I’ll get the only positive part of this story out of the way first. For once, Greg Gianforte told the truth about his willingness to take corporate PAC money today. After spending the better part of two campaigns offering strong statements that he wouldn’t take PAC money, Gianforte told Roll Call today that he will accept the donations—and, in fact, has already taken them:
Gianforte serves on the Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Corporate PAC contributions during the fourth quarter totaled $18,500 and came from coal companies, a private prison company, BNSF Railway, Lowe’s, Home Depot, UPS, a timberland company and Koch Industries.
He also accepted nearly $30,000 from sources that the Federal Election Commission characterizes as trade associations, cooperative organizations, labor organizations, or membership organizations.
During his failed bid for governor in 2016, Greg Gianforte made a big deal about his pledge to not take PAC money during the race, shuffling down to the Governor’s office to deliver a letter saying he wouldn’t take the money and claiming that PAC money violated clean campaigns. From his letter:
I will tear up and/or return any special-interest PAC donations previously sent to my campaign. Montana voters deserve a clean campaign focused on the issues.”
In October 2016, Gianforte told Montana Public Radio that he was rejecting so-called special interest money because he didn’t believe Montanans could be bought and because he seemed to think that PAC money influenced votes:
Gianforte says his personally financed campaign allows him to not be influenced by special interests because he doesn’t accept money from political action committees, or PACs.
After he lost his bid for governor but before he assaulted a reporter for having the temerity to ask a question, Gianforte also promised not to take corporate PAC money in his run for Congress.
Of course, that pledge turned out to be a lie. In May, Gianforte was caught on tape begging corporate donors and their lobbyists to funnel $5,000 donations to his Victory Fund, telling donors he needed the money to withstand a challenge from Rob Quist:
Both Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist say they have refused to accept corporate PAC money in the race for Montana’s at-large House seat. But when asked on last week’s call, audio of which was obtained by CQ Roll Call, whether he still did not accept PAC money, Gianforte gave a confusing answer.
“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.
Now, I am no reporter, but it seems like the Montana media might have a few questions for Mr. Gianforte. Was he lying in 2016-17 when he said that PAC donations violated clean elections? When he said that they distracted from the issues? When he said that they influenced political votes? Or does he still believe those things and decided to take the money anyway? After assaulting a reporter, voting to line his own pockets and take health care from tens of thousands of Montanans, and lying his way through two campaigns, has he decided that he wants dirty, corporate-funded elections?
Or is the answer something simpler. Knowing he’s a deeply unpopular mess of a representative, is he arrogant enough to think he can trick Montanans into believing he “draining the swamp” while he lines up at the corporate trough?
Surely Montanans deserve the answer to these questions. Let’s just hope no one ends up in the hospital for asking them.