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Sheehy’s ads and history just aren’t adding up

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Sheehy’s ads and history just aren’t adding up

Dec 11, 2023 | 6:42 am ET
By Peter D. Fox
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Sheehy’s ads and history just aren’t adding up
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Montana 2024 Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy. (Courtesy Tim Sheehy campaign)

As Tim Sheehy’s campaign presence grows daily with ads on Montana television and radio as well as on national cable channels such as Fox and a variety of Trump-aligned websites, it’s ironic that the story of how he arrived at this point is so little known.

It is doubtful that his reluctance to speak about himself other than to cite his Navy service and having roles as the CEO of successful businesses is due to a self-effacing personality.  

In working with the Gallatin County Commission to secure Industrial Development Revenue Bonds in 2020 and 2022 to expand Bridger Aerospace in Belgrade, the joke circulated that “his ego arrived in the courthouse 15 minutes before he did.”

When the public began to learn of his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in June, news reporters started the very routine process of looking into his background. References in news stories and online were unclear whether he was born in Bozeman or in Minnesota.  There was no effort by Sheehy himself – or the Steve Daines-driven National Republican Senatorial Committee – to clear the confusion. It was beneficial for people to think he was Montana-born.

NRSC support of this flawed candidate is aimed only at defeating Jon Tester and flipping the Senate to GOP control – not because of Sheehy’s potential as a statesman.  The NRSC and his own campaign continue to put him in front of wealthy donors – such as one in Naples, Fla., Wednesday.  The hook to give $1,000? Montana is a swing state.  

Interestingly, the Naples event is coordinated by Jon Goldberg of Highwood Capital, a national political consulting firm with an office in Bozeman. He is noted for his “… key role on Sen. Steve Daines reelection campaign in 2020,” and has worked on campaigns in Montana, Florida and three other states. 

One asks: “Why is Sheehy so tight-lipped about his background when he draws so much support from it?” It’s puzzling, especially when he has benefitted coming from a quite successful Minnesota family. Or does his opposition to a native Montanan and a Hi-Line farming heritage too much of a contrast?

Tim Sheehy’s grandfather, Cyril E. Sheehy Jr., was a prominent St. Paul businessman and engineer who enjoyed significant professional successes after creating the Sheehy Construction Co. in 1952, the largest in Minnesota with offices nationwide.  His obituary noted the company built many buildings in and around the Twin Cities. In 1959, he created the Sheehy Bridge Construction Co. One of Tim’s uncles now heads the Sheehy organization.

Tim’s father Richard is one of five siblings. Richard’s LinkedIn profile reflects his ownership of a firm involved in property management and independent investments. Some of his work involved management of his father’s Sheehy-built properties. 

Richard and his wife, Denise, moved to Bozeman soon after Tim and his wife, Carmen, settled in Montana; they now live in proximity to their son’s Bozeman family home. Tim spent his teen-age years at what might be described as the family’s palatial home on desirable Turtle Lake in Shoreview, Minn. Tim attended the exclusive St. Paul’s Academy, one of Minnesota’s premier private schools, from which he graduated in spring 2004.

It is likely that Tim’s nomination to attend the U.S. Naval Academy was made by then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, a friend of Richard’s and recipient of campaign contributions. A biography Tim submitted to the Montana Senate in 2021 shows he entered the academy in the fall 2004 and graduated in 2008.

Tim’s older brother, Matt, is listed on the Bridger Aerospace website as a co-founder and officer of Bridger Aerospace Group Holdings, drawing compensation of $1.8 million in 2022 to Tim’s $4.9 million earnings as CEO. The brothers are the two largest stockholders in the company, according to a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last January.  Matt, who holds an economics degree from Vanderbilt University, also is co-owner with Tim and Carmen of the touted Little Belt Cattle ranch in Meagher County.

But Matt’s primary endeavor is his role in Denver as president and CEO of Tallgrass an “energy and infrastructure” company based in Kansas City.  It operates 10,000 miles of pipelines carrying oil, natural gas, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and water across the U.S. midsection from eastern Ohio to Oregon.

Tim’s advertising and interview braggadocio centers on “I” as a personal pronoun rather than “we.”  He’s rightly proud of his military service and should be, and the supposition is that he soldiered on a part of a team. (Most military officers in leadership positions tend to use a lot more “we’s” than “I’s”. The “I did it all” mentality doesn’t go all that far in the corporate world, either.)

But it strains credulity that his separation from the active Navy in October of 2014 and the startup of Bridger Aerospace Group and the now-sold Ascent Vision Technologies should occur at virtually the same time – September 2014 – according to his submitted biography.

His reported campaign positions on foreign policy, economic matters and immigration policy range between his stated “100% Trump” support and those of the guy Sheehy would like to ignore, U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale.

For example, on Rosendale’s home turf of Glasgow in August, Sheehy was recorded at a small gathering advocating a total privatization of the American healthcare system: “Our hospitals have been built around federal healthcare subsidies,” he said. “In my opinion we need to return healthcare to pure privatization.”

As one who benefited from a private secondary education and a free bachelor’s degree in history at the Naval Academy, he then went on to draw a parallel with federal student loans and higher education: “Colleges know they can charge whatever they want to charge because student loans are going to pay.”

Clearly, Sheehy owes Montana voters much more transparency that he’s offered to date. The question is: “Will he?” Or will he continue to bluff his way to the election with nothing but bluster and very little for Montana?