The arguments of Northwestern Energy, an out-of-state-corporation, were repeated today on the floor of the House during Second Reading debate over HB 598, leading to a vote of 44-66 and the defeat of HB 598.
Also involved in opposition to HB 598 is Mom’s Demand Action, an entity fostered by billionaire ex New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also credited with a major win for gun control recently in the State of Washington and gun control efforts working now in Nevada and Oregon.
Whether Northwestern and Bloomberg are coordinating anti-gun efforts in Montana is unknown, but they are clearly pushing Montana in the same direction with shared opposition to HB 598.
HB 598 sought to set a high judicial barrier to infringement of the right to keep and bear arms by the state, and to allow the people of Montana to vote on that concept. Therefore, the opposition by Northwestern and Bloomberg is not only contrary to the interests of Montana gun owners, it is also to prevent the people of Montana from even having a vote on this important issue.
Many concerned Montana gun owners are asking what possible interest Northwestern Energy could have in opposing the right to keep and bear arms in Montana, a right the people have reserved to themselves from government interference in the Montana Constitution.
Northwestern’s claim is that HB 598 would affect its private property rights, a claim repeated in debate on the floor of the House today. However, a plain reading of HB 598 demonstrates that it would apply to a claim "only against the state" (HB 598 says, Page 2, Line 5). Since HB 598 clearly does not apply to a non-governmental entity, Northwestern’s opposition to HB 598 must have some other, hidden motive. Northwestern’s congruency with Bloomberg’s history and anti-gun efforts offers a logical explanation for Northwestern’s deviance from its usual corporate mission as a utility company.
Northwestern even admits that a strong majority of its Montana customers are gun owners. One great mystery then is why a publicly-traded utility company would elect to squander so much good will over public opposition to a bill that actually has no effect on the company or its mission. Good will is touted to be important to Northwestern. In fact, Northwestern carries "Goodwill" as an actual asset on its corporate balance sheet valued at $355 million. It is stunning to think that a publicly-traded company would expose such a valuable "asset" to potentially catastrophic erosion in the highly-charged political arena of gun rights, especially when the company has no real dog in the fight.
It is only speculation that perhaps anti-gun Bloomberg has influenced Northwestern’s institutional investors to encourage Northwestern to take this considerable risk. That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense, since institutional investors traditionally abhor public controversy and turmoil related to the companies they invest in. Or, perhaps Northwestern has an officer or officers with personal anti-gun bias who chose to engage in this risky behavior on behalf of the company, but without regard for the impact on the company image. Only Northwestern can clarify its ulterior motive.
Meanwhile, all we know for sure is that HB 598 was defeated today, and Northwestern Energy has been the lead opponent to the bill.
Montana Shooting Sports Association
Author, Gun Laws of Montana