Montana Republicans and certain conflicted Democratic strategists seem determined to gin up some controversy about the fact that Governor Bullock plans to do his legal duty and appoint a Senator to represent Montana following the departure of Max Baucus from the Senate. They’ve bought pathetic online ads criticizing the governor, had their Astroturf media outlets complain about the appointment, and spilled gallons of virtual ink, and acted with their typical respect for the democratic process.
Republicans have even gone so far as to create a web site that’s little more than a phishing scheme in the service of their faux outrage. That these Montana Republicans are decrying the influence of “D.C. insiders” while using the rhetoric of the National Republican Senate Committee in their smear campaign is an irony just a little too rich for the brain trust at the Republican Party headquarters.
That a party willing to endorse corporate personhood, traffic in dark money, and take illegal $500,000 campaign donations in the last weeks of a political campaign is calling for a transparent process is laughable on its face, but that anyone would take their complaints seriously is just sad.
The process, despite their protestations, is incredibly clear: the governor has the power (and obligation) to appoint a successor when there is a vacancy in the Senate. Montanans elected the governor knowing that one of his duties would be to make decisions like this. Montana is one of 36 states in which the governor appoints a successor to a Senate seat, which demonstrates two things: 1) most people agree that’s a more sensible approach than the enormous cost of a special election, and 2) that Republicans could have changed the law to mandate a special election.
The Republicans in the Legislature certainly haven’t been reticent to change Montana election law in the past few years: they’re working on ending same day voter registration, despite the anti-democratic nature of this aim, and they’re working to change our election process to exclude third party candidates from the November ballot. If Republicans had such deep concerns about the people being represented in Senate vacancies, they’ve had more than ample opportunity to change the law.
The Montana Republican Party isn’t interested in an “open process” when it comes to the Senate appointment: they’re interested in scoring partisan points by trying to discredit the actions of an elected Democratic governor replacing an elected Democratic Senator with a Democrat.
Along the way, they’re perfectly willing to smear a US Senator who has served the state in Washington since 1975. And that is the real outrage.