Montana Cowgirl is operating at full throttle. Earlier this week came the story of Lord Gianforte attempting to keep the commoners off the king’s forest and now the news of his attempt to buy a large piece of public education real estate to go with his private Petra Academy. Cowgirl’s story speaks for itself and the Regents should be sweating around the collar about now.
There’s a side story here. The Montana University System and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education have a long history of selling off buildings, in a manner of speaking. A few easy examples: Washington Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana and the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University. Jake Jabs, now there’s a name. In 2011 Jabs donated $25 million to MSU. Two years later the Board of Regents moved through an agenda which included the name of the school and a building in response to his most generous donation. That $25 million looks more like a purchase instead of a donation.
On its surface Jabs’ purchase appears to be out of benevolence. A few layers down, Jabs has an interesting perspective on business and in particular, organized labor. Jabs essentially bank rolled a Colorado ballot initiative called Amendment 47 or more simply put, right-to-work. In fact, a headline from The Colorado Statesman in 2008 reads ‘Jabs sheds camouflage, shows right-to-work stripes’. Another article from the same year in the Denver Business Journal reads ‘Jabs touts right-to-work initiative’. http://www.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2008/10/06/daily19.html Unfortunately, labor leaders got to the sitting Board of Regents too late with what should have been obvious information and construction was a sure thing. Montana’s campuses are organized wall-to-wall and labor has a long history of working closely with MUS and OCHE to maintain harmony. A building named after Jabs just doesn’t sit well.
Washington, Jabs, Gianforte. They all offer up, by Montana standards, substantial amounts of money to struggling campuses and the Regents who can’t seem to find a win to increase funding for public universities and colleges as each legislative session passes. Despite a donor’s past record, personal beliefs, character, and now political aspirations, the Regents are more than happy to take those ‘donations’ in return for a new building with a name on it. It could be to them, money is just green so they just take it and no one will remember in a few years anyway. But history stands as anyone will see when they enter the campus of Montana Tech and are greeted by none other than Marcus Daly, Copper King. Daly has a place at Tech. Daly also has a place in politics, he bought and sold. Jabs has his receipts. Candidate Gianforte has his bid in for the pending sale.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’