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Montana Politics

Online Ethics and Political Campaigns: The Bucy Bots Go On the Attack Again

When the Democratic race for Attorney General began in earnest, I didn’t know who toHAL_9000_by_Raltaran support. Unlike people who follow politics professionally in Montana, I didn’t have a strong opinion about either Jesse Laslovich or Pam Bucy; I simply knew that Democrats were going to need a strong candidate to run against Tim Fox, who gave Steve Bullock a close race in 2008.

While each candidate has impressed me with professional qualifications and personal values, I’ve found the campaign waged online by supporters of Ms. Bucy to be unimaginably awful. I’ve written about this before, but the anonymous attacks haven’t come to an end. As the primary has gotten closer, the attacks have been more persistent, more personal, and more desperate.

It’s certainly not surprising that people affiliated with political campaigns anonymously comment on blogs and other online news sources. What has been surprising, however, is just how willing supporters of Ms. Bucy have been to attack Mr. Laslovich, a fellow Democrat who has remained entirely positive during the race.

And to believe that these are the uncoordinated responses of random people who happen to all visit a blog within minutes of a post at 10:00 p.m., each under a more ludicrous pseudonym than the commenter before, would be to believe that Karl Rove isn’t coordinating his Tester attack ads with Denny Rehberg.

I’ve said all along that I will support either candidate against Tim Fox in the general election, but that commitment is wavering. If supporting Ms. Bucy means supporting this kind of campaigning and the politics of personal destruction, I’m not sure I can do it.

Two qualified candidates with excellent resumes are facing off in the Democratic primary for Attorney General. It’s just terribly unfortunate that only one campaign is behaving that way.

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.


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  • I gotta say it is very odd that all those comments came so late in the evening myself, on cowgirl’s blog. I guess I am gonna have to sit up and watch this closer myself. I don’t like tomfoolery either. I find out this is crap, I promise to clue you in. I don’t stand for infighting when so much is at stake for Democrats.

  • My decision was already made before this latest round of attack comments appeared on Cowgirl’s site. I just wonder how much damage these over the top supporters have done Bucy’s campaign both now and in future endevours.

    • I’m with James on this one. Laslovich appears to have made some enemies in his short time in politics. That happens some times when one takes unpopular stances. I support Bucy.

    • It’s not just this time, gentlemen. It has been a consistent pattern during the campaign. That, combined with the unusual funding of the campaign (the only staffed campaign in the state who hasn’t paid for any staffing for instance) and the robocall flap make me deeply suspicious of the way the campaign is being run. The flurry of Astroturf comments immediately after each post, not to mention a tweet coming from a single-issue, campaign affiliated Twitter account, point the finger at some level of coordination and intent.

      If these attacks against Mr. Laslovich appeared to be random or didn’t seem so clearly designed to be testing out talking points, it would be one thing. A series of attacks, each tightly on message, each designed to draw Google search attention, is another thing entirely.

      • I agree that the arrow points toward coordination of some kind. I’m just not convinced that Bucy ordered it. Or that it will have much effect.

        Frankly, I try not to think about the candidates for Attorney General. I don’t think it should be an elective office. Both parties view it as a stepping stone to the governor’s mansion, so it attracts candidates with greater ambitions than just being a good and decent lawyer for the state. And it produces campaigns that always seem to degenerate into “I’ll hang ’em higher than anyone else” contests.

        I consider myself bound by duty to choose between B & L. But at this point, I suspect that I may have to take a clothespin and a fair coin to the polls, and burn the former and disinfect the latter when I return home.

  • I am not convinced that Pam has a direct say in the Bucybot attacks. But I do believe that Cowgirl and Strategies 360 are connected. Just look at the list of employees at 360 and it is easy to draw a connection. Also look at the treatment of Dustin Hurst at Watch Dog who’s biggest offense was that he misrepresented himself on the phone to the Seattle office of Strategies 360. It is nice to see that Jesse has out fundraised Pam every reporting period. The Bucybots seem to forget that there is a general to win after June.

    • Red,
      I lol when I looked at the staff at Strategies 360. There is clearly a connection. One staff (a Havre native; hint hint) is right out of Schweitzer’s office “After working as Finance Director and grassroots field organizer on Schweitzer’s gubernatorial campaign, he spent the next four years in the Governor’s Office as Deputy Communications Director.” I was also disturbed to see that one of the staff is actually chair of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana. And coincidentally Pam gets a NARAL endorsement in a primary. Shameful.
      Don the “army of commenters” may not be the NBA prince himself but it does seem to be a coordinated effort with 360 to smear Jesse.

      • I agree. Pam Bucy’s campaign is clearly coordinating with The Cowgirl “commenter” to smear Jesse. It’s sad and pathetic. I’m glad someone is finally calling out the Bucy Bots. It’s just desperate and I’d expect more from a fellow progressive.
        The “AstroTurf comments” have gotten completely out of control and become completely unbelievable.

  • when this blows over, will everyone go back to not minding how Cowgirl(s) roll as long as their tactics are directed at the “right” people?

    • I’m not sure, it seems like they have made a lot of enemies. Their willingness to turn on a democrat with such spitefulness is rather surprising.

    • Cowgirl hasn’t been particularly interesting since the legislature was in session. I doubt I’ll stay away completely, but frankly during the campaign season the most interesting news cowgirl has broken has been that Rick Hill cheated on his wife, Neil Livingstone thinks he’s James Bond, and Denny Rehberg is a drunken hypocrite. None of that is news – combine that with precious little analysis and a comment page that is forever swamped with nonsense, and it’s a less dynamic blog than it once was.

    • I’m curious. Why would you bother to ask such a thing? Do you have evidence that “everyone” did that before? Why would doing so, or not doing so, be of any value? What stake do you have in what anyone else does online, Lizard? Those are all questions that need answering, I think …

  • I am having a really hard time believing that Bucy is both unaware and not involved in the systematic attacks on Laslovich. My reasoning for voting for Jesse was primarily decided by other factors, but the constant and rancorous attacks on Jesse by Bucy supporters simply re-enforce that decision. I understand and admire both candidates for choosing to ignore the online crap that we have seen in this race, but at some point, it would probably help Bucy to make some kind of statement or outreach against this BS. Jesse’s campaign has remained positive and I admire him for that.

  • I agree the endless anonymous Bucy trolling and negativity is annoying, and it does seem like it is being pursued as part of a coordinated strategy. But I’m generally of the opinion that it’s more important that a good candidate be elected than making a symbolic vote against tactics I don’t like. I really hope that if she wins the primary, Ms Bucy will address these issues so I can vote for her in good conscience. And if Mr. Laslovich wins, here’s hoping the Bucy partisans can back him.

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