Adelson figures in Montana race

Just as he did with presidential candidate Newt Gingrich in 2012 and state attorney general candidate Adam Laxalt in 2014, Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson is helping keep wealthy technology entrepreneur Greg Gianforte alive in the special U.S. House election in Montana. The race was prompted by the appointment of Montana’s Rep. Ryan Zinke to the Trump cabinet as interior secretary.

Republican Gianforte is facing off against Democrat and country singer Rob Quist in the Big Sky State. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super-PAC formed in 2011, is running a campaign against Quist that may actually be aiding him. The CLF, funded mostly by Adelson and fossil fuel billionaires, is making an issue of the fact that a bungled gall-bladder surgery in 1996 left Quist with unpaid bills and tax liens. The experience has been used in a CLF attack ad. Quist sold off part of his family ranch to pay his medical bills, an experience familiar to many voters. Health care expenses are the single biggest cause of bankruptcies in the United States.

With that dispute unfolding, the New York Times on May 5 reported that Gianforte had, on a conference call with corporate lobbyists, said he would support the Republican health care bill. That happened while Gianforte was telling the public he had not yet made up his mind on the measure. Gianforte backed away from the GOP measure amid protests from Montanans using the Affordable Care Act.

Adelson and his wife Miriam are CLF’s biggest donors, ponying up $30 million to the committee since 2012. The Washington Free Beacon website has also been conducting a campaign against Quist.

National Democratic Party officials have paid little attention to the Montana race, but Sen. Bernie Sanders has been aiding Quist’s campaign, which this week reported topping $5 million in contributions.