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The Unbearable Lightness of Steve Daines and His Press Coverage

There’s no better way to understand the way Steve Daines represents Montana than the picture heading this post. As part of what he calls his 56 County Tour, Daines appeared in Circle, Montana yesterday with no public notice, leading to a room with three people listening to his canned remarks.

And that was exactly what Daines wanted. Hoping some credulous reporter will claim during his election in 2020 that Daines has hosted actual townhall meetings with his constituents, Daines posted seven times over the weekend about his #56CountyTour, always after the event had concluded to ensure that no one who might ask a difficult question might attend. Daines, who has 41,000 followers on Twitter, did not post about the #56CountyTour before it happened; nor did he notify his constituents via the endless self-promoting e-mails he sends our way.

As we noted on Friday, Daines has no interest in listening to the people of Montana, either because he has contempt for us or because he actually seems to fear us.

I certainly hope that the members of the Montana media who cover Daines will ask him to explain himself and provide some sort of justification for his refusal to even listen to the people he’s meant to work for, but today’s coverage of the LWCF funding makes that seem unlikely.

I have to give credit to whomever is working press for Daines these days, as the Lee Enterprises ran a front page story across the state touting his “struggle” to pass funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Senate, without mentioning his history of working against and even voting to reduce funding for the Fund.

It’s a bizarre story. Even though Senator Tester has championed permanent funding for the LWCF for years and Daines finally came around to supporting it in 2017, Daines gets most of the credit in the piece, with the headline, photo, and fifteen mentions. Senator Tester, who has championed the measure for years, gets only four mentions.

Some struggle for Daine, though it makes sense that someone who believes, as he does, that the 140 or so days the Senate is in session, is an onerous workload.

The story also doesn’t mention that Daines actually voted to cut funding for the LWCF as recently as 2018.

Daines was always mumbling about misguided “reform” of the LWCF as far back as 2015, despite consistent opposition from Montanans.

It also fails to mention the most salient fact: that between January 2017 and January 2019, Republicans controlled the presidency, the Senate, and the House. Surely, a Senator as influential as Daines could have persuaded his colleagues to support the Fund if he were truly “struggling” to ensure its permanent funding.

What’s most frustrating is that this is classic Daines: while he tells the voters of Montana one thing, he often turns around and does the opposite.

Just as three people don’t make a townhall, refusing to lead on the LWCF doesn’t make a struggle.

The only struggle the past couple of days demonstrate is the one faced by Montana voters: trying to get real answers from the people who are entrusted with working for our interests. I hope the people entrusted with covering Daines will keep in mind just how little Daines wants Montanans to understand his real agenda.

Correction: I relied on the Lee reporting that said Senator Daines began his support for permanent funding of the LWCF fund in 2017. His Comms Director pointed me to a 2015 bill to make the funding permanent that Daines supported. My apologies for assuming the original reporting was correct.

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

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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  • The senator also had a meeting in Sidney yesterday with a total turnout of about 30 people. I may have been one of a few other than the rest that were republicans. He talked about how he took 50 pounds of beef jerky to our Montana troops in Afghanistan and his trip to the U.S.-Mexican border. He answered some softball questions. Unlike his past visits where I learned of him being here after he left, I got an email a day or two before. There was no public announcement in our local paper on Wednesday but we probably read about his visit in the next one.

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