The Associated Press is reporting that Rick Hill not only made a king’s ransom renting office space to the Montana state government in the 1990s and 2000s, but that his wife Betti used her job in Governor Judy Martz’s office to steer business his way. Thus did Rick and Betti Hill become very wealthy people.
E-mails from Betti Hill, obtained by the AP, show that she was using the influence of the Governor’s office to arrange meetings for Rick with high-level players in state government who dole out state rental contracts. It stinks to high heaven.
Betti and Rick put pressure on the Martz administration to kill a plan to construct a new building. Martz put the new building project in her budget. But shortly after Rick and Betti met with Lt. Governor Karl Ohs and several cabinet officials to complain about it, it got yanked from Martz’s budget. Why did Rick and Betti want to kill the project? Because a new building in Helena would have brought down the price of rent in the Helena market, and landlords, naturally, do not like that. Oops.
By the sound of it, Betti Hill was large and in charge, busting out her Helena GOP street cred, ordering people throughout state government (even the Lt. Governor) not to do anything that might compromise Rick’s business, and even going to bat for other landlords, including a “party leader” who owned a building and needed a favor. As a result, the Hills’ business stayed sweet and they kept raking in taxpayer dough, more than a million bucks worth.
Hill also appears to have used his job as Congressman and his perch as State Fund chair to get similar sweet treatment, since these jobs overlapped with his sweetheart deals. While sitting in these posts, ranting the GOP’s favorite rant about “less spending” and “less government,” he was guzzling down taxpayer money that should have saved rather than spent. Montana taxpayers got bilked because the rent was too damn high.
Betti’s conduct might well be a violation of the ethics law, which says that a state worker may not use state facilities for a personal or business interest.
At any rate, the Hills are clearly no model of fiscal restraint. Betti clearly interpreted her job in Martz’s office as nothing more than a nice opportunity to rake in some serious scratch for her and her hubby, so that they could fly first class to their posh Palm Springs crib.
These e-mails vindicate Corey Stapleton, Hill’s GOP primary opponent, who accused Hill of getting cake deals and special treatment from state government for his mega-landlord business.
But will any of this affect the outcome of Tuesday’s GOP primary? I doubt it. Sure, it is in the newspaper, but most right-wing voters do not read the newspaper. Glenn Beck is unlikely to cover this story.
Stapleton and Miller and Livingstone should have done their homework, hit the pavement, and moved this damaging story a month ago. It might have been a game changer. But they were all either too lazy or too stupid (or both, probably) to bother. Coming out on the Friday before the election, this story will have very little effect on Tuesday’s election.
However, these revelations will be center stage during the long general election battle ahead. Rick Hill is now CORRUPT LANDLORD, INSURANCE EXECUTIVE, CONGRESSMAN, LOBBYIST (and let’s not forget ADULTERER). Geez, if that isn’t a resume for success in politics, I don’t know what is. These are just about the five worst things an American political candidate can possibly be. Plus, Dems will be able to run TV ads against Hill that will simply repeat the accusations made against Hill by all of his GOP opponents. That’s a rare opportunity in a general election, and it’s a very effective play.