The whiskey has dried up, the thick steaks are all gone and the dust of a Special Session has settled. The dramatic late nights of deal making have ended, even the scrambling of who gets all the glory for saving the day has waned. But if you close your eyes and listen carefully during the dark of night, you’ll hear a whimper, perhaps the gentle weeping of some great hurt, some great loss. If you’re feeling adventurous pull on your boots and venture out to follow the sound and find the origin of that sorrowful mouning. Yes, it’s coming from the Montana State Fund building where a solitary light shines high up from a corner office on the third floor.
You see those tears belong to Lanny Hubbard and his well paid, highly dedicated and well scripted team of Vice Presidents at the Fund. In case you missed out or were preoccupied with dread over another political family Thanksgiving, here’s what happened in cliffnote form. 65th Legislature leaves state in a shambles by not recognizing it needs money. State budget becomes crisis. Big Llew and Little Dan make deals. Governor calls special session to enact said deals. Senate Bill 4 becomes one of several revenue generating components of the Big and Little deal. SB 4 establishes an investment management fee that charges for the ‘free’ investment services MSF has been receiving from the Board of Investments. Hubbard sends in a crack team of lobbyist to wring hands and gnash teeth. Crack team gives inaccurate information and dozes in the corner. SB 4 becomes law. Hubbard, who runs a quasi state agency and isn’t a team player, sues state. Governor recognizes rogue MSF President and appoints new board members. Board votes 5-2 to drop law suit. Hubbard maintains composure and follows ‘wishes of the board’ (read ‘directive of the board’) and withdraws suit. Management team gathers each night to wail and wallow the great mistreatment by both the Governor and Legislature.
Shouldn’t that be the end of the story? Couldn’t it be? Please? Not with good ol’ Lanny. Nope. Hubbard, the once deft player to the middle, may have finally overplayed his hand in covertly suggesting to the likes of Representative Greg Hertz that if he can’t sue, maybe some yet to be damaged policy holders could get their day in court. Certainly this doesn’t play well to Hubbard’s ego given his penchant to be the front man, however, it could be salve to his wounds. For the rest of us, we can only hope he’s left his DNA on the legal documents to be filed. Those fingerprints in anyone else’s world would be otherwise named ‘insubordination’- a big word for ‘Lanny isn’t carrying out the wishes of his employer and now it’s time to pack up his office’.
So what’s left? Well, policy holders with State Fund, who have no where else to go, are wondering why there is over a BILLION dollars in reserves, a reserve filled by their high premiums. Injured workers wonder why they have to fight for a decent benefit when there are over a BILLION dollars in reserves, yet their own bank accounts are empty. The Governor and the Legislative body are wondering how much deeper they can get into that BILLION plus dollars without affecting policy holders or injured workers. Montana citizens are wondering what kind of government agency can have over a BILLION dollars to brag about. State Fund employees are wondering how soon the weight of over a BILLION dollars will bring the Taj MaHubbard Building down on their heads. And Victory Insurance, with it’s own new lobbying firm, is wondering how much longer it will have to bide it’s time before it can get access to over a BILLION dollars through privatization of the Fund.
And maybe, just maybe, the Montana State Fund Board is wondering how quickly they can hand Hubbard his golden parachute and salvage what’s left of a severely damaged image. Then again, if Hubbard goes where will the tears come from to fill the water feature in his legacy shrine in downtown Helena?