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This video is making the rounds, and it’s a must-watch for those of us who follow Montana politics. Congressman Dennis Rehberg (I see the Tester campaign is now calling him, accurately, Lobbyist Dennis Rehberg) responds to a question from some kid with a Sony by flipping the bird.
Although unsurprising, this is a pretty remarkable reaction from Rehberg for two reasons.
One, Rehberg’s floundering campaign is trying very hard to reinvent Dennis Rehberg as some sort of likable, cool-headed cowboy—which is a herculean challenge when all you have to work with is an angry, lazy land subdivider who loves booze and wants to return to the lobbying business.
Rehberg’s handlers know we Montanans see their boss as “that guy who sues firefighters” and puts his staffers on speedboats with drunk drivers. That attempted nice-guy makeover? It just went out the window with one raised middle finger. Dennis Rehberg just can’t keep his cool.
Two, Rehberg’s bird is a setback in his lifelong pursuit of winning a seat in the Senate. Sure, in the U.S. House of Representatives, maybe it’s just fine to flip off kids and pregnant constituents (Yes, Rehberg made headlines for lewdly offending a pregnant Montanan) and fall off horses drunk and sue firefighters. But senators are supposed to be statesmen and women. Rehberg’s default mode is more than just a loose cannon. It’s just not becoming of the Upper House of Congress.
As a lobbyist, however, he’ll probably do just fine.
Last year, the Flathead Memo caught Congressman Rehberg walking unashamedly behind a fire truck in Kalispell’s 2011 Independence Day parade. The gesture was somewhat hollow because, at the same time, he was suing the Billings firefighters who risked their lives to save his scrub brush last year. Rehberg decided to drop the lawsuit only when he realized it was tanking his campaign.
Since that time, things have only gone downhill. This year, the Flathead GOP has simply taped a picture of Rehberg directly to the firetruck.
Dems continue to pound Rehberg for his lawsuit against Billings firefighters this week, but that’s not the only controversy the lawsuit has raised. Some Democrats are upset that Attorney General candidate Jesse Laslovich has found an unusual source for his campaign treasurer and financial support in Cliff and John Edwards. The pair are, respectively, the Rehberg’s lawyer and his son. Both work at the Edwards firm, which represent the Rehbergs. Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D-House District 42) posted on her Facebook page this week:
I just learned some disturbing news. The law firm that is representing Rehberg in his lawsuit agains the Billings Fire department are supporters and donors of the Jesse Laslovich campaign for A.G. One of the lawyers is even his campaign treasurer. What is Laslovich thinking! This is ridiculous.
The latest political scandal in the Flathead keeps getting bigger. James Conner of the Flathead Memo and former State Representative Mike Jopek have some harsh words for the Flathead County Commission today. Here’s a sneak preview. The entire post is not to be missed:
Once only landowners did have the vote — and those landowners had to be white men. There are those who think that’s how things should be today.
USA Today reported that firefighters became a major factor in the race after Conrad Burns
cursed a Virginia-based hotshot crew he encountered in the Billings airport, accusing them of being lazy and overpaid. Burns apologized, but the incident led Tester supporters to form a “Firefighters for Tester” group who wore distinctive yellow T-shirts and packed six Senate debates.
Montana State Fireman’s Association President Ed Cleary noted that Tester is Montana’s only 2012 Senate candidate who supported the James Zagroda 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a measure that provides much-needed health care to the heroes who responded to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Montana State Firemen’s Association is an independent organization that represents more than 600 firefighters across the state. It has a reputation in electoral circles for the might of its grassroots volunteers.
The most recent example of Rehberg’s behavior can be found in today’s Missoulian, which reports that Rep. Denny Rehberg [is] one of 38 co-sponsors of the Government Litigation Savings Act that’s intended to reform the Equal Access to Justice Act, which says any government agency that loses a lawsuit to a private individual, group or business must pay the legal costs of the winner.
But for such a practiced practitioner of political games, Rehberg has violated the cardinal rule of Congressional crisis management: If you don’t have anything to hide, don’t behave like you do. By signing on to this bill, and pushing it in the press at every opportunity, Rehberg appears overeager– and that is causing his strategy to backfire. His focus on cracking down on lawsuits against the government is only serving to recall in voters’ minds Rehberg’s own lawsuit against Billings’ city firefighters.
Facing the biggest election of his life, the only real challenge since the first time he ran for Congress, lagging poll numbers, and a race in the national spotlight that is already being talked about as one of the top three in the nation, Rehberg is giving us all a giant snow job.
Rehberg is claiming that he suddenly went from being a mega millionaire to being just like the rest of us because of fire damage to his scrub brush. The scrub brush was burned nearly two years ago. Go up on the rims and check it out. It’s as green now as Ireland. But here’s where it gets really rich.
Here’s the problem, the only corporation filing for fire damages in the lawsuit is Rehberg Ranch, LLC – that’s a different company than Rehberg Ranch, Land, & Livestock LLC.
On his 2009 report, Rehberg specifically noted that Rehberg Ranch LLC was being reappraised for fire damage – but he did not say anything about Rehberg Ranch Land & Livestock. So if the drop in value (by millions and millions) at Rehberg Ranch Land & Livestock wasn’t because of the fire, um…where did all the value go?
Rehberg’s been working hard to keep this out of the press. He even filed his reports a day late to miss getting covered in the annual news stories about the income reports, which were due Wednesday. Only Roll Call went back and got the Rehberg report. Word on the street is that he’ll be filing an amended report soon, and it will be interesting to see how Rehberg tries to further obfuscate and attempt to spin the situation away from inevitable disaster for his campaign.
Watch for more to come out on this one. All eyes are on this race, and this story isn’t going away.
Rehberg’s latest bill is supposed to cut back on ‘frivolous lawsuits’ on the taxpayer dime. But did he really mean our dimes or just his? If he was truly worried about the taxpayers, he must surely have intended to include in his bill Montana’s most famous frivolous lawsuit on our dime – the one Congressman Rehberg filed against Billings firefighters who risked their lives to save his scrub brush last year.
After all, Rehberg writes in a press release:
“No one wants to restrict access to the courts,” said Rehberg. “But let’s use some common sense and stop asking the taxpayer to fund the very lawsuits that are destroying their jobs and livelihoods.”
However, it appears Representative Rehberg’s lawsuit against Billings firefighters impacts not only your dimes (you’ll have less of them) but also your job and livelihood negatively–with decreased safety and increased taxes because of insurance costs, says East Helena Fire Chief Bill Wegner.
The only dimes Rehberg is worried about are his own.