The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

Letter to the Editor: Politically Neutral


Of the twelve years that we have lived here, this is only my second letter to the editor. I feel strongly about this issue that I feel it is time for me to write another. And, I for one appreciate all that the Whitehall Chamber of Commerce has done for our little town. The Chamber should be commended for all the wonderful local activities. And, I am sure they would appreciate all the help they can get.

However, I am writing about a concern with the Chamber’s activity on their Facebook site. They recently reposted on their site an advertisement for a progressive political group who is supporting and campaigning for their candidate for the upcoming special election replacing Ryan Zinke.

There may be more elsewhere but that is where I saw it. Whether it is Republican, Democrat, or Independent, I have been told it has been the practice of the Chamber in the past to stay clear of expressing their political views because as has been expressed to me, it is “no win” situation. It just causes division and then some people wouldn’t get involved in the Chamber because of a political view.

We recently got over with a very difficult election. In all my years of following politics, I haven’t seen anything like it.

No one I have talked to thought it was a great political year no matter what political affiliation. The argument from the person who originated the above-mentioned post stated, “They shared a link. It’s that simple.” However after reposting, the Chamber clicked “like”. It is a questionable action, as well as in regard to their 501(c)6 status. It’s a “no win” if they choose to continue with this practice because there wilt always be someone on the other side of the fence disagreeing with it and may affect their decision to work with the Chamber. If I am feeling this way, others are as well. I know there are others and then what about the feelings of the businesses that are Chamber members who have an opposite view? When a particular political group is endorsed, there is a lot more than just commerce to be considered and that is where the disagreement lies within people’s minds.

What is the purpose of the Chamber of Commerce? It is a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses. Business owners in towns and cities form these local societies to advocate on behalf of the business community.

The chamber of commerce is an organization of citizens who are investing their time and money in a community development program working together to improve the economic, civic, and cultural well being of the area. But when the Chamber chooses to advertise for these groups that are more than just commerce related, a lot of undesirable activities associated with a group come along with it in some people’s minds.

The Chamber’s mission is creating an environment in which businesses can prosper. I know that there are some local business owners who have personal political views but have chosen to keep it private because they know that not all of their customers would be pleased. And so they stay neutral publically but may discuss views one-on-one with whom they feel comfortable to discuss it with. It just makes good business sense.

Again, I appreciate the Chamber. I hope they rethink these practices.

Diane Welna



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