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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

What Drives A Montana Lobbyist?

Chromolithograph of the winning competition design for the Montana State Capitol by George R. Mann, 1896 (unbuilt)

Between them, Mona Jamison and Stuart Doggett have almost sixty years' experience lobbying in the Montana Legislature. "Lobbyist" isn't a word that wins any popularity contest. Why do they do it?

Attorney Mona Jamison has lobbied for Montana's seatbelt law, for acquisition of Virginia and Nevada Cities, and for decriminalizing aspects of midwifery. Her lobbying career began during a special session of the Montana Legislature in 1986.  "I only represent issues that I am personally, morally and ethically compatible with. I have turned down many offers to lobby, with some very huge fees, on issues that I just didn't agree with. I was given a great offer to lobby the repeal of unisex insurance, in order to go back to allowing companies to charge women higher rates. I said that there was no amount of money that they could pay me to do that."

Stuart Doggett is the fourth generation of his family to enter public service and politics in Montana. Hired in 1984 by the Montana Stockgrowers Association as public lands coordinator and understudy lobbyist, his first legislative issue was a contentious one: stream access, during the 1985 session. "I was intrigued by the fact that someone wins and someone loses. I liked the competitive aspect, along with the issues."

On money in politics, Jamison says: "From inside, you see the bundling of contributions; you see lobbyists buying favor with various legislators, at restaurants and on golf courses. What the money buys is access first and in come cases, also the result, the ultimate decision. If the people understood what is really going on, if they saw the power and influence of lobbyists and contributions, I think they'd be grossed out, on both ends of the political spectrum."

Both Jamison and Doggett opposed the 1992 passage of CI 64, a constitutional initiative which imposed term limits on state offices held by elected officials in Montana. Doggett says:

"We lose a lot of experience in the lack of continuity from one session to the next. You have legislators looking at issues from a two-year perspective. In the past, prior to term limits, legislators looked at what their actions would do ten years down the road. With term limits, you're shortening people's time in office but also their viewpoints. They're not looking ahead."

"I think back to an analogy that Jean Turnage (Montana legislator and, from 1985 till 2000, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court) told me when I was helping run his campaign. "Young man, if you have a chance to take down your opponent, make sure to give them a small ledge to stand on."

(Broadcast: "Home Ground Radio," 6/14/15. Listen on the web, weekly on the radio at Sundays at  11:10 a.m., or via podcast.)

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