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Montana Politics

Gary Marbut’s Statistical Guru Escapes Scrutiny from the Missoulian

The Missoulian is reporting that Gary Marbut wants to carve out an exception in state law regarding recounts because he believes that the  results from the county’s vote resolution board might have been problematic. In fact, he’s already filed a lawsuit demanding an examination of 192 late-counted ballots, arguing that he should be declared the winner—or that a special election be held.

Showing its deep research skills, the Missoulian offered this insight into one of the “statisticians” cited by Marbut in his lawsuit. They cited a few lines from his Wikipedia entry:

It quotes John R. Lott of Burke, Virginia, identified by Wikipedia as an American economist, political commentator and gun rights advocate, as saying there is less than a .00015 percent chance that Dudik would receive 49.89 percent of the “not recounted” votes and 67.19 percent of what he called the “recounted” ones.

That sounds pretty serious, but while the Missoulian did acknowledge that Lott is a guns right advocate, they neglected to mention one other detail: that despite being the “academic” source of pro-gun information in the United States since 1997, he’s been widely discredited for his research methods and use of statistics in the past. From deputy district attorney Burke Strunsky:

Shortly after, Lott’s findings were widely discredited when at least ten academics found it seriously flawed in both data and methodology, including scholars from theStanford Law Review, the Yale Law School Faculty Scholarship Series,Northwestern University,16 the New England Journal of Medicine, and even theJournal of Legal Studies (the same one that had first published Lott’s controversial 1997 study).
In the years that followed, Lott repeatedly claimed in his own books, articles, and media interviews that national surveys showed that 98 percent of the time, people successfully defend themselves by simply brandishing a weapon. When critics pressured him to provide the evidence, Lott admitted that he’d conducted the survey himself but that all the records had been destroyed when his computer hard drive crashed.19 (Yes, the dog ate his homework.)
Lott’s credibility was further damaged when it was revealed he’d been posing in online blogs as “Mary Rosh,” a person he invented to be a former student of his. He used the pseudonym to attack his critics and defend his work as a scholar, as well as give his own book a rave review.20

Even uber-conservative Michelle Malkin has questioned Lott’s credibility and research methods.

Since Mr. Marbut is willing to suggest that the Missoula County elections officials acted either unethically or illegally to ensure that his opponent won their race, surely the credibility of his “expert” statistician, one he has raised money for in the past, is relevant, too, isn’t it?


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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  • I received no less than five mailers from the NRA about the supposed twenty-three gun bills that Amanda Curtis voted against, yet NO ONE could tell me just what those bills were. How long are we going to allow this buffoon marsbutt to pick our elected officials for us?

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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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