A national AP article ran across the country last week, highlighting the right-wing nut-jobs that are gravitating toward the Flathead Valley and particularly Kalispell.
But there is a great irony to it all.
The business that suffers most from this trend is real estate. To have a community become known as a haven for lunatics is a sure way to cause real estate prices to suffer. And the Flathead valley does not need a drag on real estate right now, because the national real estate crash has hurt the Flathead, and hurt ancillary businesses there like wood products and construction and electricians and so on.
The irony? Realtors are partly responsible for the right-wing colonization effort in the Flathead.
For starters, the National Realtors Association had an enormous influence in creating the Montana Tea Party legislature, having spent over $2 million on Montana this past election cycle to get ultra-right-wing Republicans elected in the legislature by blanketing the airwaves with a series of campaign ads about impending taxes.
It brought new faces in the legislature like Derek Skees, who in turn started actively seeking the spotlight for himself and his crazy buddies and causes in the Flathead. Skees, in fact, was just featured in TIME Magazine, which did a profile about him being the national leader of the nullification movement, headquartered out of the Flathead. And there have been other disturbing articles in the national press, like the recent Associated Press piece, about how right-wing crazies are getting elected in, and moving to, the Flathead valley. Not a good way to keep real estate values high.
But it gets worse. Right-wing Republican John Sinrud (pictured), the current head of the Northwest Montana Realtors (the major real estate group in the Flathead), is the man who assembled the Western Tradition Partnership, a group that spent roughly $700,000 of secret, unreported funds on the 2010 legislative races (this was in addition to the $2 million that the National Realtors brought in). Sinrud has also been active in county and local races up there as well, something that the NWMR group doesn’t seem to mind at all.
So be careful what you wish for. The Realtors came to the 2010 legislative elections loaded for bear. But they are now being chased by a giant, runaway elephant, and might be regretting having gone hunting at all.