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In political systems as corrupted by cash as ours, identifying the bad guys can be as simple as noting who has the most money. The campaign against I-185, a Medicaid expansion funded by tobacco taxes, is one example.

Recently, mailboxes have been flooded with expensive glossy flyers, five since I started counting, warning of possible, or fabricated, errors determining its costs. The flyers list Montana Taxpayers Association as opponents of I-185. MTA has received funding from the tobacco industry in the past and was associated with lobbyist Jack Abramoff before he served 43 months for mail fraud, conspiracy, bribery and, ironically, tax evasion.

Another opponent is Montanans Against Tax Hikes, a lobby group pretending to be grassroots. MATH’s treasurer is Chuck Denowh, a lobbyist with The Montana Group. Other clients on the profit side of healthcare include Blue Cross and Blue Shield, PhARMA and Abbot Labs. MATH has received $9,500,000 in contributions for its efforts against I-185, $8,500,000 of it from Altira, parent company of tobacco giant Phillip Morris. It also received contributions from RAI Services, parent of RJ Reynolds.

By contrast, Healthy Montana for I-185 has received $1,000,000 from AARP, the American Cancer Society, and other healthcare advocates. Bad guys/good guys made simple.

America launches trillion-dollar invasions not knowing the cost, even in lives. It gives tax breaks to our richest .01 percent knowing the trickle-down rewards promised are a myth. Only when efforts are made to save lives or improve them, healthcare, SNAP, education, does the dialogue include fiscal accountability.

With I-185 we have an opportunity to change that, and a chance to stop voting against our own well-being in worship of the most fortunate and powerful. We have a choice between healthier citizens and wealthier tobacco interests. I-185 deserves our support. And if there are bumps on the road to universal healthcare, we’ll pay for it somehow, as other countries have, as we do each time we bomb another village and rebuild it.

Lance Hames


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