Chris Christie, Brian Schweitzer, and the Art of the Gubernatorial Vendetta

by lizard

Got it.

Those two little words carry an immense weight right now because they acknowledge that Chris Christie’s presidential aspirations could be DOA.

Now stories are coming out about delayed emergency response times because of this petty political retaliation. Christie is done, probably. Regardless of the outcome here, it might be worth spending a few minutes thinking about how another self-grooming presidential hopeful wielded his political power of the purse.

Jhwygirl reminded me tonight (via Twitter) about Brian Schweitzer’s classy move to coerce fealty for coal back in March of 2010:

Critics fumed and local officials were dumbfounded Monday when Gov. Brian Schweitzer affirmed he’ll tie the release of frozen state grants to local support for Otter Creek coal tract leases in southeastern Montana.

The executive director of the Montana Environmental Information Center called it a tactic that smacks of Third World dictatorships.

“This money is supposed to be used for schools and he’s trying to issue it as a slush fund to spread around the state to curry favor for his administration and essentially buy or blackmail communities’ support for coal,” said Jim Jensen of MEIC.

The Button Valley Bugle was more blunt about it:

Emperor Schweitzer has announced that he will allow Montana communities to repair their roads and sewers, but only if they kowtow to his agenda and kiss his ring. 135 cities and counties were scheduled to receive more than $3 million in stimulus monies, but the Governor was forced to stop those payments due to budget concerns and he began talking about a 5% across-the-board spending cut. Enter the Otter Creek coal tracts; Following a sweetheart deal with giant Arch Coal, the state is due to receive a one-time $86 million paycheck for its 570 million tons of state-owned coal. In order to drum up support for mining the coal, Schweitzer first threatened to halt $600,000 in funding for the disabled. Now that the coal money looks more like a sure thing, the Governor is talking about releasing frozen stimulus money one community at a time, but only if community leaders first sign loyalty oaths supporting his plans for Otter Creek. In Missoula,

“Schweitzer told a room of three dozen that he wanted to see letters of support from community leaders, including the county commissioners, Missoula Mayor John Engen and state legislators, not only for the Big Flat Road project but for the use of coal money to pay for it. “The potential revenue from the sale of Otter Creek coal might allow for your project/projects to be funded,” Schweitzer said in a letter he signed at the end of his visit. “Please return a letter confirming that you ‘support the use of coal money for the completion of your project/projects.’”

When you get tired of hearing about bridges and late school busses and a really old lady who died, you can read some fun history about how political grudges have been pursued through the IRS throughout the years, titled Is There No Cure for the IRS’s Perpetual Political Outrages?


  1. So how many people in Missoula went along with him?

  2. larry kurtz

    wrong thread: i’m a dunce.

  3. steve kelly

    Just one more reason voters are increasingly dropping affiliation with both name-brand parties. http://prorevnews.blogspot.com/2014/01/democrats-and-republicans-are-both.html

  4. UAOI

    I know it pains Missoula liberals to admit that our state and schools would be broke without coal money, but it’s the truth. I hadn’t heard that story about Schweitzer. I’m sure Engen & the three stooges were entirely offended having to hear the truth about where state funding really comes from. What ever came of it? Engen and crew would rather watch our infrastructure crumble as we turn into a 3rd world country before they’d admit that mining coal might actually be a necessary evil.

    • Yes, and that coal tax trust fund is one of our greatest assets. Most people in the state have something to owe to coal in one way or another.

  5. John Vincent

    But the tip of the iceberg!

    This is a great example in the category of public policy.There are many others.
    But possibly even more illustrative of BS’s Vendetta Complex are the mean things he did to people, both in and out of his administration, to extract pay back. revenge or cover his backside.
    The public deserves to learn more about BS’s actions in both realms so they can size him up and pass judgment on his character. If he continues his current efforts, I’m reasonably sure the national media will do what the Montana media failed to do……dig deep to find the real BS.

    John Vincent Note; In fairness, readers should consider my comments in the knowledge that I was beaten badly by BS in the 2004 Democratic primary for Governor.

    • lizard19

      the more I think about the end of that Weigel interview, the more I think Schweitzer isn’t really going to run. instead he’s showing the Clinton apparatus that he’s a legitimate enough threat to leverage some kind of appointment in a Hillary Clinton administration (shudder).

      • Craig Moore

        My guess is VP.

        • JC

          Ambassador to Saudi Arabia… Keeps him from running effectively against her in 2020. Same tactic Obama used against Huntsman.

          • Well I remember after he spoke at the 2008 convention there was a lot of talk that he could get some cabinet spot, and many seemed to lean toward Agriculture.

            I wouldn’t discount Interior either if we’re on it, but I don’t think he’d settle for either of those rather ‘puny’ positions.

            Guy speaks Arabic and Farsi, right? If he’s posing as serious a threat to Clinton as many would like to think or others would have us believe then I’d say State isn’t wildly unbelievable.

  6. The Chris Christie story is already starting to peak and die down. Being the showman that he is, he will recover nicely from this event. He still won’t make the cut for President, though. He isn’t conservative enough to win the Republican Primary.

    • Craig Moore

      Maybe not when Dems like Paul Begala take to filleting Gov. Schnook. http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/09/opinion/begala-christie-scandal-stick/index.html?iref=allsearch

      But not with the Chris Christie bridge-closing scandal: This one’s gonna stick.

      How do I know? Three reasons:

      1. It feeds a pre-existing narrative. This is the most important factor in determining whether a miscue becomes a scandal and whether a scandal becomes a permanent taint. Any issue that advances a narrative that people already have is given greater credence and is more memorable.

      Every public figure has a master narrative. In fact they have two: one positive, one negative. In the case of Christie, his larger-than-life persona has been drawn both with bold strokes and in vivid color. The positive narrative is compelling — and true: the straight-talking, forceful, blunt leader; the no-nonsense take-charge guy who blasted as “stupid and selfish” his own constituents who did not evacuate a beach community before a hurricane.

      Christie’s negative narrative is just as powerful, and just as true: bully. He burst on the national scene in YouTube clips of town hall meetings where he berated critics. As The New York Times reported, as governor, Christie has a remarkable pattern of bullying: stripping former Gov. Richard Codey of his security detail after Codey called Christie “combative and difficult;” cutting funding to a Rutgers University program run by a professor who sided with Democrats on a redistricting panel, and more.

      If, as it appears, Christie’s appointees and staff forced New Jerseyans to suffer through a four-hour traffic jam because their mayor — a Democrat — had the temerity to back the Democratic candidate opposing Christie’s re-election, it doesn’t just feed the image of a bully; it cements it.

      2. There are ongoing legal and political processes. The Democratic majority leader of the State Senate, Loretta Weinberg, described herself as shocked by the scandal. More important — and more ominous, for Christie — she declared, “I am waiting — and hopefully with the support of Assemblyman (and Deputy Speaker John) Wisniewski — that the subpoena power will continue.” Continuing subpoenas mean continuing revelations. “Sooner rather than later,” Weinberg said, “we’re going to hear the whole story of who knew what when.”

      There are almost certainly going to be lawsuits from aggrieved commuters, which will put folks under oath. And, most ominously, the U.S. attorney has said he is looking into the matter. If this becomes a federal case, the stakes rise immeasurably.

      3. It happened at the media epicenter. It’s not fair, but it’s true: The news media is based largely on the East
      Coast and principally in New York. If the governor of South Dakota closed the Chief Standing Bear Bridge, which connects South Dakota to Nebraska, most of the national media would not know or care. But this is the George Washington Bridge. Journalists can cover this story, literally, on their commute. Christie’s proximity to the media center has helped fuel his celebrity; now it may fuel his downfall.

      The truth is there is not much Christie can do about these three dynamics. He tried apologizing, but kept returning to the plea that he is truly the victim here: that he’s just a poor schnook who was lied to.

      • Good points. A lot of people in New Jersey feel betrayed tonight and I think a lot of them saw the phoniness in his apology. Hey, maybe he’s telling the truth, but does it really matter when people who voted for you don’t think so?

        How long was that press conference, 2 hours? That’s damage control, big time. Now maybe Schweitzer will be the only blunt, loud-mouth kind of guy running.

        I don’t know, but I don’t think Chris Christie’s thinking about Iowa too much tonight. And that woman he fired? We know the man ain’t talking, but her? What kind of payoff did she get to keep her mouth shut or take the fall, supposing Christie is behind this. If she tells the ‘truth,’ oh boy.

  7. evdebs

    I left this reply on another blog 11 hours ago.
    —————
    This is hardly the first time that Christie has been exposed for odious behavior. He attacked schoolteachers, nurses, etc., who were represented by union officials whom they had elected and who were acting in their members’ best interests.

    Sam Dolnick, of the New York Times, exposed another, far seamier side of Christie, which was his relationship with for-profit prison operator (though they laundered state proceeds through a non-profit) Community Education Centers, which horribly mismanaged corrections services contracts (i.e., halfway houses) in Jersey.

    Christie had been a partner in the law/lobbyist firm that ran interference for CEC’s sleazy machinations, his campaign manager, spokesperson and biggest contributors were part of that partnership.

    One major player, William Palatucci, may have been the first of Christie’s co-conspirators to fall on his sword in the interests of Christie’s ambitions.

    Palatucci resigned his position as Vice President with CEC, discouraging a polar vortex that threatened to suck the heat out of the governor’s reelection campaign.

    This leaves the Republican field of presidential hopefuls devoid of any but the extremist lunatics from the party’s Teabagger fringe. I would guess it may mean “eight more years,” for the Democratic 2016 eventual nominee

    http://www.bluejersey.com/tag/Sam%20Dolnick

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/09/nyregion/executive-tied-to-new-jerseys-halfway-houses-william-j-palatucci-is-stepping-down.html

    • mike

      How about that paragon of virtue John Corzine who over saw the disappearance of a billion or 3 of other people’s money after he stole a lot more of other people’s money as the governor of the Garden State…hand slap, golf clap, but he’s got team blue behind his monicker.

      The hypocrisy here is hilarious….Christie is a tool, Corzine was a tool, but because he was a team blue tool and thief it’s all good, you guys crack me up….it was for the Chillunz so theft is a virtue. And don’t forget ROADZ…SMH

      • evdebs

        And McGreevy was a tool as well.

        The state has a long history of electing politicians who let them down. Lautenberg was great, though. There are others, such as Frank Pallone, who I have thoroughly appreciated.

  8. Let’s be clear, I do not support Christie. He is a so/so governor but he has a great deal of approval from his constituants because, like Schweitzer, he is a showman. He is certainly a lot more moderate than many other Republicans running for President, and I would certainly vote for him before I would vote for Cruz, Ryan or Perry (and yes, Perry is considering another run at President in 2016).

    Christie will survive this “scandal” just like Schweitzer survived the three of four scandals during his time in office – and for the same reason. He will make a show over something important to the voters and they will forgive everything that happened previously. Yes, Criag, I read the article you posted as well as the other dozen of so articles on CNN, BBC, and MSNBC. Some claimed Christie is toast, and some say that Christie will come out of this smelling like a rose. The fact is, Christie has been in trouble before and he will be in trouble again – people like him always are. He will walk away from them all because he will give the voters a show and they love him for it.

    I would be far more concerned with his role as the head of the GOP governor’s association. He can do a lot in that position. I am just hoping that this land grab thing doesn’t get completely out of control out here and the Governor’s association is considering backing it.

    • Steve W

      I’m not convinced Christie is surviving this Ken

      I’m thinking not. Time will tell.

      In the meanwhile enjoy a little late night comedy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKHV0LLvhXM#t=11

  9. Big Swede

    I can’t remember. Did 4 and 20 blog about the IRS/Tea Party scandal?

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/scott-whitlock/2014/01/09/there-s-already-17-times-more-coverage-christie-scandal-last-six-mon

    • Abe Froman

      4 and 20 is part of the lieberal media conspiracy against you swede.

    • lizard19

      I posted a link in another thread about the historic abuse of the IRS by lots of presidents, but it’s from a source outside your echo chamber.




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