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.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

The health care crisis is growing larger by the day and something must be done to help improve situations.

November 29, 2005 11:10 AM  

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