More evidence has come to light that millionaire Congressman Denny Rehberg was the man behind the curtain in control of the craziest legislative session in the history of Montana. This time, it looks like the extremists in the legislature took their cues on big tobacco from Montana’s millionaire Congressman.
It isn’t the fact that Rehberg is pulling the strings at the Montana legislature that’s so surprising, rather, it’s the extent to which he has done so and the most likely explanation for doing it that are remarkable. Rehberg couldn’t have the Montana legislature upholding our current state ballot initiatives in favor of tobacco prevention while he himself was carrying water for Big Tobacco at every opportunity - it would make him look bad and become an issue in the campaign. His opponents would be able to say that even the state legislature of his own state, controlled by wide majorities of his own party, refused to act as Rehberg is doing. Unfortunately for Rehberg, that’s just the situation he’s in now.
This isn’t the first evidence that Rehberg was behind much of the legislative craziness. You may recall that during the session, there was a lot of buzz that Congressman Dennis Rehberg was pulling the strings at the Montana Capitol, directing his henchmen to do the dirty work of vote-buying in the Montana House of Representatives, Jack Abramoff style to convince legislators to oppose a popular vote-by-mail bill. After all, Rehberg wants us to give him a promotion to the U.S. Senate in 2012—an election year that would have been significantly impacted by a vote-by-mail system. We know that Rehberg feels free to tell legislators to withdraw bills that make him uncomfortable, and the fact that he didn’t do so with any of the sessions’ kookiest bills makes you wonder what he didn’t approve.
And don’t forget Rehberg’s angry, ranting speech that set the tone of the session in early February.
The speech was entirely negative (in stark contrast to Schweitzer’s upbeat and generally optimistic State of the State address) and an exercise in incitement and scapegoating. Perhaps Denny hadn’t had a nip off the bottle since early that morning and so he was irritable. But in a short, loud, angry speech, Rehberg blamed everyone (except himself) in Washington for the nation’s problems. But beyond Rehberg’s ranting, dunce-like, childish Fox News anger, the one thing that stood out was this: he didn’t point to a single professional accomplishment, a single thing that he has done in his twelve years of sucking up a taxpayer salary and federal health benefits. So it should surprise no one that the GOP legislature felt no need to accomplish anything either.