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Bill LaCroix

Bill LaCroix

Have any potholes that need fixing?

You might be interested to know that, instead of fixing potholes, your Ravalli County Commissioners are investing time and money in an attempt to get the state of Montana to “investigate” seven state and local conservation organizations. Why? Because those groups embarrassed the commissioners by organizing broad-based public opposition to their failed attempt to garner support for Daines’ and Gianforte’s bills to release Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Montana to development and privatization.

In other words, the commissioners have made up an “enemy’s list” and want the state attorney general to “punish” them. Once again they’ve chosen boilerplate divisive politics over honesty by chasing an allegation made by a single individual that these conservation groups are receiving “dark money” from “nefarious billionaires” to “influence Montana voters.” They think this is an excellent use of your pothole money.

Keith Kubista is the single individual who made the McCarthyesque “allegation.” Mr. Kubista is president of Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, an actual dark-money, astro-turf group whose agenda includes the privatization of America’s wildlife (Field and Stream, 8/8/2012).

Kubista presented the commissioners “evidence” of a “conservation conspiracy” in the form of a document titled “Green Decoys” prepared by the “Environmental Policy Alliance,” which is a front group for the “Center for Organizational Research and Education,” which is in turn a front-group laundering dark money for the oil and gas industry. Its executive director, Richard Berman, openly brags about taking dark money for the sole purpose of harassing conservation groups about — wait! — “dark money.”

In Berman’s own words to a group of oil and gas executives he was soliciting dark money from in 2014: “People always ask me one question all the time: ‘how do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?’… We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”

Wow. Tasty bait, commissioners. Was Kubista using a barbless hook?

I actually took the time to read through the Green Decoys “report,” which was tough because the thing was so rife with conspiracy theories and fact-free innuendo that I started wondering what Kubista, Berman and our commissioners were smoking, and if I could have some. Very distracting.

But not to get too much into the weeds about the dishonesty inherent in such scam documents, nor to weep oversized tears for the plight of billionaires, I’ll just give a shout-out to one of its nativist dog-whistles that you’d probably see a lot of if you’re a Q-Anon aficionado (or a Ravalli Co. Commissioner, I guess): What does a largely-fictionalized far-right version of George Soros have to do with citizens wanting to retain the protected status of Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas? You might want to ask your commissioners that … and maybe more.

Belief in truth-free conspiracy theories from the craven-right is demonstrably driving the destruction of a civil society, not to mention the lowering of our cumulative intelligence level. The proof’s in the pudding. We now live under the spectacle of the billionaire most responsible for pushing the “birther” conspiracy theory that the first non-white president faked his birth certificate (because, y’know, he wasn’t white) now sitting in the Oval Office raking in additional billions. We’ve been had.

How’s that working out for ya? If you’re answer is “just fine,” then you should definitely give your commissioners an ‘attaboy’ for allowing their bigotry getting the better of their ethical and fiduciary common sense.

If, however, you’re one of “those” people who think that these kinds of money-wasting, infantile witch hunts from the right wing edge ff the world against people with whom they merely disagree are beyond silly, then maybe now’s the time to pipe up and say so. Demand that your county officials do better. Fix potholes instead of backfilling imaginary ratholes.

Did I mention Valerie Stamey? C’mon, Ravalli County. Let’s get real.

Bill LaCroix of Victor has lived in the Bitterroot since 1986. He is a writer, musician and ecological restorationist, and is currently working on a biography of the late Stewart Brandborg.

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