On Thursday, Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Montana State Director, Zach Lahn, responded to the state House passing a Medicaid expansion bill, by tweeting:
We are deeply disappointed in the legislature’s decision tonight to expand Medicaid. This decision stands directly against the voices of millions of Montanans who have made it clear that they do not want more Obamacare.
Of course, in his haste to tweet his outrage about Montana lawmakers supporting healthcare for the working poor, Mr. Lahn got carried away since the entire Montana population is just over one million people. So there cannot be millions of Montanans who oppose Obamacare, simply because there are not millions of Montanans. Furthermore, of the tens of thousands of Montanans (not millions) that actually exist, a significant percentage support Obamacare.
Perhaps we can excuse Mr. Lahn’s ignorance as Montana’s State Director of AFP because the state’s grassroots leader hasn’t actually lived in the state long enough to have roots. He came over from Colorado, where he had his “Joe the Plumber” moment, grilling Barack Obama about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2009, when Lahn was a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Although AFP bills itself as a grassroots political advocacy group, it is really an astroturf group, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers to try to pass legislation favorable to their economic interests. They have three field offices set up in Montana, but so far their efforts seem to be stumbling in the Big Sky country, under the direction of Lahn.
The MillionsOfMontanans hashtag has been trending on Twitter, mocking the AFP Director’s ignorance about the state’s population. Even Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Jon Tester have sent out humorous tweets referencing the gaffe.
But the group has run into more than just snarky Twitter opposition. In February, a raucous crowd disrupted an AFP-sponsored “Healthcare Town Hall” in Kalispell, Montana, giving Lahn an earful for his efforts to target a Republican lawmaker, who wasn’t dutifully swallowing the party line on voting down Medicaid expansion.
What the Koch Brothers don’t seem to realize is that although many red state residents may not be fans of President Obama, they also are deeply suspicious of phony grassroots organizations funded by out of state billionaires. Out of state poseurs pretending to be grassroots advocates are easy to spot, especially when they fail basic facts. If the Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity organization wants to make any headway in Montana, they should probably find a new leader from the millions of Montanans who could replace their current spokesmen. Or rather, from the tens of thousands of Montanans who could.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.