Rick Hill’s Latest Ethical Failure Should Come As No Surprise

The recent news that GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill decided to take $500,000 from the Montana Republican Party in contravention of the spirit, if not the letter of Montana campaign law is hardly the marker of a candidate who is concerned with ethical campaigning.

It’s also not something new. Throughout Mr. Hill’s political career, he’s shown a willingness to take ethical shortcuts that betray a character more interested in victory than doing what’s right.

  • During his first campaign for public office, against Bill Yellowtail. Hill coordinated with Triad Management Services to smear Yellowtail, running negative advertisements attacking Mr. Yellowtail over his relationship with his wife. Time Magazine described Hill’s action as “ 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.” It was so bad that actions like those of Congressman Hill led to the first wave of campaign finance reform.
  • In the campaign that preceded his early “retirement” Hill made a despicable attack against his opponent, Nancy Keenan, suggesting that she was unfit for office because she had not borne children. Later, Keenan revealed that she had been unable to bear children because of an illness that necessitated a hysterectomy when she was younger.
  • While a member of Congress, Hill treated those who worked for him with incredible disrespect, edging out all but one member of Congress as the “worst boss on Capitol Hill.”  Hill was imperious, rude, and disrespectful—but apparently played a mean game of FreeCell as a member of Congress.
  • Hill has a history of association with the worst of Montana’s extreme right, the militia movement.
  • During his primary campaign for the Republican nomination, the Hill campaign was caught editing his Wikipedia page, removing references to Hill’s ugly affair and failed marriage, his failure with Workers’ Compensation, and his questionable law degree.
  • During the Martz Administration, Hill’s wife used her influence to get sweetheart rent deals from the state government, enriching the Hill family at the expense of Montana taxpayers.
  • Despite working for Martz, Hill has repeatedly denied his involvement in her failed economic policies.  He even lobbied for a sales tax.

In the end, Montanans will show the good sense to vote against Mr. Hill for his failed policy proposals and reactionary agenda, but ethics do matter.   As Steve Bullock noted in the last debate, it seems he is “running against someone who will do anything and say anything to get elected.”  Someone who is so willing to put aside ethics when running for office is certainly unlikely to embrace them once he wins an election.

Montana can do better. Consider making an entirely legal donation to Steve Bullock and John Walsh today. Even better, cast your ballot for them.

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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  • Don-

    I posted this on Cowgirl too but didn’t want to leave you out. For the record, I find your site to be much more civilized than that sad excuse for second rate Schweitzer propaganda. I’ve seen more believable lies come from the late Saddam’s former information minister…

    [begin text]

    Ironically, this problem is one of Bullock’s own making. When he used DNC staffers in 2008 (at the time illegally), he did so knowing that the Commissioner of Political practices, (now Schweitzer’s union thug) could make it go away.

    And Murray did, ruling that party “resources” could be given to a candidate and that it didn’t amount to a personal contribution. The laws then get even more watered down so that Schweitzer can use public employees and public resources for his “public service announcements” and yet this too is found to be OK.

    So the GOP waits for the court to interpret it. The court interprets it. The GOP then follows the law that essentially came into effect to cover up Bullock and Schweitzer’s corrupt practices and now Bullock “gets served.”

    Karma sure can be a bitch.

  • Don, we also need to be reminded that Bullock did something very similar when he manufactured a bogus primary challenger so that he could keep all the primary contributions. Combine that with taking money before actually announcing what office you’re even running from, and Bullock has plenty of sleaze to share with Rick….

    • Keith:
      There has been a primary election challenger on both sides of the political aisle for more than 20 years running. Democrats and Republicans alike have always recruited, for lack of better terminology, primary opponents so their incumbent or top-challenger candidates can raise money that can then be held over for the general election. That standing practice is nothing new, and hardly rises to the illegal and unethical practice of Hill taking $500,000 — a gazillion times the legal limit — and then refusing to give it back despite the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Montana’s campaign limits are in effect for this election cycle. It’s like comparing apples and computers.

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