Rumors of Corruption Pervasive In Republican Primaries for Governor and Secretary of State

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Admittedly, there is little to substantiate this rumor flying around Montanan’s political byways. Nonetheless, the rumor mill has been stirred heavily in the last 36-72 hours over the possibility of Greg Gianforte, running for Montana governor on the Republican ticket, has been funding a Political Action Committee (PAC) supportive of Whitney Williams. And if that weren’t enough potential scandal on the horizon, rumors are also circulating that Solutions Caucus leftist, Llew Jones, recruited a candidate with a convenient last name in order to benefit Scott Sales’ run for the Secretary of State.

Paid for by Schillinger HD 37. Jerry Schillinger, Treasurer. Box 394 Circle, MT 59215

The Montana Daily Gazette was repeatedly called with inquiries and suggestions by party insiders over the last few days that both counts are true. However, there is little in the way of evidence to support these assertions. After speaking to multiple campaigns, no supportive evidence has been provided.

The first unsubstantiated rumor is that Greg Gianforte has been dumping cash into a PAC designed to help Whitney Williams defeat Mike Cooney in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign. The thought process goes that Gianforte, who has copious amounts of cash as his most effective campaign asset, believes that ‘Hollywood’ Whitney Williams will be an easier challenger than Mike Cooney, who has the extensive executive experience that Williams lacks. Likewise, Williams is largely seen as an ‘outsider’ in the Big Sky State, just as Greg Gianforte is so characterized by his opponents.

Reportedly, it was Mrs. Gianforte who told a number of people that her husband was sending cash to Cooney’s opponent. This has not been confirmed by the Montana Daily Gazette. Calls to the Olszewski campaign revealed that they also have been hearing the rumors in recent days, but have no factual substantiation of the accounts.

Nonetheless, Democratic voters may want to stay on their primary ballot to ensure this nail-biter election between Cooney and Williams ends with a careful selection, given the tough race they’re up against in the general election, no matter the Republican challenger.

Likewise, a rumor is quickly growing steam that an alliance between a conservative candidate for Secretary of State, Scott Sales, and leftist Republican and Solutions Caucus leader, Llew Jones, may have something to do with a bizarre candidate finding their way into the race.

Conceivably, Sales’ greatest challenger in the Secretary of State race may be Brad Johnson, a former Secretary of State and current Public Service Commissioner. He also ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2016. Johnson has good name recognition, considering his numerous runs for office, some of which have been successful. Allegedly, Llew Jones recruited Kurt Johnson to place his name on the ballot. To anyone’s knowledge, Kurt Johnson has not campaigned in any way, placed signs, attended forums, or answered candidate questionnaires. He is indeed a real person, but in terms of politics, he seems to be a ghost.

The theory of some is that Kurt Johnson was placed upon the ballot to be a spoiler to Brad Johnson, considering they share the last name. If name recognition is his strongest trait, the thought goes, another ‘Johnson’ on the ballot might confuse enough voters that he could siphon just enough voters away to scuddle Brad Johnson’s candidacy.

The Montana Daily Gazette reached out to Scott Sales, who denied knowledge of any such scheme. The rumors seem plausible considering Llew Jones’ involvement, or at least endorsement, of Sales. As one informant said off the record, “This is something that Llew would definitely do.” Sales insisted that Jones’ endorsement was from years of experience together, with Jones recognizing Sales’ fairness to even those “on the other side” of the Republican RINO-conservative divide.

The Gazette reached out to the Forrest Mandeville campaign who acknowledged hearing some of those rumors and being skeptical of Jones’ support for Sales, but stopping short of validating the rumors in any way.

All in all, these two claims seem to be wholly unsubstantiated. Nonetheless, they indicate the true nature of Republican politics in the Big Sky State. Montana is not immune to the type of campaign or election-meddling common in other states, even if the accounts are pure fiction. As the last remaining weeks of the campaign tarry along, tempers are flaring and accusations and intrigue are growing exponentially.




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