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2017 Special Election Greg Gianforte Montana Politics The Media

Random special election notes

Better vetting? How?

A number of editorials, blogs and pundits are asking why Rob Quist wasn’t properly vetted. As an excuse for not supporting Quist’s candidacy, they blame the Montana Democratic Party for failing to carry out due diligence and, therefore, not advancing a candidate to their liking. They also fail to recall how Quist’s nomination transpired.

First, no one knew who the nominee would be. There were eight candidates at the convention, although only three were really contenders: Quist, Amanda Curtis and Kelly McCarthy.

Ryan Zinke wasn’t approved by the Senate as interior secretary until March 1. The nominating convention was held on March 5. So, in four days, someone was supposed to vet the three leading candidates plus five more, just in case.

The pundits assume that the Montana Democratic Party is a cash rich, well-oiled machine with a staff in place just waiting to dig into potential candidates’ personal medical, academic, tax and financial records. Hah!

And how would that information be disseminated to the 150 delegates in a timely manner and secure fashion? Wait until the convention itself? I can just see a sacrificial staffer getting up before voting takes place, “We just learned that so-and-so has a penchant for small mammals.”

There would be such a hue and cry from delegates, some who already think the party is playing favorites.

This is all silly. If there had been felony convictions or spouse abuse charges or embezzlement accusations, that’s one thing. And hell, Donald J. Trump has six bankruptcies, ran a bogus online university and likes to grab women’s genitalia, plus a host of other transgressions … and he’s our freakin’ president!

So I’m not sure the petty revelations leveled at Quist would have changed the minds of delegates, anyway.

In the Billings Gazette endorsement of Greg Gianforte, the writer says of the Montana Democratic Party:

It seems unable to use Google to find basic information…

Would that it ’twere so simple. That’s not where the Gazette got its negative information on Quist — a simple Google search. It came from a team of opposition researchers combing through records at the request of the Republican Party, and the paper was more than happy to print those revelations.

It’s why you’ll never see me run for office. I have more skeletons in my closet than a professor of orthopedic surgery, although I’m sure I’d make a damn good candidate (snark).

More lame charges

I looked for a Tom Lutey byline but it was Lee State Bureau’s Jayme Fraser who dropped this bombshell: Rob Quist may have smoked some pot in the 1970s! Right-wing researchers dug through Quist’s personal medical records, fed the info to a “national conservative media site” and Lee newspapers picked it up. From the Gazette:

It is unclear how long Quist smoked marijuana, for what purpose, and if he continues to do so today.

For what purpose? He was a touring musician in the 1970s. I’d be concerned if he hadn’t taken a few tokes during that period.

This campaign keeps getting skankier and skankier. We’ll see if Gianforte handlers have enough time to get TV spots up with a giant photoshopped doobie hanging out of Quist’s mouth.

But to show that I’m not a complete partisan hack, I agree with James Conner that Greg Gianforte’s investments in Russian corporations and a European concrete business that allegedly funneled funds to ISIS are bogus charges. Perhaps it shows a lack of oversight on Gianforte’s part for not closely monitoring his IRAs but it doesn’t rise to the level of other allegations: anti-science, anti-gay, anti-public education, anti-health care, anti-women’s rights and obsequious Trump supporter.

Two more “endorsements”

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s non-endorsement is slightly better than the Gianforte endorsements in three of Lee’s bigger newspapers (Billings, Missoula and Helena). Still, there were a few lines in that editorial that deserve comment:

Rather than offer up remotely moderate candidates, each party nominated candidates from its far right and left.

I won’t quibble about the far-right moniker but the far left? That quote indicates how far to the right the whole political spectrum has shifted. To me, the far left would be the Sandinistas or Noam Chomsky or Hugo Chavez, but Rob Quist? Gimme a break.

The Chronicle blames the parties for a poor vetting process and for not advancing more moderate candidates. Since much of the Republican nominating convention was held behind closed doors, no one is sure what went down there. Please review the beginning of this post that addresses the Montana Democratic Party’s vetting of candidates. And my paragraph, above, speaks to the so-called “moderates” reference. Health care reform, concerns for the environment and public education, access to public lands and a woman’s right to choose are now considered radical positions by the editorial board.

The Chronicle also complains about all the negative advertising. Who isn’t sick of a the ugly TV, radio and social media messaging, and the nasty mailings? The Gianforte campaign has been relentless in its attacks starting the day after Quist was nominated. Not until recently, since the national DNC and DCCC became involved, has the Quist campaign gone negative. I’m sure that local Quist consultants would prefer dealing with issues instead of personalities but they don’t get to call the shots when it comes to national advertising dollars.

At least the Missoula Independent endorsed Quist, which is refreshing to see since it was recently purchased by Lee Enterprises. Still, it was a backhanded endorsement.

We’re not impressed with Rob Quist the candidate. And we’re way not impressed with the state Democratic Party that decided to run an affable and apparently unvetted cowboy hat. So we also have some reservations. (Bold font by Indy.)

There’s that allusion to “vetted” again, and the “cowboy hat” reference is really a cheap shot. As my hair continues to thin I’m thinking about a nice chapeau, although I’m leaning toward a beret instead of cowboy hat. In the Indy’s eyes, that would make me a frog-eating pansy, I guess.

After writing, “A vote for Greg Gianforte aids and abets a toxic administration,” the endorsement continues with, “what we’re conflicted about is whether it’s worth voting at all.” That’s what philosophers call absurd reasoning. 

An endorsement is an endorsement but I’d hoped for better from the Independent.

There’s less than a week left

Somewhere between half and two-thirds of the absentee ballots sent out have been returned as of last Wednesday (350,751 mailed, 209,154 returned).

Still, there are 348,161 who don’t vote absentee. Add that to the 141,597 who haven’t sent in their absentee ballots and you have 489,758 votes to go out and get. So got out and get ’em.

P.S. If you haven’t yet sent in your ballot or voted at your county elections office, do so now. Once it’s been noted that you’ve voted, if the campaigns are doing their job, you shouldn’t get any more phone calls or folks at your door.


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.

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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  • Re the Indy endorsement. Any newspaper which plays on the popular cynicism about voting–whether one should vote or not–is just plain not helpful. The beret would be a nice touch…Not a 1970s musician who smoked pot!!!! I’m shocked, shocked, I say! Thanks, Pete

  • Pete: Keep it up! But one observation: Amanda was already fully vetted, statewide, from the 2014 U.S. Senate race against Daines. No baggage, no skeletons. Why didn’t endorser Brian Schweitzer, now flush with windfall cash from the sale of Stillwater Mining to South African/Chinese buyer, simply ask Rob who and what he owed, and paid off those liabilities that have since come back to contaminate his candidacy? Sad, how tone-deaf are the state Demos.

      • One consolation, Pete: whoever wins this has to run next year. So, if Giantfarte wins, he will spend all this year seeking support for re-election and not doing much. If Rob wins, he should be better positioned for 2018, and his victory would be a high-profile, positive impetus to the anti-Trump insurgency of the Demos nationally.

    • Schweitzer did know the problems Quist faced before he encouraged him run for the Congressional seat.

      When Quist was calling potential donors last month to raise money, one of the people on his call list (a friend Quist had known for years) asked him why he would ever consider running considering all of his personal and financial baggage that was appearing on a daily basis in the press.

      Quist told him he only ran because Schweitzer called and encouraged him to run and promised him his full support. Quist said he was hesitant and was completely honest with Schweitzer and laid out all the problems of his unpaid bills, tax liens and other negative issues that would certainly come up if he ran. Quist said Schweitzer told him running for Congress was a guaranteed way for him to solve his problems, pay off all his debts and make a lot of money. According to Quist, Schweitzer told him Democrats would help him raise millions of dollars and that after the election was over, win or lose, Quist could keep all the money left over in his campaign war chest, which, Schweitzer assured him, could be hundreds of thousands of dollars. This would help Quist pay off his bills and be financially set, win or lose.

      The friend Quist confided in said Quist was shocked when he informed him that Schweitzer failed to tell him the federal law changed in 1989 and candidates could no longer keep leftover money for personal use.

      Quist’s friend said he feels Schweitzer was so convinced Rob was the best candidate to beat Gianforte that he intentionally misled Quist to convince him to run.

    • Amanda was in the legislature, at what point would she have been able to campaign in April. She would have lost the early part of the campaign. Also contrary to what you think she has a big skeleton, it goes by Kevin.

      • Kevin? Really? How so? Do tell.

        What is Quist’s wife’s name? Is she a big skeleton too?

        I get tired of nonsense arguments, don’t you?

        Apparently not.

  • ” Once it’s been noted that you’ve voted, if the campaigns are doing their job, you shouldn’t get any more phone calls…”
    Are you kidding? My phone has been ringing off the hook since I voted!

    • Lots of fires burning.
      Some spot/some growing.
      Some from negligence.
      Some from gross negligence.
      Some intentionally preped,
      then lit with petrol soaked newspaper when wind was just right.

      Some responder people would have called 911.
      Some would have stomped on the fires until their boots got too darn not.
      Some responders would have lit backfires.
      Some responders might have sprayed water on an electrical fire.

      Take it from an old man once experienced at spraying foam at tall, hot, noisy
      Training fires, at a crude oil refinery.

      Pete went at the fires in the best way possible.
      Spray foam along base of fire.
      Shutoff oxygen along base of even a big fire,
      but need firefighters side by side.

    • Glad to see volunteers are working the phones, Thomas, and as I said, “if the campaigns are doing their job… ” It’s not a flawless system.

  • Have you seen this clarification from a local real estate lawyer where he writes ” …,Tom Lutey, doesn’t understand property rights and taxation law, in fact, even the headline was incorrect… “

    Also, I choose to quote my comment from another site: :
    “We chose Quist because we believed that he would do a fine job of representing us. If Rob Quist does not win, the fault lies on us for not learning how to cut through the media noise, not on account of his credit. Media noise just like them repeating the John Walsh plagiarism story every time they had to acknowledge that Amanda Curtis was our candidate- Lee Enterprises, et al even told the John Walsh story this cycle until they were fed more interesting stories to tell.

    Our inability to cut through the noise got us Elsie Arntzen, Corey Stapelton, and Matt Rosendale.

    When will we learn to make it clear that Gianforte would vote with Trump to cut Meals on Wheels, School Lunches and food stamps as well as Medicaid, Low Income Energy Assistance, and Americorp Vista, Rob Quist would oppose those cruel cuts.”

  • A final note on this post. I apologize to folks who clicked on the “would that it ’twere so simple” link. It’s one of my favorite lines from the Cohen brothers’ movie “Hail Caesar.” I noticed that YouTube invariably opened the clip with a nasty Gianforte spot demeaning Rob Quist. I almost ditched the link but decided that it might remind folks what a sleazy campaign GG is running and then fire them up to get out and vote.

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