Congressman Greg Gianforte, who promised the Montana press and public that he would put his assets in a blind trust to avoid the possibility of being bought while in Congress, just reported to the House Financial Disclosure Office that he invested in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that produces hydroxychloroquine, the drug Donald Trump is touting as a miracle cure for COVID-19.
By Gianforte’s standards, it’s a small investment, worth no more than $15,000. Still, it demonstrates the precise reason that Gianforte promised to put his assets in a blind trust in 2017: now that Gianforte is aware of his investment in the drug manufacturer, how can we trust that his personal financial stake won’t influence his decisionmaking?
After all, it was Gianforte himself who said failure to put assets in a blind trust would lead to conflicts of interest:
“We have a broad range of investments. Anyone who invests in emerging markets around the world have investments in Russia. These are a tiny portion of our portfolio. Now, let me say clearly, there cannot be any conflict, and, if elected, I will put all of our investments into a blind trust to guarantee that there is no conflict.”
It’s worth noting that Gianforte’s investment was not a personal decision. His new investment in Sanofi was part of an investment in an equity fund. That, fact, however, does not change the fact that Gianforte, like Donald Trump, continues to make decisions in Washington informed by his investments.
Someone defending Gianforte might argue that his wealth insulates him from concerns about conflict of interest, that a $15,000 investment wouldn’t influence someone in Congress or as Governor.
Tell that to the people of Gallatin County and the state of Montana, though. For years, using a tax loophole designed to benefit agricultural producers, Gianforte was paying almost no taxes on land worth $566,785in Gallatin County. If the second-richest member of Congress was willing to rip off the people of Montana for a few bucks while he was literally in the midst of a race for Governor in 2016, why would we believe he won’t do it again?
In the end, though, this all comes down to a simple truth: Gianforte lied to us, and he lied to the press. He called potential investments a “conflict of interest,” promised to put them in a blind trust, and he didn’t.
One can certainly argue that Congressman Gianforte has the moral right to greedily profiteer during a crisis, though what a horrific belief system you’d need to have to believe that. Even so, it’s impossible to defend the fundamental dishonesty at the core of his personality and politics.
Greg Gianforte can never be governor of this state. The truth is that he has a “conflict of interest” with decency and ethics that is too deep-rooted to ever overcome.