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Representative Rehberg (R-Black Lung Disease) Profiled in the New York Times

Eric Lipton, writing in the New York Times, describes a uniqueDenny Rehberg - Caricature cause for a budget-conscious member of the House, selling himself out to the mining industry so indiscriminately that he’s willing to risk the health and safety of workers and cost the federal government billions of dollars in disability payments.

Unsurprisingly, that members of the House is Montana’s Dennis Rehberg, who

… pushed through a provision for 2012 federal budget that blocks the enforcement of a new regulation that would have cut in half the amount of ambient coal dust permitted in mines. Inhalation of the tiny coal particles is blamed for pneumoconiosis, or black lung, a preventable disease that has taken thousands of lives and cost the federal government an estimated $44 billion in federal disability payments since the 1970s.

Lipton’s piece is loaded with documentation about Rehberg’s obeisance to the mining industry. He’s also pushed for land swaps which would benefit mining companies at the expense of taxpayers, lobbied against safety regulations that protect miners, and fought to open copper mining in pristine Montana wilderness.

The mining companies have rewarded Rehberg, with the 7th most donations of all House and Senate members.

The industry has shown its gratitude for his vigilance. “He has been incredibly valuable to us,” said Bud Clinch, executive director of the Montana Coal Council.

Just in the past two years, mining industry executives and companies including big players like Murray Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy have donated nearly $100,000 to Mr. Rehberg’s Senate campaign.

Rehberg doesn’t even want to ensure that mining companies clean up the messes they leave on our land.

It’s just another case of Representative Rehberg putting the interest of corporations ahead of workers, and multinationals ahead of Montanans.

And the influence game doesn’t end with direct contributions to the Congressman. The Rehberg family is in on the act. Rehberg’s son, A.J., who embodies the American meritocracy as well as Luke Russert, has repeatedly lobbied his father’s office in the past year, on behalf of mining interests:

A.J. Rehberg is also an executive at a lobbying firm that is representing Mongolia Forward and the Mongolian government in Washington. That lobbying firm, on behalf of the Mongolian government, has contacted Representative Rehberg’s office repeatedly this year, as well as other members of Congress. Representative Rehberg said in an interview that his son had not personally lobbied him, and that as far as he knew, his office had not taken any steps to help his son’s clients.

Maybe a New York Times story, a Freedom of Information Act request, and just some common sense will lead the Montana media to dig into Representative Rehberg’s sweet deal at the expense of Montana’s workers and lands.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.

101 Comments

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  • The idea that our local media would print anything detrimental to Rehberg’s chances to beat Tester in the Senate race is laughable. Lee Newspapers is totally in the bag for Drunken Denny. It is a great article though, but I don’t see too many people in Montana who might be persuaded by the gazillions of dollars paying for negative ads against Tester logging onto nytimes.com to learn this.

  • 3rd paragraph in the Times story.

    “Mr. Tester and other Montana politicians often support legislation that would benefit the coal and minerals mining industry, a big employer here, or oppose federal mandates that mine owners find objectionable. But it is Mr. Rehberg who has been the most ardent advocate, presenting a case study in how a lawmaker can help build his national profile — and campaign war chest — by championing an industry with deep pockets and political clout.”

    Cue Mark T. and “they all do it” refrain.

    Maybe the local news outlets know what the Times author does. They all do it.

    Maybe they also know Montanans want high paying resource jobs. Maybe they don’t want a spotlight placed on where Jon’s getting his money.

    Rabid environmentalists perhaps?

      • Ah yes, boil it down and both Jon and Denny support the mining industry.

        Except the difference is you think a free whore is virtuous.

        • Tester bolsters energy independence and promotes conscientious mining practices. Rehberg has sold out to petrochemical and extractive industries by gutting oversight.

          Big difference.

          • Sucks to be you Larry.

            Because every 6 years you gotta vote for chameleons. Lizards who scurry from under the collectivist rocks to gain favor with the electorate.

            Take Jon for instance. The preceding 5 years goes along smoothly voting 93% of the time with his party. Photos ops next to windmills. Even with Obama’s approval rate in this state of a mere 39%.

            Then fast forward to the fall and he’s shooting wolves and endorsing XL and Otter Creek.

            600 thousand barrels a day thru the pipe and 3500 tons loaded on rail a day dwarf any “independence” projects he’s said he supports now or ever.

            Spin any way you can. You got sucker punched.

    • You are correct sir! But the fact that you can predict that I will step in at various times to point out that both parties are corrupt does not make it any less true. The overarching point is this: A political system that allows private bribes is by definition corrupt.

      I will make two predictions, one already noted by draftmama above, not because I am omniscient or know the future, but just to put my accumulated wisdom on the line – if these prove true, then I might well be on the correct line of inquiry:

      1. The local media will not reference this story, just as it was not local media that exposed the Burns/Abramoff connection. This is because local media is intimidated by local power, and does not investigate approved candidates of either party.

      2. Tester will not capitalize on this story. This is because, as you note Ingy, he is accepting bribes from the same people. Since he is perceived to be more liberal, he is allowed to speak in a different tone about these interests, but once elected, must act in accordance with their wishes.

      If I am wrong on either or both predictions, it only means that I need to adjust my own thoughts to the real world. But I suspect I am on the right path.

      Mr. Kurtz notes below that Tester behaves as Rehberg does, but does so due to higher motivations. This is the two-party conundrum – when faced with identical behavior, he has to invent reasons why his own party is superior to the other, just as you do, Ingy, It falls under the heading “necessary illusions.”

      • But you’re wrong. Just because two people are both to the right of you does not mean they are the same. One concrete difference that matters? The Clean Air Act, which Tester supports and Rehberg has repeatedly voted to weaken.

        Votes and records–not to mention the composition of the Senate–do matter.

        • I’ll grant you that if you accept that it could be surface phenomena. One of the rules of Washington is that they can support or oppose any notion or ideal, but actual implementation takes work and expenditure of political capital. So being in favor of something could be something, could be nothing.

        • By the way Don, Merry Christmas Monday Merchandise Return Day, and I must note here that you have merely restated the “lesser of evils” argument, which is not valid in my mind because there is never a guarantee that you have actually identified the true lesser evil. It could be those who openly confront you, it could be those who quietly subvert you. You know where I come down.

          • I think the Clean Air Act is important. One candidate supports it, one has worked to undermine it.

            If you believe that supporting the former, despite some concerns about his record, is “the lesser of evils,” so be it. I get your argument, Mark. We all do–over and over again.

            I think it’s simplistic and naive. I don’t agree with you. Your repetition of it doesn’t make agreement any more likely.

            • I think your argument, and I am not going all Kailey on you, is illogical. You have picked an object, the Clean Air Act, and pegged your support for Tester on his verbal support of that act. At stake is one vote out of one hundred, and that one vote likely will not impact the ultimate fate of the law. So Tester has bought your support in exchange for his promise to lever his vote to preserve the Clean Air Act.

              How hard is he working for you? Do you even know? Is he using his staff and political savvy to work behind the scenes to preserve the law? Or, will he simply pull the rug on you? Worse yet, will he cast a meaningless vote for or against that doesn’t impact the outcome, having done nothing? Does that satisfy you? What guarantees do you have?

              Take it one step further – if he does pull the rug on you, will you punish him? Or will you come back and say that even though you don’t support him on that move, he’s still better than [fill in the blank].

              In other words, Don, you are not thorough, you do not hold him accountable, and will likely again support him even if he does not support you on this issue for which you hold him in high regard. This is a problem, in that you are creating an unaccountable Senator, and taking abuse like an abused spouse, and never losing faith.

              Yes, I make the same point time and again, but in case you don’t notice, so do you, and the point I make has more reasoning behind it – politicians do not care about carrots. They only respond to sticks.

              • Mark, your argument might make sense if we were in San Fransisco, or for that matter even Colorado, possibly. But the candidate who will actively stand up for everything we believe in will never be elected. Indeed, if a candidate were elected and then behaved in the way you were describing, he or she would be committing an injustice against the people of Montana who elected him or her, deliberately opposing their interests. Jon Tester is better than Denny Rehburg, while still being acceptable to most Montanans. No matter how many Republicans we elect to punish Democrats, Montanans will not elect more liberal Democrats.

  • Damn! Just when you thought that Dopey Reeburp couldn’t get any sleazier, he does! In-freakin’-CREDible! Hell, Dopey and his Teatard pals ain’t even tryin’ to HIDE it any more. They are presenting the choice as clearly as they can. They are betting that Americans will choose fascism over democracy, feudalism over representative government, and aristocracy over serfs as a way to provide economic success! And maybe Americans are stupid enough to fall for it. Who knows? I suspect that a good percentage are! Because part of the Pubbie plan is to make people as desperate as possible. Desperate people do desperate things.

    Des=without, esperar=hope! Desperate, literally, without hope! When there is no longer any hope, Dopey and the Pubbies offer the hope that somehow, people’s lives will be better if ONLY the Kockh brothers are allowed to govern umimpeded!

    Sad that we must re-learn all the lessons of the past over again! You see, great granddaddy went into the mines in Crested Butte, Colorado, just after they ran the Utes out in about 1885. Both granddads mined, as did my dad and all my relatives. Same on my wife’s side. And many still mine! But I still remember all the stories told to me by my ancestors about the struggles in the early days of mining, including the Ludlow massacre. They would be ready once again to kick Dopey’s ass for him if they were still alive. Might be time again for some new Molly Maguires!!

    • Do you think of yourself as post-modernist, or is your thinking still inspired by objective Enlightening ideals? It’s hard to tell from your prose, as you often circle a point without hitting it, as in the “Dope Reeburp” model. Is that meant to imply that he is a cartoonish human, or are you constructing that image in order to guide us to a higher plane of thought?

      Just asking.

  • Good question, Mark. No GREAT question! Post-modernist for sure. Dopey Reeburp IS a cartoonish human being, AND I’m shooting for a higher plane of thought SORT of, but not really. If others see things a little differently because of what I write, that’s good but it’s simply a byproduct, for I write to influence no one. I simply chronicle the TRVTH through the use of humor and language and let the cosmos sort it all out. And for that I am roundly condemned.

    But I could care less. I have been kicked off nearly every site in Montana except for a few of the more forgiving lefty sites. Hell, I was allowed to post on some sites for a while simply to increase their readership, and then, when I became too controversial, boom!, I was gone. The GF Tribune forum and Electric City Weblog owe their entire readership to me. Yet I can no longer post on those sites.

    You see, Mark, you irritate people with the TRVTH. I BLUDGEON them with it. There is a difference. I purposely try to anger them, NOT to convince them of a thing! You still try to influence them with the rational, well-reasoned argument. I sucker punch them with TRVTH. Corporate propaganda is too pervasive and too complete. Most folks have lost any capacity for critical thinking. Therefore, what I try to do is SHAME them into thinking by angering them! Hey, when the TRVTH is staring you in the face, IN THE FACE, it’s hard to ignore. I grab them by the lapels and let them know that they are ingorant assholes who deserve what they get for being lazy thinkers!

    Do they think about the TRVTH after being smacked with it? I dunno. I don’t care. I don’t write to influence a soul. Not my job description. Guys like you and Pogie do an excellent job of presenting the rational, reasoned argument. But that just ain’t my style.

    • One, politics is not static, but rather is (in part) an ongoing set of decisions that the public is asked to make based on imperfect information, usually imparted by means of manipulation of symbols. There is very little reasoning in politics, and so very little reason to even debate things. For myself, I don’t vote. It’s pointless.

      Consequently, in politics, there is no truth, or TRVTH, as you put it. It has no place and is never referenced or discussed.

      Two, whether you bludgeon people or irritate them, or deal with them in a calm and reasonable manner, they will not change their minds. Opinions are generally hard-wired in to people by upbringing and reinforced by prejudices. Most people who even pay attention to politics merely search for reinforcement of their own views, ergo right wing talk radio, and the popularity of MSNBC among Democrats. Since people do not reason themselves into their political opinions, they cannot be reasoned out of them.

      So why do this? It’s fun, for one. I like to write. It’s nice to have an outlet, and even if only 10 people read my blog posts (I get a couple of hundred hits a day, but I doubt many actually read it through), then it is ten people that I want to know better.

      For another, it helps me understand the world better. For instance, I have been struggling all of my life trying to understand neoclassical economics, and then decided one day to look into the proposition that it is pseudoscience. Sure enough, there is a whole school of economists who have rejected neoclassical econ, and there happens to be a large correlation between those who predicted the Great Recession and those who reject neo-classical. If I didn’t blog and write every day, I’d not have realized that, and it helps in my daily life too, because now I have an idea of what might lay ahead of us – I can follow these economists and maybe be prepared for the next trough.

      For another, I recently decided to parse an essay by Hannah Arendt on totalitarianism, and lo and behold, I now have a much better world view than I had before. She has helped me understand that even though we are currently governed by wild men, that they have always been there waiting in the wings, and democratic government is the exception rather than the rule, always in the process of being undermined, as it currently is by the Obama Administration.

      That’s what I get out of it. All of that without ever changing one mind, save my own. That, and I love to tweak people like you, as you don’t seem to take yourself too seriously. That’s a bit refreshing, even though I regard your writing as juvenile.

  • Without a vigorous mining industry our state would have little going for it.

    It is a given that Baucus, Rehberg, and Tester are pro-industry.

    I forget right now who said it, but he said that all wealth in Montana comes from the ground. Be it a blade of grass a cow eats, a crop, a bucket of oil, a lump of coal, or a shovel full of ore.

    That hasn’t changed – and I’m glad Denny is supporting our State by openly promoting development.

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