Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Brian Schweitzer, Democratic revival in the Mountain West get props in this article

The Washington Examiner and David Mark deserve credit for latching on to this evolving story:
Look west, Democrats!

August 30 '05
By David Mark

President George W. Bush's Rocky Mountain state sweep in 2004 was broad but shallow, as Democrats performed surprisingly well in several down-ballot races.

The Colorado and Montana legislatures went Democratic. Brian Schweitzer won the Montana governorship, following up on the 2002 victory of Gov. Dave Freudenthal in rock-ribbed Republican Wyoming. In Colorado, Ken Salazar picked up a Senate seat for the Democrats, running four points ahead of presidential nominee John F. Kerry.

These recent Western successes point to potentially fertile political ground for Democrats mapping out Electoral College game plans for the 2008 presidential election. With the South now a Republican lock in presidential politics, the competitiveness of Western states has taken on increasing importance.

Factors for the Democratic resurgence out west vary state to state, but some common themes are clear. With Republicans controlling the White House, Congress and several state houses, Western Democrats can legitimately portray the GOP as the status quo and argue they are the party of change.

In an ironic twist, Democrats can run as quasi-libertarians, arguing that people in their region just want to be left alone from meddlesome government bureaucrats. Out West, many more people are pro-choice on abortion than in the South. And Western Democrats regularly push to curb federal mandates, such as the test-heavy No Child Left Behind law.

Democrats also take advantage of environmental and land use issues: They favor improved access to public lands for hunting and fishing, which have a ripple effect in helping local economies. Environmentalism is becoming a major wedge issue against Republicans. Western voters last year supported several green-friendly ballot measures. Montanans refused (by a 58 percent-to-42 percent margin) to reverse a six-year-old ban on cyanide leach mining, for example. And Coloradans passed the Renewable Energy Amendment, which requires major public utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

Gun control is the issue on which these Western Democrats break with their urban and coastal brethren. Govs. Schweitzer and Freudenthal have stressed their hunting credentials and made a point of distancing themselves from national Democratic leaders, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who back strict gun control measures.

To be sure, Democrats have a long way to go in translating victories for governor, Senate and state legislature into Electoral College gains for their presidential candidates. Wyoming gave Bush 68.9 percent of its vote last year, Idaho 68.4 percent and Utah a chart-topping 71.5 percent. These states are not worth Democrats' time, energy and valuable resources. But Montana (where Bush won with 58 percent), Colorado (where he garnered 52 percent), Arizona (where he earned 55 percent) and New Mexico (where he edged out Kerry 50 percent to 49 percent) are all, to varying degrees, viable Democratic pickup targets.

Democrats outside Washington, D.C., have begun to sense the opportunities.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Love this "Life of Brian" headline and story

Kudos to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and Carol Schmidt for this 'early' look at Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer:
Life of Brian: Former MSU professor predicted great things for Schweitzer


Twenty years ago, when Brian Schweitzer was a gregarious grad student with dreams of hitting it big in international agribusiness, a Montana State University mentor made a prediction that has stayed with Schweitzer.

"'Brian, if you can keep them from killing you over there in Africa, one day you'll come back and be governor,'" Larry Munn, Schweitzer's soils professor at MSU, told him over dinner the night before Schweitzer graduated in 1981.

"It struck me as unusual then, because I hadn't been involved in politics except as the president of the agronomy students at Colorado State," where he earned his undergraduate degree, Schweitzer said on a recent visit to MSU.

Of course, Schweitzer did return from Libya, his first stop in an ag career that also took him to Saudi Arabia, South America and Europe. And after a couple decades as a mint farmer and businessman, Schweitzer launched a political career and was elected in November as Montana's first Democratic governor since 1988.

"Brian was always very outgoing and interested in people," said Munn, now a soils professor at the University of Wyoming. "And he was a 'doer.' It took a tremendous amount of ambition and self-confidence to start his career as he did. He thrived on social interaction and he could take as well as give -- be the butt of a joke, laugh with everyone and come back with a better story of his own."

That ability to tell a good story has held Schweitzer in good stead. Recently, Lee Newspapers conducted a poll of Montana voters that found Schweitzer had a 57 percent job approval rating after his first five months in office. That compared with Judy Martz's 44 percent and Marc Racicot's 47 percent rating, both after five months in office.

Schweitzer's pragmatic and populist politics have also drawn him into the national spotlight. He's been featured in Washington Monthly, and Salon.com magazine recently called him the "Howard Dean on the Range." Salon also said Schweitzer "may be the next best hope of the Democratic Party."
For the rest of the story, go here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Brian Schweitzer touts a non-foreign energy source

This is a topic that has been previously posted about here and elsewhere but it's worth re-visiting, especially if one has been to a gas station anytime recently:
Montana's governor eyes coal to solve U.S. fuel costsBy Adam TannerReuters
August 25, 2005

HELENA, Montana (Reuters) - Montana's governor wants to solve America's rising energy costs using a technology discovered in Germany 80 years ago that converts coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.

The Fischer-Tropsch technology, discovered by German researchers in 1923 and later used by the Nazis to convert coal into wartime fuels, was not economical as long as oil cost less than $30 a barrel.

But with U.S. crude oil now hitting more than double that price, Gov. Brian Schweitzer's plan is getting more attention across the country and some analysts are taking him very seriously.

Montana is "sitting on more energy than they have in the Middle East," Schweitzer told Reuters in an interview this week.

"I am leading this country in this desire and demand to convert coal into gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel. We can do it in Montana for $1 per gallon," he said.

"We can do it cheaper than importing oil from the sheiks, dictators, rats and crooks that we're bringing it from right now."

The governor estimated the cost of producing a barrel of oil through the Fischer-Tropsch method at $32, and said that with its 120 billion tons of coal -- a little less than a third of the U.S total -- Montana could supply the entire United States with its aviation, gas and diesel fuel for 40 years without creating environmental damage.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Brian Schweitzer: Leadership & Telling It Like It Is

No, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is not now nor will he ever be a candidate for sainthood. Hey, even I can admit that!

But if there is some sort of special dispensation available to the worthiest of politicians, well, Schweitzer is leading the herd of the deserving.

Here's why:

At the recent launch of the Progressive Legislation Action Network (PLAN), Schweitzer was quoted thusly:

"We cannot govern this country depending on Washington D.C. Washington is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America."

Schweitzer also detailed his version of a national energy policy that would make America independent of the:

"sheikhs, dictators, rats, and crooks"

Schweitzer will be pushing again for a Montana state ethics reform bill that prohibits legislators, state elected officials and their top staff from becoming lobbyists unti two years after they leave office.

He will also re-introduce his proposal for a Corps of Discovery that creates a bipartisan committee of business execitives and legislators to determine where waste and duplication can be eliminated in state government.He succeeded in improving access for outdoor enthusiasts by making permanent the Habitat Montana, block management and fishing access enhancement programs.

Schweitzer added $80 million into funding for the state's K-12 educational system over the next two years.
He submitted a balanced budget that projects a surplus of $80 million, without raising taxes, as of mid-2007.

Contrast this truth-telling and leadership with how the current occupant of the White House goes about the 'business' of governing:

Social Security reform: current White House occupant says a crisis is looming (lie) and then initially offers a plan that fails to even address the actual problem (lie).

Defeating Terrorism: current White House occupant demonstrates that Saddam Hussein poses a greater threat to the world than Osama Ben Laden (lie) and invades Iraq--then allows his Vice President to recently state the insurgency is in its last throes (lie). For the sake of the readers of this blog entry and to preserve bandwidth, we've limited the subject of Iraq to just two of the falsehoods perpetrated by the current administration.

Medicare reform: current White House occupant says reform legislation will cost under $400 million for the first 10 years (lie)--
when the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, produced a $551 billion cost estimate but was threatened with the loss of his job if he stated this (abuse of power)

Estate Tax reform: current White House occupant prefers the term 'death tax' stating it is unfair to many Americans and their farms and businesses (lie)--when
In fact, less than 3 percent of deceased adults in 2002 had estates subject to the tax, according to the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and figures from the IRS. According to The Tax Policy Center, roughly 440 taxable estates were primarily made up of farm and business assets in 2004.

Intelligent Life: current White House occupant repeatedly opens his mouth, demonstrating basis for Unintelligent Life theory while providing absolute proof of evolution, but more importantly, de-evolution.

Let's choose: Brian Schweitzer's leadership to date and his penchant for accurately describing reality or current occupant of the White House giftwrapping his 'truths' in ribbons of manure and continuing his shoveling coal for Satan--hmmmm, who might just be best to captain this country?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Governor Schweitzer 'inspects' the USDA

Brian Schweitzer is again displaying the difference between representing constituents and representing 'corporatocracy' with the following article:
Montana governor: USDA 'bunch of stooges'
By Adam Tanner
Aug 20, 2005

CROW AGENCY, Montana (Reuters) - Montana's governor, who has fought the importation of young Canadian cattle, on Saturday said U.S. states need to oversee federal inspectors of Canadian beef because the U.S. Department of Agriculture is acting in the interest of beef companies.

"A few years ago, the four big meat companies, they expanded their role in this country. They bought a U.S. company called the United States Department of Agriculture," Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in an interview. "They are a bunch of stooges."

"The USDA crawled right into bed with them (the meat companies) and they run our internal policy and our international (beef) policy," Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer, a Democrat in a majority Republican state, has led a state fight against imports of Canadian cattle under 30 months of age after a federal appeals court lifted a two-year ban on Canadian cattle in July.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Montana court's ruling and said U.S. imports of young Canadian cattle posed a negligible risk of spreading mad cow disease two years after Canada found its first domestic case.

Schweitzer then announced Montana would test Canadian cattle entering the state and charge for the extra inspection. The Montana-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund has fought for a permanent injunction against the Canadian imports.

The governor's move angered Canada and the USDA, which said it inspects imported cattle and that Montana may not have the authority to conduct extra tests.

"All I said was Montana will watch the regulators of the USDA and ... the Canadians, and the USDA became unglued because we were going to require that they actually do their jobs," Schweitzer said.

Critics have said Schweitzer is embracing a protectionist policy, but the governor said he was concerned about Canadian cattle imports driving down the price of Montana cattle.

"Bottom line, I'm trying to keep family ranchers in business," he said.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Schweitzer comment overheard at the PLAN kickoff

by blogfriend Kari Chisholm:

"We cannot govern this country depending on Washington D.C. Washington is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America."

Schweitzer also apparently talked more about his coal panacea and declared that America should be a hydrogen economy in 15 years.

Rock on, Gov!

Monday, August 15, 2005

David Sirota gets it --- progressive political reform over party politics

We're veering off again a bit with this post but it's an important one because David Sirota lays out not only what ails the national Democratic Party but offers a remedy. It is a dose of 'tough love' that needs to be administered to a currently uncooperative patient.

Just how does one perform an 'intervention' on a national political party? Read on.

How this ties into Brian Schweitzer is that Schweitzer understands and practices what Sirota is writing about.

Here is Sirota addressing the United Steelworker Union on August 8:
Progressives have spent the last four years in a state of shock, unable to believe what's going on in this country, and holding out hope that things will get better by themselves. We watch as poverty rises and job growth declines; corporate profits skyrocket while employee healthcare and retirement benefits get eliminated; CEO pay rises as workers' wages fall. Worse, the core economic issues that should be at the center of America's political debate have been depoliticized, while the issues of personal and religious conviction that should be removed from politics have been most politicized, leaving us with a political debate almost entirely divorced from Americans' day-to-day challenges.

This reality is shocking. But it shouldn't be surprising, because it is thirty years in the making. Conservatives long ago realized what our side is only starting to comprehend: that successful politics starts with successful ideological movements, and that those movements are a prerequisite to any serious partisan gain.

In the context of President Bush nominating John Roberts, a wealthy corporate lawyer, to the Supreme Court, it is important to note that much of this movement began in 1971 with a memo from another wealthy-corporate-lawyer-turned-Supreme-Court-Justice, Lewis Powell. He argued that conservatives needed to ally with corporate interests to manufacture an ideological movement that would justify all of the economic results we progressives are stunned to see today. Powell, corporate interests and major conservative funders ultimately took to heart three very important points:

First, they understood that movements based on ideology and ideas are far more powerful than loyalties to any political party. Though many in the Washington, DC, bubble believe that Americans think of their world in purely partisan terms, it just isn't true. People think of things in terms of their values and their worldview. Even the most politically disengaged citizen has some sort of personal ideology, and that ideology will always be far more powerful than any loyalty to a party label.

Second, conservatives understood that if the goal is seeing a more conservative country, then it doesn't matter whether conservatism comes from Republicans or bought-off Democrats. In their subsequent efforts, that meant conservatives were willing not only to go after liberal Democrats, but also moderate Republicans. It is why, even today, you see right-wing icons like Grover Norquist loudly criticizing Republican turncoats--because conservatives realize that movements are built with carrots and sticks, and that those sticks put other potential defectors on notice that there are consequences to ideological disloyalty.

But these conservatives were not ignorant of partisan concerns, which gets to the final point: They understood that if they built a movement around a conservative ideology, the political benefits would naturally flow almost exclusively to the innately more conservative Republican Party. Get people to believe in a movement that supports destroying the government, destroying the tax base and permitting corporations to do whatever they want regardless of social cost, and you get people to be far more loyal and willing to devote time to the GOP than you would if you spent resources on purely partisan activities.

There are many who are understandably nervous about emulating anything that comes from the right. But progressives must get over our disgust at how the right has applied its odious ideology to these tactics, and use some of these tactics ourselves.

The Democratic Party is caught in a downward spiral and is using its supposed "big tent" as an excuse for its weaknesses. Democratic politicians have always said that "ideological diversity is the Democrats strength," but that refrain is now being shamelessly used as a way to obscure the fact that the Democratic Party is ideologically rudderless. The party often permits and even congratulates those within its ranks who sell out America's middle class, whether it be those who voted for the bankruptcy bill or those who consistently vote for corporate-written trade deals like CAFTA or NAFTA. The party elites--many of whom follow the corporate apologism of business-funded groups within its ranks--still believe they can ascend to power on the public's loyalty to a Democratic Party label, even as that party label is almost completely meaningless to much of the public.

The only solution, then, is for progressives to stop solely focusing on partisan politics, and start focusing on movement politics. On every single issue, we must have a clear position that articulates not just a policy stance, but an overarching progressive ideology. Because without a movement, we have no ability to hold politicians' feet to the fire, no ability to develop credibility with voters and no ability to win elections.

For the rest, go here.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Montana environmental groups praise, decry Brian Schweitzer

The headline on the following Bozeman Daily Chronicle article is misleading because the article itself is fairly balanced---some yays and some nays on Brian Schweitzer's environmental policies to date:
Green group accuses Schweitzer of betraying the environment
By WALT WILLIAMS Chronicle Staff Writer
August 12, 2005

An environmental group battling Holcim Inc. over the company's plan to burn tires says that Gov. Brian Schweitzer is turning his back on protecting the environment.

To make its point, the Montana Environmental Information Center of Helena noted the state's recent decision allowing Holcim to continue using waste slag at its Trident cement plant while it waits for an environmental study to be completed.
The group also criticized Schweitzer, a Democrat, for an energy symposium he is hosting in Bozeman later this year, saying the conference is skewed toward nonrenewable energy.

So far, Schweitzer's record is hard to distinguish from that of his Republican predecessor, Gov. Judy Martz, who often clashed with green groups, Jim Jensen, MEIC's executive director, wrote in a column posted on the organization's Web site.

"The point is, in terms of the administration of government by (state) departments ... I can find little evidence of a 'new day,'" Jensen said in a phone interview, referring to the governor's catch phrase for his administration.

Schweitzer defended his environmental record in a phone interview Thursday.

He noted that his administration successfully pushed for laws requiring gasoline be blended with clean-burning ethanol and mandating that 15 percent of the state's energy come from renewable resources by 2015.

If there is any group that believes it's not important for the nation to be energy independent or to support clean coal emissions, "then I would like them to stop by because they are missing the point," he said.

For the rest (and do read the entire article to get the full spectrum of responses by the various environmental groups), go here.

John Kerry visits Brian Schweitzer in Montana

According to the Billings Gazette, Massachusetts Senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry stopped by to talk with Brian Schweitzer as Kerry was heading to his vacation home in Idaho:
Kerry visits Schweitzer on tour

Gazette State Bureau
August 12, 2005

HELENA - U.S. Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, stopped by the Capitol on Thursday to visit with Gov. Brian Schweitzer as part of a national "listening tour" but deflected any questions about running for president in 2008.

A relaxed Kerry was on his way to his vacation home in Ketchum, Idaho, during the congressional recess. The Massachusetts senator entered the Capitol rotunda to the warm applause of Schweitzer's staff as the governor walked down the hall to welcome him. Then the two men greeted some surprised people touring the Capitol.

Kerry peppered Schweitzer, his staff and state Sen. Mike Cooney, D-Helena, who had stopped by the Capitol to pick something up, with questions on state and national issues. He asked Schweitzer how the state would deal with the Bush administration's proposed Medicaid cuts.

"This administration, while they talk the talk, there's no walking the walk," Schweitzer said. "They put additional demands on the states with no new money."

Added Schweitzer: "I think we're probably going to need a new president."

Kerry, 61, grinned broadly.

"Any suggestions?" Cooney asked with a smile.

"I'm staying away from that one," Kerry said with a laugh.
For the rest of the article, go here.

It's A Start On The Politician/Lobbyist Revolving Door

Governor Brian Schweitzer takes a stand on the lobbyist/political arena revolving door in the following Billings Gazette article. It's a start at least on this nefarious issue:
Governor asks Rowe to step down from job

Billings Gazette State Bureau

August 12, 2005

HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer has asked Democrat Bob Rowe, the former chairman of the state Public Service Commission, not to work on the governor's upcoming energy conference because Rowe is associated with a lobbying firm that represents several energy companies.
The governor's office had previously hired Rowe to help organize the conference. Rowe has been released from that job.

"It's simply policy," Schweitzer said. "I believe passionately that you can only serve one master. When we have chosen people to work for us, we have chosen people who will commit themselves to working for all the people of Montana, not a special interest."

Rowe, a Missoula lawyer, served on the commission from 1993 until January 2005 when term limits barred him from running for re-election. He started a telecommunications consulting firm earlier this year with offices in Helena and Baltimore, Md.

Recently, the Gallatin Group listed him on its Web site as "of counsel" in its Helena office. Rowe said he's not being paid by the Gallatin Group but they can consult each other on projects.

The Northwestern consulting and lobbying firm represents a host of companies, including PPL Montana, Duke Energy North America and British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

Reached by e-mail on vacation, Rowe said Thursday that he doesn't work for the Gallatin Group, but that he also didn't want the flap to overshadow the upcoming conference, which Rowe described as "an important event for Montana" that he encouraged all to attend.

Rowe said he enjoyed working on the conference and described his termination as "amicable."

Schweitzer has said he will not appoint lobbyists to state boards or hire them for state work while they are also working as lobbyists.

In the 2005 Legislature, Schweitzer opposed two appointees by former Gov. Judy Martz to the Board of Regents, which oversees the Montana university system, because they were working as lobbyists. He later dropped his opposition after the two Mike Foster, of Billings, and Kala French, of Kalispell stopped lobbying.
For the rest of the article, go here.

Leaders Only Need Apply In 2008

There are probably a thousand and one factors in the demise of the Democratic Party in presidential elections but I'll go out on a limb and boil it down to the foremost reason:

Not nominating a leader.

The Democratic Party hasn't nominated someone who can galvanize this nation since John Kennedy way back in 1960.

Look at the recent litany of candidates:

Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry.

I have faithfully supported each of these candidates to the usually bitter end. I especially liked McGovern but he wasn't exactly a charismatic fireball. Bill Clinton possessed the greatest political skill set and had the most potential but blew (pun intended) it all away. Most everybody else, however decent in character, were/are stiffs.

Just what is a leader? A leader draws in supporters, guiding, influencing and motivating. He or she also does that with the initially curious. A leader INSPIRES others to do greater good, achieving accomplishments previously thought unattainable.
He/she DEFINES himself/herself with words and actions.

It is imperative that Democrats wise up and nominate an individual who is both SEEN and FELT as a leader.

To do all this, requires someone who can connect to both the head and heart of a majority of the electorate. For far too long, Democrats have cast a net solely for thinking voters. This net must be cast wider to nab both thinkers and feelers in the electorate. And that takes a candidate possessing the prerequisites of a leader to do so.

Looking at the list of seekers of the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination who have the makings of a true leader, someone to lure in thinkers and feelers, John Kerry is dead on arrival unless scientists perfect a personality transplant procedure. John Edwards has possibilities but may just come off a bit too slick, and being a millionaire lawyer isn't a plus. Hillary Clinton, despite enormous ability, will never shed or be allowed to shed her 'divisive' mantle. Joe Biden is a northeast liberal who just will not play but on either coast of this country. Evan Bayh seems like the late Hugh Beaumont father character in "Leave It To Beaver," exuding extreme propriety but too colorless. Wes Clark carries some gravitas but has yet to translate that into political momentum. Despite badly stumbling in 2004, Clark has the best chance of this group to break out. Bill Richardson comes off as an old-time pol, like a mayor out of big city politics of the 1960s. Tom Vilsack is, well, just not someone who rallies the troops, let alone the prospective recruits. Mark Warner has some positive political accomplishments under his belt in a very red state (Virginia) but vivacious, he is not. Russ Feingold is coming off a divorce and lacks the contagious persona necessary to draw in newcomers.

This will not be a successful group if visible inspirational leadership and running someone who can pull in a majority of voters, is the goal.

Now, here are three individuals who have indicated no interest in the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination but who do meet the definition of leader, Eliot Spizer, Barack Obama and Brian Schweitzer. In fact, these three are on the cusp of becoming the most influential individuals in the Democratic Party.

Spitzer, the current New York Attorney General and the presumed next governor in 2006, has the least 'contagious' personality. But he has a visible, tangible resume chock full of successes in protecting the average Joe and Jane against corporate and financial institution wrongdoings. Spitzer is the standard bearer for the winning slogan: "Work hard, play by the rules and I'll have your back." He is easily the leading state Attorney General in this country. Spitzer has great possibilities but not as a 2008 presidential candidate.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (naturally had to bring his name in here) is part of the Mountain West Democratic revolution and singlehandedly turned Republican Montana back into the 'blue' column. He will be up for re-election in 2008 and that obviously complicates matters presidential. But he exemplifies leadership. Definitely watch for this guy.

Obama, the newly elected Democratic Senator from Illinois, is the most charismatic of this trio but has indicated he will not be a candidate for anything in 2008. Any dictionary of worth uses a picture of Obama to define charisma. He has demonstrated ability to draw in registered Republican voters, those of different races and thinkers and feelers.

Will Democrats and the Democratic Party pursue who and what is needed for 2008? Not unless one of these three is the choice.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Schweitzer Store is here!

Schweitzer Store

Dating a talented graphic designer always helps in situations like this. In my case, I'm fortunate to have the in-house talents of strandsofpearl, who has put together a fantastic Schweitzer Store chock-full of attractive merchandise supporting Schweitzer's candidacy in 2008. Check it out and buy some stuff.

This store is a for-profit enterprise run by the designer herself. All profits will go to her (and I have her word that I will never see any of the cash), NOT to this site or its proprietors. We have no interest in making money off our Good Idea, but we do want to see Schweitzer's name out there on bumpers and chests.

If you have any questions or want to suggest new designs or products, please contact Chelsea directly at whimsy7283@yahoo.com.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Reality v. Naivete In The Real World

Yes, I am aware that the Brian Schweitzer administration requested and received corporate funds to conduct the 2005 Governor's Ball, heralding Schweitzer's gubernatorial triumph and the rebirth of the Democratic Party in Montana.

Do I wish no corporate 'gifts' were involved? Absolutely.

Is it naive to think such a get-together could be conducted without outside funding? Absolutely.

So, I grudgingly agree with Schweitzer's actions. I wish such a celebration could be conducted via small individual donations but that simply isn't a financial reality no matter how much I wish it were so.

Here is a bit on the this story from the August, 11, 2005, edition of the Billings Outpost. The funding for the 2005 Governor's Ball, the 'audit' of it and, of course, the predictable Republican reaction are all covered.

More and more the Montana GOP comes off like a group of bratty children who all of a sudden find out that they no longer rule the sandbox.

They offer nothing but petulant criticism (see yet another example in the Billings Outpost article). It's probably about time for further outcry about of Schweitzer's dog (yes, believe it or not, the Montana Republican Party has ALREADY resorted to such) but maybe the GOP will get extra creative and critique Schweitzer's lawn mowing or how he saddles his horse. Sadly, such isn't beyond them.

You'll see why in the Billings Outpost article.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Brian Schweitzer to head out of state for Progressive Legislation Action Network conference

The Progressive Legislation Action Network (PLAN) is holding a one-day conference on August 16 in Seattle and Brian Schweitzer has been invited to speak.

The event is designed to launch PLAN, with the agenda keyed towards defining a positive progressive agenda for states.

John Edwards is the keynote speaker and Willie Brown is the Master of Ceremonies.

The event will be held August 16 at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle. The address is 2211 Alaskan Way (Pier 66), from noon to 6pm.

To sign up, go here.

From their web site, here is PLAN's mission statement: The Progressive Legislative Action Network's mission is to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level actions. It will do so by providing coordinated research support for a network of State legislators, their staff's and constituencies, in order to equip them with coherent logistical and strategic advocacy tools necessary for advancing key progressive economic and social policies.

To contact PLAN: P.O. Box 1127 Helena, Montana 59624 Phone: 1-406-459-7470
Fax: 1-801-340-3146 Email: staff@progressivestates.org

For further information on PLAN, go to their blog.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jon Tester Deserves Your Support

This is a Brian Schweitzer blog but from time to time there are related stories worthy of mention. This is one of them. As far as we know, Brian Schweitzer has not endorsed this candidate but we do, wholeheartedly.

Note: there is still an upcoming Democratic primary election before the general one.

Yes, Montana is far, far away from so many of us but it is one of the areas where the rebirth of the Democratic Party is taking place.

First, Democrat Brian Schweitzer captured the governorship of Montana in 2004, despite President Bush's overwhelming victory in the Big Sky State.

Now, Democrat Jon Tester is seeking to unseat Republican corporate lackey Conrad Burns from his U.S. Senator berth. Tester understands what issues resonate the most with Montanans and has planted his personal flag squarely in support of those individuals, families and businesses who currently have no voice in Washington D.C.

"The focus of my campaign will be middle-class Montanans, and the announcement tour confirmed that fact. Everywhere I traveled, issues like Social Security, education, health care, the exploding national debt came up. There is no doubt about it—small business, working people, and family farms and ranches need to be made a priority in Washington, D.C."

Who is Jon Tester and why does he deserve your support? Direct from Tester's campaign web site:
Jon Tester was born in Havre, Montana on August 21, 1956, and raised near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, (population: 710) on the same family land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1916.

Tester grew up in Chouteau County, where the rich landscape and life as a farmer’s son instilled in him a deep-rooted conviction to Montana, family, faith and hard work.

Today Jon Tester continues to honor the agricultural roots his grandfather planted in Big Sky Country by continuing the Tester family dry-land farming operations. Tester also was a custom butcher operator.

A respected member in the community, Tester served for five years as chairman of the Big Sandy School Board of Trustees, is a past master of Treasure Lodge #95 of the Masons in Big Sandy, and served on the Big Sandy Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Committee and the Chouteau County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) Committee.

Tester is a former music teacher in the Big Sandy School District and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in music from the University of Great Falls.

Since the late 1980s Tester has put his stamp of leadership on the family farm by moving toward organic farming. The Tester family now grows organic wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, alfalfa and hay.

Senator Tester recently completed his fourth regular session in the Montana Senate. After election as the minority whip for the 2001 session, and minority leader for the 2003 session, Tester was selected in 2005 by his colleagues to lead as President of the Montana Senate, serving as the chief presiding officer of the Montana Legislature’s upper chamber.

His tenure as President marked a significant and successful transition for Montana Democrats as they moved into the majority leadership of the Senate for the first time in more than a decade.

Tester’s wife of 27 years, Sharla, also grew up in north-central Montana and comes from an agricultural family. Jon and Sharla have a daughter, Christine (son-in-law James), a son Shon, and one grandchild, Kilikina.

Here is Tester on some of the important issues of the day:


“Public education is the backbone of our democracy—an uneducated society impedes the ability of a democracy to work for the people.”

“For a successful business, you have to be able to hire well-trained workers that meet the needs of your business. It’s why our Colleges of Technologies, K-12 public education and our state university system are essential to educating tomorrow’s workforce for economic growth in the Big Sky.”

Social Security

Privatization takes security away from Montanans


“The healthcare crisis that Montana and the United States faces today is the most pressing issue upon us. People can’t afford to get sick.”

“Affordable, accessible, quality healthcare is critical if our economy is to flourish. We can’t forget health care problems such as the high costs of prescription drugs. Montana’s seniors, disabled and our most vulnerable citizens should never have to make the decision between buying food to eat or prescription drugs.”


“Clean air and water are two of Montana’s most treasured resources. We need to make sure these important resources are not only maintained, but improved. Our dream is for our children’s grandchildren to be able to wake each day to the beautiful place we call home—the great state of Montana.”

“Hunting and fishing are an important part of the quality of life we enjoy in Montana. We should never let just a few have access to our public lands, rivers and streams. Rather, we can find ways to respect private land owners’ property rights while allowing for all Montanans to celebrate in the beauty of Montana’s outdoors.”


“Affordable, reliable energy should be expected in Montana, and we need to make sure Montana’s residents get affordable energy first. Affordable energy should be one critical advantage to living in our resource-rich state.”

You may say talk is great but what has he done. Here are some of Tester's accomplishments:

Fighting for Affordable and Accessible Health Care

• Successfully carried legislation that creates one of the most comprehensive prescription drug benefit programs in the United States for Montana’s seniors, disabled and the uninsured.

• Sponsored legislation that will benefit Montanans’ health by providing tax credits and pooling for small businesses that offer health insurance to employees.

• Sponsored initiatives to protect Montana’s most vulnerable citizens who seek health care coverage through the regulation of medical care and pharmacy discount cards, and by carrying legislation that penalizes fraudulent insurance providers.

• In 2005, helped lead Legislature to fully fund Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for Montana kids.

Pushing for Excellence in Montana’s Public School System

• Led the effort for an historic increase in funding of public school systems in Montana. Under Tester’s leadership, the Montana Senate and Legislature renewed the focus on what defines a quality education by passing a measure that legally defines the critical, educationally relevant factors in a quality public school system.

• Under Tester’s leadership, Indian Education for All Montana programs will be funded for the first time in state history.

Promoting Family Farms and Ranches

• Successfully carried Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation to promote Montana and American ag products. The new law gives shoppers peace of mind at the supermarket by telling them where their food comes from.

• Promoted family agricultural businesses by pushing for reductions in grain hauling rates with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad, and through advocacy of increased production of ethanol in Montana to add value to the agricultural products of Montana’s grain growers.

• Advocated for establishing agribusiness liability for injuries caused to family farmers by the introduction of genetically engineered wheat into Montana.

Advocating for Rural Economic Development under the Big Sky

• Carried legislation to reinvigorate Montana’s economy through the Made in Montana program and with a resolution to urge Congress to adequately fund the rehabilitation of the St. Mary water diversion facilities—a water system that delivers municipal and agricultural water for the economic and life-sustaining benefit of thousands living along the Hi-Line of Montana.

Helping Bridge Relationships with Montana’s First Nations

• As Senate President invited Tribal leaders, from all seven reservations of Montana, to offer invocations in the Senate, in addition to opening the door for unprecendented leadership meetings between Legislators and Montana’s Tribal Nations on issues and concerns affecting American Indian communities in Montana.

Promoting Renewable, Reliable Energy for Montanans

• Successfully sponsored Montana’s Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act, requiring electric power utilities to produce a minimum of 15 percent renewable energy by 2015, and passed legislation that provides tax incentives for wind energy in rural Montana.

From the Washington Post (thanks to Bob Brigham at the Swing State Project for finding this, here is just about all you need to know about Conrad Burns:

Tribal Grant Is Being Questioned
Senator Who Had Dealings With Lobbyist Abramoff Pushed for Award

By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 1, 2005; Page A03

A $3 million grant from a federal program intended for impoverished Indian tribal schools went to one of the richest tribes in the country under pressure from Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who oversees the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The tribe that last year received the money for a new school, the Saginaw Chippewas of Michigan, was at the time a client of Jack Abramoff, a prominent Republican lobbyist whose practices are the subject of multiple federal investigations. Abramoff, his associates and his wealthy tribal clients have been an important source of Burns's campaign funds, providing 42 percent of the contributions to his "soft-money" political action committee from 2000 to 2002, according to federal election records.

Burns pressed for the appropriation over the objections of Interior officials, who said that the grant was not intended for such a purpose. Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), ranking minority member on the appropriations subcommittee, supported Burns's effort to exempt the Saginaw Chippewas from requirements that would have prevented them from getting the money.

A spokesman for Burns, J.P. Donovan, said yesterday that Burns pushed the Interior Department to give the money to the tribe because other members of Congress, including the Michigan delegation, supported the move, not because of efforts by Abramoff's lobbyists. "I don't believe he was unduly influenced," Donovan said. "To my knowledge, Abramoff's lobbying was not bearing on it." Burns had met Abramoff only once or twice, Donovan said.

Donovan said Burns "has worked very hard to improve the way of life in tribal communities," and supported school funding for the Saginaw Chippewas as part of his effort to "help these tribes get a leg up and help the children get a good education."

The Saginaws, who operate a casino northwest of Detroit, are well-to-do, with each member of the tribe receiving $70,000 a year from gambling profits. The tribe was given authorization for $3 million to build a new school on the reservation under a program created to help impoverished tribes make repairs to dilapidated school buildings.

The Michigan tribe was one of about a dozen that hired Abramoff to represent their interests in Washington.

The FBI, the Justice Department's public integrity section and the Interior Department inspector general are investigating Abramoff's lobbying practices, focusing on tribal clients that paid him and a public relations associate $82 million between 2001 and 2003. Among the areas investigators are examining, former Abramoff associates and tribal representatives said, are whether legislative favors were granted in Congress in exchange for tribal campaign contributions, and whether Abramoff opened doors on Capitol Hill by wooing congressional aides with the promise of jobs, as well as tickets to sporting events, trips, meals and other gifts.

Abramoff's lobbying team had strong connections with Burns's staff. Among their ranks was an appropriations aide who shuttled back and forth between jobs on Burns's staff and Abramoff's shop. Another Burns appropriations staffer and Burns's chief of staff were treated to a trip to the 2001 Super Bowl in Florida on a corporate jet leased by Abramoff's team.

For the rest of the article, go here.

Help elect Jon Tester and aid in the renaissance of the Democratic Party, both in Montana and nationwide. He's the right person for the job with the right values to invigorate the Democratic Party.

Here is the Jon Tester for U.S. Senate web site.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paul Hackett, Brian Schweitzer --- let's clone 'em

Huh, you're probably thinking isn't this supposed to be a Brian Schweitzer blog?

Yes, this is a Schweitzer blog---rest assured you've come to the right place.

We just think it is worthwhile to twine Hackett with Schweitzer this week (for those of you unfamiliar with Paul Hackett, he is an Iraqi war veteran who just lost an Ohio congressional race by a mere 4 points to a Republican in a heavily GOP district).

Hackett carried the rural voters in the area. We repeat, Hackett won the hearts and minds of many of those who have abandoned the Democratic Party. Those who have been voting Republican because they believe too many of the standard bearers of the Democratic Party have abandoned their economic interests. They have. That, and become so wishy-washy in speaking out and standing for something.

Paul Hackett speaks his mind. At the same time he said he would (and did) lay down his life to protect President Bush and the United States, he also criticized Dubya over various presidential policies, including Iraq.

Paul Hackett speaks from his head AND heart, thereby rationally and emotionally connecting to those he is addressing. Our guess is that he received votes from some who didn't agree all that much with his political stances but liked his style.

Paul Hackett doesn't speak like a policy wonk. You won't hear him quoting government statistics and issuing labored five minute, minutae-laden responses to questions.

Clone Paul Hackett and the Democratic Party would experience a rebirth.

However, Brian Schweitzer got there first. he showed how to get it done. Speak up, speak out. Instill in people the confidence that you can, with their assistance, move forward and make things better. Montanans were looking for someone like that. Many in the other 49 states in this country are seeking the same.

Forget the focus groups, the overnight polling, the D.C.-numbed consultants.