There’s a reason so many of us on the online left were pushing so hard for an answer from Greg Gianforte on the health care repeal vote yesterday. It wasn’t because we believed he would give an honest answer; it was because we knew he would give a boilerplate non-answer before telling the people he really wants to serve the truth, that he’s eager to end health care for 70,000 Montanans to give himself a tax break. We knew that Mr. Gianforte, who has worked so hard to cultivate the image of a moderate this campaign wouldn’t be able to tell the moneyed class the truth.
What we couldn’t have predicted, however, is just how fast he would do it. The very same day he told Montana voters that he just wasn’t sure how he would have voted on ACA repeal, he told a well-heeled group of D.C. lobbyists that we should celebrate its repeal. And he was caught on tape doing it. From an excellent story in the New York Times:
But on the same day, during a private conference call with Republican-leaning lobbyists in Washington, Mr. Gianforte offered a more supportive view of the health bill. Making the case for the “national significance” of the Montana election on May 25, Mr. Gianforte said: “The votes in the House are going to determine whether we get tax reform done, sounds like we just passed a health care thing, which I’m thankful for, sounds like we’re starting to repeal and replace.”
Mr. Gianforte’s attempt to appeal to two different audiences — Montana voters skeptical about the House’s repeal bill and Washington Republicans eager to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment — illustrates the complicated politics surrounding the health law. While Republicans expect their elected officials to fulfill their longstanding vows to tear up the Affordable Care Act, the broader electorate is uneasy about abandoning the law’s protections and benefits it has come to depend on.
That’s the kind of D.C. positioning that will kill a candidate in Montana. To tell the audience back home one thing while telling lobbyists another confirms the worst impressions about Mr. Gianforte, that he cannot be trusted, and worse yet, that he doesn’t trust Montana voters enough to tell us the truth about what he believes. It could be a mortal blow for a campaign that is already reeling.
Unbelievably, though, the story gets worse for Gianforte. It turns out the call to the lobbyists was to beg them to write him checks for $5,000 so he can win the election against Rob Quist, who has six times as many donors as he does. Again, from the Times:
Asking the lobbyists to give $5,000 each by Friday to “scare off some other Democrat money,” Mr. Gianforte acknowledged that Mr. Quist had far wider support.
“We’ve had over 5,000 individual people support the campaign financially so far,” he said on the recording. “The challenge is my opponent has over 30,000 contributors.”
This, from the candidate who has been running around the state telling Montanans he’s too rich to ever be bought in a race. Apparently not.
That’s the fundamental truth about Greg Gianforte and his relationship to Montana: he thinks we’re rubes he can buy in an election. He can falsely claim that Facebook told him they wouldn’t come to Montana because of its taxes, he can lie about his support for a sales tax, he can sue to block public access and claim he’s the victim of attacks, not because he is incapable of telling the truth, but because he doesn’t respect us enough to bother. He thinks that, with his money and connections, he can tell us what we want to hear, present himself as the true Montanan in races against people who understand that being a Montanan isn’t about your address, but about the way you deal with people honestly and with respect.
Acting like a modern-day Copper King, beholden only to yourself and rest of the wealthiest in the country, might make Greg popular back home in New Jersey, but it certainly won’t work here.