There really is no comparison between the trials and tribulations of a working Montana family and Trump’s malefactions. Sainthood is a prerequisite for running for office, except in Trump’s case.
Obviously, no real saints are running in this special election although Gianforte is attempting to take the Christian high ground. He is, after all, a creationist, and look at all those Christian organizations his foundation donates to. To be sure, some of them are anti-gay and anti-women’s rights, and aren’t particularly fond of the poor (they oppose raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid) but we need to overlook that.
So I’m thinking, since none of the real apostles are running for office, I’m sticking with Rob Quist.