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Guest view: Gianforte's model wouldn't work for governing Montana

Guest view: Gianforte's model wouldn't work for governing Montana

Susan Carstensen


I am supporting Steve Bullock for governor because he has the skills, experience and policy positions to foster a robust economy that allows entrepreneurs to create high-wage jobs across Montana and to make Montana a great place to live and work.

I spent 13 years at RightNow Technologies working closely with Greg Gianforte as chief financial officer, chief operating officer and senior vice president for customer experience. I am proud of what we built at RightNow and give Greg enormous credit for founding the business. That said, I don’t believe that his success in business translates to success in public service.

Under Bullock, Montana is ranked as the No. 1 state for entrepreneurship four years in a row. Our wages are the sixth fastest growing in the nation, and more Montanans are employed today than ever before. In the past four years under Steve Bullock, Montana has created 20,000 new jobs. Our unemployment rate is about a full percentage point below the national average. This is because Bullock understands what attracts companies, big and small, to Montana -- a strong public education system, access to public lands, fiscal discipline, responsible investments in infrastructure, and a culture that welcomes all perspectives.

Greg has a record of opposing these things. Regardless of where he is from or how long he has been in Montana, he doesn’t share those values or support those policies. Technology companies in particular rely on employees who aren’t discriminated against. Yet Greg personally fought a non-discrimination ordinance in Bozeman and has donated more than $1 million to extreme anti-LGBT organizations. Many of the organizations Greg helps fund are behind the job-killing discrimination laws in Indiana and North Carolina. These harmful policies cost those states tens of millions of dollars. Let me be clear, those out of touch positions would deter companies, especially technology companies, as well as technology employees, from moving to Montana.

We have seen Greg’s position when it comes to public access near his house. He hasn’t committed to keep Montana’s public school funds in public schools or to expand our public school system to the Pre-K level, something almost every other state in the country already has implemented. His tax proposals would eliminate Montana’s fiscal surplus. That surplus has been the underpinning of Montana’s highly favorable credit rating, which has translated to very strong bond ratings.

While Greg is spending millions of his own fortune to tout his business credentials, he should be clear with Montanans about RightNow Technologies’ business model. The purpose of our business was to cut costs for companies, by eliminating and outsourcing jobs overseas with technology solutions for customer service. In conversations with RightNow investors, Greg explained that one of the biggest drivers in our business has been the movement toward outsourcing. In fact, Forbes Magazine actually praised RightNow Technologies for “taking the concept of outsourcing to new levels.” And while it is true that we had approximately 500 employees in Montana we had another 700 employees in other states and countries as well as outsourced jobs in Armenia and India. This was a very successful business model and produced profits for our owners, including Greg and myself, but it just doesn’t provide a model for governing our state.

Montana’s business climate is strong and getting stronger. I’m proud to have been a part of it and will continue to help it grow. And I’m proud to support Steve Bullock, the candidate who has a proven record of getting things done—especially when it requires putting political differences aside and supporting common sense policies and investments to keep Montana great for future generations.

Susan Carstensen is the former Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President for Customer Experience of RightNow Technologies, a fifth generation Montanan and resides in Bozeman.


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