An end to the Walter Schweitzer story?

by Jay Stevens 

The Helena IR released its report on Walter Schweitzer today, written by a trio of Montana’s best political reporters, Mike Dennison, Jennifer McKee, and Charles Johnson. When I first heard rumor of this story, it sounded like it would be pretty damning. Only it isn’t. In fact, this report, barring any subsequent and concrete allegations against Brian Schweitzer’s brother, would seem to bury the story for good.

The IR piece, like John Adams’ report, does allege that Walter S has been involved in some policy meetings. But where Adams’ reporting was aggressive, the IR report treads cautiously, citing more sources, including Walter — almost no anonymous sources, and not a peep from Bob Keenan — and the result is far less damaging. In fact, the IR portrays Walter as a shrewd and capable political player, even a valuable asset to the Governor, while downplaying the criticism of Walter’s possible ethical entanglement with nepotism laws and other ethical improprieties. The closing passages seem to sum up the conclusion of KDennison, McKee, and Johnson:

Some longtime Democrats in Montana say that Walter’s role seems pretty normal, regardless of the details: He’s an active Democrat promoting Democratic ideals, he’s loyal to his brother and wants to better the state of Montana.“I don’t understand the noise being made about the (Brian’s) relationship with (Walter),’’ said state Sen. Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek. “Maybe Walter has his own money, and maybe it’s nobody’s business. How petty can you get?’’

Walter also mostly dismisses any notion that he’s an insider who has some special position, or that he’s in any way profiting from his relationship with his brother.

“It’s unjustified (criticism) and not supported by the facts,’’ he said. “It’s the same people who complained about Brian wearing blue jeans who complained about Brian bringing his dog into the Capitol building. They’re grasping at straws.’’

Absent from the IR is the rumors of bullying and the “culture of fear” in Helena.

That doesn’t mean the GOP isn’t going to try to make hay of this issue in the upcoming legislative season, but there’s more than enough info and quotes in this piece to keep Walter from becoming a political obstacle.

Of course, I’m a partisan hack willing to give Brian Schweitzer the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t see much actual harm in the story when it first broke, and I see even less after this story. Still, I do know there’s been some grumbling, and I’d like to hear Ed Kemmick’s take, since he alone — other than those you’d expect — expressed any concern about the Walter Schweitzer story. Maybe I’m missing something here.

Update: I’ve been stewing on this story ever since I wrote this post.

First, I should add that Dennison, Johnson, and McKee are only three of the state’s political writers. There are at least two others: Gwen Florio and John Adams.

While this post appears to be a criticism of Adams’ story, it’s not. Adams’ story was spot-on in identifying possible ethical improprieties. And he’s obviously very fair in who he “targets” for stories. No one can accuse him of laying off a story because of the potential damage it might do to his access or his paper’s bottom line.

  1. Big Swede

    Sounds like there’s more discontent with all the environmental rangers out there than with the GOP. And I suppose Keenans only upset because that huge IGCC plant won’t be built in his district. My advice to all the eastern republicans, lay low, Walter will probably be the best thing for natural resource development this side of the continental divide.

  2. Big Swede

    I don’t want to rant, but find it odd that “Montana’s best political reporters” didn’t provide any details about Walters influence eluding the new mercury standards for developing state coal tracts, especially when Adams piece was written three days before. But maybe that’s what the “best” do, cover for their side.

  3. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    Just as I thought. There’s nothing there! Adams and the Mizzoolian Foxdependent will go down in history as a laughingstock paper. And it should. Creating stories out of thin air and Rethulican talking points, and giving voice to slander are NOT great journalistic traditions. And my GOD but only a moron would go to Booby Keenan of Big Dork and Alan “coalson” Olson for stories about Schweitzer. And now, mr. adams can be famous for a quote that he should state, “I have not yet begun to write”. For you see, HE HASN’T! What a joke the Indy has become because of this.

  1. 1 On the Helena IR’s coverage of the Walter Schweitzer story « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] An end to the Walter Schweitzer story? […]

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