GUEST POST: Fred Thomas is back as Senate Majority Leader: what could possibly go wrong?

Fred ThomasSen. Fred Thomas R-Stevensville

By Bitterrooter

The Republican leadership in the Montana Legislature has just announced that Fred Thomas has been named Majority Leader of the state Senate.

When Senator Thomas announced his intended candidacy for returning to the State Senate way back in 2011, he was quoted as saying, “My campaign platform is simple… Let’s learn from recent mistakes. As they say, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (Bitterroot Star, 11/30/2011).   While this is a laudable goal, I wonder if Mr. Thomas has indeed learned the hard lesson meted out by his biggest mistake as a Montana State Senator—sponsoring the disastrous 1997 bill that led to the deregulation and eventual bankruptcy of Montana Power Company’s electric utility business.

This sad episode of poor legislative judgment was again in the news two years ago with the 2014 announcement that Northwestern Energy completed the purchase of the 11 hydroelectric dams (that were already paid for once by Montana ratepayers) back from PPL Montana for a cool $900 million.  This purchase meant that Montana electric ratepayers are once again being asked to pay for these dams through their electric power rates.  The history of the debacle that was the Montana Power Company deregulation and sale of dams and coal plants is as well-know as it is twisted.  By nearly all, it is viewed as perhaps the most poorly considered legislative episode in the history of our state; and there is plenty of competition for that honor.

The number two signatory on the 1997 deregulation bill (SB 390), Sen. John Harp (then R, Kalispell), had recognized by 2004 what a colossal mistake the deregulation bill was.  Harp said “I was the number two signatory on the bill…It’s a burden that I’ve carried personally… And I apologize.”  Harp went on to state “Montana was sold a bill of goods when it came to deregulation” (Helena Independent Record, 10/27/ 2004).

While Senator Harp requested that the deregulation bill be drafted, it was State Senator Fred Thomas who sponsored the bill in the Montana Senate.  In essence, Montana had a golden goose in Montana Power Company that provided our state with plentiful power at the 6th cheapest price in the nation.  Mr. Thomas while not acting alone, was the person perhaps most responsible for placing the neck of that golden goose on the chopping block and precipitating a chain of events that led to large increases in electric rates for Montana households and industry, large layoffs due to skyrocketing industrial power rates, and massive losses of investment and retirement savings due to the collapse of Montana Power Co.

Prior to the 1997 deregulation bill, electric power rates in Montana were equal to or substantially below the average rates for the states surrounding Montana (ND, SD, WY, UT, and ID).  Following deregulation, Montana electric rates rose above those of our neighboring states. (US Energy Information Association, )  Based on the difference between the average electrical rates paid by Montana households and businesses and those in our neighboring states, in 2014 Montana power users paid an additional $41 million dollars in power bills compared to the cost of the same amount of electricity in our neighboring states.  In fact, since 2001 the additional power costs following deregulation have added nearly $1.8 billion to the power bills of Montana electric users (including commercial and industrial users).

In 1997 Republicans in Montana controlled both chambers of the legislature and the Governor’s office.  While a small number of Democrats also voted for deregulation, the 95% of Republican legislators who voted for the bill assured its passage with or without significant Democratic support.    This was true even though very vocal opponents of the bill presented very detailed, and (as it turned out) correct arguments against deregulation.  However, in 1997 the Republicans were in charge and the presumption was that all government regulations were bad regulations.

Montanans have learned a very hard and costly lesson; one that has cost families and businesses $1.8 billion since deregulation.  Now Montanans are being asked to pay again for those dams they paid for once before—another $900 million. We have learned a hard lesson indeed, one that when all is said and done will cost Montana ratepayers well over 2.5 billion dollars.  My question is has Mr. Thomas learned that lesson as well?

On cue, Republican leaders in the Montana Legislature are outraged that Governor Bullocks’ proposed 2-year budget has a modest (1.4%) increase over the previous budget and pays for this increase as well as leaving a $300 million dollar rainy day fund.  Thomas, choosing to ignore the Governor’s record of fiscal prudence and balanced budgets, dismissed the proposal as having a “gap” between spending and revenues. “I think the missing thing from his budget is, what’s he going to do to fill this gap?” Thomas asked (Denison, MTN News, 11/16/2016).

Senator Thomas’ fiscal concern over a proposed $35 million 2-year increase in the budget seems almost quaint in view of the fact that from 2001-2014 his own bright idea of pushing deregulation has cost Montana households and businesses an average of $138 million per year, not including the cost of buying back the dams we previously owned.

The Montana Power debacle has been written about exhaustively and with more detail and precision than I could ever do.  But as a resident of Stevensville, and one of Senator Thomas’ constituents I cannot let the unrepentant actions of Thomas fade from our collective memory.  We Montanans still pay the costs of his miscalculation monthly, while Senator Thomas has returned to a position of high power in the legislature.

A number of years ago, following the dissolution of Montana Power, while visiting with my tax accountant and longtime friend for our annual tax meeting, I asked him how things were going.  He relayed how the past months had been soul-shattering as he watched his long-time retired clients one after another parade through his office while he counseled them each on how to cope with the loss of all or much of their retirement security after the preventable collapse of their previously rock-solid, low-risk, blue chip investments tied to Montana Power.  The experience had left him drained and angry.  And so it should have left us all.

I personally feel there are mistakes too big for redemption; mistakes which disqualify one from future positions of power; mistakes which simply require a sincere unconditional apology followed by recusal from public life.  With power comes responsibility—at least in my ideal world.


39 Comments on "GUEST POST: Fred Thomas is back as Senate Majority Leader: what could possibly go wrong?"

  1. As soon as Congress took up the subject of partisan obstruction of refugees from Syria, the Dean of the Montana Senate Fred Thomas, from his Stevensville office, sent the infamous letter to 55 Montana Legislators.

    Within months, hundreds of Ravalli Republicans were an organized force against refugees from climate and civil and proxy warring in Syria.

    Senator Thomas is everthing I do not want to see in a Montana Legislator.

    At same time Ravalli Republican Ron Ehli takes over as head of
    Montana Representatives.

  2. Ok, let me get this straight. The dissolution of Montana Power and its effect on our electric rates and retirees is a bad thing and the closing of the Coalstrip plants and its effects on our electric rates and the loss of high paying jobs and pensions are a good thing.

    • There’s a very informative document, Swede, that was published by Montana’s DEQ called, “Understanding Energy in Montana.” Most of the electricity consumed by Montanans before 1986 was cheap, plentiful, clean hydroelectric. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when Colstrip Units 3&4 were built, that Montana started relying on coal-fired electricity. The majority of the electricity generated by Units 1,2,3&4 is exported.

      Things really got screwed up when MPC deregulated in 1997, went bankrupt, and sold our dams to PP&L. NWE, the successor to MPC, is slowly acquiring PP&L’s electric-generating facilities (at substantially more than PP&L paid for them).

      Anyway, imagine this, Swede: continued investment in hydro and other forms of renewable energy, both large and small scale, and continued investment in conservation and efficiency. Attach good-paying jobs (with pensions) to this endeavor and say good-bye to the dirty, boom-and-bust fossil fuel industry.

    • Mr. Swede,

      You construct a world-class false equivalency argument comparing MPC dissolution to the closing of Coalstrip units.

      1. MPC was a solid healthy company with high value assets. MPC was proactively “killed” by deregulation and the abysmal management decisions which were facilitated by deregulation.

      2. The Coalstrip units are at or nearing the end of their useful life. They are increasingly un-competitive in terms of supplying electricity to the market. They are essentially on life-support. Rather than letting the market seek the lowest cost electrical alternatives, you are arguing that we keep these ageing units in production whatever the cost.

      The differences couldn’t be starker.

      Now if you want to make a more appropriate comparison, you might question why conservatives are up in arms at the inevitable closing of Coalstrip units but seem strangely agnostic on the recent move by Oracle to ship over 100 very high paying jobs out of Bozeman, to Texas. When you start telling Oracle they do not have the right to move those jobs out of state for cost-cutting reasons, then I will be more sympathetic to your position on closing Coalstrip; until then your argument has little credibility.

    • I fully support Colstrip and extraction resources, but the dissolution of Montana Power was an absolute joke.

  3. Not all Montana electric rate payers are subject to Northwest Energies rate structure. Just 25 miles north of Missoula, Mission Valley Power only charges 6 cents per kwh, half the price compared to our friends south of the “border”. So, if you want to stop complaining about high electric and natural gas charges, move north to the Jocko Valley. We also have cleaner air and better drinking water(no chlorine).

  4. I was one of those retirees who lost savings to the Montana Power/Touch America bankruptcy. But, Sen. Fred Thomas’ action in another area bothers me much more. During the 2015 legislative session, Sen. Fred Thomas drafted a modified “top-two primary” bill. (It corrected a flaw in his 2013 referendum for which the Mt. Supreme Court taken off the ballot.) The Senator didn’t introduce the revised bill in 2015 — probably because Ravalli County Republicans weren’t going to settle for anything short of a “closed” primary.

    During the legal action before Judge Brian Morris in 2016, Attorney Monforton wrote that an acceptable alternative to the unconstitutional open primary is a “top-two” primary that is more open than what Montana has now. What this statement had to do with a lawsuit to close the primary is anybody’s guess. My guess is that the MTGOP rank and file (minus the wackos) really want a “top-two” primary. Let’s see if Senator Thomas raises the issue in 2017.

  5. Big Swede,
    Apparently you don’t recognize the irony of your lamentation over the closing of Colstrip 1 & 2. You see, Montana Power owned the Colstrip plants. Like the dams, they were paid for by Montana consumers. The Thomas – Racicot breakup of Montana Power led to the sale of Colstrip plants, just like the dams, to out of state concerns. Now, the out of state owners have decided to shut them down. It was deregulation and free market capitalism that led to the closure of Colstrip plants! Neither Obama nor Bullock had any control over the decision to shut it down. Rather, it was your boyz Thomas and Racicot that set it in motion. And yet, stupid people continue to vote against their own economic interests and elect Republicans.

  6. Big Swede has some difficulty seperating fact from fiction, but I have had some conversations with Steve Running and I think The Swede better leave the discussion of coal plants to Norvegians, at least they seem to be able to understand what facts are. We know there were not 3 million undocumented Norvegians involved in the last election.

    • I agree that big swede has no clue about truth

      • The truth is in the eye of the beholder it is said. Perhaps Big Swede will come to understand that no matter what he says on this site he will be wrong as only one way of thinking is viewed as “truthful”. After all, the overall objective is to silence opposition.
        Strange how there’s been no response to Swede’s comment and post about our nations economic interests over the last eight years. A predictable response? Wrong thinking and an invalid source. Such fun, huh?!

        • Ah Lucy,

          I believe no one responded to Mr. Swede because he didn’t say anything substantive. What particularly was the economic interest he was asking about? Was it the record high stock market? Or perhaps the sub 5% unemployment. Maybe it was the 20 million people covered under Obamacare…many with health care for the first time. Was it the federal deficit that has been slashed by 2/3 compared to Bush’s last budget. Maybe it was the current passable growth rate, rising incomes (for the first time in years), or record low mortgage rates. Maybe he was referring to the near $2.00 per gallon gas.

          There is so much to choose from that I just didn’t want to presume which of the nation’s economic interests Mr. Swede wanted to discuss. I am always happy to have an intellectual discussion about economics. All Mr. Swede need to do is actually bring his intellect!

        • Ah Lucy,

          I believe no one responded to Mr. Swede because he didn’t say anything substantive. What particularly was the economic interest he was asking about? Was it the record high stock market? Or perhaps the sub 5% unemployment. Maybe it was the 20 million people covered under Obamacare…many with health care for the first time. Was it the federal deficit that has been slashed by 2/3 compared to Bush’s last budget. Maybe it was the current passable growth rate, rising incomes (for the first time in years), or record low mortgage rates. Maybe he was referring to the near $2.00 per gallon gas.

          There is so much to choose from that I just didn’t want to presume which of the nation’s economic interests Mr. Swede wanted to discuss. I am always happy to have an intellectual discussion about economics. All Mr. Swede need to do is actually bring his intellect!

  7. Facts, schmacts, we have Trump for a President now and next year Big Swede and all his buddies are gonna get a $20/hr raise and income tax will be eliminated and there’s gonna be a great big wall and all thee brown people are going back where they came from. Or maybe the Donald will just enrich himself and his buddies and screw Big Swede out of what little safety net Democrats had managed to keep alive…I know which one I’ll bet on.

  8. Funny how the libs continually bash Racicot, Thomas and the Rep’s on deregulation. Anybody with any integrity knows that the only party responsible for MPC selling is MPC’s board of Directors! They alone are the ones making that decision. The law did not change so they could sell, they could have anyway.

    • Please educate yourself to the entire TouchAmerica debacle before you make yourself look more foolish.

      • Like what? What would we learn, MPC decided to sell, law was not changed allowing them to sell or not sell? MPC could still own everything they sold! Maybe you should take your own advise!

        • Montana Power: Killing the Big Sky’s Golden Goose

          by Jackie Corr


          “In modern Montana history, there is one defining moment,
          and that defining moment is deregulation.”

          Cal Sweet, founder of Kalispell Electric.
          February 18, 2001

          Before deregulation, Montana Power had 2,700 employees or so dedicated to reliable service, produced double or more power then it could use and had the fifth or sixth lowest consumer rates in the nation. The very dependable power company was also the most popular investment for Big Sky residents – union members, ranchers, farmers, Montana Power employees, small businesses and little investors – all of whom, for generations, had considered it a safe, low-risk, “widows-and-orphans” investment. And over the final five years before deregulation, January, 1994 through December 1998, the company stock returned 200 percent – more then any other investor-owned electric utility in the country. Total Montana Power shareholder return for 1999 was 30%.

          Indeed, the old Montana Power Company was part and parcel of the fabric of the state. Montana Power was also the state’s only Fortune 500 company and the one Montana listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As well as being both a very safe and non-speculative investment for ordinary people and a long time link with a Montana tradition as well as the past, it also had a legal duty to serve the state and its residents. Additionally, the people of the state, through the Public Service Commission and the legislature had a working check and balances system on energy costs and availability..

          Then came the iron fist of ideological greed of the 1990’s in the form of market solutions, privatization and deregulation. In Montana this meant Robert Gannon, Marc Racicot and what was called the Electrical Industry Restructuring & Consumer Choice Act, in other words, deregulation.

          Bob Gannon, was the new Montana Power CEO. Along with his wife Barbara, the Gannons were greed and yuppieism personified,

          The deeply corrupt Marc Racicot, Gannon’s spiritual brother, assumed the Montana governor’s office in 1993. And anybody in Montana that paid the slightest attention knew where to find Marc when a corporate interest and the public interest collided.

          Aside from Gannon, deregulation was the governor’s baby. No one else in state government pushed it harder then Racicot and he signed the bill, then opposed even discussing the issue two years later in a special session when it was clear where Montana Power was going. And when Democratic legislator David Ewer (currently Gov. Brian Schweitzer,s budget director) tried not once, but twice, to convene a special session of the Legislature to stop the sale of Montana’s precious energy assets, Racicot led the Republican charge and crushed both attempts.

          The deregulation law was passed in 1997. It was all down hill from there.

          What was lost

          In 1998, the revenues of the Montana Power Company totaled $1.25 billion. Four years later, the 2002 revenues of the stand-alone Touch America Company were estimated to be $3 million dollars or less. In other words, in just four short years of deregulation, TA receipts sunk to less then one percent of what the old Montana Power company took in.
          Which should have came as no surprise. In 1999, despite the hype, TA contributed a mere 14% to Montana’s Powers net income.

          As for the deregulation law, to judge its contents by even the lowest standard, one could well wonder if the idea originated in a mad scheme for blowing the old power company, the state’s largest private employer, into smithereens.

          In a crackpot deregulation scenario, the Montana Power management was able to change the company from a nearly century old electric and natural gas utility to a snake oil telecommunications fly-by-night by selling off all of the state’s energy assets and shifting the returns from those asset sales to the same bogus fly-by-night. From there, they continued operating what was called a “stand alone telecommunications company” for a couple of years before it ran out of money. Montana Power was no more, the shareholders were ruined, the state had lost its energy independence and many had lost jobs as well as futures. And for what?

          What makes this even wackier was there was no logic to justify deregulation, no pressure from the public for deregulation and there was no regulatory problem to fix. But what there was, were Governor Racicot, CEO Gannon, and 18 Montana Power lobbyists working full-time cracking whips in the state capitol in Helena during the 1997 legislative session.

          Let me take this opportunity to point out that your Board of Directors
          is committed to the separation of Touch America, Inc.into a stand
          alone company.

          Not voting or voting against these proposals will not change our
          strategy of maximizing shareholder value through the separation
          of Touch America, Inc. from the utility.

          Our future is in telecommunications.
          Robert Gannon: Message to Montana Power Shareholders
          March 27, 2000

          Translation : “In other words shareholders, we don’t care what you think or how you vote.”

          And there you have it, Bob Gannon in spades, giving notice of the upcoming June 9, 2000 Montana Power shareholders meeting in Butte’s Mother Lode theater.

          All in all, it is the Touch America story condensed, found in the above message delivered by an intoxicated Gannon to the shareholders. But Gannon’s delusions were not those of alcohol. This was the euphoria of greed and the righteousness
          that accompanies it.

          Montana Power stock had just reached its all time high, $65.75 (March 29, 2000). The stock’s value had nearly doubled since December and Gannon and crew were dancing on their desks.

          Another reason to celebrate was in that same month (March 10, 2000), the “new economy” Nasdaq peaked at 5048, more than double its value just a year before. As giddy as Gannon, the Nasdaq’s biggest booster, Goldman Sach’s banker Abby Joseph Cohen (March 22, 2000) sent out an “urgent” advisory stating that the Nasdaq was “still undervalued and recommended that investors aggressively purchase high technology stocks.

          But come a few days and it is April. The Nasdaq roller coaster ride suddenly turns around and is now screaming down the tracks. And it is going to be a long ride.

          On April 3, the Nasdaq fell 349 points, or 7.6 percent of its market value, the largest one-day point fall in its 21-year history. The next day it beat that record, dropping another 575 points, or 14 percent.

          In just two days of April 2000, $1.7 trillion dollars had been erased from the Nasdaq. Within a year, the Nasdaq would be down 62 percent or roughly 4 trillion dollars, falling below 2,000 on March 9, 2001.

          In other words things were happening fast.

          And I well remember the nuttiness of those days. Like the January 2000 Super Bowl featuring seventeen information age, new economy hot spots like Netpliance that have since departed the world, gone the way of Touch America. These high rollers each paid over $2 million for a 30-second spot .

          And then there were the preachers of the boom, Turn on your television and you would be told that Internet traffic would double every hundred days for the next ten or twenty years. Turn on your television again and there would be the Goldman girl, Abby Joseph Cohen, the media’s designated prophetess of riches, telling one and all of the millions and billions to be made

          Then there was Bob Gannon himself predicting TA will be in the top five U. S. fiber networks yet there was no reason nor any evidence that the company ever made the top 50. Not to be outdone, Marc Racicot was planning a now forgotten future publication centering on his Montana legacy as governor. Deregulation was to be the frosting on the cake of the Racicot era.

          At the 2000 shareholders meeting in June, Gannon said, with a straight face, that the Touch America bandwidth strategy was so thought out that demand would at least triple every year for many years. He said this despite the fact that wholesale bandwidth providers, due to overcapacity and competition, were already dropping out of business.

          And we can’t forget the market hype. A cinch one hundred dollars a share is what they were saying, and by Labor Day, or at least Christmas, Montana Power stock would hit $150 was the word from the wise men.

          So “get in on the killing while you still can” is what they were whispering in uptown Butte, Of course, and nobody could have possibly known, it would be all downhill and fast from the March day in 2000 when Gannon sent his message to the shareholders. But the Touch America ship, made of nothing but cardboard and paper stock certificates, was already sinking.

          And the first, and best, clue was there, always in front of you. It was Gannon himself.

          If you started listening and reading carefully, with your own eyes and ears, you began hearing the same thing over and over. For Gannon would walk into a room or a forum or a conference, always followed by well dressed corporate altar boys. From a podium, he would address eager eyed and open mouthed people like he was St. John the Evangelist and start chanting about the new economy and the coming harvest. Not to be specific but the message would be something like this : “Complete attention of the management team is needed to aggressively grow the stock and Touch America’s national fiber-optic and wireless network so opportunities must now be acted upon with urgency. And without separation (from Montana Power) , the whole will be less than the sum of the parts.”

          So, with that said or something like that said, (and all of it was nothing everytime he said it), and without a blink of an eye, an arrogant loudmouth named Robert Gannon and chums, backed at every step by Marc Racicot, were allowed to sell off the Montana Power’s extensive electric generation and natural gas holdings under the new deregulation law. And these were Montana assets which had been built up for nearly a century. To add to the debacle, utility stocks listed in the Dow Jones Industry Index for the year 2000 were up for the year over 53%

          For Racicot and Gannon It adds up to a complete con job.

          Three years later, almost to the hour, the Butte stock was valued at 50 cents or so and it was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange . As for the Nasdaq, it was a 30 month drop from 5048 to 1114 in October, 2002 when it finally bottomed out, The plunge erased 78% of the exchange’s value and $7 trillion dollars had been lost.

          For myself, I was spared much of this, my skepticism reinforced by my familiarity with the Butte hill. Butte’s real past reinforced a different viewpoint, a way at looking at what was going on. And my first monthly column for Butte’s Rountown Review appeared in January,1997, a few months before the deregulation law.

          Along with Touch America and Montana Power, a number of those past articles focused on the historical relationship of Montana with Wall Street. And the lesson to be learned, the iron rule of Montana history is that what is good for Wall Street is bad for Montana.

          Oh, there was the great turn-of -the-century copper stock mania promoted by Wall Street’s National City Bank’s takeover of much of the Butte hill with the creation of the Almagamated Copper Company in 1898. This was described in the first Wall Street expose and best seller, Thomas Lawson’s Frenzied Finance (1903). Like today, the National City Mob planted story after story in the New York daily papers which spread the buy Amalgamated frenzy across the country. Every day the papers said America and the world were to be electrified so get in while you can. Of course, this sent the copper craze to fever pitch on Wall Street and the gullible sheep were ready for a shearing courtesy of the bankers. “Coppers, ” shall we say, were the stock of 1899.

          Then there were the 1920’s and the Anaconda Copper/National City Bank stock swindles ran by the Wall Street bankers including “Sunshine” Charlie Mitchell, Percy Rockerfeller and Butte’s John D. Ryan. A 1933 Senate banking comittee called these operations the greatest frauds in American banking history and a leading cause of the 1930’s depression.

          Among the details grudgingly given by Mitchell to the comittee was the single most sensational Wall Street “sting” of the “Roaring Twenties.” First, Mitchell, Rockerfeller and Ryan set up a “joint account” of nearly a million and a half shares of Anaconda Copper Company stock.

          The stock was then repackaged and aggressively advertised and sold through the National City affiliate and its salesmen. At all times the “joint account” was being manipulated by Mitchell and Ryan who ran the stock up, from $40 in December, 1928 to $128 in March of 1929. The trio then dumped the stock, which plunged and the investors were wiped out, The results are still considered one of the great fleecings in Wall Street history. The hearings concluded that this single Anaconda Copper/National City operation cost the public at the very least, $150 million.

          I might add that this same crew, Mitchell, Rockerfeller, Ryan, along with James Stillman did the same thing with what became an Amalgamated Copper/National City property in 1903, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul Railroad. With the railroad looted, the investors wiped out completely, the gang jumped ship, leaving the public to sort it out. The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul bankruptcy, filed in Butte in 1925, was the largest in American history at the time of filing.

          And what did we learn from our Montana past. Unfortunately nothing. Come the 1990’s and we were still the same gullible sheep being herded by the same Wall Street con artists working for Goldman Sachs.

          As for Touch America there remains still another tale to tell.

          Again we return to March 2000, to be exact March 19, when Denver’s Qwest Communications International, led by a new economy poster boy, CEO Joseph Nacchio, announced the sale of 250,000 long-distance customers in 14 states to Touch America. The price: $206 million The company further claimed that the good hearts at Quest had chosen Touch America over 40 other eager buyers.

          Fast forward to last year, Dec. 20, 2005, and we find former Qwest CEO Nacchio indicted by a federal grand jury on 42 counts of insider trading. Nacchio, who is free on a $2-million bond, pleaded not guilty and said he welcomed the opportunity to clear his name.

          And there is more. The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Nacchio and other former Qwest executives in civil court in March, 2005, claiming they concocted a $3-billion fraud on shareholders and others by overstating Qwest’s financial picture from April 1999 to March 2002.

          Which is an interesting time period for Touch America followers. And another story for another day from Brave New Montana.

          JACKIE CORR lives in Butte. He can be reached at

          • Thanks for passing that on, Furt.
            MPC TA was a johnny come lately to a bubble that was going to burst….no different from the railroad booms or any other boom based on a new way of doing things.
            If there’s anyone to blame for Fred Thomas, that’s Ravalli.

            • No matter how much material you post does not change the fact that MPC’s board of directors is the group who decided to sell their assets and invest all in Touch America. State law was not changed to allow or disallow their decision. If anything is to blame causing them to make this decision, it was the regulatory environment in Montana. To try to lay blame on a legislator is simply dishonestly ignorant to the core!

              • “For those of you who do not know the history, the Montana Power company was the quasi-private, regulated power company for almost all of Montana, for close to a century. Montana Power owned all the dams and power plants and it was as blue chip a company as could be–stable and reliable. The company and its workers were integral parts of every community in the state.

                But one day the CEO of Montana Power, Bob Gannon, decided that he wanted more growth, more profits. So he and his lobbyists persuaded the Governor, Marc Racicot, and the Republicans in the legislature (and a small number of democrats too) to “deregulate” the energy business in Montana. Fred Thomas led the effort. “Deregulation” meant that the company could sell off its energy generation equipment and go into other ventures, no matter how speculative. The public, meanwhile, would be left to buy power wherever it could, on the open market.

                The deregulation vote was taken in the closing hours of the 1997 session, almost in the dark of night, and was quickly signed by the Governor. Right away, the CEO Gannon began unloading the company’s assets. This was during the boom, and what the public would soon learn is that the whole scam of deregulation was designed to allow the honchos at Montana Power to try their luck in the tech sector.”

                ” To try to lay blame on a legislator is simply dishonestly ignorant to the core!”

                And what does that make someone who denies that Deregulation allowed the sale of those assets?

                • Sorry Mr Frank n Beans, you really are full of beans! I hope you have a clue, but right now Northwestern could sell all their assets and investment outside the regulated utility world just like MPC did. MDU could do the same thing! I understand that you think for political reasons that even partial deregulation equates to the ability to sell, but you are simply wrong, ignorant or simply unwilling to be truethful!

                  • You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Yet you have only offered that, worthless as it is and some ham handed insults. Good for you.

                    Have a great Turkey day.

  9. We were sold a bill of good for sure on de-regulation. When I heard the spiel, about how it would open up competition and drive down rates I thought it was a good free-market idea too, until I stopped and thought about it, and realized that there was only one power line going down the alley.

    It wasn’t just a GOP, or Racicot thing, everybody was duped, and some got very rich from it.

    Have you ever heard the name Bob Rowe? He’s been the CEO of PP&L for several years now, probably given that job as payback for his vote on the PSC to approve de-regulation. It could not happen unless the PSC approved it, and the Dems ran the PSA 4-1. Not that it mattered, because Gary Feland voted with the Dems anyway. This is VERY old news.

    • As I can best recall , Marc Racicot was pretty much in the middle politically . Montana was not as extreme right as it is now . The Montana Power debacle was a disaster and many people lost money . As Gov. he supported the unions and did not give in to a legislature that tried to make Montana a right to work state.

  10. Montana is a pretty tolerant place, I have thought that since the seventies, our Legislature seems to have some responsible republicans or we would not be calling gays the equal of sheep wranglers. It was a prominent Republican who along with Bulloch introduced the bill to decriminalise sex that Mormons might find offensive. We got a Medicade program that seemed pretty affordable and as long as the Ravalli County gang was kept busy dealing with terrorist animal shelters they never noticed the effort to slip an infrastructure bill past them. But why let them loonies run the show?

    • Old Line Democratq | November 25, 2016 8:50 PM at 8:50 PM |

      You must not be paying attention. While some
      Positive stuff got passed, it was not without a fight especially inside the republican side. They have been vowing to get rid of the traitors but have not met with too much success the ultra rights have lost a few seats to reasonable folks and to litigation like Wittich but there are plenty left. We absolutely need the veto pen and the minority to keep it from being overridden. Sad to say that the poorer budget outlook might force some compromise but with 1000+ bills already requested the craziness will be there in force especially with the Trump victory. Some of them actually believe Trump and they are divinely inspired. Amazing what people will do when they believe the voice in their head is God Almighty.

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