As the news of Candidate Gianforte’s ‘donation’ to MSU has spread there has been a missing presence by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, until yesterday. Kevin ‘If It’s Good for the Kids’ McRae, on behalf of Commissioner Christian, is all but willing to take the tidy sum of $8 million from a current gubernatorial candidate, because, well, ‘We don’t play politics’. Then again, it may be a challenge to find a time when any campus has ever turned down money from anyone, after all, if it’s ‘…good for students, good for Montana…’ then it’s just ‘good’. Then there’s the confidential agreement floating around a public institution….
Of the many problems with this scenario, Gianforte’s party affiliation is not one of them, it’s just an easier out for the Commissioner’s Office in search of safe harbor. The problem is that he is running for the position of Governor of the State of Montana and it’s a hot race. If current Governor Bullock were to broker the same deal he would be deserving of the same level of criticism and from the same groups. Montana State University Alumni Foundation President and CEO Chris Murray has said this ‘donation’ has been in the works for four years now. It’s no coincidence that the deal was signed on the heels of the news that Gianforte had sued the state over public access. Gianforte needed a win and Murray gladly handed it to him on an $8-million-dollar silver platter.
The Regents face a difficult decision this week. They haven’t found themselves in this position by chance either. There has been concern expressed by OCHE that if the Regents postpone the decision or deny the proposal Gianforte will rescind his offer. That seems difficult to grasp from a candidate who is running on the slogan ‘GregForMontana. Taking his money and going home (to New Jersey) just wouldn’t be ‘…ForMontana’. Gianforte could ask that the decision be held off until after the election and allow his donation to be just that, a gift to MSU; well, a gift that will forever bear his name. He could also allow the process to continue to move forward, as he is today. If the regents decline his donation, which they won’t, he can claim politics forced the decision and become the victim. If the regents postpone the decision to their November meeting, then he’s got something to talk about as he campaigns. Some might see this as well played, a little like Rick Hill’s $500,000 play in the 2012 Governor’s race.
It is clear that Greg ‘The Dandy’ Gianforte has come to town to spread his money around. Chris Murray and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education want to help him do just that.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul every’body’s a part of.’