An Exclusive Interview with Congressional Candidate Matt Rosendale
Because of the importance of political discussion, we interviewed Matt Rosendale, a Republican Primary candidate running for the House of Representatives. The purpose of our interview was to elucidate the thought process that he will bring to Washington should he be elected. To this end, we asked broad and specific issues seeking to draw out not only the general principles which undergrid his views, but also if and how he will apply them in specific areas. Our aim in this is to equip the voter with a better understanding of his political philosophy, so that, aware of the principles he will bring to any given issue, the voter will be able to gain a better understanding of what to expect from him should they choose to endorse him as their elected Representative.
The official interview was just over twenty minutes and, for those who want to truly understand this candidate in greater depth and how he arrives at the conclusions he does, we highly recommend listening to the complete audio as the summary does not fully demonstrate the breadth of his responses. The audio is available below. In regards to the layout, the bold text below is the interviewer, and the regular font is the candidate’s response.
Before we get started, I want to describe our interview style. Freedom’s Discourse is dedicated to rational discussion of today’s issues. As a direct reflection of this, our interview style is geared towards fostering discussion. We have a general outline, but wherever the interview goes, we’ll follow. Feel free to pose questions to us or to discuss other topics you deem pertinent. We will post the entire audio clip on our site underneath the summarized transcript.
Matt Rosendale is running to represent Montana in the U.S. Congress. He is currently running in the Republican primary election.
Could you tell us about your platform and the principles you live by?
Absolutely. Thank you very much for having me out today. My platform is basically about “Freedom First.” That is what our signs say and that is what our concept has been. “Freedom First” is about restoring our constitutional principles. Right now, the Federal government has made a dramatic overreach into the state and it is burdening our businesses and our families. It has gone way beyond the scope of what the Founders intended as its function. I truly believe that we can go in and remove a lot of that overreach, allow the citizens of Montana to make more decisions about how our state functions, and return the control and management of our affairs to the citizens of Montana. When we do this, what it does is it opens up tremendous economic opportunities and restores our freedoms so that people can live their lives the way that they had planned.
What most differentiates you from your opponents?
I think it is the work I’ve done. In order to achieve the restoration of constitutional values, we have to get down to the tactics. Those tactics are: reducing spending and deficit, reducing the regulations that are imposed upon us, and restoring our freedoms by making sure the government does not blatantly disregard our privacy or our civil liberties. Those three things, if we focus on working on them, will actually help us restore those freedoms and open opportunities for us. All of the main candidates have served in the state legislature; they have served in the state senate. The work they had the opportunity to do while serving is a clear demonstration of what you can expect going forward. Your past performance is a true indicator of what your future results are going to be. And, I think if you look at the votes and if you look at the work that was conducted by all of the candidates, you’ll see that I clearly stand out as the most effective and the most consistent advocate for property rights, for gun rights, for the sanctity of life, and for resource development.
Running for office, lots of promises are made by various candidates to get votes. Why should voters trust that what you’ve said, that what you’ve done, is going to stay the same when you get to Washington D.C.? What is going to make you different that just a career politician?
That is a great question and that is the beauty of this election because we have all served in the state senate. You can look at the past performance of each of the candidates and see if it aligns with the promises they are making now. So when someone stands up and says, “there’s a problem with debt and deficit and I’m the one who is going to go and reduce the debt and deficit.” Did they do so when they had the opportunity in state senate?
I did. I went through the budget line by line. I removed millions of dollars worth of spending and I was able to convince other members of the legislature to support those amendments because that is the other critical part. When we talk about regulations burdening our businesses, we all recognize that they do. Again, we all served in the senate. What did they do to demonstrate they had the ability to reduce the regulatory burden that is on our businesses and on our families? I did. I went through and repealed sections of law that were burdening our businesses and our families. And I was, once again, able to get other legislators to support that repeal so that we could go ahead and provide that relief.
It is the same way with privacy. Privacy has currently become a hot button issue, but I recognized years ago that there was a problem with the government having access to too much information on the citizens without establishing probable cause before they gathered it. And I started pursuing that. There were 400 private and public institutions around this country that were trying to access drones for surveillance purposes. It was not to protect us from harm, it was not to protect us from terrorists. There was nothing in statute that described what drones could be used for, what kind of information they could gather, what they could with that information once they gathered it.
You have to have foresight and vision as well to try and anticipate what problems are going to be coming down the line, and what needs to be put in place to stop that problem, that issue, from surfacing. Because if not, if a law gets passed, if a tax gets put into place, it establishes a constituency of support. Once it establishes a constituency of support, it is very difficult to eliminate it or change it. So you need to anticipate that problem and eliminate it before it even starts. Sort of like health care.
We are going to get into a little bit more specific questioning. Education is a hot topic issue today with new programs like the Common Core. In the previous MSU debate, you mentioned that our K-12 system sends kids into college ill-prepared. How do you hope to concretely fix this? Can it be fixed through legislation and your efforts?
I do not think that is something that will be fixed at the federal level. I do not. I think that is something that needs to be addressed at the state level. I think that looking at the federal government to get involved in this is simply a crutch. The state has the opportunity to allow for competition and they have not. And, until we introduce competition into a system, you will never see improvement. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about education system, or the garage up the street, if someone has a monopoly, there will not be improvements, there will not be innovation.
Are there any restrictions at the federal level that are in place that would limit Montana from taking the lead on their education?
There are not. The state of Montana, the governor, and the legislature have not been able to pass anything, even though it has been tried over the last couple sessions. There have been efforts to introduce opportunities for charter schools, for school vouchers, or even tax deductions for individuals that want to educate their children in a different fashion. I think that is critical to allow these things to take place if we are going to see improvement in our education system.
How is it that a private school can offer an education for $4000 on average per student while the MT public school system costs about $11,000? There is a problem there. And, I do believe that we have to have competition and allow people to take advantage of the best system or systems for their specific child. Every child is a unique specimen and some children are going to learn better with certain types of educational programs and some will learn better with others. I think parents need to be able to make the decision whether they utilize homeschooling, a digital academy, a private school, or a combination of all of the above. And, the state needs to put a system in place that allows for the parents to make those decisions.
At the MSU debate and as you mentioned today, you stand strongly in support of the life issues. In this, you included abolishing the death penalty. Could you explain this stance?
I think that if you say that you are pro-life, abolishing the death penalty is the only truly consistent pro-life stance that you can have. From conception to natural death; that has been my stance. If you want to start at the beginning, I’m against abortion. I’ve also stood up and said, I’m against assisted suicide and carried legislation on the senate floor as such. And, when we get to death penalty, I’ve been opposed to that.
Let’s look at the reasons why. Fiscally, it costs more money to have the death penalty in place in our state. I served on Finance and Claims and we had to allocate an additional $500,000 into the budget to fund the capital punishment trials that are taking place. That is because of the special requirements for the attorneys. It requires two attorneys on these cases and they have certain criteria they must fulfill before they are even eligible to take those cases on. It’s much more expensive. So fiscally, you can’t justify it.
From a safety standpoint, you can’t justify it either. The prisons are not safer and the streets are not safer in the states that have the death penalty compared to the ones that do not. If you look at our neighbor, North Dakota, they do not have the death penalty and yet their prisons have a lower incidence of violence and their streets are safer. These are the facts. This is a highly charged emotional subject and I get it. Let’s talk to the facts. Fiscally, you can’t justify it. Safety, you can’t justify it.
We have the ability now to isolate these individuals from society. Our prison system is such and it is secure enough that we have the ability to isolate these individuals once they have been found guilty of a heinous crime; we can isolate them from the bounds of society. There is no other place in society in our nation that I’m aware of that once the threat of harm is gone from you, that you are allowed to go back in and take someone’s life.
You could have a woman that has been abused for years and her husband stops that abuse and moves down the street a block. And if, after that abuse had ceased, she was to get in her car a week later and drive down the street and shoot him, it would be a tragic thing, but she would end up in jail, not him. I think that we have to look at it that way. And lastly, when anyone makes an argument of why one form of life is not worth protecting, but another form of life or stage of life is worth protecting, it simply provides the planks for the platform that someone else will stand upon to make their argument.
Staying in a similar train of thought. If your principles were in opposition to the desires of your constituents, as they are in regards to what Montanans generally believe on the death penalty, how would you handle this? How does this affect your voting? Would you vote according to what the people want or in accordance with your principles? How will you bring this to Washington for us?
That’s a great question. That is why I’ve been so very clear on what my principles are, what my values are, and what my value system is. The people that vote for me might not know where I stand on any given subject, but they know what I’m using as the measuring cup or the prism from which I view all legislation through. Because of that, I do not think that they will be surprised at any vote that I cast because they know how I’m judging it.
Obviously, you get input from a lot of individuals. What I look for is new information. I think that you have to always be open to evaluate new information. It’s almost like an appeal in court. If you’re just bringing the same information up and you’re going to deliver it in a different fashion, that doesn’t really change a mind. But, if you have new information that someone did not have access to, then you should certainly open your mind up and listen to those new facts before you make your final judgment. Even after you’ve made what you think is your final decision about an issue, if someone brings new information that you did not have access to, then you should give that its due time and care and listen to that as well.
Then it is up to me as an elected official, to go out and explain the issue to my constituency. My constituency would be the whole state. I’d say, this is the information I have had access to and this is how I feel about this matter and I’d share that with them. Because when you sit in a committee hearing, you are privy to a lot of information that typically doesn’t get shared at the coffee house. I found many times that just by sharing the additional information that I’ve had available to me, I was able to change some opinions of the people I represent.
One question that has recently come up is the ACLU challenge to the MT Marriage Amendment. This might not be a completely accurate number, but we’ve seen in 20-30 states that the federal courts come in and revoke bans on homosexual unions. [Accuracy update, 29 states have pending legislation on this issue.] What do you think on this subject? What do you think the federal government should be doing in this regard? And, how does that affect the average Montana citizen?
The citizens of Montana voted with, I think, a 70% majority to amend the state’s constitution to put into the state’s constitution that marriage will be between one man and one woman. I, myself, certainly support traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman. I think that these different groups are making their argument that it should not be in the constitution.
I support traditional marriage. I’m not sure where that court case is going to go. What concerns me as much as anything is when I hear about the other lawsuits that take place once this kind of thing is removed from the constitution. Where people are being forced to participate in events surrounding those relationships. I do strongly believe that there is a difference between tolerance and being prejudiced upon and forced into participation. There is a difference.
Let’s say it came up and became something that was brought to Congress to consider as law, as it has been brought up at the state legislature. I understand your background on believing in traditional marriage, and we kind of see what direction you’re going to vote. Is there a way to address the federal involvement and the fact that the federal courts are trumping the state mandates, put in place by their people?
I guess at the end of the day, here is how I’m going to look at that subject. To me, the paramount freedom is the freedom of religion. I think that when we get into whether it’s more important to protect the freedom of speech and your freedom of religion, I think individual’s churches, the sanctity of their church, and their faith are going to take priority. And if we get into a position where legislation is going to compromise that, for those individuals, I’m going to make sure that that is the priority. If the state needs to get out of the business of recognizing a marriage then what I want to make sure of is that your freedom of religion is protected. That is where we get back to tolerance as opposed to forced participation.
Final question. In the ad where you shot down the drone, what caliber rifle did you use?
That was a .308. And, just for the record, it was a blank! There was not a projectile fired into the sky, it was a commercial. And, that was to get folks attention, which it certainly did with over 570,000 views on YouTube. What I liken it to is anyone who has followed basketball recognizes the name of Bobby Knight. Every once in a while someone has to walk into the auditorium and throw a chair across the floor to get everybody’s attention. That was what that was for and it achieved exactly what it was supposed to. Now, people start listening to the message that big government has reached too deep into our state and into our private lives and that is what I intend to fight.
Any last thoughts you want to share with us?
I would say that, there’s a big field. A lot of folks are running in this field and they’ve all served in the legislature. I just hope folks will take the time to look at the work, to look at the votes, and make a determination based on that and not based on a commercial, whether it was good or bad. Look at the individuals and their work and what they truly stand for and do not rely on campaign promises because that is what has brought us to where we are now.
When our founders committed to the Declaration of Independence, they committed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. They really did. And when they signed it, they signed their death warrants. They were going against the biggest, strongest, most powerful nation in the world. We have far too many people that are trying to go into office because they want to enrich their lives, they want to increase their fortunes, and they are willing to compromise their sacred honor. Until we start sending folks into Washington that truly don’t want to be in Washington, who’d much rather be back on their farms with their families, we’re going to have the same problems. And that is how I am.
I have a ranch. It’s twenty miles north of Glendive. I live there with my wife and I am willing to sacrifice some time away from my family to do this work because it is critical and it is a critical time. I’ve watched these things taking place since 1980 and have been engaged, but never ran for office. For whatever reason, the good Lord has decided this is the time for me to run. My children are out of college now and I have the time, I have the energy, and I have committed my life to this. Unless we start to have people that are willing to put themselves aside and put the nation first, and truly be public servants, we are going to have problems.
If you are interested in learning more about Matt Rosendale, you can visit his site at MattForMontana.com.