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2020 Governor Featured Greg Gianforte Montana Politics The Media

Gianforte Campaigns While Congress Weighs Impeachment. The Gazette is There to Cover his Photo Op

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Could someone please let Congressman Gianforte know that we are still paying his salary in D.C. and ask him to go to work? Yesterday, while the House of Representatives was weighing the momentous choice of whether to impeach a President and discussing the USMCA reforms to NAFTA, Congressman Gianforte was campaigning in Billings and having his Comms Director bravely tweet at Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Montana Republicans have been telling us for months that an elected official cannot both campaign and manage the duties of his office when that person was Governor Bullock but were strangely silent yesterday while Gianforte spent his Monday at a photo op in a Billings classroom with Superintendent Elsie Arntzen and some students who were probably just young enough not to be terrified to be so close to such a violent man.

And it’s not as if Gianforte is being asked to work terribly hard. The House is scheduled for an onerous eight-day schedule this month, following a taxing eight days in November. Not bad work for $174,000 a year.

Given his unwillingness to work (and I am using that term in its most charitable sense) only sixteen days over two months, Gianforte should own up and admit what Republican and Democrats alike have known from the beginning, that he doesn’t care about representing Montana in Congress and only ran for the job as a stepping stone for another gubernatorial bid.

If he won’t do the work of representing us, particularly when Congress is facing a critical series of votes on the future of the Trump presidency, he should resign and come campaign without us paying for it.

Of course, this isn’t all Gianforte’s fault when the media enables it. The Billings Gazette, which neither reported Gianforte’s vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act nor his voting against restoring the Voting Rights Act, was there to document this critical news, though they failed to mention that Congress was in session.

A person could argue they should instead have covered Gianforte’s vote to re-admit Russia to the G-7 despite bipartisan opposition to the Trump Administration’s attempt to signal to the Russians they can continue their campaign against Ukraine or his refusal to stake out a position on the critical CSKT Treaty, but surely this photo op was more important to voters who will have to decide next year whether Gianforte is fit to be governor.

Look, I understand the temptation to have a camera on Gianforte any time it’s possible: one never knows when the violent, erratic Gianforte will snap and assault someone, which will certainly make good copy and a great visual.

But the race for governor isn’t going to be about photo ops in classrooms; it’s going to be about whether Montanans really want to elect a venal, self-aggrandizing charlatan who doesn’t believe in giving women the tools to defend themselves from abusers, protecting the rights of people of color to vote, demanding the US fulfill its treaty obligations with tribal nations or ensuring the sovereignty of our allies.

We need a representative in Congress who cares enough to do his damn job, and we need a press that holds him accountable for his failure to do so.

Update: Gianforte’s Communications Director defended the Congressman, noting that he did the campaign events in Billings before flying back to D.C. for two meaningless votes at the end of the day. Real man of the people stuff there, flying your private jet back to D.C. after skipping the majority of the workday.

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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  • Don’t forget that Gianforte held a fundraiser for himself in Helena with Donald Trump Jr. then two days later skipped a debate with his primary opponents in the same city because of “family obligations.”

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