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SEN. JON Tester and his wife Sharla got stuck in the nation's capital during the debt-ceiling crisis in the summer 2011. There was a lot of down time -- the sort of idle period when Tester would normally scoot back to Montana to schmooze with voters and work on his farm. But the Democratic senator didn't dare leave town because of the prospect of last-minute votes aimed at averting the debt crisis.
So what did Tester and his wife do to fill the time? We'll let Dave Parker, Montana State political science professor, tell the story.
THE INDUSTRIAL Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies, were a colorful part of Montana's history a century ago. Union recruiters focused on miners and lumberjacks, making Montana a key target. But the radical views of IWW organizers often turned off Montanans.
"The most extreme of America's pre-World War I labor groups, the IWW rejected political action, arbitration, and binding contracts," says historian Pamela Toler. "Instead they put their faith in the strike and nothing but the strike. Inspired by European syndicalism, the IWW wanted to organize all workers into 'One Big Union," with the ultimate goal of a revolutionary general strike that would overthrow capitalism and create a workers' society."
The Wobblies were so extreme -- and low in numbers -- that they ended up playing into the hands of corporate powers. Some Montanans speculated that the Wobblies were really corporate plants, brought in to forment resentment against all unions, including more moderate ones. It didn't take long for the IWW to fade from view.
Yet, surprisingly, there are still a few Wobblies around. One is none other than Kevin Curtis of Butte, the husband of the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Amanda Curtis.
There is even a monthly IWW newspaper, the "Industrial Worker" -- a journal for which Amanda Curtis has written articles, including a piece about restoration of the Butte grave of IWW martyr Frank Little.
Curtis's ties to the IWW become a campaign issue? Probably not. The first, and
only, poll on the race between Curtis and Congressman Steve Daines shows the GOP candidate with 20 point lead, and his strategy so far seems to be to ignore his opponent rather than mention her
name and give her any publicity.
Despite her lack of name recognition, Curtis has attracted a number of positive national media articles, including ones by the New York Times, Politico, and ABC News.
BELIEVE it or not, you get a bigger bang for your buck in Montana. At least, a Tax Foundation report indicates that consumers in Montana get more for their money than consumers in most other states.
According to the study, in Montana $100 will buy what would cost $106.16 in another state that is closer to the national average. Buzz isn't an economist, but this appears to mean that Montanans get a 6 percent break on goods and services.
Parts of the country where $100 is worth the least are the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, and California. Places where money goes the farthest: Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, and South Dakota.
The report notes that there is often a correlation between regions with high incomes and high prices.
SO WHO is the richest person in Montana? You won't be surprised to learn it is Dennis Washington, the Missoula magnate who owns Montana Rail Link and Butte's big operating copper mine, among other things.
Washington's status has been confirmed by thereal-estate broker web site Movoto.com.
Washington is worth $6.1 billion, according to Movoto. Unlike many on Movoto's list, he didn't inherit his wealth, but built it with his own smarts and hard work. With the help of a $30,000 loan and a bulldozer, he started a Missoula-area contracting firm that became the state's largest construction firm.
He now owns a large group of privately held firms that fall under the umbrella of the Washington Companies, as well as a group of Canada-based companies known as the Seaspan Marine Corp. In more recent years, he's been known for building elaborate yachts and for his philanthropy, which includes much of the work on UM's Washington-Grizzly Stadium, named after him.
The country's richest person, by the way, lives nearby in Washington state. It is Bill Gates, worth a cool $80 billion.