Downing, Morigeau and Roots face off in auditor race: Troy Downing
Last updated 9/29/2020 at 12:02pm
Big Sky businessman Troy Downing is facing off against Democrat candidate Rep. Shane Morigeau of Missoula and Libertarian candidate Roger Roots of Livingston in the general election in the race for Matt Rosendale's place as Montana auditor.
Rosendale, a Republican, is running for the U.S. House instead of running for re-election and faces former Rep. Kathleen Williams, D-Bozeman, in the race for that seat, being vacated by U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.
Gianforte is running for Montana governor instead of running for his house seat and faces Democrat Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney and Libertarian Lyman Bishop in that race.
Downing said the auditor's office is a consumer protection agency for the insurance and security industries.
"It is there to protect consumers against bad actors in those industries," he said. "It is a regulatory agency for those industries and it is also one of the five seats on the Land Board, which was constitutionally created to manage state trust lands to fund public education."
He said his approach on development of public lands in Montana, such as mining, oil and natural gas extraction, logging and so on would be multiple use and sustained yield.
Multiple use means multiple use, he said, adding that there needs to be a holistic view on how they view those state trust sections and those school sections.
"We all look at our windows and smile, actually I'm out looking at Flathead Lake and smiling, so we want to make sure we are truly stewards our land, but let's look at and say, 'Where does it make sense to graze cattle, where is public access,' where does that make sense, what about recreational and sportsman access, where does it make sense to harvest timber to do natural resource development' - all the things that we do with our land that support, really the backbone of the Montana economy - our farmers, our ranchers, natural resources, recreations, sportsmen access," Downing said. "... Sustained yield that means don't give in to any temptation that short-term windfalls, let's look at this with long-term view on how we are truly stewards of these valuable assets, or these treasures that we have out there, make sure that we are managing them and the decisions that we're making are not depleting the assets, so they're there essentially forever, make sure generation after generation we can still use these assets, these state trust lands to do what they were intended to do fund public education."
He said the school sections and the state trusts is something very specific.
"I think a lot of people try to put in the overarching title of public lands - this is not an all public lands policy, we are talking about those specific subsections of these."
He said those sections were created specifically to fund education, and he thinks the state can do that in a stewardly manner.
"We are supporting that backbone of our economy and continuing to put money into education as those specific sections were set aside to do," Downing said.
The auditor's office must regulate the laws as written, he said.
He said his view on administrative rules is that they clarify ambiguity and statute, but the statute is the job of the Legislature, which he said is where it belongs and where it should continue to belong.
"In terms of trying make things better from the regulatory environment, I think there's a lot of opportunity there, specifically to be a partnership with industry, with business, with insurers, with everybody that is depending on this office," he said, adding that past protecting the consumer, being in partnership with industry is meaningful.
"I believe that is consumer advocacy, because if you are creating a pro-business environment there after you've taken care of the consumer protection part, you start to create more competition, more businesses is doing business, more options for consumers. I think that competition starts to drive prices down, and as a consumer having more choices and lower costs is consumer advocacy, and that's really what I believe the role of is - it is consumer protection, consumer protection in the insurance and securities industries."
He said some changes need to be made in the office.
"I want to change the culture, so you have done the business of protecting the consumer, once you have taken care of bad actors and make sure that anything that a company, a business would do to mislead or defraud a Montana consumer, once you take care of that, let's find a way renewing, elevating and partnering businesses."
He is not a fan of limiting different types of programs, he said.
"One of the things I think is very meaningful to the consumer is having those choices, having those tools in your tool box," Downing said. "... What I want to see in this office is not limiting those different kinds of programs. ... What I want to see is start pushing comprehensive educational programs in this office, so that we have tools and resources, things you can get from our agency directly, things you can get online, start doing road trips around the state educating consumers on different kinds of products and what kinds of questions they should be asking, what they should be looking for and a policy, what the risks are, what the rewards are."
He thinks an educated consumer can make very good choices on whether direct primary care is good for their family or if traditional health care plans like Blue Cross, PacificSource or other options that are out there are better, he said.
He said he also wants to push education in the security and financial industry. He thinks educating consumers and having a place where they can understand what they are getting into and what kind of questions they should be asking, what they should be looking out for and more, he added.
"This office is overseeing two very large, very complicated and highly regulated industries in the state, and I think that it is important, first of all, having broad business experience is important and my background - I have business experience in everything from technology to education, I used to teach, to research, to commercial real estate, to insurance, to manufacturing - I've got broad business experience," Downing said. "What I think is particularly suited for this office is having experience in the actual industries that this office regulates."
If one has operated in the insurance industry, one has seen how a consumer can be mislead, one has seen how bad actors work, he said, adding that if one has worked in the financial services side one has seen how bad actors can mislead, defraud investors that don't exactly what they are doing or how to do bet these deals.
"I think having industry experience and knowing where to look and what kinds of things that bad actors can do is of paramount importance," he said. "... The other part of that is having dealt with running businesses and building businesses in the insurance industry and in the financial services industry you see how heavy-handed applications of a highly regulated industry can stifle business."
He added that he has a background in insurance and built, sold and managed securities, so he's seen how bad actors act and he's seen how heavy-handed regulators can come in.
"I think somebody coming into this office no matter how wide-eyed and bushy-tailed they are, and how high their hopes are to run this office simply doesn't know what they don't know, they wouldn't know where to look for the consumer protection side and they wouldn't understand the strains and struggles of running businesses in these highly regulated complicated industries," Downing said. "The biggest issue I have with somebody that doesn't have any experience at all in either of these industries is they would have to hire people that knew everything. ... Why are you voting for the person who doesn't know what they don't know?"