Smoke but no fire

By: 
Brad Molnar
Political Opinion
Photo courtesy of Brad Molnar.  Donald Trump Jr. visited Billings on Friday to campaign for Montana’s U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte.

When the special election to replace Congressman Zinke was a coming-event all figured that an easy $10M per major candidate would be spent. Libertarians figured that with a well-planned campaign courting the discontent with “traditional politics and traditional politicians” the Trump victory and Sanders’ campaign indicated they could split the middle and actually win a federal campaign for $5M. It turns out that all campaigns combined are still less than the $5M bargain-bin estimate. The National Republican Congressional Committee which exists strictly to elect Republicans congressmen is still MIA. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has recently weighed in with a few hundred thousand dollars. Note that several Montana Senate races have topped the $100,000 mark. Most Political Action Committees and Leadership Funds are sitting this one out.
There are exceptions to the rule. Before Greg Gianforte was even selected to run the Congressional Leadership Pac booked almost $800,000 worth of air time to attack Rob Quist who had been nominated the day before. I asked a fellow journalist who he thought put money into the CLP. He assumed it was congressmen chipping in to help a fellow. Wrong. In 2016 Miriam Adelson, Las Vegas Nevada, of the Adelson Drug Clinic donated $10,000,000 to the CLP. Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas, Nevada, Sands Hotel, also gave $10,000,000 to the cause. “The cause” is supporting Republican House candidates via almost strictly attack ads with very little going to discuss issues, about 40 times more in attack ads. On 7/22/16 Ronald Cameron of Mountain Corp (agri food processing) gave $1M. He must have thought better of it and on 7/25/16 gave another $1M. Same for William Oberdorfer of Oberdorfer Foundation (Alliance for School Choice) who on 6/30/16 gave $500,000 and on 8/10/16 gave another $500,000. The list goes on with mainly donors tied to trust funds, research groups, refineries, etc, etc, etc. Leadership seems to take a back seat to the consonant after the candidate’s name.
On the Quist side Our Revolution has run to the rescue. Our Revolution is the far, far, far, left wing group formed to continue the work begun by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist/Progressive. But they are not as pure as Bernie and formed as a 501 ( c ) 4 instead of a (c) 3. This allows them to accept corporate money and not have to spend donations on the announced projects so roughly half of their founding members quit. Our Revolution has endorsed Quist for his support of a single payer health care system asking for $27 dollar donations with half being earmarked for Quist. I am not sure who is raising dollars for whom. Devotees have reported getting phone calls from the paid volunteers of Our Revolution located in Virginia and asking for unpaid volunteers to make calls to introduce Quist. The Sanders contact list and techniques (demonizing President Trump, Republicans, or conservative values) of Our Revolution have been shown to be capable of raising millions in a few days.
As a good union member I received a phone call from the Yellowstone Labor Council asking me to support Quist. I asked why I should. “Well, we sure do not support Gianforte.” “But why Quist?” A shuffling of papers then in a sing song voice a paragraph of general support for “working people” was read. “That’s it?” “Oh, Brad.” Click.
Perhaps most telling is that Quist was a Bernie Sanders supporter in the primary season. For weeks Bernie was announcing a seven state tour to promote his Democratic Socialist agenda. He asked for $27 donations to fund it but never mentioned Quist. Then suddenly Montana and Quist were on the announcements with promises to crisscross Montana during May to help Quist. The race must have tightened to have this happen.
On the Gianforte side the National Rifle Association has joined Gianforte in pointing out Quist has called for national registration of guns. Quist now says he supports the Second Amendment without new gun control laws. Quist claims that he was referencing fully automatic rifles which are already registered. But he has never said that the reporters that quoted his as saying, “We register our cars don’t we? So why not register our guns?” They also make hay out of Quists economic woes. This is in conjunction with Gianforte also thumping Quist for falling behind in paying his bills. In a state that is number 49 for personal income having to decide between paying taxes or credit card bills is a common experience so the attacks seem to be galvanizing support for Quist and helping him match Gianforte for fund raising capacity.
I am still waiting for a solid truth on an addressable issue not including “He is not a millionaire” countered by “I am not a millionaire”. I am not holding my breath.

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