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Beware of Thomas

 

Fred Thomas, the former state senator from Stevensville, is campaigning to be the nominee for state senator for District 45, against four-term Republican state representative Gary MacLaren of Victor in the June 5th primary.

Fred Thomas was the new Senate Majority Leader in the 1997 session of the legislature. That year a secret plan had been hatched by Enron and Goldman-Sachs, and enthusiastically joined by Governor Racicot and the top executives at Montana Power. The plan was to sell off the assets of the power company – assets that had been paid for over the decades by the power company’s rate payers while Montana Power was a regulated monopoly – and use that cash to start a brand new company in the glamorous telecommunications business.  The plan would be sold to Montanans as de-regulation, and held the glowing promise that everyone would have the freedom to choose their power supplier.

Fred Thomas’s role in the scheme was to get the legislation that had been put together in a downtown motel meeting room, into the legislative hopper in the last days of the session. He’s admitted that he didn’t understand what deregulation would mean to Montanans. He was only doing what some VIP’s told him they wanted. What followed was a massive transfer of wealth from stockholders to a few insiders, and a doubling of electric rates with none of the promised freedom to choose for Montanans.  It was a financial disaster, too: the telecommunications play was belly-up five years later.

Fred Thomas has already lined up support for his new state senate campaign from VIP’s, and says he’s an advocate for education funding, another apple pie issue in Montana, just as deregulation was. He worked to cut revenues from corporate taxes and royalties from extractive industries the last time he was in the Legislature. Where would his funding for education come from, and who are the VIP’s he’d be getting his marching orders from this time? Is “Common sense tax reform” a code for a state sales tax? Tell us now, Fred Thomas.

Robert Sutherland

Hamilton

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