Ryan Zinke: Beholden to PACS and Out of State Business

It’s rare for a candidate to so nakedly admit his reliance on out of state business interests for a political campaign, but Republican State Senator Ryan Zinke was so excited about his campaign haul that he offered some unguarded commentary today about where the funds came from, telling KXLH that the money sure wasn’t from back home in Montana:

Zinke said a lot of his contributions came from out of state,

“I spent the first two months going around the country, quite frankly, talking to successful business leaders that have assets that have a play in Montana,” he said. The people he visited with shared his interest in getting government out of the affairs of businesses, he said.

“And that’s why I think you’ll see … that most of the donors were where I was, talking to the people who run industries at the national level,” he said.

Wow. I guess Republicans who vote for this pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-marijuana candidate will at least be relieved that, instead of campaigning with and meeting ordinary Montanans, Zinke was courting the attention of corporate leaders outside of the state.

Also today, Presented without comment, the first campaign ad for Ryan Zinke, from the totally unaffiliated Super PAC he directed and was paid by until he announced his decision to run for Congress:

If nothing else, it’s some excellent use of stock footage.

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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  • First, I don’t really know who this guy is. Now, is it a state senator’s responsibility to look out for the interests of companies that may primarily be directed from out of state? After all, these companies do employ some people and inject some money into their local economies.

    But doe that get rid of the need to listen to the people you’re supposedly representing as well? No, and I sure hope he’s doing that, and really, I expect he is at some level.

    Two months does strike me as quite a while to be going around out of state, however.

    And jeez, political ads. That’s just a waste of money. I sure hope he’s wasting that corporate money on that crap no one wants to see. If you’re going to run it 100 times a day at least make me laugh.

    Now that said, when I clicked over and read your other article, wow, here sounds like a Republican that a lot of Democrats could work with. I think he’s got the right idea on quite a few issues, and I have a feeling he’d be willing to compromise on some and meet you have way on some of your own for the betterment of the people here.

      • I think you’re right – it’s always easier to pretend than to try and explain yourself, but I’d really like to think if he did some town hall meetings and some knocking on doors he could convince many people that compromising on some issues for the betterment of all Montanans is the way to go.

        Then you’ve got your primary opponent all over you. It’s tough and often seems like there’s no way to win other than by losing first.

        Still, I’d rather see compromise and results in the legislature next year, not yelling, name-calling and banging on desks. And Democrats will probably have to do much of the compromising to get a lot of what they want through. It’s not a bad thing.

  • Here’s my commercial for zinke:

    Hi, I’m the Barking Seal Zero. I spent twenty years in the military, and now I need a job! Hey you business pukes, listen up, ladies. You want my vote, then vote for me! It’s a win/win. I get a job, and you get whatever you want! Am I qualified? Hooooaah! Hell yes! You think sen. cornhole burns was dumb, wait ’til you see ME in action”!

    Semper venalis!

    I think that my commercial is a leetle more truthful than the one above. Suck naked greed is truly impressive!

  • On those out of state donations.

    Do you think he’ll surpass Tester’s record of 77%?

    From Wiki. “According to an Open Secrets report, Tester ranked among the top ten senate candidates receiving out-of-state donations during the 2012 election cycle. He received $6,057,952, or 77.6%, of his donations from outside of Montana.”

  • You might want to be a bit more careful (or update) about your sourcing, Don. In clicking on some of the links you mention here to support your argument, some of them no longer go anywhere. Obviously it would be unreasonable to be updating every post you’ve ever made, but if you’re referencing it to one you’re currently posting, it might be worth a few extra clicks to make sure the evidence you’re providing for current arguments is still accessible.

    For example, in the Ryan Zinke piece, it goes to another blog post of yours that seems to paraphrase a Whitefish area newspaper. The assertion of the post is that he is pro-marijuana legalization and pro-gun control. However, none of the links I could find on that blog post support it. One is redirected just to the front page of I’m guessing where ever the original article was originally published.

    On an unrelated note, I thought this recently published article about Yelp legally needing to take away anonymous reviews was relevant to some of the discussions recently regarding fake names and pseudonyms making attacks. It seems like we may soon see the age of the anonymous bitchy internet meeting legal standards of defamation.

  • Show me a country where the military has a strong influence on domestic or foreign policy, and I’ll show you a dictatorship. It is NOT the military’s job to make policy, it is their job to enforce it as directed by the administration and the congress. The military is to follow the direction of the people. And the people are represented by lawmakers. And that’s what our representatives in Washington are, LAWMAKERS NOT LEADERS. They don’t lead us, they just make law. The men and women in uniform are not leaders either. They are followers. They follow their instruction which comes from far far away. And a fine job they do. But the job of being a soldier, in no way qualifies one to make law. Ryan Zinke needs to tell us something that qualifies him as a LAWMAKER because, as he proudly tells us in this silly ad, being a career soldier, and a 3rd generation Montanan, do not do this.

    • Really?

      What do George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Willie Harrison, Zack Taylor, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, J.F. Kennedy, Carter, all have in common?

      They all were lawmakers and soldiers.

      • Yes, they were soldiers, and also lawmakers. Some good some bad. They also had other things on their resume. Chairman Z has not given us any information that would, or should, lead one single voter to find him qualified to go to Washington and be a lawmaker. Maybe he has yet to shed some light on a successful career he’s had as an entrepreneur, or CEO of some Fortune 500 company…maybe he’s sandbagging. We’ll see. But best as I can tell he was a soldier and then he a little tiny stint representing a little tiny population of people in a little tiny part of a state with a little tiny population. How in the world you can feel comfortable with him casting votes on your behalf in Washington, vote on laws having to do with education, the budget, jobs etc…is beyond me. I, for one, require a whole lot more experience from my representative in Washington, than being a soldier. Good Grief.

            • IngyJo, if you weren’t so damn old and feeble, it might have been a competition. In the future, how much of head start do you need? 😉

            • By the way did you see where two of Obama’s Malmstrom Air Force Base officers are ensnared in a narcotics mess? Nice to see who he has with their fingers on the button. Much happens when the CIC is occupied at the 19th hole.

          • Fellas, fellas, FELLAS!, do NOT do that to Kelly! Who was the VERY FIRST ONE to say that Walsh was not qualified? ME! That’s who! Sorry, dudes, but you lose again!

            You see, Kelly is exactly right. When we went to an all volunteer military, we went MERC! (see the barking seal and his bald headed own CIA buddy, a REAL loser!) Underemployed young dudes and psycopaths need a job. So, what do they do? They join the military! Been there, done that! So you CAN’T bullsh*t me! When you’re standin’ before Your Honor, and he says jail or the military, MOST thinking young dudes choose military! Hell, I wasn’t the first, and I won’t be the last! ONLY someone who has never served has NO understanding of what bullsh*t the military really is! These guys are not leaders. They’re dudes who needed or job or a way out of JAIL time! True story! Hell, I seen it all!

            Now, all you non-veterans, prove me wrong!

            Jail or the Marines, son. You decide. The Marines your honor. OK, then welcome to the Marines! Next!

            This is what the don’t show you in the movie Platoon. Right, Ingie? You served, right? Were you a moron that joined, or did Judge Judy enlist your pathetic patootie???

    • As has already been pointed out, we have a strong military influence in a lot of our leaders, leaders who were decidedly against dictatorships. Military experience in our leaders has typically been valued, especially those who strove to be the best of the best in the military from the start of their career. That shows a dedication to country and a pride in excellence.

      Ryan isn’t some flunky that joined the military to get a job. Ryan has extensive educational background, including a MS in global leadership, an MBA in finance, and BS in Geology. He wasn’t just a soldier, he was a commander of Seal Team 6, in charge of of the most highly trained units in the military. He has extensive knowledge and experience working with world leaders and even if you don’t want to admit it, this DOES give him an advantage in providing real solutions in government. He is also a small business owner and an active and respected member of his community.

      I’m puzzled you think more political experience makes for better leaders. My personal opinion is that I’ve met a lot more upstanding soldiers than life long politicians.

      • Um, the Barking Seal RAN on a ticket with some bald headed looney who CLAIMED to have his own private CIA! Sorry, but that alone disqualifies him for consideration for anything except maybe dog catcher!

        The military, it isn’t just a job………..well yes it is! It’s a jobs program for the unemployables out there in society, the easy road to a lifer pension. And yes, I served, so I know!

      • K. Wilson,
        Kelly said being a military guy doesn’t qualify him to be a LAWMAKER, not a LEADER. Our representatives in Washington are not leaders, they’re lawmakers. The term leader was coined by THEM, not us. They don’t lead us, they make our laws. That’s it. We actually lead them. They are not the brightest and the best, they’re just lawmakers. If being a soldier guy is good enough for you to make laws, then by all means, vote for him. But I would do an awfully lot of investigating first…I’m just saying… No one except you mentioned anything about him being a flunky, but……

  • My problem with Walsh isn’t that he is ex-military or even the (non) scandal at this point over his activities with the NGAUS. My problem is that he is running a non-campaign. He is AWOL from his own campaign and this is NOT the time to be so. Where is his stance on the issues? Where is his attempt to meet with the voters in Montana? Daines and Bolinger hit the ground running – Walsh, not so much. The only thing I have seen from Walsh is him asking for money on Facebook and (briefly) defending himself over the scandal.

  • Again with your Zinke obsession. He polls at the end of the pack seeking the office, and you focus on him??

    If your real complaint is about out-ot-state money influencing Montana elections, are you ready to criticize Lewis? As Swede pointed out, remember Tester and Hilltop? http://www.propublica.org/article/in-montana-dark-money-helped-democrats-hold-a-key-senate-seat Hilltop’s Aaron Murphy is Lewis’ campaign spokesman. Hilltop’s Barrett Kaiser, Lewis’ close friend, has pledged Hilltop’s support. In fact, Lewis was back in DC holding hands with Hilltop doing the fund raising circuit last July..

    There’s much to not to like about out-of-state interference, but it is a fact of life these days. Hell, even Bohlinger was told the facts of life by Harry Reid who declared Walsh was their candidate. But, I come back to my question, Why the obsession with Zinke? He has very little chance in the primary.

    • Don, stuck in moderation again. 🙁

      Here it is again without the full hyperlink.

      Again with your Zinke obsession. He polls at the end of the pack seeking the office, and you focus on him??

      If your real complaint is about out-ot-state money influencing Montana elections, are you ready to criticize Lewis? As Swede pointed out, remember Tester and Hilltop? propublica.org/article/in-montana-dark-money-helped-democrats-hold-a-key-senate-seat Hilltop’s Aaron Murphy is Lewis’ campaign spokesman. Hilltop’s Barrett Kaiser, Lewis’ close friend, has pledged Hilltop’s support. In fact, Lewis was back in DC holding hands with Hilltop doing the fund raising circuit last July..

      There’s much to not to like about out-of-state interference, but it is a fact of life these days. Hell, even Bohlinger was told the facts of life by Harry Reid who declared Walsh was their candidate. But, I come back to my question, Why the obsession with Zinke? He has very little chance in the primary.

    • I think that, unless Rehberg runs, Zinke is the favorite in the race. He’s certainly outraising the others, who don’t have the advantage of two years working for a SuperPAC. Those old poll numbers don’t mean much at all.

  • I just don’t see it with Zinke. Assume he is the best. However, he has very limited appeal outside of a narrow group of supporters. Actually I love to see out-of-state money flow into Montana and jazz up the economy. The more the better IMHO. Why? I believe it has near zip real effect on people’s minds and voting. The ads generally get tuned out .IF anything they create a negative knee jerk as people just don’t like it Now out-of-state money did help Tester because it enabled a 3rd party candidate to drain support. See the ProPublica article.

  • I’m curious about the fact that Zinke’s wife and sons moved to Santa Barbara last summer and they still live there. Did Zinke move with them? Why did they move and how can he run for office in Montana if they’re living in Santa Barbara? Does anyone know anything about this? Does he live in Montana away from his family or did they all move to Santa Barbara? Just wondering if anyone knows.

    • He has a home and property in Whitefish. There is no legal requirement that his wife and children must live in the state where he maintains a residence and is running for office. His grown daughter may still live in Virginia.

      So, whether his family’s diaspora is an issue is a purely political question, but not an unimportant question.

  • @farrahlangley  I feel that by not addressing where he lives. Zinke is making it worse.  A lot of people around Whitefish are talking about it.  His wife and children moved away months ago and haven’t been seen at all, save Christmas.  They all moved to California in the summer.  I would like to know, if he’s living in Whitefish, and his family left without him, or, did he move to Southern California with his family.  I really think it would be nice if the people running to represent us in Washington, live amongst us.  With all this fundraising going on out of state, and the fact that his family has moved, it just makes me wonder..

  • @K. Wilson  Oh K. Wilson….”Extensive experience with world leaders”?  EXTENSIVE experience with WORLD LEADERS???? Now THAT is just a bad and untrue statement from start to finish. And, he was not “in charge of one of the most highly trained units in the military”  He was A commander AT Seal Team 6, a fact that he never, ever, ever, ever mentioned until after the assasination of OBL. But he was in charge of SOMETHING at Seal Team 6, not in charge of the unit. And Kelly never said anything about not being qualified to be a LEADER, she said that being in the military does not qualify one to be a LAWMAKER.  Our reps in Washington are simply our lawmakers, not our leaders. jeeze….Actually, K., we lead them, they don’t lead us.  The term Leader was coined by the suits in Washington, silly, not by us.  No one in congress is a leader, just a lawmaker.  And just one more thing, “pride in excellence”??? What does that even mean? Enough with the funny little phrases.  Honestly.

  • Farrahlangley
    I am not sure how to respond to you. Yep, he was a commander IN Seal Team 6, not “of”. My bad.  You claim “He never, ever mentioned it until after OBL”. 
    Really? Proof? I bet he did. I also bet nobody paid attention because he wasn’t on the radar, but he is now. And the attacks, are predictably, coming in strong.
    For the record in Seal team six he was Team Leader, Ground Force Commander, Task Force Commander and Current
    Operations Officer in support of National Command Authority missions he also served as seal Commander of Joint Task Force 2 supporting Special Operations missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Does he work with “world leaders”? He’s certainly worked with the military advisers and commanders of other countries. He’s certainly met world leaders. I will admit “extensively” may be strong, but really, we don’t know, do we. 🙂

    I notice you ignore his education. Why is that? It certainly is education that should help in being not only a leader, but an educated individual. Total silence. Global Leadership 4.0 too “leadery” for you? lmfao

    Your attack struck me. So much vitriol. I hear everything from he’s too moderate to he’s too right wing. WILD CARD. 😉  The whole sentiment trikes me as good for him in anything but a primary. 
    About leaders vs lawmakers. Um, do the laws dictate to us? Do we have to follow them? Yes. A LEADER will be able to lead a team to DC that really represents his constituents. (Do you really think this all happens with one guy? No, he has TO LEAD HIS CAMPAIGN. He has to lead his staff when elected. He has to have led before being elected. Leading is a part of politics. Period.)  Our reps in Wash are often selfish, self serving thieves, not “law makers”.
    Pride in excellence? Wow, weird you have to ask. It means means he takes pride in excellence. He seems too, since he excels a lot. 🙂

  • Actually, you ARE sure how to respond. I do think that your sophomoric sarcasm cheapens your response. I think the fact that you put, in writing, lmfao, is so childish and most likely untrue. I don’t think you really laughed hard, if at all. Obviously, you like Zinke and that’s great. But you don’t know what I know about him, and I’m not telling. Not yet. I’m hoping the voters of our great state do independent research and get the goods on this guy on their own. And you make light of your untruths; “Leader OF vs. Leader AT”, “extensive experience with world leaders vs. working with military advisors”. Tsk, tsk…devil’s in the details. Those are big details K. That sort of carelessness with words is better suited for a politician. As far as congressmen and women being leaders, if that is what they are to you and if that makes you feel happy, comfortable and secure, I understand and respect that. But I think I’m more the kind of person that Farrah seems to be. I’m not a follower myself. I’m a leader. Do I follow laws, yes. People, no. So no one can be my leader. He or she can and should lead their staff, I agree. But that’s a pretty simple task. I’ve been leading my staff for years, and it’s a whole lot bigger than the staff of a US congressperson. Actually, the staff of a congressperson works for the gov’t, not even the congressperson themselves! The lawmaker does NOT EVEN sign “their” staff’s paychecks! These congresspeople have NO blood in the game. They aren’t even self employed! They draw a paycheck!!! How tough do they really need to be? Not very. Their job description is dictated to them and they, hopefully, follow through, best that they are able. Lawmakers make my laws, chefs make my meals , contractors build my homes, and a personal trainer makes my workout regime. They’re not my leaders. If anything, I am their leader in that I pay them. But that sounds so stupid! A leader is a character fit for a scifi movie with aliens (think “take me to your leader”) or a dictatorship. Farrah didn’t mention his education because she don’t have to, it’s not up for dispute. I like Ryan too, he’s a nice guy, but he has NO business being a lawmaker. I’ve never met you so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you actually have no idea who he really is, because if you really knew him, then you and I would have met. I mean really know him. Which is different from having met him or done business with him. And,”pride in excellence”. Really? What other sort of emotion would one attach to one’s journey to excellence? It’s redundant and just a childish phrase. I think Stephen Colbert made it up as a joke. So, enough said on my part, for now. But, of course, peace back at you.

    • You’ve obviously put some time and thought into your arguments, so why not format them so people will read them? People pay me to write internet content and when I see big blocks of text like yours I just scroll past it to the next comment.

      I’m not arguing with you said, mainly because I didn’t take the time to read it. I see this kind of writing a lot in Montana and I’m not sure if it’s a failure of our school system that’s producing it or just ignorance in regard to how content on the internet typically looks. At least the content that sells.

      And aren’t you trying to sell me on an idea? Use returns. 🙂

      • You’re right Greg. I actually cut it from Word and it didn’t format correctly when I pasted it. I was lazy and just posted as is and you busted me! I also have a rather large grammatical error in there, and now I don’t know how to fix it! But will you read it anyhow? You seem like a smart guy and maybe if you comment on it, and use returns, others will take the time. Please??? It’ll just take about a minute. Thanks 🙂

  • Well, you have some good arguments. I agree that many in Congress are collecting paycheck, extravagant in my mind.

    Having representatives that have worked for themselves can only help the country, in my opinion.

    I’ve seen some pretty ineffective and incompetent leaders in my time. You have to realize that many people only get to leadership positions by being ‘yes men’ and kissing ass, usually right before they kiss your baby.

    They are superb at leading us into holes, however.

    The term legislator doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make laws – you can get rid of them as well. How many laws do we need? And remember, laws create government, government creates government spending.

    Considering that Republicans often rally against government spending I’m always astonished that it’s they creating so many new laws, which only ensures government spending will only increase. Astounding!

    Don’t be fooled by these big-government arguments Republicans make – they can’t not increase spending and the size of the government. Just look at any airport customs line.

    Mainly, however, I’m surprised at the ignorance of the American people. I mean, Americans really are stupid. Look at what they allow their leaders to do to them. We give them our money, our blood, our sweat and our tears and they give us debt, fear, and hopelessness.

    Wow, what a deal – thanks fellow citizens.

  • If Zinke isn’t coordinating with SOFA, because that would be illegal, how did SOFA get the brand new family photos that Zinke just had taken over the holidays? According to Scott Wilson photography facebook page, Zinke hired him to take some campaign shots for him and they magically show up on SOFA’s ad?

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