By now, everyone in Montana politics other than Matt Rosendale seems to know that he’s as much a rancher as Troy Downing is an ethical hunter. After realizing in 2016 when he began his serial campaigning for statewide office that “rancher” sounded better than “Maryland real estate developer” in campaign ads and even disclosure forms, Rosendale has repeatedly claimed that he is a Montana rancher, despite his own words and the evidence that he has never run any stock on his property.
It turns out that’s not all. Rosendale is such a fake that he apparently doesn’t even own a barn sufficient for the iconic barn jacket that politicians use to pretend they are one of us and had to film himself in front of a neighbor’s (and donor’s) barn to make it seem that he’s a salt of the earth Montana agriculture candidate.
Rosendale’s May 2018 ad starts with the candidate standing in front of an iconic red barn with cattle walking in the background, but a review of satellite images of the Rosendale farm and conversation with locals show that Rosendale doesn’t own a barn like that on his property and we know he doesn’t—and has never—owned any cattle.
It turns out, though, that Rosendale’s neighbor (a donor who has given $3,000 to Rosendale’s campaign) owns a barn very much like the one Rosendale used for his ad. What’s more, that property manages cattle, unlike Mr. Rosendale.
When the Talking Points Memo story broke this week, a spokesperson for the Rosendale campaign dismissed it, saying it was nothing more than a story from “a Democratic blog” and telling the TPM reporter “you don’t know a cow from a cantaloupe.”
That’s rich since public records requests to the Montana Department of Revenue show that Rosendale has not owned any livestock since 2011 and the only records of any animals owned by Rosendale, his wife, or his “Ranch” are for 2-3 horses between 2006 and 2010. He holds no registered brand for livestock, and, in fact, let it lapse after he purchased the ranch for $2.2. million in 2002 from a working Montana rancher.
Rosendale hasn’t let the fact that he’s not a rancher dissuade him from lying about it. In an op-ed announcing why he is running for the Senate, he described himself as a “Glendive rancher” and opened with a claim that seems to suggest he doesn’t know the difference between a rancher and a farmer: “Like many Montana ranchers, I know the importance of having good neighbors. When harvest time rolls around and neighbors are shorthanded, we help load up the wheat or the sugar beets in the field and get them to market.”
His Twitter feed is filled with images from that same red barn in front of those same cows, never mentioning that neither is his or that his fancy ranch jacket probably hasn’t seen a hard day’s work since he bought and turned a working Montana ranch into a hobby ranch.
And Rosendale is letting outside big money ideologues spread the lie that he’s a working rancher, too. Because Super PACS aren’t legally allowed to coordinate with campaigns, candidates post b-roll footage online that is later used by those organizations when they run ads favoring a candidate. Rosendale included some footage standing in front of his donor’s barn on his b-roll, which was later picked up by the totally uncoördinated (wink wink) Club for Growth in its pro-Rosendale ad.
In the end, we have a fake Montanan in a fake coat standing in front of fake cattle near a fake barn to support a fake grassroots ad for a candidate who simply couldn’t be a bigger fake.
There’s only one thing that Matt Rosendale seems to share in common with real Montana ranchers: both are accustomed to dealing with piles and piles of bullshit. The difference is that Rosendale is spreading it, while ranchers deal with it to help produce for Montana’s economy and their families.
Update: The National Journal’s Zach Cohen reports that the borrowed barn for the shot is in Helena, according to the Rosendale campaign.
— Zach C. Cohen (@Zachary_Cohen) June 4, 2018