If you’re like me, you instantly “tune out” when you hear political ads. They’re often based on outlandish claims and unfair attacks. How does one begin to make sense of it? Luckily, one thing that we can be certain of is where politicians get their money. OpenSecrets.org is an invaluable non-partisan tool to help us regular citizens understand whose cash competes with our votes.
After pulling the numbers for the Senate race between Jon Tester and Matt Rosendale, I was shocked. Rosendale’s top donor is the Club for Growth; Tester’s is The League of Conservation Voters. I can’t think of any more stark contrast that cuts to the core of our common identity as Montanans.
The Club for Growth embodies a radical view of unlimited free market capitalism that would see every inch of this country paved, every acre explored, and every natural asset monetized if it meant higher quarterly profits for a few corporate shareholders who live outside of Montana. Their short-sighted vision can barely see past the horizon of the next fiscal year. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Club for (unrestricted) Growth is supporting Rosendale to a tune of $171,272 so far: Rosendale is a real estate developer from Maryland. If it wasn’t troubling enough that the Club for Growth wants to deregulate and privatize every inch of the country, it’s also one of the most vocal advocates for privatizing Social Security, something would put the retirements of nearly 200,000 Montanans at the mercy of stock market downturns.
Tester’s top donor on the other hand is The League of Conservation Voters, which has given him $328,016 so far this cycle. Their mission is simple: they help save the wild places that connect us to the past and the future. I take conservation personally. The League of Conservation Voters advocate for policies that allow me to spend days alone in the wild without seeing another human being. They protect land where I can go hunt and fish with my children, and, just as important, where they will one day recreate with their own children. They protect the places that provide us peace, recreation, and humility. The Club for Growth, by contrast, seeks to remove any hindrances to unfettered development and the monetization of everything we deem sacred. If we let them, they would pave paradise and call it progress.
I don’t want my state looking like a series of bland suburbs and homogenous national chains. If I had wanted Montana to look like Maryland, I would have stayed on the east coast. I simply can’t trust Rosendale to protect what makes Montana the “last best place” if his largest funder puts unregulated growth above all other values. It is much easier for me to trust Tester, whose largest funder is dedicated to Montana staying Montana.
Bjorn Philip Beer is a writer and businessperson in Kalispell.