Chamber Endorses Both Court Candidates

As an update to a previous post covering the latest fundraising numbers between Beth Baker and Nels Swandal, apparently the Montana Chamber of Commerce has decided to endorse both candidates.

Dustin Frost, the senior advisor to the Swandal campaign, had this to say:

“While we appreciate the support from the Montana Chamber of Commerce, it’s certainly puzzling that the board could not see the clear differences between the candidates in this race.  It’s more than just a little ironic that in the same announcement where the Chamber endorsed two candidates because of their “opposition to extreme environmental agendas”, it also co-endorsed Beth Baker, whose support from the Montana Conservation Voters runs so deep that they have spent most of the summer filling her campaign coffers.  I guess the MCV didn’t have such a tough time seeing the differences when it came time to make its endorsement decision.  A decision MCV no doubt believes will help further its extreme environmental agenda.” 


The Montana Chamber of Commerce has released its list of endorsements and positions on initiatives in election decisions for U.S. Congress, Public Service Commission, Montana Supreme Court, and two ballot initiatives.  The Board of Directors uses candidate interviews, voting records (where applicable), and position papers when making its decisions.

“One job of the Montana Chamber is to review election decisions that affect business and economic development.  We take that role very seriously and hope our review of the races helps voters better understand the issues and the candidates,” said Webb Brown, President/CEO of the Montana Chamber.  “Now, it’s up to voters to use this and other information to exercise their constitutional right and privilege to vote.”

U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg received the State Chamber’s endorsement for a sixth term in Congress for his consistent pro-business, pro-jobs voting record.  The Montana Chamber specifically noted Rehberg’s ranking on the U.S. Chamber’s annual scorecard.  Rehberg has a cumulative 92% record with the national chamber.

In addition, the state’s leading business organization endorsed Travis Kavulla for Public Service Commission (PSC) district #1 and Bill Gallagher for PSC district #5. They both have staked out strong pro-development positions, opposition to extreme environmental agendas, and reasonable approaches to affordable and plentiful utilities in Montana.

“The Montana Chamber believes that the best way to get Montana’s economy growing again is to elect people who will work to bring business to the state and create good-paying jobs through policies that help grow the private sector,” said Brown.  “We believe these three will do the job.”

In the race to replace retiring Justice Bill Leaphart on the Montana Supreme Court, the Board endorsed both Beth Baker and Nels Swandal for their extensive experience, pledges to uphold the law rather than make law, and their assurances to be an independent, unbiased justice for all parties before the Court.  Brown noted that while endorsing both candidates is unusual, but not without precedent, and is never done in non-judicial races, the organization felt both candidates met the Chamber’s criteria for judicial endorsement.

On ballot initiatives, the Montana Chamber elected to oppose I-161, the initiative that would eliminate special outfitter licenses.  The concern is that such a change would hurt an important industry in Montana made up of many small and family businesses.  Additionally, the Board voted to endorse CI-105, which prohibits any new tax on the sale or transfer of real property.  While concerned about writing specific tax policy into the Constitution, the general feeling of the Board was that such taxes unnecessarily inhibit economic development and place additional burdens on taxpayers who already pay substantial amounts in property, capital gains, and income taxes.

Brown was also quick to point out that these are positions of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, not the national nor local chambers of commerce, who are all separate entities from the State Chamber.  Some of them may take their own positions on any or all of these election decisions.

For more information on the decisions, please contact Webb Brown, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber at 888-442-MONT (6668), ext. 101, or

The Montana Chamber of Commerce is the state’s leading business advocate and the largest chamber of commerce in Montana, representing its 1,500+ members on state and federal issues for Montana’s economic success.  The State Chamber also provides health and work comp insurance to its members, as well as international trade programs.


According to Lee Newspaper’s Mike Dennison, Helena attorney Beth Baker is leading District Judge Nels Swandal in the race for Montana’s Supreme Court.  Dennison reports that Baker has raised roughly $100,000 compared to roughly $71,000 for Swandal. 

Dustin Frost, a senior adviser to Swandal’s campaign, said Tuesday that Swandal is on track to raise “the resources that we will need to communicate with voters” during the campaign. He added, “I think it’s obvious to me that the support she is getting from the environmental community is paying off for her,” he said.

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