Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate running for the sole U.S. House seat in Montana, has bankrolled extremist candidates for office in the state, including those with ties to white nationalist movements and anti-government extremism.
Gianforte gave $170 to Columbia Falls-area legislative candidate Taylor Rose in 2016 for his failed bid for the District 3 seat of the Montana House of Representatives, the maximum allowed donation in Montana to those running for a statewide seat other than governor. When asked twice by a Missoulian reporter on May 18 about the donation he made to Rose, “Gianforte would not say” whether he would still make the donation today.
“I was unaware of some of his views and we supported him because we supported all (Republican) candidates in the last election,” Gianforte told the publication. The Gianforte campaign did not respond to Rewire‘s request for comment by the time of publication.
Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist are locked in an increasingly tight race, to be decided on May 25. Gianforte has also donated to organizations that push anti-choice ideology and religious imposition policies.
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The Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) noted in a 2017 report that Montana has “long been a target of” both the white supremacist and “the anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement.”
Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the MHRN, told Rewire that “any time dangerous ideas, extremist positions, or harmful ideology are supported by institutions or candidates in the mainstream it gives them legitimacy and this promotion of fear that becomes acceptable shifts from political rhetoric into the policy discussion.”
“The danger,” she says, is how easily these extremist views can slip “from the margins to the mainstream.”
Rose has a “long history of deep involvement with the white nationalist movement, and [a] dangerously bigoted worldview he has promoted since his teenage years,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has documented his ties to white nationalism since 2011. While Rose has denied that some of the groups he has been affiliated with are white nationalist organizations, his record reveals links to extremist white nationalist groups in the United States and Europe.
During his time as vice president of Youth for Western Civilization, a student organization with ties to white nationalism, Rose reportedly appeared at a 2011 rally “against the Islaminization of Europe” and according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) “spoke alongside leaders of far-right xenophobic European parties.”
He authored a book in 2012 that claims those who believe in multiculturalism want to “eliminate western civilization from the face of the earth,” according to a profile of Rose from the SPLC.
During his time as a columnist for fringe conspiracy theory website World Net Daily, Rose, according to the ADL, wrote articles that “cover a range of right-wing issues from opposition to immigration to anti-Muslim conspiracy theories to secessionist movements in Europe and the United States.”
Rose wrote four pieces between 2013 and 2014 for the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) newsletter, Citizens Informer, his work promoting nationalist parties in Europe appearing alongside stories calling for the importation of white Europeans and Afrikaners and a statement of principles that “opposes all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”
The Atlantic called the CCC “America’s biggest white-nationalist organization.” When Dylan Roof turned to white supremacy before killing nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, the writings of the CCC were the first he turned to, writing that he was never “the same since that day.”
Gianforte donated $170 to and received a donation from Robert Saunders, a Billings legislative candidate who had to issue an apology in the midst of his campaign after posting to Facebook that citizens should have fired “two rounds through the brain” of protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, because “elimination of those people in self-defense would probably have cut Missouri’s welfare handouts—and long-term crime rate—considerably.”
During his campaign for the Montana Legislature, college classmates of Saunders told the Billings Gazette that he had said President Obama and his family should be “sent back to the fields to pick cotton” and that he told a Black student that 100 years earlier, he would have owned her.
On March 17, ten days after Gianforte was chosen as the Republican nominee for Montana’s U.S. House seat, Saunders gave him a check for $2,700 for his campaign.
Gianforte donated $160 in 2010 to Republican state Rep. Joel Boniek, a member of the Oath Keepers, a “patriot” group the SPLC calls one of the largest in the country. Boniek was charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest after he refused to honor a police roadblock at the scene of a wildfire.
Boniek during the trial in November 2012 brought a rowdy crowd into the courtroom so disruptive that the justice of the peace presiding over the trial was forced to leave. The Billings Gazette reports that Boniek claimed that, as the “last man standing” in the courtroom, he was “in charge now,” and declared the case against him dismissed. He was convicted in May 2013.
Boniek was fined more than $54,000 and forbidden from running for elected office in 2015 for his part in skirting campaign finance laws in his 2010 election campaign.
In 2014 and 2016, Gianforte donated $170 to Republican state Rep. Theresa Manzella, who not only endorsed the armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, but connected her praise to an armed anti-government wing of the Tea Party. Manzella described the occupation on her Facebook page:
The movement has begun. The people are taking a stand and making their point in no uncertain terms. They fully intend to reclaim the public land for multiple use on behalf of the state, as is prescribed in our Constitution. I applaud their determination. They are definitely the Three Percent.
Manzella’s reference to the Three Percent is linked to militia members in Idaho, who believe that only 3 percent of the American colonists actually took up arms against the British during the Revolutionary War. As the Nation noted in 2013, the Three Percent, or “Threepers,” “intend to be the armed wing of a larger movement of Tea Partiers and patriots, in a manner not unlike the way armed movements of a revolutionary left once swam in a sea of like-minded supporters.”