While many of the people who read political blogs have almost certainly already voted, you might consider passing this piece along to friends who are undecided about their choice for governor this year. Perhaps some of them have not followed the race closely or have simply experienced the misleading and incomplete coverage that has characterized this race, perhaps some are Republicans who might be tempted to vote for Mr. Gianforte because of his party, and perhaps some just need a little more information to make their choice. Whatever the case, please feel free to pass along this post, my final pitch for why Montanans simply cannot allow Greg Gianforte to be elected.
Both what Greg Gianforte has said and what he’s refused to say make it clear he’s not the candidate for Montana.
The Gianforte Agenda Is Bad for Montana
Mr. Gianforte has made it clear that he supports discrimination. In one of his first direct forays into Montana political life, he tried to convince the city of council of Bozeman to not only scrap a proposed non-discrimination ordinance, but told them that he believed businesses were more likely to come to locations that didn’t offer such protections. He’s funded pro-discrimination groups in Montana and across the country, and will almost certainly sign a job and reputation-killing discrimination bill if elected governor.
His support for discrimination extends to endorsing discrimination against students with disabilities. Mr. Gianforte is the driving force behind Bozeman’s Petra Academy, a private school he has funded extensively and led as board chair. Under Mr. Gianforte’s leadership, Petra has adopted a policy that discriminates against students with disabilities, one so draconian and retrograde that it gives the school the right to refuse admittance to and even expel students who suffer from mild disabilities like attention deficit disorder. Petra’s policies explicitly forbid teachers from offering standard accommodations like extended time on assignments or spending additional time commitments to help students who need the help.
Bad as this is, Gianforte has been one of the primary donors to the Montana Family Foundation, which has worked every session to take money from public schools and give them to unaccountable private schools. If elected, it’s clear that Gianforte will support legislation which will transfer public dollars from public schools to private institutions that will not provide equal access and opportunity for all Montana students.
Gianforte has also argued for a sales tax in Montana, lobbying the legislature to impose one specifically because he felt software executives at his company making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year would be unfairly taxed in the state. He went so far as to call the implementation of a sales tax “an ideal solution” for Montana.
And that software firm Gianforte uses as the centerpiece of his campaign? Before he was running for governor on a platform of jobs, he wasn’t shy about talking about how the company was built on the power of outsourcing jobs. He bragged about leading the movement towards outsourcing while his company was, instead of hiring Montana workers, hiring workers from overseas using the HB-1 visa program. He even outsourced jobs from Montana to Texas, because he believed that his top executives, people making ten times the average wage in Montana, would not be willing to pay taxes here.
While he was distorting his record of outsourcing, Mr. Gianforte was insulting Montana’s Indian people, suggesting that they lacked the culture to start businesses, going so far as to argue that businesses should not start on reservations.
While he’s been shipping jobs out of Montana, he’s been blocking Montanans from public lands. No issue has hurt Gianforte more than his decision to file a suit against the state to block public access to a river behind his home near Bozeman. While he and his team have furiously tried to spin the issue, the facts are incontrovertible: Gianforte blocked access, complete with No Trespassing signs and fences; he used Art Wittich to file a suit against the state to defend his decision to block access; he’s regretted that decision every moment since he became a candidate. Releasing ads of himself standing in a stream don’t change the simple fact that Mr. Gianforte acted like the kind of wealthy out-of-stater he is by trying to keep his fellow Montanans from accessing the waterway.
He’s shamelessly demagogued on the issue of refugees coming to Montana, angrily yelling at an editor at the Missoulian when he couldn’t rationally defend his position or even identify the countries from which he would block resettlement.
Along the way, he’s also said that retirement isn’t legitimate because it’s not a Biblical principle and demonstrated a complete lack of understanding and respect for the autonomy of local school boards in Montana.
When Mr. Gianforte does speak, it’s usually to remind Montanans that his views are out of touch with most of us.
Gianforte Often Stretches the Truth
And when Mr. Gianforte speaks, as editorial boards across the state have noted, he tends to lie. At various points in this campaign, he’s falsely claimed that Montana’s taxes have kept Facebook from the state, that he’d received an endorsement from a group that didn’t give him one, and that Sanders County commissioners were upset with the governor about a wildlife management issue. All false, all politically motivated lies. He’s even, in the past weeks, sent e-mails claiming that he NEVER supported a sales tax and yelled at potential constituents on the same issue, even though there are audio recordings and news accounts that show Gianforte absolutely supported one.
He’s been called out by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle for misrepresenting their stories in yet another of his negative, dishonest campaign ads.
The Great Falls Tribune perhaps made the case most clearly, when it wrote in an editorial that Gianforte has a “tendency to talk without having the facts to back him up.” Where I’m from, that’s called lying.
Gianforte’s Silence May Be Even More Ominous
Bad as many of the statements Mr. Gianforte has made have been, it’s perhaps his silence on so many issues that should prevent anyone from giving him a vote. As far back as January, the Billings Gazette went after Mr. Gianforte, noting that his “silence on the matter is Catch-22 for his camp and supporters, but should be a red flag for the rest of Montana’s residents.” Gianforte has steadfastly refused to answer how his personal religious views would influence his decisions as governor, even though on issues from women’s health to non-discrimination, his views will certainly drive the policies he supports.
The Missoulian noted that Gianforte “has been unwilling to share with the public his reasoning for making large charitable contributions to groups that advocate for public spending on private schools, prayer in schools, creationism, federal lands transfer proposals and other social matters. In fact, he has argued that it’s none of the public’s business.”
Back in October, Gianforte and his campaign refused to answer questions about his company’s role in outsourcing jobs, refusing to respond to the fact that his company had been “taking the concept of outsourcing to new levels” or that he shipped jobs to India and Armenia. Silence on all counts.
When asked about his support for right-to-work legislation, Gianforte not only refused to answer, but specifically said he wouldn’t because he was being recorded. When asked about women’s reproductive rights questions, he’s dodged. When asked about the CSKT Treaty, he’s said that he doesn’t have an opinion yet. Most recently, when asked about Montana’s model campaign finance law, the DISCLOSE Act, Gianforte demurred, saying “he’s not an expert on the legislation,” even though he’s contracted for tens of thousands of dollars with the law firm instrumental in destroying campaign finance laws in Montana and across the nation.
Gianforte has also refused to answer specific questions about education, campaign transparency, sage grouse, equal pay, and more.
If we take Gianforte at his word, he’s clearly not ready to become governor. Why would Montana elect someone who doesn’t understand critical issues facing the state and who seems not to have answers about any of them? If, for once, he’s telling the truth, and he doesn’t know what he’d do, he needs a few years of serious study before even considering a run for governor.
What’s more likely, of course, is that Mr. Gianforte knows exactly what he’d do if elected governor—and he doesn’t want to tell us. He doesn’t want union members that he will work to take away their right to collectively bargain, women to know he will take away their reproductive rights, or parents to know that he will work to undermine public education.
His silence speaks as loudly as his statements and his unwillingness to tell the truth.
Mr. Gianforte has done everything in his power to buy this election. He’s spent over five million dollars to inundate Montanans with ads about manufactured scandals, unfair characterizations, and scare tactics designed to generate enough fear to get him elected. He’s run more ads that any candidate for state office in the country, and somehow not managed to tell us what he would do as governor other than a few slogans and a few illegal schemes to block federal action.
Montana can do better, and Montana has done better under Governor Steve Bullock. Let’s send him back to the Governor’s Mansion to continue his fight to protect our schools, public access, and values. There’s no question that Governor Bullock is a more honest, more experienced, and more committed candidate—and that his voice (and veto) will be essential to protect what makes Montana so special to so many of us.