The Republican Party was rebuffed last week, when the state’s top constitutional lawyer dismissed the GOP’s longstanding ethics complaint against Schweitzer.
The complaint alleged that the Governor had broken the law because he ran a public service announcement during an election year, using state funds which the law forbids. Schweitzer has always claimed that he was simply doing his job by promoting Montana agriculture, and also that no funds were expended because the radio ad was free.
The GOP expressed outraged at the determination by Jim Goetz, the Bozeman lawyer who was deputized to decide the case by the recently appointed Commissioner Jim Murray, that Schweitzer had done no wrong. “Laughable” is how the decision was described by Bowen Greenwood, head of the Montana Republican Party. Greenwood also said that the GOP will appeal the decision.
I’d say if a radio station gives free air time to a Governor to do an ad promoting the state’s agriculture sector, then it’s hard to see why Montana citizens would benefit by having such promotional activity be illegal. And recall that the GOP chose to go after Schweitzer on this issue during 2008, when they needed to hit him hard on something, anything, to try to put a dent his numbers during an election year.
But there is also an undercurrent to this whole affair: agriculture no longer appears to be embraced by the GOP in Montana. It has been a long time since a GOP gubernatorial candidate (or governor) has hailed from an Ag background, and Rick Hill/Jon Sonju are continuing the trend. Neither Sonju nor Hill has ever picked up a shovel, planted a seed or poked a cow. Nor had Roy Brown or Steve Daines (two corporate bozos); nor had Bob Brown or Dave Lewis (two career politicians/bureaucrats); nor had Marc Racicot or Judy Martz (a lawyer and an imbecile), nor has Denny Rehberg (he inherited ranch land from his parents and developed condos on it).
On the other hand, Schweitzer and Tester, both farmers, have dominated the Democratic scene in recent years and have eaten into the Agriculture sector that perhaps the GOP once had a much stronger hold on. So it sort of makes sense that the GOP would become so irritated about the Governor doing a radio PSA supporting Montana growers. But rather than just be irritated, they became childish, but have now been slapped down, hard, and probably for good.