Throwing his weight around is not new to Governor Bullock, who has used his tenure as Montana’s Governor to wield every ounce of government power to intimidate his political opponents. Whether by weaponizing the Commissioner of Political Practices (CoPP) to go after Republican candidates, firing his Lt. Governor for being an independent woman, or using the state’s funds to fly his female companions to attend concerts with him, Bullock has a history of getting what he wants, even by questionable means. But now, Governor Bullock is taking his authority to a whole new level by threatening to sue Montana television stations airing a campaign ad against him.
Through a “nasty-gram,” Pioneer Technical Services, working in tandem with the Bullock campaign, the governor is warning television, radio, and newspapers not to run an advertisement paid for by the Republican National Convention. Bullock’s campaign issued a statement affirming the intimidation, which they claim is based upon supposedly false information that could be damaging to Bullock’s campaign.
The accusations, made since at least 2012, is that Governor Bullock steered millions of dollars in state contractor grants to donors, his former law and lobbying firm and the firm run by his brother, William – Pioneer Technical Services. The accusations seem to have merit in 2020’s unique political climate, as Montana citizens are watching Governor Bullock dispense a massive amount of federal coronavirus relief funds based upon what many believe is best for his campaign for U.S. Senate. The politicization of COVID-19 relief in regards to how Bullock is spending public money has gone thusfar unconsidered in most of Montana’s media.
A “fact-check” done by NBC Montana did not find the campaign ads placed eight years ago to be false. At that time, seven different official complaints were made against Bullock for improperly spending state money on his political spoils system. Bullock threatened media companies back then, with Missoula attorney, Karl Englund, sending intimidating letters demanding the ads be taken down. Media companies, in general, did not comply. The ad was eventually replaced with another, however, not based upon factual inaccuracies but a technical non-compliance issue regarding proper attribution.
But now that the stakes are for national office, Bullock is again threatening press outlets for taking paid advertisements by his competitors.
Bullock’s opposition to the advertisement hinges upon his assertion that his brother resigned from Pioneer Technical Services (and sold his shares) before he became governor. However, his brother in fact served as chairman of the board.
While Democrats are trying to muzzle their opponent’s media advertising, they are simultaneously spreading a rumor about Bullock’s opponent, Steve Daines. Their accusation is that because Daines – at one time – worked in China, his work in the U.S. Senate to improve trade relations with China must be biased or uncouth (despite Daines not being financially invested in Chinese businesses).
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which awarded the sizeable grants to Bullock’s firm, has expressed through their spokeswoman, Rebecca Harbage, that the governor did not help steer the grants to his brother’s company.
Harbage, however, is an acolyte of Governor Bullock and regularly promotes his campaign in social media, meaning that her insistence he committed no wrongdoing is dubious.
You can read a portion of the legal demands below.