This story is the second of a two-part series fact-checking claims made in TV ads in Montana’s May 25 special congressional election.
In the campaign for Montana’s May 25 special congressional election, opposition TV ads have branded Democrat Rob Quist everything from a tax dodger to an enemy of the U.S. military.
Most of these claims have reeds of truth – although in some cases, the reed is pretty slim.
MTN News has fact-checked some of the major claims of these ads, which are financed by his main opponent, Republican Greg Gianforte, and groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Rifle Association. Here’s what we found:
Quist’s tax and financial woes: Opposition ads slam Quist for facing “multiple warrants” for not paying his taxes, being sued for another debt, and “stiffing” a contractor. One says he “didn’t pay his own taxes.”
Quist faced three tax warrants from the state for not paying $15,700 in back property taxes and penalties for 2007, 2011 and 2012. He and his wife, Bonni, paid them off last year.
He says he also eventually paid off the other debts, totaling about $16,000, including the contractor’s work from 16 years ago. A collection agency seeking nearly $10,000 in payment for a bank line of credit filed court papers last Friday saying the debt had been paid.
Quist told MTN News in March that most of the unpaid debts stem from financial problems he encountered while dealing with medical costs, including a $50,000 surgery in 2011 when he didn’t have health insurance.
Gun registration: Gianforte and NRA ads accuse Quist of supporting a national or “government” registry of gun ownership – which is currently barred by federal law.
Quist never said he supported a national gun registry – although he did suggest, in a January interview with the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, that there should be registration for “assault rifles.”
“You register your car to drive – why not register guns?” the Chronicle quoted him as saying – after which he said he supports the right to bear arms.
All of the TV ads attacking Quist on gun rights reference the Chronicle interview.
Quist has since said he opposes a gun registry, that current gun laws in Montana are adequate, and that he was misquoted by the Chronicle. His campaign says he was talking then about fully automatic weapons, which already are registered.
“Government” health care: Ads from Gianforte and the Congressional Leadership Fund accuse Quist of wanting to raise or spend taxes for a “government takeover” of health care or “government health plan more expensive than Obamacare.”
The accusations stem from Quist statements that he likes a single-payer health plan, or “Medicare for all,” which would be taxpayer-financed health insurance for everyone.
Payroll taxes fund our current Medicare, which is government-run health insurance for all citizens 65 and older. The insurance pays medical bills from private health-care providers.
Quist has not said specifically how or whether a Medicare-for-all plan should be enacted, and instead has said that the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – should be strengthened.
Cuts in military spending: Gianforte and CLF ads say Quist supports “devastating” or “big” cuts to the U.S. military.
Quist has not called for any “big cuts” in the military – although he has implied that U.S. military and defense spending is excessive, telling the Chronicle in January that defense spending takes up “64 percent” of the federal budget and that it consumes money “that could be going toward health care or Social Security.”
When asked by MTN whether he supported cutting military spending, he said no, and added that he wants more focus on helping veterans returning from current and recent wars.