Commentary

There’s a whole lot more Montana better know about Sheehy

November 14, 2023 4:39 am
Montana 2024 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy. (Courtesy Tim Sheehy campaign)

Montana 2024 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy. (Courtesy Tim Sheehy campaign)

Militarily, one must admire Tim Sheehy – Naval Academy and Army Ranger School graduate, awarded Bronze Star with “V” device for valor and recipient of the Purple Heart as the result of a combat wound, and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s what’s known as a “hard charger” in the business. Sheehy was medically separated as a lieutenant from the active Navy in October 2014 as the result of being wounded in action on Sept. 12, 2012, in Afghanistan.

It’s clear he served honorably and bravely.

From there things get blurry – as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, seeking our votes, he owes it to Montana voters to clear things up.

Perhaps most perplexing is: How did a junior Navy officer jump from active duty to establishing Bridger Aerospace in the same month, according to his own resume? Where did the grubstake come from?  Certainly not from saving his Academy midshipman and active duty pay. 

Similarly, Sheehy’s Montana “roots” are hazy – was he born in Bozeman? How long did young Sheehy live here and did he grow up in Minnesota?  What were his early years like and how did they affect his adulthood?  Quite obviously they led to his application to the Naval Academy, and he had sufficient qualifications to be accepted that might be reflected by his upbringing.  Why is it that his profiles note that he’s “evasive” in talking about his parents? 

Beyond those questions, since his newly released ethics pledge says he will “raise the bar for ethical responsibility and accountability in the U.S. Senate,” he might disclose how his high-powered Bridger Aerospace Group board of directors came together. 

Sheehy and his wife Carmen, a Marine graduate of the Naval Academy whom he met in Afghanistan, are noted in his campaign literature of gifting nearly $6 million to Montana entities in recent years. That includes a $4.2 million contribution in support of the neonatal intensive care unit Bozeman Health Deaconess.  Add to that $500,000 to the Montana Historical Society.  

He’s also been a political contributor to campaigns of Gov. Greg Gianforte, Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Ryan Zinke. 

This all begs the question in the interest of his exemplary ethics pledge: What are the financial resources he’s been able to tap into during the previous nine years, going directly from the Navy to setting up Bridger Aerospace?  To purchasing luxury property at Bird Point on Flathead Lake? To having an interest in an ultra-luxury property in Sunlight Basin – at the same time decrying the gentrification of Montana at the expense of agricultural Montana? 

In the midst of it all, Sheehy has managed with all his other activity to write “Mudslingers,” a book recently released, described as “the unique history of aerial firefighting as seen through the eyes of a pilot, former Navy SEAL, and current owner of one of the most successful aerial firefighting companies in the world.” One might consider it as a campaign autobiography.

Meanwhile, Sheehy now is being sued for negligence after the five-seat, twin-engine plane in which he was taking training nose-dived a Florida family’s home in 2019.  Their 17-year-old daughter was pinned inside, and the house significantly damaged. Several family members inside the home escaped injury.  Sheehy was in the process of adding a multi-engine sea license to those he already holds.  Unfortunately, his instructor pilot died in the crash; Sheehy blames the crash on him. 

Sheehy is being promoted extensively in broadcast and digital placements – more than $1.7 million through September.  Politically speaking, he’s setting himself as the Gianforte-Daines-Zinke “mini-me” on a platform of wealth, influence and an “Aww, shucks!” self-promotion.

This month a pro-Sheehy super PAC is dropping more than $200,000 in a radio ad buy, focusing on his support of Donald Trump (100%), border security and his military background. (No mention of Montana-specific issues.)

His 2022 income from salary and bonus at Bridger was $5 million, up from 2021 according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Jan. 30, 2023. The Montana Free Press reported that “his total net worth, buoyed by between $16 million and $44 million in dividends from investments, is between $74 million and $200 million, which would make him one of Congress’ wealthiest members if he is elected.”

Voter beware! Before Montana gets too far down the campaign trail, we deserve to know more about Tim Sheehy.

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Peter D. Fox
Peter D. Fox

Peter Fox has had a 40-year career in communications beginning with 25 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor in Wisconsin and Montana then director of public information for the University of Wisconsin System. Later he served a term as Wisconsin cabinet officer overseeing employment relations, afterwards leading a statewide newspaper association and the Park County Community Foundation. He and his wife Nikki live in Big Timber. He has bachelor's and masters degrees in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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