GOP’s Fork in the Road (updated with statement from Corey Stapleton)


Today our following post appears on Montana Cowgirl as a guest analysis. Update:  Includes statement from Corey Stapleton following post.

GOP Gubernatorial hopeful Corey Stapleton’s latest ad, by highlighting elderly opponent Rick Hill’s various policy failures, accuses him of having “too much baggage” to effectively govern Montana.  The direct “baggage” in question includes supporting a state sales tax, chairing a board that supports Obamacare, and receiving “sweetheart real estate deals”. Among the indirect baggage (displayed in the ad on various pieces of luggage) is Jack Abramoff (Hill received substantial campaign donations from Abramoff, a lobbyist convicted of bilking tens of millions of dollars from Native American tribes), Ponzi Scheme (Hill fell victim to a Ponzi scheme and lost millions), Vietnam (Hill is allegedly a draft dodger) and Worker’s Comp (the program Hill claims to have reformed boasts the highest rates in the nation).   Not only has Rick Hill failed to deny any of these allegations, the Democrats conducted a fact check of the points made in Stapleton’s ad and determined it was factual.  Hill has consistently been absent from primary season’s conservative debates… perhaps to avoid answering tough questions.

What does Stapleton have to lose by “going negative” in this ad?  Unfortunately for Hill, sometimes the truth is negative and when one files to run for political office, ALL past actions are fair fodder. Stapleton was smart to focus on Hill’s various political inadequacies.  If he had instead created an ad to hit Hill personally by further exposing his extramarital affair with a Sip N’ Dip cocktail waitress, or Hill’s ex-wife publicly stating that Hill had abused her emotionally and had criticized her appearance and lack of education,  perhaps such a piece would qualify as an attack ad, and one taken right from Hill’s own playbook.

From High Country News:

“Rick Hill was so far behind in the polls last winter that his two Republican primary opponents said Hill wasn’t even a contender for Montana’s one seat in the House of Representatives. So Hill tried something. He went negative.  He attacked his Republican opponents, who both complained he was being nasty and unfair when he called them tax-and-spend liberals in bad disguises. But the strategy worked. Hill rallied in the final weeks of the campaign and won the primary with 44 percent of the vote, eight points more than his closest opponent.”

Hill’s record is chock-full of relevant accomplishments, there is no need to attack him personally.   For instance,

  • Hill edged out 433 other competitors to win the dubious honor of runner-up in the Worst Boss in Congress contest, which took into consideration that Hill had once thrown a letter opener at an aide and screamed “I don’t eat deli” when a staffer brought him the wrong type of sandwich.
  • Hill’s infamous criticism of childless opponent Nancy Keenan- Keenan had no choice in the matter due to a hysterectomy, an experience she called “devastating”.
  • Hill’s abysmal voting record
  • Hill’s ties to Triad Management, Inc; a shadowy shell group accused of numerous campaign finance law violations. After Hill expressed to Triad a need for a third party to attack opponent Bill Yellowtail for “wife beating”, the management firm funded brutal campaign ad attacks on Yellowtail. Particularly hypocritical was Hill’s statement “I stood up for my kids, he left his.” considering Hill’s refusal to leave a seedy lounge after his wife discovered him carousing with his younger lover while his young children waited in the car.

Vilifying Hill by citing any of his aforementioned imperfections seems more like educating voters than attacking an opponent.  Montanans have a right to hear the good, bad and in this case, the ugly truth about our candidates.   Rick Hill represents the worst part of the Republican party- the lobbyist fourth branch of government and for decades has said one thing and done another–all the while profiting handsomely off the political system. When Rick Hill quit Congress, more Montanans viewed him unfavorably than favorably, Stapleton’s ad addressing Rick Hill’s “baggage” simply reminds them why.

UPDATE:  Corey Stapleton has released the following statement:

To all who are interested,We received some interest surrounding the different allegations in my
campaign’s latest ad “Baggage”, which highlights some of my opponent Rick
Hill’s public choices.  I hide behind no lawyers, no employees, no spokesmen
who can say whatever–and then recant the following day (as we just saw with
Brock Lowrance, Hill’s campaign manager, switching his narrative from “not
only false but entirely fabricated” to admitting Hill did own the Helena
properties referenced as “Sweetheart Real Estate Deals”.)And of course, Rick Hill has not made any statements denying the bags.  It’s
important to know, as governor, the contrast of my openness and Hill’s hiding
behind spokesmen and lawyers, is germane to the character and integrity issues
brought up in ‘Baggage’, and further underscores our argument of his
unelectability as Governor.  We think it’s important to have transparency and
openness in our political leaders.  I will be that kind of Governor.I strongly stand by the ‘bags’ in our ad:“Vietnam”:  Selective Service record enclosed.

“Obamacare”:  Actions, not words.  When you sit on a board of directors you
are accountable for the actions of the organization.  When a ship runs aground
the captain is accountable, regardless.  This is a big deal in leadership, and
I feel passionately about this bag because it displays Hill’s hypocrisy:  Blue
Cross Blue shield is one of the biggest financial beneficiaries of Obamacare.
They spent $9.7 million in 2009 alone, lobbying for Obamacare.  They currently
have filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court—supporting the
‘individual mandate’ which is the backbone of Obamacare!  It is what it
is–Blue Cross/Blue Shield supported and is supporting Obamacare.  And Rick
Hill bragged on two occasions of “chairing a board of directors for one of
the largest insurance companies in America” at Republican Lincoln Reagan
dinners that I attended in 2011.  I took his statement at his word.  If it is
untrue that he chaired, but was rather a director, that is because we based
our statement on his.  And all directors of the Board are accountable to Blue
Cross’s actions.

I copy and paste right off Google (Mar 26, 2012):
legitgov
ShareThis
Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Mass. filed amicus brief in support of Obama’s
health-care law –In SCOTUS case, Obamacare has industry allies 26 Mar 2012
Lawyers from the health insurance and hospital industries have petitioned the
Supreme Court to save President Obama’s health-care law from a constitutional
challenge by 26 states and a small-business group, while other big-business
lobbies have stayed neutral. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts filed an
amicus brief with the court in support of Obama’s Department of Health & Human
Services. The insurer writes that it played a central role in crafting Mitt
Romney’s Massachusetts health-care law that served as the prototype of
Obamacare… On the question of constitutionality, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of
Massachusetts argues that the individual mandate is “a valid exercise of the
Commerce Power because Congress had a rational basis for concluding that, in
the aggregate, the practice of self-insuring for the cost of health care
substantially affects interstate commerce.”

My plea to Montana:  Do not be fooled by the entities or politicians who hide
their actions behind confusing words and legal mumbo jumbo.  Blue Cross is a
good company, but their corporate structure allows them scalability when it
suits their purpose and deniability when it doesn’t.  We need leaders to hold
both our corporations, unions AND our government accountable.

“Sweetheart Real Estate Deals”:  Rick Hill admitted on Aaron Flint’s “Voices
of Montana” radio show last year to a caller’s question regarding such real
estate.  Hill responded that he hadn’t had that property “since 2002 or 2003″.

“$400 million tax”:  Hill lobbied for passage of former Gov. Marc Racicot’s
sales tax proposal.

“Workers Comp”:  Hill routinely takes credit for his role in the 1990’s
workers comp overhaul…fastforward: Montana’s Workers Comp was routinely
panned as one of the worst in the country in the 2011 Legislature.  If you
want credit for the fix you get credit for the failure, too.

“Jack Abramoff”:  Congressman Hill received donations from Jack Abramoff.

“Ponzi Scheme Lawsuit”:  Rick Hill constantly touts his success in business on
the campaign trail.  He made millions of dollars in the insurance business,
but then lost those millions in the investment business.  Victim or Baggage?
You decide..because I can’t—Hill’s pre-emptive lawsuit, and his role in the
investment scam, won’t be determined until sometime after the Primary
election–when it would be too late for Republicans to act (should they
nominate Hill).  Montanans deserve to know why Hill filed a lawsuit several
months after filing for office.  See enclosure

“Lobbyist”:  Rick Hill was a registered lobbyist for the past decade, since he
left Congress.

All of the bags in “Rick Hill’s Baggage” are tied to public records.  While
“Baggage” might be tough on Hill, it is fair.

Sincerely,

Corey Stapleton
Candidate for Montana Governor

 Click on the links below for more information: