The Audacity of Cynicism: The Montana GOP Tries to Buy Rick Hill and Tim Fox A Couple of Elections

I’d like to say that I’m astonished by the Republican Party’s brazen attempt to buy an election for Rick Hill, but given their support for unlimited campaign contributions, dishonest advertisements, and a return to a style of elections last seen in Montana when William A. Clark was around, no one should be surprised at their latest disregard for Montana’s electoral tradition and laws.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Montana GOP gave $500,000 to the Rick Hill campaign during the six days that Judge Lovell’s absurd ruling ending campaign contribution limits in Montana  was in effect. This, despite the fact that Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murray asked that all candidates refuse to accept large donations while the legal issues were settled.

Perhaps the most important question about the story is just where this money came from. According to the AP, the Montana Republican Party had less than $65,000 in the bank on August 31st, but was able to give over $530,000 to Rick Hill and Tim Fox less than two months later.

I doubt very much that the Montana GOP raised half a million dollars from small, individual contributions for ordinary Montanans.

Corporations—probably out of state corporations—are trying to buy Montana’s elections, and the Montana GOP, Rick Hill, and Tim Fox are more than willing to sell out our voters and our democratic process.  It seems to fair to ask what they expect to give up in return.

And this isn’t as if it’s the first time Hill has been involved in shady campaign finance. Back in 1997, Time Magazine reported that Hill won his first election to Congress in part because he violated campaign laws then:

In late September, a Triad agent huddled with the campaign of Yellowtail’s opponent, Rick Hill, and figured out how to help. According to a Triad memo, Hill needed a “3rd party to expose Yellowtail” on “wife-beating.” Citizens for Reform launched its ad a couple of weeks later, sparing Hill the indignity of playing the mudslinger. It was a turning point in the race, and it appears to be a prime example of the new dirty word in the financing of elections: coordination.

The term is shorthand for a kind of collaboration forbidden under the law: a party and its candidates are not allowed to direct outside groups to take action on their behalf–and that includes making ads.

The good news is that the actions of Mr. Hill and Mr. Fox make quite clear that Montana voters should vote against them. With Hill and Fox, we have two candidates who have no respect for the law or Montana voters. We have two candidates who believe in using massive corporate donations to lie to win elections.

The contrast couldn’t be more clear: Steve Bullock and Pam Bucy have fought for the integrity of our elections, for hundred-year old Montana law, and for the basic principle that elections should be decided by ideas, not by the candidates who can raise the most corporate cash.

Mr. Hill and Mr. Fox, you should both be ashamed of yourselves. And you should have realized that Montana voters know better.

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.

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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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  • Much better post than mine. Worth noting that a ban on corporate contributions is one of the few laws left standing. My money’s on the RGA as the mystery donor, but I might be surprised if it’s just a run-of-the-mill out-of-state millionaire Republican donor.

    • My apologies for jumping on your post. I didn’t see yours until I published.

      I think the distinction you make about the claims of illegality is an important part of how the Bullock team should respond.

      Next time, I’ll try not to post within five minutes of you on the same subject. 🙂

  • This reminds me of the attack launch on Ann Richard in Texas just before the election. She was clearly the better candidate and couldn’t be unseated without smarmy underhanded tactics. Here’s hoping Montanans are smarter than Texans. Here’s hoping….

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