Leftist Republicans closely associated with the liberal Solutions Caucus have enjoyed the benefits of receiving endorsements and mailers sent out on behalf of a number of prominent Political Action Committees (PACS), including the Montana Farm Bureau PAC and the MT Ag PAC (consisting prominently of the Montana Stockgrower’s Association). What voters may not know is that these organizations have strongly supported the Water Compact, which gives Indian Tribes ownership of Montana’s water and is quickly bankrupting ranchers, farmers, and various Montana counties.
Imagine the water rights to Montana streams, lakes, and reservoirs being suddenly given from the people of Montana to several Indian tribes, well-funded by deep-pocketed dark money groups who stand to profit from handing water resources from the public to private sector. Imagine irrigation from Montana’s water suddenly being handed from the many to the few, who have increased water rates and are using that money to buy up agricultural land and bankrupt county governments from lost tax revenue. That happened with the controversial 2015 Water Compact, which in the stroke of a pen gave away the most critical resource of Montana’s economy…water.
The 1855 Hellgate Treaty made a fair-and-square deal with the tribal people, in which the fine print issued the right to fish Montana’s water to indigenous tribes “at all usual and custom places.” That treaty was ratified between the tribes and then-U.S. President, James Buchanon. However, Montana’s Democrats – emboldened by support from the leftist Solutions Caucus, funded by various private enterprises and lobbying groups who stood to make a profit – claimed the 160 year-old treaty was unfair and sought to find a more “equitable solution.” That equitable solution is killing Montana’s ranchers and farmers who are now finding access to water far more expensive, now that it has become a major source of revenue to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (KSKT).
Proving themselves far removed from the needs of their supporters, Montana’s industrialized agricultural lobbying groups largely supported the move for reasons only speculative, ranging from unmitigated political correctness to suspected greased palms. Although financially damning to the people they’re supposed to represent, these organizations – including Montana Farm Burea, Montana Stockgrowers, and the consolidated MT Ag PAC – are now supporting the very candidates and their compatriots who supported the water compact.
There are several exceptions, however. Notably, candidate for SD44, Nancy Ballance, claims to be against the Water Compact that ceded Montana’s water rights. Oddly enough, she has been supported by the PACs along with the rest of the liberal Solutions Caucus. While Ballance can claim she’s against the Water Compact, she has been a firm financial donor to the race of Tim Fox, who remains on the furthest-to-the-left in the three-way race for Montana governor. Tim Fox is a supporter of the Water Compact, which leaves a quandary as to why she would support the candidate. Surrounded in mystique, Ballance is also supported by the anti-water rights brigade formed by these liberal PACs.
One is right to wonder if Ballance is soon to turn about-face on the Water Compact like she did Medicaid Expansion. The candidate was famously against Montana’s version of ObamaCare, before then supporting it and doubling-down on her support for it during this election cycle. Perhaps her voters will soon find Ballance on the other side of this important water rights issue.