2017 Special Election Greg Gianforte Montana Politics

Greg Gianforte is Back to Trying to Buy an Election Again

Greg Gianforte just can’t seem to help himself. Feeling the flagging enthusiasm for his campaign, a waning interest that not even a visit from a Vice President who couldn’t pronounce his name and slicked-back trust fund baby who comes to Montana because he has no discernible employment could alleviate, Mr. Gianforte went back to his old money bag of tricks. After spending $6 million dollars in a failed bid to become governor, he’s now loaned his campaign for Congress $1 million.

The latest FEC filings show just why Mr. Gianforte is so nervous about this race. While Rob Quist raised $2.4 million dollars in mostly small donations between April 1 and May 5, Mr. Gianforte only raised $1.8 million, with most of that his loan to himself.

It’s little wonder that Gianforte told D.C. lobbyists that he wanted them to cut checks for $5,000 each and that he’s gone back on a pledge not to accept industry PACs. As Roll Call reports:

“We do not accept any industry PAC money, although if someone wanted to support through a PAC our Victory Fund allows that money to go to all the get-out-the-vote efforts,” he said.

Gianforte went on.

“And the reason for that is I came off the governor’s race last year having made a big deal about not taking any PAC money, and it would be a self-inflicted wound. We are starting to lessen that by taking political PAC money. That’s why we took the leadership PAC money from members in the House but not industry PAC money directly to the campaign,” Gianforte said.

There’s little terribly surprising about Gianforte groveling for money from D.C. lobbyists with the help of Denny Rehberg or even his breaking a pledge to take PAC money, as that promise was largely hollow in his bid for the governor’s seat.

That he’s resorting to loaning his campaign a million dollars is both interesting and troubling, though. Being able to write a check for that kind of money (with more almost certain to follow) undermines the idea that anyone can be elected to Congress, that elections are a contest between those with the best ideas. Despite his lack of popularity among Montana Republicans, Gianforte cleared the deck of Republican opponents in their nominating convention largely because he could self-fund his campaign if necessary, and now he’s trying to do that in the general.

I guess, to Gianforte’s thinking, it worked for William A. Clark the second time he tried to buy an election, so why not for him?

Strangest to me, though is that Gianforte did not simply give his campaign the million dollars. That he extended loan suggests he hopes to be paid back. And when candidates win races, they seem to find people willing to donate to their campaign accounts after elections. While Mr. Gianforte is making promises now about the kind of money he will or won’t take during this election, one has to wonder, should he win, just who the candidate who claims “he can’t be bought” expects to write him some big checks. Surely a sitting Congressman will find it quite easy to find individuals and groups willing to pay off those debts.

And I think we all know that the press’s level of scrutiny for those post-elections donations will be even less than it is now when Gianforte has taken a $2,700 donation from a racist candidate for the Legislature without scrutiny outside the blogs.

Those who loan money in failed bids for Congress find that it’s much harder to get those loans paid off than candidates who win. One need look no further than the case of Montana’s Auditor Matt Rosendale, who lent his failed campaign for Congress $360,000 back in 2013 and 2014. To date, according to the FEC, he’s paid back only $30,000, which explains why the State Auditor for Montana is holding fundraisers for himself in Florida to pay off his debt. Given that he’s able to raise at the federal limit in events like that, it’s certainly convenient for big money donors who might want to influence him.

It was offensive enough when Greg Gianforte tried to use his own money to buy an election in Montana. It’s even worse now when he’s trying the same strategy with other’s people’s money, and expecting us to not care where it will come from.

I rarely to do this, but nothing terrifies Greg Gianforte more than small donations from real Montanans. Send $5 or $10 or $25 to Rob Quist today and send this self-financing, loan-taking, fence-building, rights-denying tycoon back to his mansion by our river once and for all.

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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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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