Larry Kralj, Ochenski, and the Governor’s brother

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!:

But let me suggest something here. Run adams’ piece [on Walter Schweitzer] by Ochenski and see what he says about it. If George says it’s a good story, I’ll accept it.

Ochenski:

If anything is evident from Adams’ story, the blog comments, and the e-mails flying around the capital that the public will never see, it is the need for, at a minimum, full disclosure and clarification of Walter’s role. Without that, the climate of fear that permeates the issue will continue—and Montanans deserve better than to be afraid of their own government.

Now you know where I stand on Adams’ accusations. I don’t have a problem with Walter Schweitzer, I don’t have a problem with a strong arm in the Governor’s office, and I think that maybe the problem here is Montana’s nepotism law that forces Walter to stay off the official record.

I also think — judging by the comments on my and Ed Kemmick’s blog — that most people had no problem with Walter Schweitzer participating in policy or “bullying”; but that they did have a problem with accountability and oversight, as did Ochenski. I’d have to agree.

As for why Montana’s other papers didn’t run with this story — other than an apparent policy to never touch anything the Independent or a blog touches first (kind of like Ms. Marvelous and food) — there’s really not much substance to the article other than a couple of complaints from disgruntled party members and activists and an possible opposition candidate. There are a lot of questions, yes.

Ultimately Adams’ story and the outpouring here and at Ed’s is a gift, an opportunity for the Governor to do a little self-correcting. Keep Walter, just make him transparent. As Keenan demonstrated, the GOP is ready to play ball with this issue in the 2008 elections. Let’s not give ’em anything they can sink their claws into.

Posted by touchstone

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  1. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    George is good soldier. He attempted a half-hearted defense of a bad story. But those of us who read George religiously recognize this editorial for what it is. It lacks his usual cogent insight, and his conclusion is tenuous at best. St. George (and many of us truly consider Ochenski to be a dragon slayer. He’s THAT good.), St. George slew not a dragon this time, but rather a dragon fly. In other words, he used his considerable powers to slay an airy adversary. He couldn’t have taken much pleasure in this conquest. But I said that I would accept it, and I will. From this day forward, I will view all dragonflies as dragons!

  2. Ochenski

    Larry –

    Thanks for the kind words on the long years in the trenches…but I am just one among many who have labored thus. However, this particular issue isn’t about slaying dragons — or even dragonflies.

    Nor is it about Walter, per se.

    As you’ll note in the column, I said my own personal experience with Walt was limited to a casual chat in the local brewery while he was picking up some kegs for a fundraiser — and that’s true. I know — or at least have heard — that you know Walt in a far more personal manner and in that regard, I can understand your defense of Walt the man, in spite of the fact that it appears to have somewhat fogged your perception to what it means to have someone with no transparency or accountability in this kind of position.

    So for the moment, lay Walter aside and just consider the implications of any governor being able to have someone outside the normal and necessary boundaries of public scrutiny and accountability in a position of such power. Say it was Judy Martz — what would you think then? What if her brother was up there being a “firewall” for issues of paramount interest to state government. Or what if he was molding public agencies and enforcement decisions to his liking without ever disclosing what or where his personal financial interests may lie? Might there be some conflict of interest issues? Sure. In fact, it’s flat out against the law to do so in the public policy arena to enrich one’s own personal financial interests — but only for elected or appointed officials, which Walt isn’t. Speaking personally, I was completely taken by surprise to read the Governor’s own quote in the Adams story that Walt was a “gas developer.” Again, think of this in terms of someone besides your personal acquaintance, and it gets a lot edgier as to where the transparency, accountability, and responsibility lie when, as Brian also said in the story “Walt’s just a citizen” — a citizen who just happens to be very active in shaping the state’s energy policies without disclosure of any kind.

    Now think, just for a second, what kind of precedent this sets for future governors. No need to have a blood relative in this position, just anyone the future governors decide should be there. Could be an industry lobbyist who happens to be taking a “sabbatical” from lobbying so he/she can render some good advice to their good friend the governor. Wouldn’t even have to be a Montanan now, would it? Nope — there are no sidebars to the precedent Brian is setting right now and in all my long years of being in the capitol through the last six governors, I can’t think of a single incident that rises to this level of “behind the curtain” activity. And why oh why wouldn’t some future governor point back and say “It was Brian Schweitzer who set this example, championed this precedent, and so I’m going to do it, too?” Obviously, there would be no barriers to doing so and, sorry to say, once again a Democrat would have cut the legs out from under the ethics arguments that find such ready targets in the current corruption of government processes (Cheney’s secret energy policy cabal comes immediately to mind — and we still can’t get the real info on that!).

    There are enough real dragons to fight out there that none of the people I know need to make up fictional ones. Certainly not Bob Raney, my great comrade-in-arms for the last 20 years, certainly not Anne Hedges, who is a brilliant woman, mother of two, and has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to the battle on behalf of MEIC. Nor Robin Shropshire, the physics professor who sits on the Board of Environmental Review. These are really good, brave people and when they rise to speak to this issue, it’s not out of malice, it’s out of genuine concern. What I can tell you, for sure, is that they are but the tip of the iceberg of those who have similar concerns. The difference is, these few had the courage to speak up on the record. And you can talk to Chuck Johnson, Mike Dennison, or any of the other media people who are in the capitol on a daily basis and they will tell you that the story is real enough — you just can’t get anyone to go on record about it because of the consequences. The real heroes, the real saints here are those few who had the guts to speak in the face of very real and damaging consequences, which they are now bearing.

    I wish it wasn’t so. I really don’t see why it is so. This is not the ranch, where the good brother can lend a much-appreciated hand. This is the capitol, where the people of Montana have a constitutionally-guaranteed right to know — to know who is doing what, where their personal financial interests are, and to whom they are acountable. Nowhere else in government that I can think of is there such an open-ended, arrangement where, let’s say you don’t agree with Walt on any given issue for any given reason, there is literally no one else to go to. If you could go straight to Brian, wouldn’t that have happened first? And who wants to face Brian and say “Your brother is not whom I wish to speak with?”

    So, if you can put aside the personalization of this particular policy debate and look objectively at the issue (juxtaposing Judy for Brian is very helpful in this regard), I think in the long run you’ll realize that this is much more than a tempest in a teacup. And I think you’ll also appreciate that this is not about slaying dragons or anything else — it’s a straight up debate on good government and policy precedent. At least, for those I know and respect, that’s the single, over-riding concern and I am humbled by their courage in addressing it. I don’t know how to say it any straighter than that.

  3. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    George, I appreciate your comments. But I think that I might just withhold judgement on all this until I actually see some evidence of illegality or wrongdoing. For you see, maybe it exists, but I see no evidence that Walter, like Cheney, held secret energy meetings with industry to form energy policy or some such. The appearance of impropriety, no matter how mightily argued by its believers, just doesn’t convince me that it is a matter of great concern at this time. But ya know, it’s kinda hard for me to even begin to imagine a guy like Walter doing even GREATER damage to enforcement agencies than did racico and mars! I mean, and racico did everything out in the open. I guess time will tell. And most all the real heroes in the enforcement agencies were probably dumped by racico long ago. Maybe there are a few left, I dunno.

  4. Jed

    The governor should stand alone?–supported only by bureaucrats and hangers-on?

    How many kitchen cabinets have graced our history–how many presidential (or gubernatorial) wives have had their spouse’s ears on a steady basis?–Woodrow’s wife leaps immediately to my mind.

    I think its is well that Walter’s constant presence should have been made public–Thank you!–but now its been exposed it should be treated like the dead horse it is certain to become…

  5. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Well said Jed! But the entire horse is not dead. The ass lives on in the comic figure of booby keenan of Big Dork!, a horse’s ass if there ever was one!

  6. jed

    Mr. Keenan will be speaking for the privileged classes so long as they appear to have one chance in hell of turning the USA into a third world labor source.
    When it becomes obvious to him that he can’t be elected to any powerful office as a member of the G.O.P. he will become a libertarian or a constitutionalist for awhile…




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