$2.3 million later, Tester reverses on fiduciary rule

Sen. Jon Tester before the tragic events of Operation Mayhem

Sen. Jon Tester before the tragic events of Operation Mayhem

Back in 2010, Montana’s Senator Jon Tester voted in favor of the Dodd-Frank Act and its authorization of the federal government to create a fiduciary rule. The fiduciary rule is dry, but it’s important. Generally understand as a response to financial advisors’ tendency, before the 2008 crisis, to push clients toward investments that paid high commissions rather than ones that suited their needs, the fiduciary rule would require advisors to put their clients’ financial success ahead of their own.

That makes sense, especially after you’ve watched subprime mortgage derivatives wreck the world economy. Lawyers are required to prioritize their clients’ interests, and so are clinicians. Maybe that’s why the fiduciary rule is overwhelmingly popular—except, of course, with the financial services industry. It has also recently become unpopular with Sen. Tester, who joined Republicans in attempting to block implementation of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule last month.

In unrelated news, the financial industry has donated $2.3 million to Sen. Tester this year, bringing his career receipts from that sector to $3 million. Maybe he just wanted to give us all an object lesson in how  conflicts fiduciary of interest work. Either he has reaped monetary benefits at the expense of the Montanans whose civic investment he manages, or he knows a really good reason why the fiduciary rule is bad that he should explain to us right away. You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’m going to make scrambled eggs and oatmeal for lunch, because I’m sick, and I demand pastes.

Tester’s correction on timber litigation also turns out to be wrong

Sen. John Tester stands before one of three backdrops available to Montana politicians (flag, snowmobile)

Sen. Jon Tester stands before one of three backdrops available to politicians in Montana (flag, snowmobile.)

Last week, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) told Montana Public Radio that “every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation—every one of them.” He was speaking in support of Secure Rural Schools funding, which provides payments in lieu of taxes to counties that contain large tracts of federal land and depend heavily on logging. Fortunately, Tester was wrong. Only 14 of 97 timber sales in Montana are currently under litigation, and only four of those have stopped logging. Tester’s office issued a correction the next day, saying that “nearly half of awarded timber volume in fiscal year 2014 is currently under litigation.” That also turned out not to be true.

Continue reading