Elk Poaching Case Takes Some Strange Turns

By Beacon Staff

What began as a poaching allegation against Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg’s staffer Randy Vogel has turned into something far weirder. I will try to simplify what I’ve read in news reports and press releases.

News surfaces that Vogel was charged with poaching a young bull elk in Madison County a day after being named Reberg’s state director.

• Rehberg’s Democratic opponent, Dennis McDonald, sends out an e-mail questioning whether the congressman knew about the allegation before hiring Vogel. “I find it hard to believe that Rehberg didn’t know about the incident. Randy and Rehberg have been drinking buddies for 15 years.” He adds, “If Rehberg really didn’t know about the incident, then what else doesn’t he know before hiring a high-ranking official?”

• In denying the poaching charge, Vogel says the timing of the citation is highly “suspicious” and tells the Associated Press that McDonald was recorded talking about the investigation at an event in Yellowstone County before it was made public. “I don’t believe in coincidences like that in politics. It just doesn’t happen.”

• McDonald tells the AP that he was just repeating rumors he had heard from other ranchers and says any allegations that he was given any information inappropriately are “absurd.” “That’s just the Rehberg spin machine at work.”

• Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials say politics did not play a role. in the poaching charges

• Montana Republican Party Executive Director Bowen Greenwood accuses McDonald of embellishing information for political gain and flip-flopping on defamation. “McDonald, apparently playing the role of both judge and jury, referred to Randy Vogel as ‘a poacher.’ Yet in 1975, as Jimmy ‘The Weasel’ Fratianno’s personal attorney, McDonald sued Penthouse magazine for libel for publishing a story that labeled his client as an ‘infamous hit man.'”