One of the Republican candidates for the open-seat gubernatorial race in Montana has a very interesting pitch.
The frontrunner in the race by far is former Congressman Rick Hill, who in a late November survey from Public Policy Polling (D) dominated the divided field with a strong plurality of 37%, and his nearest opponent Ken Miller, a former state senator, way behind at 10%. So what angle is businessman Neil Livingstone, who scored 3% in that poll, taking in order to make his mark?
“I’m a businessman, I’ve run two nine-figure companies. I’m the only candidate in this race who’s actually been affiliated with companies that have drilled, mined and logged,” Livingstone recently told the local NBC affiliate.
So far, all seems normal for an outsider pitch in Montana.
But he also told them of his extensive work as a counterterrorism consultant: “I’ve had to deal with warlords and gangsters and terrorists all around the world. And from that perspective it should be easy dealing with bureaucrats in Helena and I’m not afraid of anything nor is my running mate, Ryan Zinke, who is a [state] Senator from Whitefish, but was head of Seal team six, the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden.”
Wow. So can an International Man of Mystery make a name for himself in Montana politics?
As an Associated Press profile outlines, Livingstone claims to have a background that is very unlikely for a politician:
Livingstone lists his own exploits as exploring tunnels beneath the demilitarized zone separating the Koreas, fleeing from angry Nazis in Argentina, suffering interrogation in 1980s Libya and dining with Russian mafioso. He also says he was wrongly subpoenaed for gun running and involvement in the Iran-Contra affair. And that time he was on the yacht belonging to a swashbuckling pirate whose other guests included numerous hookers? He was on a mission, he says, securing private planes to spy on a foreign country.
Libyan documents leaked last year stated that Livingstone was among a small group seeking a multi-million dollar payday to help Moammar Gadhafi find a safe haven. Livingstone, who has been a vocal critic of Gadhafi, said he was trying to bring a quick end to the bloodshed. The deal was rebuffed by the Obama administration.
And Livingstone didn’t go cheap for a running mate, either. For the Montana primary, in which candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run as tickets for their party nomination, his own running mate is state Sen. Ryan Zinke, a former member of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six.
To be clear, Zinke is 50 years of age, and was first elected to the legislature in 2008, the same year he retired from military service. Thus, he was not involved in such recent high-profile SEAL missions as the raid against Osama bin Laden, or the rescue of hostages in Somalia — at least, not that we know of.
And that boat full of “hookers,” as the AP described it? Livingstone has also been dinged for a book he wrote in 1997, “Protect Yourself In An Uncertain World,” that among other things included tips on how to manage encounters with prostitutes, if a person chose to live dangerously in that particular fashion. Among the tips: “Never give a hooker your real name”; “Select a high quality brothel”; and “Double Pleasure can be Double Trouble,” warning that a threesome deal could be a con-job for one prostitute to rob you when you’re not looking.
“I am not recommending prostitution to anyone, nor did I say I engaged with prostitutes,” Livingstone told the AP. “I took my wife. She was the only non-hooker on board.”
TPM has previously spoken with Livingstone, about his activism on behalf of Iranian exile/opposition group MEK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Last year, Livingstone conceded that MEK is ultimately not likely to be the successors of the Khamenei regime, but said he was offering his support to the general cause of Iranian opposition groups. And he objected to the terrorism classification. “We shouldn’t use the terrorism list for political purposes,” Livingstone said. “And it becomes a slippery slope the moment you do that.”