They promise easy access. They claim to be men of the people. They tell us that our voices matter as much as anyone’s. But in reality, you’ve got to pony up some dough to bend the ear of Max Baucus or Mike Taylor.

In the grand tradition of political prior restraints, the Indy received a resounding dis trying to report on both Baucus’ and Taylor’s fundraisers. Early on, both campaigns played at being helpful—“Sure, we’ll set something up,” “Oh no, I didn’t forget about you,” “I was just about to call you”—but in the end neither was.

The night a poll showing Taylor way behind in the race was released, an Indy reporter showed up at a Taylor fundraiser to which he had been invited. After presenting host Bill Holt with an authentic invitation, he was told he wasn’t welcome at the Western Pitchfork Fondue Dinner (mixed metaphor anyone?).

“I see that you have an invitation but I don’t know where you got it and I don’t care,” said Holt. “There’s to be no press, no cameras, I don’t care who you’re with, the TV or Missoulian or any of them.”

After Taylor’s campaign apologized profusely for the mix up (we’d secured the invite from Holt’s wife, not Holt—oops!), they promised to get the Indy into another event. Sadly, Taylor dropped out a week later and there would be no more fundraisers (even after he undropped out).

Baucus also wouldn’t play ball, but the Indy showed up to a Missoula event anyway. There was some haggling, and a reporter managed to get in on the condition that no quotes, notes, names or tape recorders could be used. Under the agreement, this is all our reporter is supposed to report: “There were mimosas at the event, but the senator just had ice water.”

The justification both Holt and the Baucus camp gave us was: “We don’t want donors to feel uncomfortable.” Huh? If giving to a political candidate makes a person feel uncomfortable, maybe they shouldn’t give. Besides, unless they’re simply allowing candidates to dig the change out of their couch, their name is probably going to show up on a campaign finance report. To find out who was eating all that fondue and downing those mimosas, log onto: www.opensecrets.org,

herndon1.sdrdc.com/cgi-bin/can_detail/S2MT00054/ (Taylor’s donors), herndon1.sdrdc.com/cgi-bin/can_detail/S8MT00010/ (Baucus’ donors).

•••

Secretary of State Bob Brown (R) put a lump in the throat of all red-blooded Montanans when, in a recent press release, he compared the act of voting to the heroism displayed by passengers on the infamous Flight 93. “They voted to storm their attackers and try to take back their plane,” wrote Brown. “Some believe the hijackers were headed for the White House when the passengers stymied their plan.”

Brown used this compelling story as a parable for the importance of voting. No doubt, voter apathy is appalling. But what is Brown really trying to tell Montanans? Passengers equal voters. Plane equals democracy. And hijackers equal…those now in power…those in Brown’s own party? Good God, he’s right, it’s time to storm the cockpit.

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