Sunday, June 25, 2006

Brian Schweitzer is tackling one of the problems with lobbyists

The Montana legislature wasn't strong enough to stand up and start to deal with the corrupting influences of lobbyists, political donations and the revolving door between corporate servants and legislators so Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is taking his measure directly to the people of the Big Sky State.

Please note that the Montana Republican Party has somehow yet to endorse this reform attempt. Hmmm, I wonder why?
Schweitzer stumps for lobbying reform initiative
By Helena Independent Record State Bureau - 06/22/06

HELENA ­ Gov. Brian Schweitzer and others turned in the last of 37,000 signatures Wednesday aimed at putting on the November ballot an initiative to forbid state elected officials and their top aides from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.

“Public service is not about using your influence to line your pockets when you leave office,’’ Schweitzer said. “The people of Montana deserve better from their elected officials. They have a right to clean government.’’

...Schweitzer came up with the ballot measure after the 2005 Legislature killed his bill that would have imposed the same restrictions.

Under the proposal, state elected officials and their personal staff, legislators and, appointed state officials would have a two-year “cooling-off’’ period before they could join the ranks of lobbyists.

Backers have said passage of I-153 would give Montana the toughest revolving-door statue in the country...

...Besides the Montana Democratic Party, others endorsing I-153 are Common Cause and the Montana Public Interest Research Group.

So far, no organized opposition has surfaced.
To read the entire article, go here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Call it framing, call it whatever, Dems in Montana do it

The use of language has been debated endlessly in talk about what the Democratic Party needs to change in order to finally be successful.

Look at the following excerpts. They are so spot-on in use of language that certainly works for moving the 'spirit' of the majority of Montanans but also for the entire country.

Look to the Mountain West!
Democrats tour state on "Real Montana, Real Change" campaign

Associated Press
June 16, 2006

HELENA -- Leading Democrats and the party's congressional candidates joined together under a "Real Montana, Real Change" banner in an election kickoff event that featured heavy criticism of incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.

Democratic challenger Jon Tester "has enough Montana in his soul that he will never allow some corporate lobbyist to change his vote," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the man credited with energizing the Democratic party in the state.

Schweitzer, who became the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years when elected in 2004, noted similarities between Tester and himself. Their grandparents homesteaded near each other and both were born in the same hospital in Havre.

Burns has lost touch and is selling "Montana's votes to the highest bidder," Schweitzer said...

Senator Max Baucus said he does believe years of holding power in D.C. has corrupted the GOP, saying "values have been skewed."

"Montanans made the right choice by sending a farmer to Helena, Governor Brian Schweitzer, and Montanans are going to make the right choice when they send a farmer to the United States Senate, Jon Tester," Baucus said.

John Morrison supported his old foe, taking the podium to bash Burns.

"Because of people like Conrad Burns, we don't have a democracy in Washington D.C., we have an auction," he said.
To read the entire article, go here.

Brian Schweitzer is featured in a Philadelphia newspaper

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer gets a lot of exposure in this article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. I tell you, this guy has the best chance of capturing more states than anyone else in the Democratic Party--if only he can be convinced to run.
Red, Blue - and Purple:
A closer look at America's political and cultural divide. Where Democrats proudly own guns.
In Montana, less of a partisan issue.
By Paul Nussbaum
Inquirer Staff Writer
Jun. 20, 2006

MISSOULA, Mont. Gov. Brian Schweitzer won't say exactly how many guns he owns, other than it's "more than I need, but less than I want."

An unabashed shooter, hunter and gun-fancier in a state deeply in touch with its Old West heritage, Schweitzer is a member of the National Rifle Association and was happy to receive the NRA's endorsement for governor in 2004.

He is also a Democrat.

Like many Democrats, especially those beyond the nation's big cities and urban coasts, Schweitzer doesn't see gun ownership as a partisan issue.

"Republicans try to make the case that 'Democrats will take your guns away.' I say, 'Yeah, Democrats like Giuliani, Pataki and Schwarzenegger,' " Schweitzer said, naming prominent Republicans from New York and California...

In a state such as Montana, the gun issue helps color the state red in presidential elections even as voters elect Democrats to state and local offices. In 2004, Montanans voted for President Bush by a ratio of 59 percent to 39 percent, while putting Democrats in control of the governor's mansion and both houses of the Legislature. (In the last 50 years, the only Democratic presidential candidates to carry the state were Bill Clinton in 1992 and Lyndon Johnson in 1964.)

The state's senior U.S. senator, Max Baucus, is a Democrat, and the Republican junior senator, Conrad Burns, is considered vulnerable in his reelection bid this year, partly because of ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. This month, State Senate President Jon Tester won the Democratic nomination to oppose Burns in November.

Montana voters regularly exhibit an independent streak laced with a suspicion of government intrusion. In 2004, they voted to approve a "right to hunt" constitutional amendment (with 81 percent support) at the same time that they approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes (62 percent) and a ban on cyanide in mining (58 percent).

A Democratic presidential candidate with hopes of carrying Montana would have to tap into that independence and speak frankly to the gun issue, Schweitzer said.

"I'd tell him to tell people he respects their Second Amendment rights and maybe talk a little about his own experiences with guns," Schweitzer said. "And it might not be a bad idea to go out to a gravel pit and set up some beer cans and shoot at 'em."

In the vastness of Montana, 935,000 people are scattered over 147,000 square miles, which means there are only about six people per square mile. Only Alaska and Wyoming are more sparsely settled. (By comparison, New Jersey has 1,134 people per square mile, and Philadelphia has 11,233.)

That can mean fewer gun conflicts than in crowded coastal cities, Schweitzer said.

"People in large urban places have concerns we don't have," the governor said. "In places like Philadelphia, New York, Boston, you have gun issues that are completely alien to us."
To read the entire article, go here.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Brian Schweitzer gets some lines in The New Yorker

Jeffrey Goldberg, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is briefly interviewed by New Yorker senior editor Amy Davidson about Democratic politics, and just happens to mention Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's name. Here's an excerpt:
Can the Dems Do It?
The New Yorker
Issue of 2006-05-29

This week in the magazine, Jeffrey Goldberg writes about the battle within the Democratic Party over how to take advantage of the President’s low approval ratings. Here, with Amy Davidson, he discusses the Party’s prospects.

AMY DAVIDSON: Your article this week is about where the Democratic Party is headed. The big test coming up is the midterm elections. Do the Democrats have a chance of gaining control of one or both houses of Congress?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I think the Democrats have a reasonable chance of regaining the House. The Senate is a little tougher, partly because only a third of the Senate seats are being contested in any year. The House is hard, though­because of gerrymandering and the general powers of incumbency, it’s difficult to shake loose some of these seats. That said, the Democrats have the wind at their backs right now. Bush’s poll numbers are almost inconceivably low; he’s heading into Truman territory. Combine that with a general disgust for Congress, due in part­but only in part­to the Abramoff scandal, and you have an atmosphere which might translate into a “throw the bums out” moment.

But that’s all about negatives­the President’s negatives, the congressional Republicans’ negatives. Can the Democrats win on the negatives alone, or do they need to have a positive program to offer?

The Democrats can probably win on the negatives for the 2006 elections, but those who think they can go negative and win the White House in 2008 are kidding themselves. For one thing, George W. Bush won’t be running in 2008; it could be someone like John McCain. Even now, it’s not the easiest thing to be solely negative. Americans are optimists; they want to hear positive solutions to problems. The Democrats don’t have one stellar spokesman for the party, or an overwhelming unified message.

You write in your article that the Democrats want to win back the Reagan Democrats and rebuild the Roosevelt coalition. Can they do this without a Reagan or a Roosevelt?

It’s hard without a Roosevelt to rebuild a Roosevelt coalition, that’s for sure. By “Reagan Democrats,” what I mean are the Catholic, working-class, white suburbanites who have gradually left the Democratic Party. Since the McGovern period, there has been a feeling among many people in this country, particularly in those states that are not situated in the northeast or along the Pacific Coast, that the Democrats have a family problem, a God problem, and a national-security problem.I talked to Democrats from red states, Democrats who are popularly elected officials in states that have been going Republican in the Presidential race. They all say the same thing: part of their problem is policy­they need the Democratic Party to convince the voters that they, too, will stand up for American national security.

Does the situation in Iraq represent an opportunity for the Democrats to do just that?

They have a great opening here. This is a really important point. In the middle of the country­in the South in particular, but also in the West and the Southwest­the arguments about the war in Iraq do not center on the legality of the war, on multilateralism, or on the President telling the truth about weapons of mass destruction. For people in these kinds of places, which are generally more conservative, the problem is that the President seems to be losing the war. That’s what gets people very upset.

But national security and so-called “values” issues like abortion and gay rights are only part of the problem for Democrats. The other part is stylistic. There’s a feeling among Democratic professionals in these red states that Democrats tend to condescend to voters in the heartland. The governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, who’s a very popular and populist Democrat, argues that sometimes the Democrats just don’t seem as likable as the other guys. And the problem with likability comes from a feeling that Democrats are lecturing voters about what’s best for them.

But Brian Schweitzer is, as you say, a Democrat who got elected in a very red state.

That’s because Brian Schweitzer is a Democrat who lives in a red state and has figured out how to talk to people in a way that doesn’t anger or annoy them. He’s doing some things that are very liberal, in our understanding of what the word “liberal” means­putting a lot of money in K-12 education, looking for alternative fuel sources. On certain issues, he is in the Montana mainstream: he’s opposed to gun control. But his success has much less to do with particular issues and more to do with his style of approach to voters, in which the voters don’t feel that they’re being talked down to, and that their values are not being mocked by the national Democratic Party.
To read the rest, go here.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman says look to and for Brian Schweitzer

Howard Fineman has been the sometimes recipient of netroots venom at times, myself mea culpa. However, he is right on target with the following article. The next generation of Democratic Party leaders will thankfully come from outside D.C. as our nation will be looking for contemporary ideas and solutions, uncontaminated political blood and the new speakers who can connect when offering their respective narratives.

Best of all, Fineman concludes his column with a salute and call out to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Outside the Beltway

To regain control in Washington, Democrats need to look for new ideas and new leaders from across America—and from cyberspace.

Howard Fineman

June 7, 2006 - OK, so the Dems didn’t quite start their revolution in San Diego. Their candidate railed against the corruption of Washington—logically enough, since the race was to replace the disgraced Randy (Duke) Cunningham. The Republicans were forced to pour in $5 million and hundreds of staffers to defend a House seat in a famously conservative district. The Democrats can take heart from the fact that the race was close. But they also should learn a lesson, which is that talking about Washington—even if you’re attacking the immorality of the place—isn’t the only strategy, or even the main one.For Democrats hoping to claw their way back to national power, this is the strategic paradox: to regain control of the political Establishment, they must forget about it.

Democrats aren’t likely to find leaders and answers here in the capital, and can’t expect the traditional media to light the way. Instead, Democrats need to be a “states' rights” party in a new sense, shunning the sclerotic political machinery of the capital for the new ideas, programs and tactics sprouting in the states—and in the digital netroots of America.

Americans want optimism and ideas, and are tired of hearing about the capital...

...But perhaps the netroots’ favorite avatar in waiting is Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana. In their eyes he’s the rootin’-tootin’ real deal, a rancher turned politician who believes in government activism set free from traditional liberal thinking and interest-group methods. This week a protégé of Schweitzer’s, a rancher named Jon Tester, won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate...

...So that’s the place to start from in this new political era: not Washington, but the middle of nowhere.
To read the entire article, go here.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Howard Dean calls Brian Schweitzer a "heavy hitter" and a "national figure"

DNC Chair Howard Dean offered this description of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer recently.

From KXLF television station comes this portion of the on-line article:
Washington, DC

Montana Senate race ready for primetime

June 5, 2006

On Tuesday, Montanans will decide who the final candidates will be for Montana's seat in the U-S Senate. Republican Conrad Burns is expected to win his party's primary, while polls show Democrats John Morrison and Jon Tester in a close race to be their party's nominee.

Montana's News Station went to Washington D-C recently and asked party leaders there about the Montana race. We wanted to know a couple of things. First...what party leaders see as the dominant theme in Montana's Senate race. And how they plan to support their respective nominees.The rhetoric is predictable.

GOP Spokesman Tucker Bounds told Montana's News Station, "This race is going to be largely about Senator Burns and how popular he is in the state.

Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean counters, "He hasn't done anything. He's been really a Washington-oriented politician over the last 18 years. He's forgotten about the people of Montana."

But the national Republican and Democratic parties are approaching Montana's U. S. Senate race very differently. Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean will support his party's nominee with star power. Led by Montana's new homegrown star.

Dean: "Brian Schweitzer is a pretty heavy hitter on his own. He's become a national figure. There'll be some national figures coming out, but since you've got one right there in Montana, my guess is that Governor Schweitzer will be a big help to those candidates."