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Dennis Rehberg’s Free Pass in the Montana Media Continues

Six days ago, the Huffington Post reported that Denny Rehberg delivered a speech borderingspeak-no-evil_new on a love letter to the American League of Lobbyists, in which he extoled the virtues of the profession, going so far as to suggest that he himself wished he had remained a lobbyist.

Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan asked “could Rehberg’s comments about lobbying hurt in Montana Senate race?”  Unfortunately, it appears not, as the Montana media has resolutely refused to cover this campaign issue.

One could make the argument, I suppose, that it’s purely a campaign issue not worthy of the news that Representative Rehberg is such a staunch advocate for lobbyists, but given the attention paid by the Montana media to the statue of Jesus at Big Mountain, that’s hard to support that premise. One could argue that it’s not an important policy issue, but given the media’s willingness to let Representative Rehberg unfairly, inaccurately, and hypocritically bash Senator Tester over political contributions, it would only seem reasonable to report Rehberg’s own words supporting lobbyists.

It’s part of a serial pattern of journalistic malpractice in Montana when it comes to the Congressman. I know I have mentioned these items before, but how can it be that Montana political media has not written about these issues?

  • Sealed court records from the Barkus trial that have never come to light.
  • Rehberg’s condemnation from the American Cancer Society and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
  • His budget proposal which would cost the Social Security system billions of dollars.
  • His condemnation by the conservative Wall Street Journal for his cynical budget votes.

All of these issues have been covered by the national media, but have been roundly ignored by the Montana press. They represent a mixture of important policy issues and political questions, but the media’s response has been a deafening silence and mute refusal to educate Montana voters.

I don’t think it’s bias in favor of Representative Rehberg. It’s almost as if the Montana media is giving him a free pass because he and his campaign are so inept that reporting the truth would reflect badly on the media. In order to appear neutral, they’ve decided they can’t cover Rehberg’s gaffes, missteps, and failures, because honestly reporting about his record will be perceived as biased.

Simply telling the truth—the role of the media—would demand presenting all the information about Representative Rehberg and Senator Tester. It’s certainly not the media’s fault that Rehberg is far more likely to say or do something stupid, but it is their fault when they refuse to cover it.

Instead of puff pieces about independent voters, maybe the press might consider informing those voters about the real differences between Rehberg and Tester.

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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  • HEY, we get treated weekly to james snuffy smith, retired lifer, fly, maggot, gubmint TITsucker and teatard reetard here in GF! Thas all we need. Sure, snuffy sucked off’n Unca Sugartit his entire adult life, but THAT alone makes him qualified to pontificate as a Teatard! Hell, who BETTER to know about gubmint waste than a dude with BIG lips on the gubmint tit?

  • The Lee newspapers dragged Tester’s ass across the finish line and lost subscriptions because of it.

    Ain’t going to happen again.

    • An interesting hypothesis. Please provide a citation or two supporting it.

      Meanwhile, I’ll stick with my theory that Conrad Burns ran one time too many, came across as a soon-to-be doddering old fool, and lost just enough support among Republicans that Tester, who ran a savvy campaign, won with a plurality. Thinking about that, I suppose it’s possible that Burns lost not because he was losing it, but because the flaming radicals at Lee reported what was happening to him, that they disrespectfully reported Burns as he was, not as his supporters wanted him to be. Perhaps he was done in by fact based journalism, and washed up on a Lee shore.

      • Right up to the vote the Gazette wrote numerous articles about Burns and Abramoff, Burns and firefighters. If you google up the combination of those two you’ll see a weekly and sometimes daily articles from Oct on. Of course after the election they all but disappear.

        This pissed off a lot of people. A lot of Republican people. I cancelled as did many of my friends, which probably would have happened anyway because of technology.

        I’m not privy of the Lee Ent. numbers but I’m thinking there was backlash.

        • And another aside.

          The reason Don gets so pissed at the non-confrontational press is the fact that the tap has been twisted off.

          He was used to the bashing and now it’s gone. Which says to me that these outlets are more sensitive to their biasses.

            • ” One could argue that it’s not an important policy issue, but given the media’s willingness to let Representative Rehberg unfairly, inaccurately, and hypocritically bash Senator Tester over political contributions”.

              Ya know Don there is a difference between a paid political ad and a story printed about a candidate.

              And please tell me the falsehoods in Denny’s ad.

              • This will astonish you, I’m sure, but the news media has reported Rehberg’s claims. Shocking, I know. For some reason, they haven’t reported that Rehberg loves lobbyists, that he wants to be one, or that he was one.

                • You should be happy he’s got a foot in the door in case there’s an October surprise.

                  Speaks to his confidence.

                  But tell Don. Is his claims about Tester in the ad untrue?

                • “But tell Don. Is his claims about Tester in the ad untrue?”

                  We never claimed it to be untrue – unfair and inaccurate. Here’s why –

                  Jon never promised not to take money from lobbyists, and he had no problem with Burns taking money from them, either. He ran against corruption, because Conrad Burns took an incredible amount of money from a notoriously and admittedly (and unabashedly) corrupt lobbyist. So, it is unfair and inaccurate to suggest that Tester has broken the promises that got him elected.

                  The entire strategy of the ad, instead, is to paint all lobbyists as corrupt, to suggest that while there is no evidence of actual corruption against Jon Tester (if there was, they would cite it), his association with lobbyists as a group makes his campaign disreputable. That is a half way logical premise, but it is completely undercut but the fact that Denny himself has praised lobbyists and the work they do. Trying to allege corruption by association with lobbyists on one hand, and praising them on the other, is hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. Fortunately for Denny, the MT media has failed to point this out, and so his lobbyist attack on Tester remains somewhat viable in the public eye.

                • Gee Don that’s some pretty convoluted reasoning.

                  Here’s my two cents. Maybe our biased newspapers would have a tough time explaining what you just said. A lobbyist wannabe certainly isn’t as bad as someone saying he wouldn’t take their money and then bypass all others in the history of campaigning.

                  Either way, contorted logic or caught in a reversal Jon looks bad and printing ink ’bout it makes it worse.

                • 1. I’m not Don
                  2. Jon Tester didn’t say he wouldn’t take lobbyist money; the ad doesn’t even allege that. He ran on the principle that he would not be corrupted by such money
                  3. Therefore, the ad only makes sense if a) they are accusing Jon of being corrupted by that money, or if b0 they are accusing his very association with lobbyists of being evidence enough of corruption.

                  a) is clearly false – the ad merely accuses Jon of selling out Montana by voting with Obama, and since lobbyists have been a smaller contributor to Obama’s campaign than to Romney’s, that is in fact evidence against Tester being unduly influenced by lobbyists
                  b) makes sense only if you don’t know that Rehberg has been singing the praises of lobbyists. Why wouldn’t you know that? Because the Montana media has been falling down on the job.

                • No, Ingy, when Jon said he was going to crack down on lobbists, he meant that A) he was going to hold them accountable to following the law (something Burns and Abramoff didn’t do), and that he would do what he could to stem the tide in money buying elections. He has followed through with those promises – including supporting a legislative answer to Citizen’s United. I know that you LOVE that decision and want to see rich people buying elections but the majority of citizens (including a super majority of Montana citizens) want to see that decision die a slow and painful death.

        • ” If you google up the combination of those two you’ll see a weekly and sometimes daily articles from Oct on. Of course after the election they all but disappear.”

          Yes, that’s what usually happens to election related stories after the election is over.

        • I’ve found the Lee papers to be bastions of conventional wisdom, held totally captive by local advertisers (read local Chamber of Commerce members). (I was therefore very surprised when our local paper, the Helena Independent Record, last year poked into the mismanagement of St Peter’s Hospital here in town — I guess enough people were feeling screwed by that particular enterprise, and the mismanagement was such an open secret, that the IR felt safe publishing those stories).

          The Burns/Abramoff was such an egregious mistake that even Chamber members were appalled, hence, the coverage was acceptable. I’m still waiting for a full explanation of Denny’s six-shooter (or 12-shooter) incident in Kazakistan.

          To me (and I suspect a lot of thinking conservatives and progressives), Rep. Rehberg is like Fox News: if we feel like we haven’t been appalled enough during our working day, we’ll see what he/they have to say. Otherwise, they get tuned out. There’s not enough time in most busy days to tune into batshit crazy.

          • ….which is why I really appreciate “Intelligent Discontent” for noting these incidents. Kudos. You have a stronger stomach than I.

  • The huff article was seven days ago, true, but the speech is a year old. You are “spot on” w/ your comments re: Montana media. The worst news? that can be found.
    I don’t think lobbyist donations make a lot of difference myself, but I doubt that Jon Testor wants to get into a pissing match over it. There are far too many ways to skin Rehberg w/o these comparisons.

    • It seems like the fact that the Montana media missed it in the first place doesn’t make much of a case for not covering it now. What about all the other issues they’ve ignored?

      And…how old is the Big Mountain Jesus story? There’s absolutely nothing new to report, but the Missoulian trots out a new story on it every few weeks.

      • True, true! Makes a strong case for the quality of the media in this state, does it not? And I feel about the Jesus story the same way I would feel about this one were it to be “trotted out” after a year. Personally, I’d be grateful if I never heard the name Rehberg again! Or “mountain Jesus”! And there should probably be a law against the words ‘media’ and ‘fair’ being used in the same sentence. I noticed that the Helena paper gave up cheers for their editorial page yesterday for adding another conservative columnist to the stable

        • You are enjoyable to read, 68. You’ve got some insight beyond blue/red. The job of a journalist is easily understood once we understand what they cannot do – they cannot buck power in place. But they must fill a rag with words every day. So they scour about looking for anything that might be interesting and will also not offend power. So we see stories about Jesus statues but not about money changing hands.

          Journalism is a most undignified professon.

  • The Republican Party got a gift from the Dillon Tribune this week as well. While they covered Rehberg’s visit to Dillon (attended by maybe 15 people), Steve Bullock’s visit hosted by the Beaverhead Democratic Party wasn’t even mentioned in the paper. It is interesting given that the visit had at least 30 people there (probably more…). I grant you that Dillon is a very conservative town, but the local paper is getting more and more slanted every week… WTF?

    • The Dillon Trbune’s front page story on the rodeo was captioned, “Country Patriotism.” The first sentence reads, “The Dillon Jaycee Labor Day Rodeo brings together a conservative crowd, ready to enjoy a last blow-out of the summer.”

      I guess no one went to the rodeo to watch bucking broncs and bull riders. They were there to express their political ideology.

      • I expect a conservative take on most of the news reported here in Dillon (Dillon is a conservative community), but the paper has rapidly degrenerated into political propoganda. I find that sad. I would have much rather they stayed the PR paper they used to be. At least the reporting was somewhat news related. I am having a hard time telling the difference between the Tribune and the Dillonite Daily anymore.

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