Here’s a fun game: try to name the most prominent policy idea of the 2016 Montana governor’s race. Republican Greg Gianforte wants to improve the economy by—wait for it—lowering taxes and lifting regulations. Governor Steve Bullock wants to continue being governor. If ideas were glue, these two couldn’t build a model plane. But it doesn’t matter, because they’d gouge each other’s eyes out before they got all the parts out of the box. Their almost purely negative campaign got even darker last week, when NewsTalk KGVO ran this story, ostensibly about Bullock’s use of the state plane but also about how he uses it to take trips with cabinet member Meg O’Leary.
Rumors that there is something untoward about their relationship have circulated on conservative blogs for some time. Until last week, you never heard about it in the mainstream press, probably because there’s no evidence. But then KGVO ran the headline “Governor Bullock Brought Meg O’Leary to Paul McCartney Concert Instead of First Lady, State Plane Use Questioned.”
As usual when a headline uses the passive verb “questioned,” they omitted the phrase “by us.” A subsequent story in the more scrupulous Billings Gazette contradicted several of KGVO’s implications. It seems like the original piece was pretty thinly sourced. It didn’t say much that hadn’t already been said—also without substantiation—in various right-leaning blogs. So why run it now?
Maybe it had something to do with the news that Oracle was moving 100 jobs from Bozeman to Texas. Gianforte sold his software company RightNow Technologies to Oracle in 2011. His success in creating high-wage jobs has been a major selling point of his campaign, but this layoff undermines that. Is it possible KGVO ran the O’Leary story to overshadow the layoffs? Although Gianforte’s communications director, Aaron Flint, has a friendly relationship with KGVO, it would be irresponsible to say he nudged them. I mean, what are we—KGVO?
You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, in which I challenge the candidates to come up with some idea—any idea—related to policy. The voters of Montana deserve something better than a choice between negatives. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links, hopefully including a fun surprise.