Collusion, Corruptions and Chaos

Allegory of the Good and Bad Judge, 15th-century fresco in the old Town Hall and Courthouse building in Reguengos de Monsaraz, Portugal.

In the “old” days prior to the institution of legislative term limits in Montana, veteran Butte legislators loved to play a trick on their newly elected colleagues. They’d come up to them and quietly ask: “Did you get your envelope yet?” The clueless rookies would say “what envelope” and they’d be told “the envelope with the money from The Company.” “The Company” was the Anaconda Company, the offspring of the notorious Copper Kings that rode roughshod over the law and routinely bought or threatened legislators, sheriffs and judges as they made untold millions pulling copper from The Richest Hill on Earth.

Of course, by the time the old guys pulled the trick on the newbies there were no more envelopes with money from The Company. That was a leftover from when legislators would leave their transom windows open in Helena’s Placer Hotel on Last Chance Gulch and, indeed, envelopes full of money would mysteriously appear, tossed there by Anaconda’s lobbyists and goons. By the mid-70s the Anaconda Company was bought by Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO), Butte’s mines were shut down, the Anaconda smelter was abruptly closed, and what was left in the wake of the Copper Kings’ blatant corruption was the nation’s largest Superfund site — which remains unreclaimed more than 40 years later.

As an ancillary to the legendary corruption that emanated from the Copper Kings, it was often said Butte legislators jokingly urged constituents to “vote early and often.” But now, with the most corrupt president in U.S. history urging Americans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to “vote twice” in November’s election, it’s no longer a joke — it is, in fact, illegal to violate “one person, one vote” and “inducing others” to do so is a felony in North Carolina. Were the Copper Kings still around, they’d be green with envy at Trump’s blatant abuse of the law in his attempt to suppress the 81 million votes expected to be cast by mail-in ballots two short months from now.

Of course, state election officials are aghast at the complications that would arise should people actually take Donald Trump’s twisted advice and vote by mail, then show up at the polls in person and try to vote again to “test the system.”

But it’s no such thing. Over and over and over again, state election officials, voting experts and numerous studies have shown the incidence of voter fraud in the United States is infinitesimally small — on the order of less than a tiny fraction of 1%.

If sowing chaos at the polls wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s campaign, as well as the state and national Republican Party, have filed suit against Montanaand other states to halt mail-in voting. And that comes on top of the measures taken by Trump’s mega-contributor, now ensconced as postmaster general, to eviscerate the U.S. Postal Service and ensure the failure of mail-in voting.

These are not the tactics used by someone who thinks they will win a fair election. These are the vicious measures employed by an extremely insecure individual in dire fear of losing by a landslide — and likely taking the Republican Party down with him.

Indeed, Trump got exactly none of the traditional “bounce” in the polls normally expected following a national convention while his Democrat rival, Joe Biden, continues to lead by double digits nationally. Despite the hardships he’s willing to load on Americans trying to exercise their right to vote during a pandemic, collusion, corruption, and chaos will not save Trump — and his unethical and desperate measures may only further doom him.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.