Greg Gianforte

Greg Gianforte speaks during his campaign for at the Red Lion Hotel on Friday, April 21.

BRONTE WITTPENN, Gazette staff

It is a shame that people have lost their faith in the government because government is the only thing that can solve many of the problems that are plaguing our nation.

As we look across the political spectrum today, we see that not only are the wealthy buying the votes and legislation of the members of Congress, but that in some cases they are outright buying the seat for themselves.

In mid-2015, former president Jimmy Carter offered a dark assessment of our current political climate. He called the country “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” and one in which we see “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect an sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

This is nothing new to the people of Montana. A well-forgotten robber, William Clark, a copper czar in Montana, pulled off a scheme in 1889 to buy a seat in the U.S. Senate. When the state legislature would not elect him to the Senate in 1889, Clark all but bought the state legislature through a list of bribes. The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections quickly unraveled his corruption and removed him from the U.S. Senate.

Over a hundred years later, Greg Gianforte is trying to cook up a similar scheme. But Montana has a message for Gianforte: your money’s no good here. 

In an attempt to win the governorship, Gianforte ran a media-only campaign - buying ads rather than facing the people he hoped to represent. He threw an astounding $6 million into the race. In Montana, that is no small sum.

With his spectacular failure to purchase the governorship, Gianforte is now focusing his attention on the special election to replace U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke. But Montanans crave authenticity in their elected officials and have a deep history of fighting big-money politics.

Unfortunately, our current system of “democracy” all too often tips the scales in favor of corporations and the wealthy. Wealthy special interests play a dominant role in decisions that affect cities, states and the nation since politicians are forced to fundraise from big donors to raise the money needed to win office. That tends to result in making life easier for people like me, all while too many people in this country are struggling, without a voice.

That’s not right and that’s likely not what will fix the many issues unique to Montana. The people of Montana have deep concerns around health care, Medicare and public lands. As we saw with the recent partisan spectacle that was the Affordable Health Care Act, these problems are not getting any new solutions at the federal level anytime soon.

And buying the seat with his own personal money does not mean that Gianforte has real solutions that the people want.

Mary Stranahan practiced medicine on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes reservation for 20 years as a general practitioner. After retiring she has spent time creating a team of people who have worked to invest in triple-bottom-line investments in Montana and donate to rural economic development, local food system work, leadership development and environmental work around the Crown of the Continent and the intersection between people and critical habitat. The two entities are Good Works Ventures, the investment arm, and High Stakes Foundation, the donation vehicle.

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