Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Los Angeles Times 'discovers' Brian Schweitzer

Not only does the Los Angeles Times 'discover' Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer but includes some speculation about who might be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Enjoy:
Democrats Have Eyes on Red-State Governor
Some are sizing up Montana's Schweitzer for 2008. But his focus now is on a campaign for a coal-based fuel.
By Sam Howe Verhovek, Times Staff Writer
April 12, 2006

BUTTE, Mont. — Just about everywhere Gov. Brian Schweitzer goes in Montana — or elsewhere, for that matter — he brings along a dog, a black rock and a small vial of clear, nearly odorless fluid.

The dog is his 2-year-old border collie, Jag, an obedient, camera-friendly companion who helps fill out the down-home image honed by the Democratic governor, who wears jeans, bolo ties and boots to most events.

The rock is a lump of coal, about 120 billion tons of which sits just beneath the lonesome plains of eastern Montana. And the fluid is a synthetic fuel derived from the coal.

Coals-to-fuel, says the governor, a soils scientist who lived in the Middle East for eight years in the 1980s, will be "the greatest boon to engineering and technology since NASA was created" in the late 1950s. With Montana coal, the U.S. could unleash itself from "the sheiks, the dictators, the rats and crooks around the world who are bent on destroying our way of life."

The burly, jolly Schweitzer could just as well be selling snake oil, to hear some of his critics tell it. One environmental group dismisses his promise of earth-friendly coal development this way: "The term 'clean coal' is like saying 'safe cigarettes.' "

But while the coal remains largely untapped, the 50-year-old Schweitzer is not going unnoticed.

A Democrat in a conservative state that gave George W. Bush nearly 60% of the vote in the last two presidential elections, Schweitzer is riding a wave of popularity here: 68% approval ratings in one recent independent poll. Another poll, by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, found that 57% believed the state government was headed in the right direction, whereas only 47% felt that way about the state's economy.

Schweitzer's success rankles GOP leaders here — "all hat and no cattle," one says of his showmanship; another calls him "a loose cannon."

But it intrigues some Democrats, who wonder whether Schweitzer is the sort of red-state national candidate who could help the party break beyond the "blue zone" of electoral votes that has kept it out of the White House in the last two elections. (Democrats have won along the West Coast, and in the Northeast and Great Lakes region, but endured a virtual shutout in the South, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain states.)

Schweitzer is one of several red-state Democratic leaders who may emerge as either presidential or vice presidential contenders. Others include Mark R. Warner, who just finished his term-limited four-year stint as governor of Virginia with strong approval ratings that helped his lieutenant governor win the race to succeed him, and Janet Napolitano, Arizona's governor.

Democrats may well consider someone to "break the mold" on their national ticket, said Ed Sarpolus, a Michigan pollster. "There certainly is a feeling that they need someone who can really relate to voters in that huge belt of red.
To read the rest, g0 here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Brian Schweitzer's lobbyist initiative gets some backing

The Helena Independent Record goes on record as backing the lobbyist initiative that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is poushing for the ballot:

Stopping that revolving door

By The Helena IR - 04/09/06

An initiative supported by Gov. Brian Schweitzer to require that departing legislators and other high state officials wait two years before they may become lobbyists has been likened to term limits. But the likeness isn’t very close.

Term limits, touted by their supporters as a good way to prevent “career politicians” from becoming more beholden to the government than to their constituents, actually have more to do with limiting voters’ rights. After all, if a majority of voters like a politician and want to keep returning him to office for longer than eight years, they’re out of luck. Term limits aren’t just aimed at untrustworthy politicians, they’re also aimed at untrustworthy voters.

But lobbyists aren’t elected by any voters. They’re hired. (There may be some people who lobby for free on social issues they care about, but does any lobbyist for industry work for nothing? Not in this lifetime.)

Schweitzer’s measure, I-153, would mandate a two-year cooling off period on high state officials, including legislators, top appointed officials such as department directors, and members of elected officials’ personal staffs before they could become lobbyists.

Schweitzer said the idea is to make sure the officials are representing only Montanans, “not making some kind of a sweetheart deal for the job they’re going to get as a lobbyist the day after they’re a lawmaker.
To read the rest, go here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Brian Schweitzer takes an environmental stand

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer has again taken a stand that pits him against the federal government and energy companies. With Montana's inglorious past where Republicans allowed corporate interests to do whatever they wished to land in the Big Sky Country in return for hefty campaign contributions and lobbyist jobs down the road, this is a nice and necessary change.
Montana Pollution Rules Draw Federal Objections

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 9, 2006; A04

Federal energy officials are opposing new rules by Montana to force companies that extract methane gas from underground coal beds to clean up the water pollution caused by drilling operations, even as state officials cite an unreleased 2003 federal report that says cleanup costs are relatively inexpensive.

The Denver office of the Environmental Protection Agency produced the report but never published it, saying it related to a proposed drilling application that was dropped.

A Montana consulting firm obtained a copy of the EPA report, however, and handed it over to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D). Last month, Montana's Board of Environmental Review, citing the EPA paper and other economic studies, voted to force coalbed methane companies to leave the state's streams as clean as they were before drilling started, although the companies do not have to clean up existing pollution.

"We want to develop energy in Montana, but we want to do it right," Schweitzer said in an interview. "Here's the bottom line with the federal government: They're usually not helpful, and they weren't this time, either."
To read the rest. go here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Brian Schweitzer forges ahead for 'cleaner' government

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is no 'Brian-come-lately' in his efforts to create a system of checks and balances that aids in Montana legislators and officials representing the people of the state and not just corporate interests.

Schweitzer was unable to get the legislature to act on his proposal last session so he's taking it to the people. Here's more:
Governor launches lobbyist initiative

Gazette State Bureau
April 7, 2006

HELENA -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Thursday became the first person to sign his proposed ballot measure to require departing elected officials to wait two years before becoming lobbyists.

Schweitzer signed Initiative 153 in the Capitol rotunda before the bust of one of his heroes, former Gov. Joseph Dixon, who served from 1921 to 1924. Dixon told Montanans he would represent their interests, not those of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co., Schweitzer said.

"I-153 will make sure that you have a clean government," Schweitzer said at a press conference. "Finally, the people across Montana can be assured when they elect somebody, they will be working for the folks back home, not the lobbyists who prowl the halls of the state Capitol."

To qualify for the November ballot, backers need the signatures of 22,308 voters, including 5 percent of the voters in 34 of the 100 state House districts.

I-153 would impose a two-year "cooling-off" period on state elected officials, including legislators, top appointed officials such as department directors and members of elected officials' personal staffs before they could become lobbyists. It's aimed at closing, at least for two years, the "revolving door" in which these officials immediately become lobbyists after leaving public office.

Schweitzer said the initiative would make sure that top state officials are representing only Montanans, "not making some kind of a sweetheart deal for the job they're going to get as a lobbyist the day after they're a lawmaker."

The 2005 Legislature killed Schweitzer's proposal that included a cooling-off idea, so he decided to take it directly to voters. He said he expects a groundswell of Montanans to help gather the signatures to put I-153 on the ballot.

If voters demonstrate they want clean government by approving I-153, Schweitzer said he will present the 2007 Legislature with a package of bills to further toughen ethics and lobbying laws.

Joining Schweitzer in signing the initiative was George Harper, a retired Methodist minister, a delegate to Montana's 1972 Constitutional Convention and father of Hal Harper, Schweitzer's chief policy adviser.

"We've never had term limits on lobbyists before, and this is at the right end of it," Harper said, referring to the "cooling-off" period.

Schweitzer said his "cooling-off" proposal would be among the toughest among the states, matching laws in South Dakota and Iowa.

Montana Common Cause, a nonprofit that aims to hold elected officials accountable, endorsed the initiative.
To read the rest, go here.