HELENA – Ron Marlenee, a farmer and rancher who served eight terms as a Republican congressman representing eastern Montana, has died. He was 84.
Marlenee, who lived in Bozeman, died Sunday, according to a notice by Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service and Crematory. A cause of death was not listed.
Marlenee was a farmer and rancher from Scobey before he entered politics. He served in the U.S. House from 1977 to 1993 and was a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.
When the 1990 census eliminated one of Montana’s two House seats, Marlenee lost the new, statewide district in a bruising race against the longtime western-district representative, Democrat Pat Williams.
He became a lobbyist in Washington, representing clients that included Safari Club International, which promotes wildlife conservation and hunter rights worldwide.
Marlenee briefly considered challenging former Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, in the 1996 election, saying at the time, “It depends on whether or not he ‘bleeps’ me off enough to get me involved and run.” He ended up not running.
Marlenee later co-founded an organization called the Western Tradition Partnership with state Rep. John Sinrud of Bozeman. They said they planned to advocate on such issues as forest management, energy development, water issues and Montana’s lack of coal and coal-bed methane development compared to Wyoming.
The group, which later became American Tradition Partnership, played an influential role in Montana elections between 2008 and 2012. It sent voters attack fliers against moderate candidates in legislative races and filed legal challenges to a slew of Montana campaign laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court nullified Montana’s century-old law that limited corporate election spending after American Tradition Partnership argued the state law goes against the court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.
Later, a state election regulator found the group had illegally coordinated and provided illegal contributions to Montana Republican candidates in elections.
Marlenee was Montana’s longest-serving Republican congressman. He previously donated his congressional papers to Montana State University.
Funeral services are pending, according to the funeral home.
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