Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

12 Reasons Montanans Can’t–and Won’t–Elect Ryan Zinke to Congress

Well, as I suspected, Ryan Zinke will be the Republican nominee for the U.S. House race, in a scenario that’s about as good as it can get for John Lewis and Montana Democrats. Despite the advantage of a private Super PAC and its fundraising capacity, Zinke managed only to not lose the Republican primary, but leaves it a weakened candidate in a party split down the middle and deeply suspicious about his values and motives.

My guess is that Zinke will take about one week before trying to pivot back to being the moderate he described himself as until early 2014. Here’s hoping the Montana political media exposes this effort.

He can’t be trusted.

In the course of the Republican primary, the formerly pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-marijuana legalization, pro-union, pro-environment Zinke transformed into the snarling id of TEA Party Republicanism, calling for the impeachment of President Obama, identifying former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “the anti-Christ,” and embracing a reactionary set of policies he’d been critical of just months before. He’s the worst type of political opportunist, and the media owes it to the Montana electorate to expose his tendency to shift his political positions more often than he mentions he was a Navy SEAL.

That’s the primary reason Montana voters should reject Zinke, but the candidate has given a wealth of reasons why voters, Republican, Democrat, and Independent, will look elsewhere to cast their ballot in November.

He has an incoherent position on reproductive rights.

I can’t think of a better example of a candidate who is simply unwilling to take a position on the issue of reproductive rights than Senator Zinke. While he was in the Montana Legislature, he voted for reproductive rights, told the press he was pro-choice, and told Project Vote Smart he supported abortion rights through the first trimester. During his run for the Republican nomination, he asserted that he was “pro-life,” relying on the dubious endorsement of a lobbyist with no records and seeming to forget that he told the pro-life Concerned Women for America that he supported abortion rights for the first twenty weeks. In the inimitable words of Senator Kennedy, Zinke is not pro-life; he’s not pro-choice; he’s multiple choice.

He has an incoherent position on the Second Amendment.

During the Republican nomination fight, Zinke asserted that he was an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, supporting his claims not with actual votes, but with pictures of himself holding guns. The truth is that Zinke has the worst record on guns of any Republican candidate in a generation, with a 42% rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund and 57% from the NRA just in 2014. And his record bears this out: during his time in the Legislature, Zinke told Project Vote Smart he was undecided on background checks for gun sales and current Montana state law, positions that are a lot closer to mine than the the mainstream of Montana voters.

His links to the Special Operations for America Super PAC are unethical at best, illegal at worst.

Zinke’s farcically unethical association with the Special Operations for America Super PAC is already under FEC complaint, and as time passes, the evidence will only become clearer: Zinke used the organization for his political purposes and SOFA continued to work for Zinke during the campaign. It’s not just Mother Jones and liberal bloggers making those claims; even conservatives like Ken Miller and Rick Hill have raised concerns about Zinke’s involvement in SOFA. 

Perhaps most tellingly, a former ally (and member of Special Operations for America), Captain Larry Bailey, said that the organization was about promoting Zinke, rather than other Republican candidates.

Zinke used Special Operations for America as a personal piggy bank and lied about it

Senator Zinke not only paid himself thousands of dollars from the SOFA coffers, he paid his friends, too.  Former Congressman Hill again:

Zinke needs to make public the financial records of Continental Divide International. We need to know if he had used it to improperly funnel money from SOFA and other entities for personal gain.

Zinke claimed, when he went on Fox News, that he would not take any money from the organization, but collected over $26,000 from the organization in just one year.

His greatest asset as a candidate, his military record, is facing serious questions.

Zinke spent most of the Republican primary talking about his role as a Navy SEAL. While anyone who chooses a career path of  service to the nation should be commended, Zinke is facing serious charges about his behavior in the military and his tendency to overstate his resume once he left. 

Zinke has admitted the charges of misusing taxpayer funds, saying, “We trained hard, we ran hard, we were hard.” Given Zinke’s obsessive focus on his military record as a qualification for office, he owes the voters of Montana a full look at his military records, warts and all, just as Senator John Walsh has provided.

He’s embraced sexist views about the role of women in the military.

While American servicewomen have served bravely in combat roles all over Iraq and Afghanistan, Zinke, echoing the arguments of those who opposed African-American and gay soldiers in combat, argued that neither men nor women are ready for women to serve in combat roles. One has to wonder what other jobs Zinke thinks women are incapable of doing? Fighting fires? Stopping crime? 

He’s reliant on donations from questionable out-of-state donors.

Zinke’s primary campaign was funded largely through PACs and the interest of out of state businesses, including over $100,000 from the employees of a single company in Florida.

He supports the reactionary Ryan budget.

Zinke’s support for the Ryan budget means that his priorities are protecting the interests of his corporate donors in Florida rather than farmers, seniors, students, and families in Montana. The Ryan budget, you might recall, is so damaging to Montanans that even Dennis Rehberg rejected it. Through its combination of cuts to programs like Pell Grants, farm subsidies and health programs for the elderly and trillions of dollars of tax cuts for the elite rich, the Ryan budget would devastate middle and lower class families while adding $5 trillion to the federal deficit.

He betrayed his comrades in Navy SEAL Team Six, putting his own interests ahead of theirs when he outed them to local press.

This stands out as the most egregious ethical lapse in Mr. Zinke’s short career in the Montana political spotlight. Desperate to draw attention to himself in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zinke told multiple members of the Montana media that his former unit, Navy SEAL Team Six, was responsible for the raid. He even told Mike Dennison operational details about the mission, claiming special contacts in the SEAL community. Dennison later confirmed this in an interview with the Helena Vigilante.

Despite this, despite the fact that Zinke ran to the press to cover himself in unearned glory, he had the audacity to blame the Obama administrationfor leaking the name of the SEAL Team involved.

No one can question Commander Zinke’s service to his country as a member of the military, but that service does not give him license to unethically blame the President for his own sins.

He’s misused the insignia of the military in his campaign material repeatedly.

Despite clear Department of Defense guidelines, Zinke will not stop using the insignia of the Navy SEALS on his campaign material, selling out the integrity of the military for his own personal gain.

He chose to be the running mate of Neil Livingstone in 2012.

Zinke likes to talk about leadership and its importance. It’s less convenient for him to bring that up given his decision to run as second in command to Neil Livingstone in 2012. Livingstone’s not just a harmless Republican nut; he was affiliated with terrorist groups, claimed that he and Zinke had both water boarded people, and tried to help Moammar Qaddafi escape from Libya.

Montanans have a better choice in November, with a candidate who not only better reflects our values, but unlike Zinke, has values other than serving himself.

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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  • Nice work here, vigilant citizen. .
    This Zinke guy is interesting, which is unusual in politics. As an ex-Seal and as someone apparently given permission to speak out of school, we should probably be on high alert for hidden agenda and deep deception. Normally soldiers who violate orders are disciplined, but he’s been given an exemption.
    I can’t help but think as I view him that he is devious and has a very high IQ, perhaps a lean and hungry look about him. All politicians are devious, but high intelligence makes him more dangerous than the usual impostor. He might have a big future in Montana politics if he can get launched.

  • Here’s one more. He speaks of “returning honor” to Washington, but has proven to be less than honorable in his own words and deeds.  If he wants to run on his military record, fine. But run on all of it, not cherry-picked parts. I’ve spoken with Ryan and once supported him. But in the end, I’m asking “who is this guy?” Is he running for Congress or auditioning for a Steven Seagal movie?

  • This is the same line given by any Republican Candidate running for office. The problem is we don’t need to change Washington. We need them to change things in the states.

  • MarkTokarski Zinke believes in intelligent design, that humans have no effect on climate and idiots like you still matter.

  • That you don’t know that you don’t have any idea what he or any candidate “believes” is the problem here, Gullible Guy. He’s playing to the wings. It’s a primary. So was Walsh, pretending to be a progressive. They are probably pretty much alike in the end.

  • Gen. Wishy Walshy does NOT believe in social security.  Nuff said!  How can that be?  I don’t get it.  Look, to my way of thinking, the two biggies coming down the pike directly at us right now are the undoing of social security and the attack on public lands.  You can bet your ass that IF the ReePubes take the senate, the very first thing they will do is go balls to the wall to sell of public lands and privatize social security.  I see gen. wishy walshy aiding and abetting in this attack.  When they’re through carving up what’s left off the country, the ONLY thing the inbreds will be left with are their tiny little flags and their big guns!  And that will be the end, not with a bang, but with a whimper, simply because the paddy wms. of the Dem party were successful in “civilly” taking one up the pooper for the good of the country.  When civility is the highest good, you just KNOW the Nazis are gonna win big!

  • The End of the World

    Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
    The armless ambidextrian was lighting
    A match between his great and second toe,
    And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
    The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
    Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
    In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
    Quite unexpectedly to top blew off:
    And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
    Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
    There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
    There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
    There in the sudden blackness the black pall
    Of nothing, nothing, nothing — nothing at all.
    Archibald MacLeish :
    One of my favorites.  One I’m quite SURE that gen. wishy walshy has never read!

  • Larry Kralj The last time Republicans attacked Social Security, 2005, what happened? Democrats were forced to come out in support of the program. Even Baucus stood tall. But when Democrats attack Social Security, as Clinton did in 1999 (only Monica saved the program then), where are we? Ergo, Democrats are a much greater threat to Social Security than Republicans, because they can lure you to sleep.But when Republicans attack, Democrats are forced by their constituency to stand tall. Better to have Republicans in office than Democrats.

    Public lands? When Burns was attacking Montana roadless lands, Democrats were mostly useless but he was stopped often enough that we could say that we had success. Now that Tester has taken over for Burns, FJRA and all, Democrats actively support the old Burns agenda, and we are in deep, deep trouble. Bullock recently put 5 million acres on teh block. Same deal. We are better off with Republicans than cloaked Republicans like Bullock and Tester.

    Democrats are the problem.

    By the way, the same people who now support Tester and Bullock would have opposed Burns. Am I finally getting through to you?

  • Dude, good post until your last sentence.  For you see,  I, AS IN I, am finally getting through to you!  Don’t insult me, Tokarkski, for you haven’t  lived my life, dude. You haven’t paid the dues I have.  But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have merit.  You are a good researcher of topics.  I  LIVED it, dude.

  • No, just pain. I was the class screw off/screw up in high school.  Bad GPA.  Drank like a fish.  Fought over nuthin’.    Got suspended and nearly expelled.  Got arrested.   And then, ended up in Nam like the rest of my generation.   THAT was my education!  And now, I must do what my really smart educated classmates can’t or won’t do.  Take on the nazzis.   I seriously don’t understand how a guy like me who was not ALLOWED in civics class because of piss poor grades became so civic minded.  I guess it’s  because no one else showed up.
    But legend in my mind?  No, sorry.   Can’t be that.  I just know what I’ve accomplished.  My feats aren’t legendary,  just necessary.

  • MarkTokarski Seince Point: If a speck of sand on a beach in Colorado speaks, can folks in Montana hear it whine. The answer is No!

  • Ilikewoods MarkTokarski Interesting how off-topic personal attacks go on unfettered here … anyway, you’re just one of those strident voices in the clutter, non-thinking and incurious and sure that you know things. It would be interesting how much better blogging would become if people would be more humble, as in “I don’t know much and want to know more,” but everyone is sure they are on top of things.

  • If I may be serious, I think that intelligent people are usually aware of how much they do not understand. Does it ever occur to you that you might not have a complete grasp of politics? It’s almost al surface phenomena.

  • On the other hand, the back room dealings of politics, money changing hands, deals cut, false flag operations, political cover … We know almost nothing of that. Just recently, forms stance, an Obama-appointed FCC sold us out on net neutrality. That’s no surprise. Obama knew that would happen. He probably knew he could get it done too, where a republican would encounter too much resistance.
    Likewoods, I’ve never seen anything from you besides you’re for or against this or that candidate. That doesn’t cut it. You need to look in the mirror.

  • Far as I can see of what I know of you, which is what you write on blogs, you ain’t much for thinking deep. Endeavors? Hope you got some.
    To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.
    (Mark Twain)
    I wish you great success in your endeavors.

  • MarkTokarski So are you saying you have Ignorance covered….. Just asking!

    Riffing on a great woman’s Quote: You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear ( and Plain stupidity) in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. ~Eleanor Roosevelt~

  • I like her wisdom as it comes across the generations but don’t know much about her. Are you accusing me of stupidity? Is that why you drew on her?
    I suggest that if you think me stupid you test me in that regard. I am as capable of ignorance as anyone, as the world is very big and complicated. Stupidity requires staying in one place, continually applying the same solution to a problem even as it is shown time and again not to work. That, to my thinking, describes a Democrat. I once was that but quickly moved on. Democrats do not have answers, and in fact are a large part of the problem, as you by force of your money backers occupy positions that real problem solvers ought to hold.
    We could use an Eleanor Roosevelt about now. Instead you give us Obama, Baucus, Tester, Walsh, and now Lewis. I suggest you not call me stupid because if the ease with which I see through these clowns.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, 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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