Archive for January 9th, 2015

by lizard

Is Missoula well served when political opportunists abandon the job they told voters they wanted for a better job? That was the first question I had upon hearing that Caitlin Copple is pulling a Sarah Palin by resigning her ward 4 city council position 11 months early to focus more on her job with Hilltop Public Solutions. To be fair I could also say she’s pulling a Roy Houseman who didn’t even last a full year before deciding to cut and run for greener pastures in Washington DC to work as a labor lobbyist.

Copple has an even more unsavory reason for abandoning her constituents than lobbying—Hilltop Public Solutions is a shady consulting group that, among other efforts, tried unsuccessfully to get John Walsh elected:

Hilltop Public Solutions has been hired to run Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh’s campaign for U.S. Senate. This comes just weeks after Montana Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis announced that his campaign ship would have Hilltop at the helm.

Walsh announced his candidacy last Thursday via a YouTube video that is now the main feature on his campaign website. The news broke that Hilltop was running the campaign when Hilltop strangely stated that Walsh was not available to talk to reporters on the day he launched his campaign.

“Walsh, through his campaign consultant, refused to make himself available to reporters for an interview,” wrote Lee Newspapers state reporter Mike Dennison in the original version of a story announcing Walsh’s bid. “The consultant, Hilltop Public Solutions, would not explain why Walsh wouldn’t talk directly to the media.”

The strange decision to not have the candidate talk to the media was quickly noted by many in the Montana media and by National Republican Senatorial Committee press secretary Brook Hougesen.

Before Walsh, but after Baucus retired, Montana state senator Van Dyke’s association with Hilltop Solutions was not seen as a good thing:

This week’s announcement that Hilltop Public Solutions 0perative Mo Elleithee would be leaving the firm to chair the Democrat National Committee’s communications operations not only created a buzz in Washington D.C., but also refocused attention on that group’s Montana political activities.

Hilltop associate, state Senator Kendall Van Dyk (D-Billings), who was elected in 2010 after ousting Senator Roy Brown in one of the closest election contests in recent history, has close ties to Hilltop’s Montana work which may prove detrimental in light of the national media attention the Senator has been receiving since the announcement of the retirement of Montana’s senior U.S. Senator, Max Baucus.

Van Dyk was mentioned last month in The New York Times, The Washington Post, CBS News and other media outlets as a possible replacement to Baucus amid the flurry of activity following the announcement by former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that he would not seek Baucus’ seat.

Unfortunately for Van Dyk, many of the same national media outlets that mentioned him as a possible replacement for Baucus, also cited emerging scandals involving Schweitzer’s ties to dark money groups as a probable reason for the governor withdrawing his name from consideration for the post.

How this relates to Van Dky lies in his own ties to groups like Hilltop Public Solutions, which is currently under investigation by the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

Personally, I’m very happy to be rid of Copple as a council person. Her efforts to criminalize sitting on downtown sidewalks won’t be soon forgotten by those who felt betrayed by this supposed progressive. Caitlin Copple tried using women’s fear of being attacked by scary homeless men to justify making it a crime to sit on downtown sidewalks, triggering a litigation showdown with the ACLU that Missoula would have lost if it wasn’t for the reconsideration of city council and the subsequent decision to remove the sitting part of the ordinance.

Copple explains in the Missoulian article that she wanted to balance her new job with her council job, but quickly realized that wasn’t possible:

In May, Copple took a job as a principal with Hilltop Public Solutions, a strategic public affairs and political consulting firm.

She said she took the position with the understanding it was “a very big job,” and Copple told her supervisor she would do her best to juggle her professional work with council duties. On Thursday, though, she said both jobs are too much.

“I appreciated the opportunity to try to make it work and try to balance it all, but it’s pretty incompatible in terms of having the time it takes to do a really good job,” Copple said.

So, has Copple been doing a crappy job since May? Well, even before taking the job with Hilltop Solutions, Copple seemed to have a difficult time showing up for work. In most work settings, that gets you canned. From the link:

This year, no one played more hooky from the Missoula City Council’s regular meetings than Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, who missed nearly 24 percent of the time.

24 percent of the time Copple had better things to do than attend Monday council meetings. And her attempt to dial it in with Skype were rebuffed by Mayor Engen, rightly so in my opinion.

I hope whoever replaces Copple is serious about doing the job and not just interested in the title as a stepping stone to better opportunities because Missoula is not well served when political opportunists jump ship before their time is up. It creates more work for people that could be going to address any number of pressing issues facing Missoula.

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