Matt Rosendale has run one dishonest campaign for the U.S. Senate, filled with lies about Jon Tester meant to hide Rosendale’s own record of not putting Montanans first.
In a series of dishonest statements and actions, though, the most pernicious might be the most central element of the myth that Rosendale has crafted for himself: the claim that, despite the fact he is little more than a landlord, Rosendale has repeatedly told voters that he is a rancher. Perhaps even more significantly, Rosendale started reporting in official campaign paperwork that he is a rancher, suggesting yet another moment where the Maryland real estate developer has shown a willingness to sign a false official statement for personal gain.
A month or so ago, we ran a story calling Rosendale’s ranching credentials into question, using his own words as evidence. Back in 2011, Rosendale told a hometown newspaper in Maryland that he let other people run livestock on his land but didn’t actually ranch himself:
There’s a bunch of irrigated ground and I lease it to one of my neighbors and he grows crops on it, and then there’s dry farmland and I lease that to another neighbor, and then I’ve got all the native pasture and I lease that to another guy who runs cattle.
This week a real reporter dropped in on the story and did the research to show that Rosendale was absolutely telling the truth then and there is nothing about his life that makes him a rancher. Talking Points Memo reported on Tuesday that Rosendale has never owned cattle and didn’t even maintain the brand that was associated with his “ranch” purchase:
Rosendale hasn’t registered ownership of any livestock since 2011 — and before then it was limited to a few horses. It appears that he’s never owned any cattle. He similarly received a registered livestock brand when he bought his $2.2 million ranch in 2002, but let that lapse when it expired in 2011, and it doesn’t appear that he ever used it.
The most interesting part of the story is that, as Rosendale was increasingly less involved with the direct management of his property in Eastern Montana and increasingly more interested in running for statewide office, he changed the way he described his occupation on official campaign forms. As TPM notes:
That includes his own job description on official campaign paperwork. In 2010 and 2012, Rosendale listed himself as “real estate developer” on his official candidate disclosure forms. In 2016, he listed “ranching and real estate development.”
Rosendale’s effort to craft an image of himself as a rancher is certainly strategic as neither his background as an East Coast real estate developer nor his accent is likely to persuade Montana voters that he is running for the Senate to represent us. Unlike some Republican candidates for office in this state, I don’t believe that any particular job disqualifies someone from holding political office, but I do believe that a fundamental unwillingness or inability to tell the truth is disqualifying.
And Rosendale keeps telling the lie to the Montana press, who have, in candidate profiles, listed his profession as a “rancher.” One
It’s an especially egregious lie when Rosendale has spent some of his time on the campaign denigrating the work of a real farmer, the only active farmer in the U.S. Senate, suggesting that Jon Tester is only playing the role.
You’d have to really not know anything at all about Montana agriculture to believe that, and it’s just a sad measure of projection and fundamental dishonesty that Mr. Rosendale would stoop to that level.
It’s absolutely wonderful that Matt Rosendale has moved to Montana. Not for the state, certainly, which has watched him inadequately enforce securities regulations and oversight of insurance companies and debase our political discourse with relentlessly negative, constant campaigning, but for Mr. Rosendale himself, who has been lucky enough to move to one of the most wonderful places in the world.
I don’t begrudge him the decision, but I do find it difficult to accept the fact that Mr. Rosendale hasn’t learned the virtue of telling the truth since he’s arrived here.
Just embrace who you are, Matt. Those of us who have lived here are certainly used to people who visit and want to play cowboy for a little while. We just ask that they tell the truth when they do.