Why in the World Would Montanans Be Cynical About Politics, Blackbird Edition
I’m starting to think the leaked report from the Army’s inspector general regarding John Walsh’s misuse of his adjudant general position came from the Walsh campaign itself. Hear me out.
First, let’s look at a comment from Ellie Hill in this week’s Indy, where Hill acts as a “guest prognosticator” for 2014:
Sen. Max Baucus announced his retirement, surprising many with the news—even longtime staffers—and leaving Montanans with seemingly no succession plan. Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Jon Tester’s pick for Baucus’ replacement is Lt. Gov. John Walsh. For those who follow the dysfunctional inner-workings of Montana’s Democratic Party, they won’t be surprised to find out that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer has picked someone else—his administration’s lieutenant governor, John Bohlinger.
This comment was seized on by Aaron Flint on Twitter, where he asked Hill if Schweitzer backs Bohlinger. Hill’s response:
I was just guessing. I don’t think Schweitzer’s endorsed & my son’s Magic 8 Ball ain’t always 100% reliable.
Schweitzer may not have officially endorsed Bohlinger, but he made a pretty bold prediction that Bohlinger would win the primary if it was held in November (2013).
Now that Walsh is getting some scrutiny about his leadership ethics, the guy who hired Walsh, then boasted about throwing away the inspector general’s report, is being forced to defend Walsh, something I know Walsh supporters like Don Pogreba are giddy about.
Here’s a portion of the Hill article quoting the Brian:
Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) said he dismissed an Army independent investigator’s report on then-Adjudant General John Walsh, now the state’s lieutenant governor and Democratic Senate candidate.
“I treated it with the respect it deserved,” Schweitzer told the Helena Independent Record. “I put it in the round file.”
The Army’s inspector general concluded in 2010 that Walsh had improperly used his position for personal gain by pressuring some Montana National Guard troops into joining the National Guard Association of the United States, a private organization that advocates for more equipment for the National Guard which Walsh was a board member of.
Schweitzer, who appointed Walsh as Montana’s adjudant general and director of military affairs, derides the report as “much ado about nothing” and “a completely partisan end run in the National Guard attempting to embarrass [Walsh].”
It was essentially Schweitzer’s responsibility to do something if he found merit in the report. Now that it was leaked, Brian, to protect his folksy political brand, has to come to Walsh’s defense.
This report was going to come out somehow. If I was running the Walsh campaign, it would make sense to get it out early and use the cover of the holidays all while leveraging Schweitzer into a little self-interested support of John Walsh.
In another post from Don Pogreba, he rhetorically asks Why in the world would Montanans be cynical about politics?. Before launching into an attack on the political opportunist, Bob Brigham (who I’m assuming is the main “strategist” working for Bohlinger) Don said this:
When people talk about their cynicism about politics, it’s typically their perception that those involved in campaigns will say and do almost anything to get elected.
I totally agree. I would add the constant hypocrisy displayed by both teams when it comes to the functional, selective outrage used to score political points.
Again in the most recent Indy, the Etc. column features a chilling message for journalists in this state, and it’s coming from the Bullock administration. I’m going to include the whole thing, because I think it’s really important to raise awareness about what it’s going to take for journalists to get us, the public, the information we have every right to know about our public officials. Please go to the link or click continue to read the piece in full.
—from Missoula Independent, Etc.
It’s hard to believe, but the prevailing jurisprudence in Montana holds that the state can brazenly sue citizens who demand access to government records. That’s what happened to the Independent when it sought the disciplinary records of Lake County law officers accused of misconduct. Reluctant to turn over the requested files without a court order, then-Attorney General Steve Bullock filed a lawsuit, naming the Indy as a defendant. The state argued that the accused lawmen had privacy rights that trumped the people’s right to know.
We couldn’t lay down and let the AG’s office hold sway over the court. To ensure the court heard a strong argument for public’s interest, the Indy lawyered up, and we more or less won, obtaining redacted versions of all the files we sought. Among the astonishing details, we found that Bullock himself had been badly embarrassed by the testimony of Frank Bowen, a warden with Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Bowen revealed how his FWP superiors, fearing the mess in Lake County made Bullock look soft on corruption, forced Bowen to stop pursuing his poaching investigation of several Lake County deputies, ordered him not to discuss his work and reassigned him.
Republicans tried to pry into the unfolding fiasco, convening legislative hearings to politicize the situation during his gubernatorial campaign. But with Bowen effectively gagged, they never got any meaty details until a year later, when we prevailed in court. By then, Bullock had already won the election.
You would think that once the court had sided with the Indy, we’d be entitled to some relief from the onerous legal burden. But you’d be wrong. Montana District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ruled that we had to foot our substantial legal fees entirely on our own—describing our request for reimbursement as “a substantial injustice” against the state.
Yeah, our jaws dropped, too. But we’re not the first people to encounter this kind of twisted legal reasoning. In her ruling, Seeley relied on some similar recent cases, and they’ve all gone the government’s way on the issue of expenses. When it comes to attorneys’ fees, the judges have discretion, and they’ve consistently endorsed the now-routine practice of government entities running to court every time privacy rights might interfere with the public right to know, regardless of whether the privacy claim is a fig leaf for unwarranted secrecy or not. It turns out that in Montana, your constitutionally guaranteed right to know only goes as deep as the pocket that pays your lawyer.