They say talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words. In politics the cliche might be talk is cheap, and whose checks you cash speak louder than words.
When it comes to the Montana Democratic Party in 2014, an analysis of their donations shows that many of the people writing big checks to the “Party of the People” may not have the same interests in mind as the talking points espoused by party leaders. Here is a look at the top hypocritical donations to state Democrats.
The Montana Democratic Party has a long history of using class warfare to their advantage and claim that Republicans only want tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, accusing them of being the party of the rich. They’re also constantly mentioning that possible GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte is a billionaire since he started a successful company, Rightnow Technologies in Bozeman, and later sold it to Oracle. But financial disclosures show that the Democrats don’t seem to have many scruples about accepting money from the 1 percent themselves.
Dennis Washington made his fortune in railroads, and is a close ally of Brian Schweitzer. Washington’s Montana Rail Link took possession of the Livingston Rail Yard after former Governor Brian Schweitzer told BNSF he was done with “foot dragging” by BNSF in cleaning up toxic waste from the site. Schweitzer later purchased several plots of land for his current Georgetown Lake home from Washington industries for $2 million as part of a trade with Washington’s company for land in Whitefish. Current Democratic governor Steve Bullock has more recently partnered with the Washington Companies’ CEO Larry Simkins as part of his Main Street Montana economic development plan.
2) Big Tobacco – Altria (formerly Philip Morris)
One of the first victories of former Governor Brian Schweitzer’s term in office was the passage of the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act in 2005. Although fought by some Republican legislators at the time, efforts ultimately failed and bars and casinos also went smoke-free in 2009 when the last parts of the law took effect. Advocates included most of Schweitzer’s administration, lead by public health advocates who pointed to a preliminary study that showed the ban already reducing heart attacks by 40 percent during the first year it took effect in Helena. Polls at the time also showed 79 percent of Montanans supporting the law.
You might be surprised to learn then that as recently as last year the state Democratic Party was cashing a thousand dollar check from the political action committee which represents the tobacco giant’s political interests. The party that has become closely linked with nanny-state policies like the 16 ounce soda ban seems to have no issues accepting money from an industry that many Democrats spent years railing against for deceptive tactics in getting millions hooked on their cancer-causing product.
3) “No Democrat in good conscience can support it.” – Charter Communications
In early 2014 a minor scandal erupted in Montana politics when Charter Communications decided to hire a firm to start a ballot initiative to reclassify it’s tax status in reaction to a decision by the state Department of Revenue to retroactively reclassify portions of it’s business in 2010. Because of the Department of Revenue’s decision to date the reclassification to 2007, it suddenly created a multi-million dollar tax bill for Charter. Democrats from Cowgirl to The Flathead Memo immediately went on the offensive, accusing Charter of trying to dodge it’s tax responsibility to the state. Then U.S. House candidate John Lewis’ wife was forced to comment on the matter when it was revealed her firm was paid for consulting work on the initiative, and the left wing MEA-MFT education union tried unsuccessfully to have the initiative thrown out in court.
Just months after the fracas, however, Charter’s political action committee wrote a $5,000 check to the state party. Accused of underhanded tactics by everyone on the left, Charter’s initiative never gained enough signatures to make the ballot when the deadline for signature submissions passed.
Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester often touts that he is the “only farmer in the Senate,” and has taken many steps to fight Monsanto, a company that sells genetically modified seed to farmers nationwide. He has also taken steps in the Upper Chamber to fight protections for Monsanto in U.S. law. Just this week the Montana Democratic Party was attacking Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke on their Facebook page for supporting a measure in the U.S. House that would oppose efforts for labeling of foods that contained GMOs.
While even the Billings Gazette acknowledges there has yet to be found any sound scientific evidence that link GMOs to negative health effects and GMO foods, this hasn’t stopped Tester and liberals from going after Monsanto and it’s practices associated with the genetically engineered crops.
Considering all this history, you might be surprised to learn that the Democratic Party cashed a check from Monsanto’s political action committee just days before the 2014 election.
5) Petroleum Marketers / Oil & Gas Companies
Climate change has been a huge issue for Democrats and the left, who routinely accuse oil and gas companies in Montana and the Bakken oilfields of contributing to the carbon dioxide that is pumped into the atmosphere by fossil fuel usage. Huge amounts of tax dollars have been used to subsidize “green energy” companies and products in order to lure Americans and the world away from it’s dependence on oil. When climate change protesters in Montana are not busy blocking highways to stall shipments of oil field production equipment, they’re sometimes being cited for tresspassing in Republican Senator Steve Daine’s official office.
While there has been some tension between factions of the Democratic party between environmentalists and leaders like Brian Schweitzer, who whole-heartedly embraces mineral extraction, the party itself seems to have quietly taken a side when it comes to who it will take cash from.
6) Candidates who bash the party’s negative attacks on Republicans
One of the first rules of politics is keep your candidate clean. This is often why you see the state party entities like the Montana Democratic Party and Montana GOP making some of the most negative claims when it comes to the opposition and their positions. Conventional wisdom states that you don’t want to tarnish your candidate’s image by having them engage in negative attacks and let other entities be the one to do the dirty work for you.
After the state’s house and senate districts were redrawn in 2012, both parties were eager to compete for seats they thought would be competitive and possible to capture thanks to redistricting. One of these seats in Gallatin County, Senate District 32, drew a high profile when political veteran Democratic political science professor Franke Wilmer faced off against a younger, relative novice, Jedediah Hinkle. When negative ads against Hinkle from the Montana Democratic Party were labeled “nasty” by the local press, Wilmer took to the paper to criticize the state party, saying she wished the money had been spent on positive ads. This seems strange considering Wilmer not only gave personally to the state party, but her campaign gave also gave thousands to the entity she was criticizing for it’s antics.
The Democratic party eventually spent tens of thousands in several targeted races across the state in attacks that later caused them to be formally sanctioned Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl when it was revealed they broke campaign finance laws by not properly notifying Republican opponents.
7) Healthcare companies & affiliates
Medicaid Expansion has long been a goal of the Montana Democrats after efforts to expand the program in the state failed by the thinnest of margins in the 2013 legislator. During the 2015 session, a compromise bill co-sponsored by Republican Ed Buttrey of Great Falls made its way through the legislature and was signed by Governor Bullock. For most of the spring, Democrats rallied in the Capitol and promoted messages like 70,000 Can’t Wait. Democrats urged compassion for the poor and expanded access to healthcare by accepting over $75 million in Federal dollars from Washington, D.C.
While most of the coverage of the Medicaid expansion debate has shown the supporters to be altruistic in nature, financial disclosures show that many of the industries and groups who stand to benefit most from the Federal health care dollars are big supporters of the Montana Democratic Party. From pharmaceutical PACs like Pfizer to unionized nurses and health care workers, thousands of dollars go straight to the party that portrays itself as the purely virtuous champion of the poor and sick. Many Democrats also work directly in the industry from former gubernatorial candidate John Morrison to Helena state senator Christine Kaufmann who worked as an Obamacare navigator.
8) Montana Taxpayers via Public Employee Unions
Unions donate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to the Montana Democratic Party and Democratic candidates and politicians. However, union membership in the private sector has been declining for decades as globalization has allowed manufacturing to be outsourced overseas. In Montana, only 8 percent of private sector employees now belong to unions. Contrast this, however, to the public sector where approximately 41 percent of state employees belong to a union of some sort. This means that your tax dollars go directly to pay union dues for state employees, who in turn give huge sums of this money to the Democratic Party.
Before the 2015 legislature was even seated, Democratic governor Steve Bullock had already ‘negotiated’ a 5 percent, 2-year pay raise with the state’s public employees. However, many have wondered if Bullock was truly negotiating in full faith on taxpayers’ behalf when any raise in pay to state employees would almost certainly correspond to a raise in union dues and thus more union cash in Democratic campaign coffers. After vetoing Republican bills that would have provided tax relief to Montanans, conservatives cried foul for Bullock’s alleged work to put more money into the hands of his union donors while refusing to put any of their own hard-earned dollars back into the wallets of state taxpayers.