In a recent guest column, Susan Carstensen, former top executive of RightNow Technologies, founded by Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, says she cannot support her previous boss for governor. But her reasons are ill-considered.

Carstensen says Gov. Bullock understands what attracts companies: a strong public education system, access to public lands, fiscal discipline, responsible investment in infrastructure and a culture that welcomes all perspectives.

Let’s put this into perspective:

• Bullock vetoed infrastructure bills in two legislative sessions.

• Bullock vetoed income tax simplifications and reductions.

• Fiscal discipline? Auditors found more than a billion dollars of mistakes in 125 significant accounting errors of our tax dollars by the Bullock administration. State spending has increased more than 20 percent during Bullock’s term.

• Bullock’s Land Board sold 68,060 acres of our state lands.

Despite these disconnects, Carstensen cheers Bullock for Montana’s No. 1 ranking for entrepreneurship. But this also deserves a closer look.

True, Kauffman’s start-up index ranks Montana first. But among large population states it ranks conservative Texas first. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its Enterprising States Report ranks Maryland first, and the Entrepreneurship Index by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ranks liberal Massachusetts first. These researches have the same, and similar, data yet reach different conclusions.

FastCompany in its state rankings on a thriving startup culture (Florida first) believes new business impetus comes from entrepreneurs. “Try as governments might, a thriving startup culture isn't legislated into existence,” it says.

The technology and leadership magazine quotes Scott Chase, CEO of Startup America Partnership, as saying those states that have a thriving startup culture “have emerged from a group of entrepreneurs who are active in their community and have decided, hey, we're going to make this market better.”

Carstensen also claims Gianforte has a record of opposing what attracts companies. Yet Oracle, one of the world’s largest data management and software solutions companies, bought RightNow, stayed in Montana and continues to grow.

Finally, Carstensen, RightNow’s former Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Customer Experience, says the purpose of the company was to “cut costs for companies by eliminating and outsourcing jobs overseas with technology solutions for customer service.”

Does she want us to believe this is what inspired 13 years with RightNow, or this was her role as head of Customer Experience, or this is what Oracle bought for $1.8 billion, which made her a multi-millionaire?

Oracle acquired RightNow’s customer experience solutions. RightNow was a leader in offering a suite of innovative customer resource management software services in the Internet cloud to help companies improve customer encounters. This was its purpose. Business managers decided how to use RightNow’s products, not Gianforte.

RightNow served clients in technology, public sector, entertainment, financial services, telecommunications, and travel and hospitality, while showcasing Montana across the U.S. and around the world in places like England, Spain, Germany, Australia and Japan. This is good.

I prefer a governor with vision, who understands this changing world, and has been successful managing an enterprise in a complex environment. Gianforte has the experience to lead Montana into the future. Bullock tries to copy others’ ideas and has never created a private sector job.

-- Cort Freeman of Butte is a former business reporter, businessman, and retired corporate communication executive.


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