Crucifying Quist

Let’s all roll over and concede the congressional special election to Republican Greg Gianforte. That’s what a few of the political pundits are suggesting. After all, Democrat Rob Quist has received some bad press lately.

The negative press comes in the form of a couple of stories written by Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette and picked up by the lackadaisical Montana media. Lutey’s articles focus on some tax liens and debt incurred by the Quists around 2011.

Let’s put that in perspective, which Lutey fails to do. Do you remember 2011? The height of the Great Recession? All the foreclosures and bankruptcies?

At that time, Bonni Quist was a realtor and contributed to the Quist family’s bottom line. The realtors in Montana who had a successful 2011 can be counted on one hand.

Then there were Rob Quist’s health issues which prevented him from performing full time.

This spawned the second and more damning story by Lutey. The headline was, “Quist told bank he was too sick to make payments in 2011, but played 35 shows.” You do the math. There were 365 days in 2011. So, Quist played fewer than ten percent of the possible gigs he could have that year — considerably less than one a week. Granted, few bands play seven days a week, 365 days a year, but the Quist numbers seem particularly low.

It’s known as misdirection — the bad press and negative TV campaign — also called “keep your eye on Quist, not the guy who’s laying low.” (Gianforte has been out of the public eye since an appearance at the Billings St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 18.)

Another Lutey accusation is that Quist is drawing a salary from his congressional campaign coffers. It’s worth repeating what Tyler Gernant, a former congressional candidate and current Missoula Clerk and Recorder, wrote:

I get that the debts and liens are a story of interest, in fact I think it actually makes him more relatable to most Montanans. The part that bothers me is Rob Quist drawing a salary from the campaign. The article says that the practice “isn’t illegal.” To be clear, the practice not only “isn’t illegal,” it is completely legal and was passed with the specific intention of inducing people like Rob Quist to run for public office. 

The FEC passed a change to the rules allowing candidates to draw a salary in 2002. The express purpose for passing the rule was to encourage candidates that were not independently wealthy to run for office. To be clear, the rule has not worked. Most candidates for federal office are still quite wealthy. The reason is that you have to be wealthy or willing to go deep into debt to run a successful campaign for federal office. Campaigning is more than a full time job. Life doesn’t go away when you run for office, you still have to pay your mortgage, power bill, and oh yeah, you need to eat too. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to work and run for office. The rule only allows you to take a salary at the lesser of the job you held before running or the salary of the office you are seeking. There is no extravagance in paying yourself what you were making before you had to quit to run for office. In fact, it is quit noble to put yourself at such financial risk for the sake of serving the public.

Now if Greg Gianforte starts paying himself a salary, I think we would all have cause for concern. He is independently wealthy and is expressly the kind of candidate that the FEC was trying to avoid in passing this rule. The simple fact is that Congress needs fewer millionaires in office, not more. I hope that Tom Lutey does a follow-up on this part of his story, because he did a severe injustice to Montana when he wrote his flippant comment. It’s not that it “isn’t illegal” to encourage typical people to run for office, it’s the whole damn point of the law.

But it’s the hypocrisy that bothers me most. Opposition researchers are busy, leveling charges of financial malfeasance against Quist and feeding them to the press. Have they not looked at the record of their Commander-in-Chief? Six bankruptcies, and, according to USA Today:

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work.

Then there’s the 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.

The double standard is mind boggling. There really is no comparison between the trials and tribulations of a working Montana family and Trump’s malefactions. Sainthood is a prerequisite for running for office, except in Trump’s case.

Obviously, no real saints are running in this special election although Gianforte is attempting to take the Christian high ground. He is, after all, a creationist, and look at all those Christian organizations his foundation donates to. To be sure, some of them are anti-gay and anti-women’s rights, and aren’t particularly fond of the poor (they oppose raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid) but we need to overlook that.

So I’m thinking, since none of the real apostles are running for office, I’m sticking with Rob Quist.




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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • I don’t buy the slogan “blue no matter who”. I think a better slogan would be,” Hey, it is what it is.”
    I think quist will win because no one can stand GG. Quist was definitely not the peoples’ choice, but GG is NO choice. After trump and our own crazy Lege, quist will cruise to victory. This once anyway.

    The take away has to be that the Dems need to figure it out. Just like the black and Indian vote, the Dems need to realize we’re tired of their corporate agenda. And we have our limits. Repub lite does NOT appeal to us much longer. The Max is dead. Long live the new Max is NOT our future.

    We all agree that quist is a nice guy, but what we neede was a pipe wielding home boy like Amanda.

    Now where can I get one of them quist yard signs? I want to piss off the neighborhood. The bigger the better!

  • I don’t think so Larry – I think Quist won’t do as well as Dennis McDonald even. There still might be time though, for Quist to make a commercial showing him putting in fence poles, but I don’t think it’ll help.

    Is Quists heart really in this race?

    • Quist is in this to win, he has no support from the DNC and the state party is luke warm because they wanted Curtis. I have talked to a lot of Democrats and they are mostly behind Quist, on the other hand when I talk to Curtis supporters all I get is, “I am sitting this one out”. They will let Quist get beat just to show that Curtis could have done just as well in a losing effort. I donate every year to the state party, that is done, my money goes to the candidate directly now. Until Nancy Keenan is gone and things change at the state level the state party will not get a dime from me.

      • Not sure who you’re talking to, 48, but I was an ardent Curtis supporter and am now behind Quist 110%.

        • I have been to three Quist events and the absence of regular party people who normally show up for everything is very evident. Pete what is your take on the national party ignoring this race, I thought Perez was supposed to be changing things, looks like the same old BS to me.

    • !!! Holy smokes, Eric!!! Is Quist’s heart really in this race? !! HELL, YES, TOTALLY !! Quist began going to every community across Montana and meeting with Democratic/Independent community leaders and political activists early in January. He got the message from them they wanted him to run and would support him at the nomination convention in March. ….. Home-grown Quist was raised on a Montana farm/ranch, a graduate of U of Montana and figured out how to scratch-out a living doing what he loves in the state he loves… so he could raise his family in the state that OWNS HIS HEART. Rob understands Montana’s people and what we struggle with in our homes, businesses. schools and politically. You need to go hear Rob speak. I have known Rob for decades… he is running because he is politically astute and sees the danger Montana is in via out-of-state, out-of-nation corporations. ….. !! MONTANA IS IN EMINENT DANGER !! ….. Quist is our chance to NOT let this SEAT BE BOUGHT BY THE HIGHEST BIDDER !!! …. Montana’s must not allow one more millionaire/billionaire with deep pockets and deep connections to those pushing for multinational corporations SUPER-CEDING MONTANA & USA LAW* into political office ( * i.e. like NAFTA did with our country of origin labeling … Trump’s administration wants TPP back in play and TTIP and TiSA, which are many, many times worse.) ………. So… now you decide. …… IS YOUR HEART REALLY FOR MONTANA and making sure a rich New Jersey billionaire does not sell her out to the highest, greedy multinational corporate bidder who does not give a rats as* about you or me or Montana’s mountains, valley’s, streams, prairies or people that make the Big Sky State the “Last Best Place”? My hope is you care enough to help get your community to the polls for Montana’s own, Rob Quist, on May 25th. Have a great day, Eric. – Sam

    • I like Quist’s latest commercial about 1 out of every 2 people in Montana have a preexisting medical condition. (I wonder what hat that figure was pulled from). Then he comments, “So do I, a botched surgery!”
      I can only deduce it was “brain surgery”!

  • Let’s say Quist loses. What effect will this have on the Schweitzer camp, and whatever plans they may have for 2020? After all, he would have given us Quist…and that wouldn’t have worked out too well. Once again I see another Judge ’88 shaping up in that corner.

    Another problem is that the Sixth Street Dem ‘leadership’ in Helena will feel justified, saying, ‘well, ya know…we wanted Amanda (or insert McCarthy or whoever’s not Quist). It’s not our fault he lost – we gave it the ol’ college try! (and made a lot in salaries for ourselves in the process).

    Yet another development will be the rocketing of Amanda Curtis once again, perhaps to another statewide run. She’ll have the ’18 primary locked-up for Gianforte’s seat, but just like this year, I don’t see how she can win. I asked many, many times before March 5, “if she couldn’t win in 2014, how’s she going to win in 2017?” and no one had an answer, most of all the vocal and anonymous Merv.

    I wonder what’ll happen to Tina Olechowski and Dan West should Quist lose. Both are working on his campaign. We know West is there just so he can get some ‘experience’ for a statewide run in the future. How he thinks he can win anything other than urban areas is beyond me.

    Finally, with a Quist loss we’ll be assured the same Dem “leadership” in the Helena Sixth Street offices, and the same continual money transfers up to the DNC. Remember, most of the money you give to the MT Dems via their solicitation emails goes to two places – staffers’ pockets and to staffers in D.C.

    Now, let’s say Quist wins.

    Clearly his health is problematic. I really don’t see him serving past the 2020 election, at which point he’ll be about 72-years-old. Then what? Back in the same boat we are now.

    At least with a Quist win we’ll have a firm rebuttal to the Helena Dem “leadership,” as well as the silent but deadly faction of theirs, MEA-MFT. I see they had a big pat-ourselves-on-the-back shindig yesterday. Meanwhile MT starting teachers continue to make the lowest teacher salaries in the nation.

    Thankfully Schweitzer’s cache will be boosted, and that’s something the state needs right now. I really don’t know how else to get rid of the self-aggrandizement and corruption that we see in the MT Dem Party besides a hard-charging individual that will rush in and upset everything, and most everyone.

    I can’t wait.

  • I don’t know if the Quist campaign was in the loop on this Cabaret show but it sure isn’t going to play well with those rural Montana voters Quist needs to pick up to win. The right wing blogs are sure making hay out of this so we can expect a blistering ad from Gianforte super PAC before to long. These blogs are asking if Quist will attend and perform. I would hope not but of course there are still no ads up by Quist to counter any of this. Quist hurt himself by the lie he told the Gazette that he didn’t work at all in 2011.I had some Quist door knockers Saturday. They were 3 young college age persons. Unfortunately that had no Quist literature to leave. But it was nice to see young people involved.

    • That’s the special election in a nutshell, DGF. You mention Gianforte negative PAC advertising and also three young people coming to your door. We haven’t heard a peep from Gianforte except for the million dollar ad blitz. Quist, on the other hand, is doing events, has volunteers on the doors and phones, but not a TV presence. It’s coming down to buying the seat or winning it by a grassroots campaign. Just maybe people are starting to see through the million dollar TV buys. This could be a referendum on how to run future campaigns using a genuine, person-to-person playbook. We better hope the grassroots wins out or we’re screwed.

    • I’d certainly rather be represented by an adult who attends a show that is meant for adults than a man who believes that adult women shouldn’t have autonomy over their bodies.

  • Pete, you are missing the salient point of Tom Lutey’s Billings Gazette article. It isn’t Quist’s health issues, or the fact that he played 35 shows and not 100 shows, or that he took a salary from his campaign that is the key point of the story. It’s the fact that Quist lied about his financial problems and intentionally defrauded people.

    He lied to the bank when he claimed his health issues prevented him from doing any performances or work in 2011. In fact, he played 35 shows (a number of performances in line with other performance years) earning between $1,000 to $2,000 per show for annual earnings $35,000 to $70,000 for the year.

    He lied to the Billings Gazette last week when he again claimed he did not have any performance income in 2011.

    His local contractor had to sue Quist for money owed for construction performed in 2001, which, the contractor pointed out, Quist wanted but didn’t need done.

    Quist’s fellow Missoula Mountain Wood Band partner had to sue Quist for fraud and deceit for lying to him and refusing to pay him owed royalty money.

    Again, it isn’t the health issues or the tax liens or how many shows Quist played that are causing him problems. It’s the fact that he lied to people about it and continues to lie.

    As a final note, did Quist declare the 2011 income he claims he didn’t make when he filed his 2011 taxes with the IRS?

    • I’ll get to the “salient point,” Pogo, but first a repeated question that you’ve failed to answer. Your thoughts on the Commander-in-Chief and leader of your party? I bring this up again because I went to a lecture the other night at UM where a hard-right, evangelical Christian blasted Trump. Peter Wehner, a ranking staffer in the Reagan, and Bush I and II administrations, and contributor at NY Times, Fox and MSNBC, called Trump a paranoid, pathological liar, dysfunctional, unfit for office, and a threat to democracy and America. Those were his kinder comments. Care to add anything?

      Now to the “salient point,” basically, “Quist lied about his financial problems and intentionally defrauded people.”

      The Daily Interlake did a pretty even-handed article on Quist and I’ll mostly be quoting from that:

      On Thursday, Quist acknowledged that he had worked that year, but in a limited capacity compared with what he said was a typical workload of around 200 shows per year.

      “I did, but it sure didn’t feel like it,” he said. “What family can survive only working three days a month? It didn’t come anywhere close to covering the bills that we had to pay.”

      Quist stressed that at the end of the day, he succeeded in turning around his financial difficulties and has resolved most of his obligations.

      As to the claim filed by a disgruntled subcontractor:

      QUIST’S FIRST debt-related problem surfaced in September 2001. Kraig Trippel, who owns Kalispell-based Cutting Edge Excavation, filed a lien against Quist’s property on Riverside Road, alleging about $5,000 in outstanding payments for landscaping and driveway work he completed more than three months earlier.

      According to documents filed by Trippel with Flathead County, Quist had made a single payment of $1,000 during that time. The contractor dismissed the lien in January 2002 after Quist paid off the remaining debt.

      Trippel didn’t respond to multiple phone calls asking for comment, but Quist told the Inter Lake that the nonpayment was a direct result of his ongoing medical troubles.

      On his dispute with a former band member:

      In the April 2013 civil complaint, Steve Riddle claimed he was the victim of fraud and deceit after Quist allegedly failed to provide him with royalties he was owed from a “Private Stash” box set of earlier recordings by the band released in 2010.

      According to the lawsuit, Riddle wasn’t notified of the album’s release until a 2012 conversation with Jeff Ader, the band’s longtime mastering engineer.

      Riddle’s suit sought to recover royalties allegedly owed to him, and claimed that Quist had knowingly deceived him.

      In an emailed response to requests for an interview, Riddle on Thursday characterized the issue as a simple business disagreement for which he was the only member available to represent the Mission Mountain Wood Band, and that the two longtime friends have since buried the hatchet.

      “We always keep any problems we ever have inside the bus and we choose to continue to do so,” Riddle wrote. “We handled it, we settled, and we moved on, putting the fact that it happened behind us. End of story.”

      He added that he continues to support Quist, “and always will through thick and thin.”

      Quist also downplayed the lawsuit, comparing the royalties issue to a minor dispute between close family members.

      “We were trying to survive any way we could. We made good on those [payments] quickly and came into a really good arrangement,” he said Thursday. “Obviously, we did press some of those and sell them, but I never had an intent of withholding. There were some royalties that were owed to me by other members, so it was kind of a convoluted thing.”

      Finally, on the health issue itself, from a Missoulian LTE:

      Just speaking as a nurse, gall bladder disease and gall bladder surgery are a big deal – ask anyone who has gone through it, by way of fact-checking. A surgical “oops” certainly might condemn one to gall bladder disease after the surgery, a cruel joke.

      While the hidden voices of political action committee money, more than willing to legislate obstetrics and gynecology for women, might presume to tell us how sick Rob Quist has been, that doesn’t make them right, just willing to throw mud. But do people really accept that doing a three-hour stand-up gig once every 10 days in a year, or once every seven days in a season, prove anything?

      What else you got, Pogo?

      • Pete, let’s take another look at Quist’s comments in Daily Interlake. It’s dishonest for him to imply he has been forthcoming and truthful by saying he “acknowledged that he had worked that year”.

        The only reason he “acknowledged” anything is that the Billings Gazette reporter caught him in a lie and confronted him. He lied to the bank in 2011 and lied again to the Billings Gazette last week when he claimed he had not worked at all. He got caught in those lies and now wants to pretend he didn’t lie.

        From the Billings Gazette article: “Last week, The Gazette brought up with Quist the 2011 period in which he said he couldn’t work. When asked by The Gazette if he had any performance income during 2011, Quist replied, “No. I did not.” “

        After denying he had worked any shows in 2011, Quist tries to deflect his lie by saying he normally worked 100 shows in recent years, not just 35. Apparently, he believes working 35 shows should absolve him from his previous lies about working zero shows. Unfortunately for Quist, the Gazette fact checked him on his own web site and found out that 35 shows per year was the norm rather than the exception:
        ” The number of times Quist worked as a performing musician during 2011 is in line with other performance years posted by Quist on to cached scheduling pages from his website. “

        The 100+ shows per year Quist cites is also a bit of a fib and relates to what he used to do back “in his prime”. Again, the Gazette quotes: “Quist’s campaign said that in his prime Quist performed more than 100 shows a year”. In his “Prime” was when he was in his 20s and 30s. He hasn’t done 100+ shows per year in a long time. That’s a condition of age and popularity, not health.

        You seem to dismiss the contractor’s suit against Quist because he eventually paid it off. He paid it off because he got sued. But it isn’t the fact he tried to stiff his contractor that is damaging. It’s his attitude. Look again at what Kraig Trippel, the contractor who was forced to sue said . . . . “the Quist”s seemed to want special treatment. Both of them, they definitely had a sense of arrogance about them, because he was doing concerts and he was a singer and yada, yada, yada . . . .And I don’t care. He’s just another dude to me.”

        After pointing out Quist “….was in good health and working in 2001”Triple calls out Quist’s character and lack of honesty when he said:

        “I’ve had people that live in a trailer house and don’t have a pot to pee in get out a shovel and try to do it themselves before calling me. If they can pay $100 or $200 a month, I’ll work with them,” Trippel said. “This wasn’t like that. And I guess I have an issue with someone not paying me for something that was being done just because it was important to pursue for that person.”

        And yes, Quist’s Mission Mountain Wood Band partner did eventually forgive Quist once he got paid – only because he filed the law suit. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Quist lied to him and tried to defraud him.

        Again, Quist’s problem isn’t his financial issues, it’s his willingness to lie and blame everyone but himself for his problems.

        • Obviously, 2011 (six years ago) was a tough time for the Quists. It was for me, too. Yet you bandy the words “lie” and “defraud” pretty easily, Pogo. It was a ‘gotcha’ piece by Lutey.

          Since Gianforte hasn’t cornered the market on “truthiness,” maybe Lutey ought to ask these questions (from a Nov. 7, 2016, Don Pogreba post):

          • It was only a ‘gotcha’ piece because Lutey caught Quist in a bold face lie. We have all had problems in our lives Pete. I bet you resolved yours honestly and without screwing over you friends and partners like Quist did.

            • Look, Pogo, we can play this game all week: dredging up past accusations against both candidates. Gianforte has plenty of baggage, too. Let’s focus on issues and policy: health care, the environment, the economy, defense… and Gianforte’s support of the Trump agenda. He used to be a Trump advocate. He seems to have backed off that stance now that Trump’s approval ratings consistently fall below 40%.

              • I do not like to make personal attacks against people but since Kraig Trippel has made them against both Rob Quist and his wife, i will. I have known Kraig for many years through construction in the Flathead Valley. he is a very hard core right wing, teaparty, trump lovin, loadmouth. I have heard him make comments about President Obama and Michelle based purely on their race. Kraig is very forceful in his expressed opinion of anyone that does not agree with his far right views. Even moderate republicans who have made moderate proposals or compromises are called different offensive names by him, Bruce Tutvedt is one that comes to mind. After 30+ years of contracting work I have been stiffed by quite a few different people, it is part of the business. Most of the ones who have burned me the worst are in Gianforte’s financial neighborhood, not Rob Quists. I wish these people would have made good on what they owed me like Rob did with Trippel, but they just laughed it off and moved on. I personally would question anything Kraig has to say on this matter as he loaths all Democrats and will say anything to keep one from being elected to office.

              • Hmm . . .just the words I would expect from someone not able to defend his position! Yes, this a race about the issues, but it is also about the integrity of the person running for office. PERIOD!

  • Pete, regarding my thoughts on Trump. If you review my comments on this site you can see that I expressed my concerns about Trump. Here is what I said back in May 2016:

    • “Regarding Trump, I am not a Trump fan and have never been one. He says and does a long list of things with which I strongly disagree. If I were to vote between Hillary and Sanders, I would vote for Bernie for the simple reason that I believe he is an honest public servant even though I strongly disagree with many of his positions. While Sanders may make the Democratic Convention entertaining, short of the Feds indicting Clinton (it won’t happen) or a very large number of unpledged delegates suddenly Feeling the Bern (again, it unfortunately won’t happen) Hillary will be Trump’s Democratic opponent this Fall.

    When I enter the voting both this Fall, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton – for two reasons. The first is for political practicality – who will select one and possibly four Supreme Court nominees over the next four years. Trump, no matter how horrible he may be as a President on key issues, is dramatically more likely to nominate potential Justices that will keep at least the current liberal/conservative balance on the Court. A Hillary presidency would shift the balance far to the Left which I believe will have long lasting negative judicial impacts to this country.

    The second reason is personal. I have very close family members and several close friends who have been the victims of rape, sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. I will not vote for a person who has spent her entire adult life hypocritically defending, sheltering and enabling her husband as he sexually preyed upon, harassed and raped women. Hillary made an industry out of “slut shaming” her husband’s victims into silence. She and her flunkies harassed Bill’s victims and publicly called them whores, trash, stalkers, bimbos and “sluts and nuts”. I have spent decades of my life helping people and working with organizations that assist victims of sexual abuse. For me, voting for Hillary would be a betrayal to my family and a betrayal to my friends who have suffered similar harassment and intimidation and who have had to endure being called sluts, floozies, whores and worse in an attempt to keep them silent.

    Short of a mini revolution at the Democratic Convention this Summer, the next president of this country will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. I will therefore, reluctantly, and out of respect to friends and family members I love, vote for Donald Trump, only to keep Hillary Clinton and her husband out of the White House”

      • I don’t equate Trump’s crude offensive sexist comment with Bill Clinton’s long history of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Nor do I equate it with Hillary Clinton’s vicious attacks on Bill’s victims to advance her own career. The left has given the Clinton’s a pass on rape and sexual assault. I haven’t.

        • And the right has given Trump a pass on his history of sexism, harassment of women and divorces. But we’re getting into that “gotcha” game again. Let’s focus on the candidates for the special election.

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