Josh Manning is a combat veteran and serves on the leadership team of Common Defense, a group of progressive veterans who want to affect political change. You can follow him on Twitter @joshuamanning23
It is becoming more and more difficult not to laugh when Republicans talk. Take for example Greg Gianforte telling a Montana-native CNN reporter that he cannot be “bought.” See, you laughed. I bet even “moderates” laughed at his ridiculous statement.
Gianforte suggests in his assemblage of words that because of the largesse of his bank account no special interests could influence him. This is especially important in the aisles of Congress where there is a daily onslaught from lobbyists who want you to move their way even if it will not help your constituents back home. There is no doubt Gianforte has a lot of money, which he made selling a software company that made it easier to outsource jobs to companies outside the U.S. Wait, what? He was “bought” out? Oh, and the money went to him and him alone? Sure, Steve Daines made a few bucks too then he bought his Congressional and Senate seat with it. Eerily familiar, Daines did not campaign or talk a lot during his runs. He just let the brand sell itself then did his damage once inside the system. (Senator Daines will make an appearance again in a bit.)
After Gianforte got his 600-year retirement fund with the company’s sale, he started spending money in Montana. He bought himself a bunch of Republican legislators for the 2015 session then they took up important positions in committees meant to stop key bills in that session. Those legislators also needed to pass ALEC-sponsored corporate bills to keep their patrons happy. It did not work out that way, thanks to some smart maneuvering by the majority of sane Democrats and Republicans.
Gianforte’s comment about not being “bought” harkened me back to some research about the 2015 session, specifically regarding the major funders for those Republicans intended to form the barrier against progress. Gianforte and his wife, though obviously really the man-of-the-house, spent $12,410 that session for their (his) favored candidates. Also giving money to most of the exact same candidates were the Wilks family from Texas. They gave $16,320 to the same people (and a few more). It is immeasurably interesting they all gave to the same people because the Wilks family, who made tens of billions selling their fracking enterprise, have an interest in owning massive amounts of prime Montana property for private use. Hm. Sound familiar? Know anyone else who made money selling a company that wanted to cut-off access to their property?
Interesting to me, the Wilks family did not send any campaign financing to individual Montana legislative candidates for the 2016 cycle. The 2016 cycle based in part on “public lands in public hands.” Gianforte gave here and there but it was not at 2014 levels. He was obviously busy spending a ton of money to lose a gubernatorial race (by four points in a Republican turn-out election, still makes me smile). But the Wilks? All quiet. Digging around you can learn they gave $10,800 to Senator Daines in a way off-year election and $14,200 to the Montana Republican Party (not the Texas Republican party), which of course both entities then spread around to other Montana candidates with a wink and a nod. There are probably ten other dark money groups that received funding from the Wilks’ privatization interests in addition to other shadowy oligarchs around Montana and the country.
Gianforte may be right, he cannot be bought. But that is because out-of-state monied interests who share his willingness to buy up as much land as they can and keep unwanted students out of their private schools have bought him. Monied interests may not be able to buy Gianforte because he is one of them. He is a buyer. He bought a legislative session and still owns many in this one as well. If he goes to Congress then he will do his best, along with the like-minded oligarchs surrounding Team Trump, to buy representatives then his way into the Senate. Special interests do not have to buy him—he is one of them.
So if you intend to put a check next to his name in late May think about that. Think about all the special interests putting their hopes and desires behind one of them. Gianforte lost by four points in a GOP turnout election, let’s see what happens when he runs in a Resistance turnout election like what we saw in Kansas on Tuesday. Montanans can him send back to his private hideout for eternity.