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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Troy Downing: 2020 General Election Q&A

Troy Downing is the 2020 Republican candidate for state auditor.
Troy Downing is the 2020 Republican candidate for state auditor.

Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.

Troy Downing is the 2020 Republican candidate for state auditor.

What makes you the best candidate for state auditor and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?

I have broad business experience including direct experience in the two complicated, highly regulated industries that this office oversees. 

This is meaningful in two ways: 

  1. As a consumer protection agency, I have seen, first-hand how unscrupulous operators mislead consumers.
  1. Having built and run companies in the insurance and securities businesses, I understand the pitfalls of building businesses in highly regulated industries often subject to aggressive, and uneven regulators. 

As a member of the MT Land Board, I am the only candidate who has had a comprehensive plan for protecting our valuable state assets, supporting the backbone of our MT economy, protecting both public access and private property rights issues, and raising critical funding for public education. 
The single most important issue here is experience. I have experience relevant to this office which my opponent is lacking. 

What experience do you have in regulating, or being a part of, the insurance and securities industries? 

I have been involved in securities in varying degrees for decades. First by building a start-up company that I merged with Yahoo! in the 90s, then as an angel investor and mentor in numerous other startup companies. I have been involved in the investment banking industry, I have built, sold, and managed securities in the commercial real estate industry, I have wholesaled securities in the independent broker/dealer industry, and have been licensed under FINRA, the self-regulatory agency under the Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition to this, I have built and managed a nation-wide insurance company that offers tenant insurance in the storage industry as well as a CLIP program to commercial operators. The company I helped found operates as a Managing General Agency and Program Manager for these programs with hundreds of thousands of policies across the nation. 

What are your three top goals to accomplish as state auditor and how would you achieve them?

  1. Protect Montana Consumers and Drive Down the cost of Health Insurance and Rx Drug prices. Bad actors are bad for Montana consumers and bad for business. I want to focus on those who would defraud or mislead Montana investors. We will hold insurance companies accountable who will not tow the line in what they are required to do by statute and contract including short pays, long pays, or not paying their obligations. I will accomplish this by rolling up my sleeves, putting together a strong team of professionals with relevant experience, and showing up to solve problems. We will combat health insurance and prescription drug prices by holding big Pharma accountable and promoting transparency as described below.
  1. Education and communication. Educated consumers are better at understanding the pros and cons of their choices and options. I want to push educational programs and resources to help MT consumers understand their policies- what they are buying and what they are not buying. I want them to understand the various moving parts of the different options that they have to protect themselves and their families. I also want to develop resources for Montana entrepreneurs so they can better understand how to structure and fund their American Dreams.
  1. Transparency. I will strive for transparency in all things government. I will push for transparency in Pharma pricing, in hospital billing, in PBM operations, and in PSAOs. Through transparency, we can all better understand how our premium dollars are being spent and the value we receive for them. This will supplement and augment the education programs and resources and will start to create downward pressure on pricing which will help MT consumers. 

State Auditor is one of five statewide elected officials that sits on the state Land Board, which manages state trust lands. What are your priorities for managing these lands?

Stewardship and raising vital funding for Public Schools. The Board of Land Commissioners was created specifically to manage state trust sections to fund education. We all care deeply about preserving the legacy that we have with our state lands. We all look out our windows and smile, and I will do everything I can to protect that. Dealing with the specific school sections that the commission oversees, I take a “Multiple use, sustained yield” approach. Multiple use means to look holistically at each section, decide what needs to be preserved, where access may be an issue, where we can graze, farm, and harvest timber supporting the backbone of our MT economy. The “sustained yield” part means- do it in a way that you can do it forever. In other words, be true stewards and make decisions with a long horizon point of view so that we are making sure we do not destroy or deplete these valuable assets.

Do you have ideas of specific policies you want to bring to the 2021 legislative session that would play a role in the regulation of insurance and securities in the state? Please provide specifics on those policies. 

Yes, I will be supporting legislation that promotes transparency in the Pharma, PSOA, and PBM industries. I believe that this will have a positive effect on the costs of prescription drugs and should push health insurance premiums lower. I will be supporting legislation codifying the Direct Primary Care industry. I believe this model should be in the toolbox of Montana consumers. We will be looking at expanding telemedicine options. We have seen telemedicine become a promising tool for Montanans during the Covid-19 crisis. We will also look at cleaning up and clarifying code in existing regulations. My opinion is that administrative rules should be used to clarify ambiguity in the law, not to create an alternative to statute. 

What authorities as state auditor do you believe need to be used more or less than previous administrations in this role?

The primary function of this office is to protect consumers from bad actors. As a consumer protection agency, we will make sure we identify and appropriately deal with any egregious actors. I will also push the educational aspect of this office to help Montana consumers better understand their choices and the risks and rewards associated with these choices. We will also be pushing to educate Montana businesses trying to navigate and understand issues with capital creation- trying to raise money from investors so that they can build Montana businesses. This has manifold benefits as it will be a direct contributor to the Montana economy and will be a driver of job creation.

What other issues are important to your campaign? (300 word limit)

My journey has been multi-faceted. I started out in education as a research scientist at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and an instructor at NYU, left there to start a technology company, and was involved in the creation of countless other startups. I have helped fund and mentor countless business people, entrepreneurs, and startup companies. 

I built a commercial real estate company that has operated across the nation. I have built, sold, and managed securities and have experience in the securities industry that is relevant to this office. I have built and managed a nation-wide insurance company and I have served in the US Military completing two tours to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

This office cries for someone with broad business experience, and preferably, industry experience. Without this, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. My experience will help me protect Montanans against bad actors giving me an understanding of how heavy-handed and uneven application of regulation can harm business. A thriving insurance industry with consumer choices and competition is consumer advocacy. This will increase choices for Montanans while driving down costs. Let’s fight for lower health insurance costs, lower prescription drug prices, and more consumer choice by making it easier for companies to do business in the great state of Montana. 

I have a passion to solve problems here that will benefit us all. I plan on rolling into this office on day one making a difference. This will be accomplished by putting together a strong team of professionals that know the industry, are smart, and share my passion to serve. As I’ve been saying this entire campaign, communication is key. I will continue to offer a seat at the table not just for industry, but, for ALL Montanans. Through dialog we continue to refine our understanding and develop better solutions to chisel away at roadblocks that get in our collective way.

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