HELENA, Mont. — Republican candidate Greg Gianforte said Monday he will create a new government accountability office if he is elected governor, while temporarily halting state agency rulemaking and new state contracts worth more than $1 million.
Gianforte, who is in a close race against the incumbent, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, outlined his initiative during a campaign stop in Billings.
“Our businesses are over-regulated, and we’ve seen a lack of integrity in state government, with 125 accounting errors, nearly $1 billion disappear from the balance sheet, multimillion-dollar state contracts given to friends and family, abuse of the state owned airplane and the destruction of official email records,” Gianforte said.
The Bozeman businessman’s plan includes the creation of a two-person office that would initially review state agency contracts. All new contracts worth more than $1 million would not be executed for 90 days until the office approves them.
Gianforte said he would also impose a 90-day moratorium on proposed and pending rules and regulations so they can be reviewed. New state agency rulemaking would be largely barred, except for instances of protecting public health and safety, to comply with a court order or federal law, if the budget requires it or if the rule would create a more efficient government.
Gianforte also called for selling the state plane that he has criticized Bullock for using to attend campaign events along with official business, and for the creation of a “culture of customer service” within state government.
Bullock campaign manager Eric Hyers said the Montana Citizen’s Advocate already acts as an accountability office, and that state agencies have cut or streamlined more than 1,000 rules under Bullock. “It’s not surprising that a multimillionaire from New Jersey has no idea how Montana’s state government works,” Hyers said.
Meanwhile, in Bozeman, several former employees of Gianforte when he was CEO of RightNow Technologies gathered to defend what they called unfair attacks on the company’s labor practices by Bullock and the Democrats.
Gianforte sold the company, which made customer-service software for businesses, to Oracle for $1.8 billion in 2011.
Ads by Good Jobs Montana, which is funded by the Democratic Governors Association, said Gianforte’s software helped client companies cut jobs or ship them overseas, while RightNow itself outsourced jobs to India and Armenia.
Former Rightnow chief information officer Laef Olson called the attacks false and laughable, and said that he is surprised the governor of Montana would trash the reputation of the company. “I can’t believe we’re all standing here five years later having to defend the success we’ve achieved,” Olson said, surrounded by former co-workers, including U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana.
Instead of replying directly to the former RightNow employees, the Bullock campaign directed questions to former RightNow chief financial officer and chief operating officer Susan Carstensen, who said a big selling point of the company’s cloud-based software was it allowed companies to put their call centers anywhere without the need to move equipment.
The company’s labor practices were no different from any other similarly situated technology company, Carstensen said. “There’s nothing to be ashamed about, it just is what it is,” she said.
A new poll commissioned by Lee Newspapers of Montana found Bullock ahead of Gianforte by a slim 47 percent to 45 percent. The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, surveyed 1,003 registered and likely Montana voters has a 3.2 percent margin of error.