Jerome Anderson, the dean of Montana lobbying, died of natural causes in a Helena hospital at the age of 87 on Sunday. With an amazing biography, Anderson was a World War II pilot and served as Republican House majority leader in the 1960s. The state GOP issued a release calling Anderson a “legend within in the Montana Republican Party.” He spent his later decades as a lobbyist for corporate interests. So now is a good time, if you’ve never read it, to check out John S. Adams’ profile of Anderson from the 2007 Legislature, when Adams was reporting for the Missoula Independent.
While covering the 2007 session I struggled to figure out an interesting and accurate way to convey how lobbyists function in Helena. I stopped and started on several ideas, then Adams came out with this piece and I seethed with envy. Out of any story written about that session, this is the story I wish I had written. It is by no means a fawning profile, but I wouldn’t call it a “hit piece” either. Rather, it manages to paint a fascinating picture of a man who understands the Montana Legislature more deeply than anyone in the building, who manages to avoid getting bogged down in the petty squabbles that so disabled that session. The kind of experience Anderson accrued allowed his to take the long view on issues, as is evident in the article.
Mirroring his genteel appearance, Anderson is the consummate gentleman, polite and a straight shooter. By all accounts he doesn’t raise his voice, doesn’t take anything personally, and is the epitome of professionalism. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in Helena who would tell you otherwise, including most of his professional and political enemies. His institutional knowledge and lawmaking savvy is invaluable, and his experience unmatched in the halls of the Capitol. He’s good at what he does, and he typically works for the biggest clients with the deepest pockets.
It’s impossible to calculate the full effect Anderson has had on the state of Montana, but as Helena’s eldest, most revered—and reviled—lobbyist, his influence is huge. Some observers even say his work has impacted the state more than that of any other single person over the last half century.
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