Who Exactly Does Mary Caferro Represent?

There are many things I love about Montana. At the top of the list is that local, state politics comes to my door every couple years. If I want to know more about the people who are there, I can simply login to their homepage to see what they stand for then go to state campaign finance Web site and truly learn their values.

There is such a primary race in Helena right now. It features two amazing progressive candidates–a long-standing state senator and representative hoping to return to where she started her political career, Mary Caferro, and, Robert Farris-Olsen, an up and coming progressive leader and Helena city councilman. (Disclaimer: I have supported Farris-Olsen since he first announced his run and given him a C-Note to get him into the house. I have also met for coffee with Caferro and consider her a true champion of people oft-ignored and maligned.)

It is hard to call out your friends for transgressions. It is hard to learn that your friends and people you trust have associated themselves with people you detest. This is what I found in Caferro’s campaign finance report and it gives me no pleasure to have to share the connections she has laid bare.

Caferro took the maximum donation from two Republican politicians: Kalispell area State Senator Mark Blasdel and Bozeman-are Representative Jon Knokey. On its own this is not surprising or disgusting. I have Republican friends of my own and I had actually hoped they would support someone who works across the like aisle like Caferro.  Had a moderate few of them reached out to give her a boost in her race I would not have said a thing because it would have made sense.

But the two people stand out for a reason.

Blasdel also gave the full amount to a known white nationalist named Taylor Rose who is a player in Republican circles. Rose has his own profile in the the Southern Poverty Law Center profile page and Blasdel is a name included in it. Blasdel also received compliments from the extremist Montana Family Foundation for his stance on transgender issues and received their endorsement for said positions. Caferro accepted his money–again the maximum donation–and proudly declared it to all of Montana.

Knokey is a little more moderate but I also have concerns here because he sponsored the bill to allow care providers for disabled people a wage increase. Yes, this is a good thing. But, again, given that Caferro lobbies and works for an organization that would benefit from such an increase his donation, again the maximum allowed and a nod to the importance she plays, has the appearance of a “pay for play.” I would point this out to the maximum for anyone from the other party and it gives me little pleasure to annotate among the party I subscribe to. But it is there. And it stinks. Caferro has even acknowledged this issue in dismissive terms. I do not think we can ignore it any longer.

Caferro has run on the idea she is the most equipped to work across the aisle and get things done. Okay, but what price are voters paying for that? When she votes to approve the Keystone pipeline for a favorable vote on something else, what does that tell us about her values? When she works a budget deal but accepts money from a Republican associates with the most extreme elements of the Republican party, what do Montana voters get?

If Caferro is truly a progressive leader she must return Blasdel’s donation and explain why she accepted it in the first place. Anyone who has served that many terms in the Montana legislature surely must know this would be an issue and should have a ready answer. I discovered all of this in an hour. She also needs to explain why Knokey gave her money when he was the person who carried a bill that would give her personal profit. We would ask this of any Republican in state and federal government and Caferro does not deserve a pass simply because she received support from decent people, me included. I do not know who she is anymore. As Don has pointed out in the past, she has voted with the Republican majority more than any other state senator yet she represents one of the bluest districts in Montana. Odd.

To be quite honest, all of this disgusts me and until earlier today I had no idea how deep her connections went. I really, truly wanted to be quiet this primary season but there are things I cannot abide… this is of the highest order. I did not accept the money, she did. Helena voters who have supported her deserve an answer.

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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About the author

Josh Manning

Josh Manning is a combat veteran who lives in Helena. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Time and Newsweek and he has appeared on MSNBC and CNN. He was a primary researcher to the recently published New York Times bestseller "The Plot to Destroy Democracy" by MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23

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