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