When I think about the kind of person who is best positioned to understand the struggles faced by ordinary Montanans, this story from Politico made me realize that it sure as hell isn’t Greg Gianforte. Faced with the dire news that Democrats are outraising Republicans all across the country for Congressional races, Congressman Gianforte did what all of us would do. He whipped out his checkbook and dropped a cool quarter million on the National Republican Congressional Committee:
“My intention today is to sound a loud alarm,” NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer of Minnesota said in the meeting. “We can’t ignore the campaigns that need to get better with their individual fundraising. … They’re crushing us,” Emmer said, referring to the DCCC.
At least one person was roused to action. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) — who is leaving Congress to run for his state’s governorship — wrote a $250,000 check to the party committee during an altar call.
I’m sure that writing the check was painful for Gianforte, but the pain was perhaps obviated by the tax cut Gianforte gave himself in 2017, the one that helped balloon the deficit to over $1 trillion this year while passing most of its cuts to those, like Gianforte, in the top tax bracket.
Just as I don’t understand why wealth automatically seems to make someone a credible candidate for office, I don’t believe it disqualifies someone, but the fact that Greg Gianforte seems to think dropping $250,000—into addition to all the other cash he’s poured into Republican coffers in the past year—doesn’t even require reflection or consideration makes it pretty clear that he can’t understand why people who live paycheck to paycheck need affordable health care, help with college costs and even occasional support for their families, all things the Republicans he’s so desperate to support absolutely oppose.
I write about this story all the time, but I’ll repeat it once more here. When Greg Gianforte was running around Montana telling us that a sales tax was “an ideal solution” for the state, he wasn’t saying it was ideal for funding our schools or even fixing our infrastructure. He thought was an ideal solution for executives at his company who were so unwilling to pay taxes on their $300,000 dollar salaries that Gianforte had to set up a satellite office for them in Dallas.
Think about that. Gianforte wanted to use our state’s resources to build and grow a business but wasn’t willing to have the people who come here, people making eight or ten times the average salaries of Montanans at the time, simply pay their fair share of taxes.
Gianforte desperately wants us to believe that he’s one of us and tries harder than perhaps anyone to cultivate an image of himself as just a regular guy, not one of those elites in Washington. But regular folks don’t fly home in their private jet (the one they gave themselves a tax break for) every weekend, don’t think the biggest problem in our tax code is the plight of millionaires, and certainly don’t drop checks for $250,000—an amount it would take a teacher in Montana five years to earn—to fund those who work against working people.
Being rich doesn’t disqualify Greg Gianforte from being governor, but not being able to either understand or empathize with those of us who are not certainly does.