Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State employee legislators

Sometimes grasps for power over-reach and draw more negative attention than expected. A great high-profile example was the almost certainly fraudulent South Dakota election in which Tom Daschle's Democrat machine engineered Tim Johnson's 2002 narrow victory over John Thune.

Daschle got his pet senator elected (losing control of the Senate anyway, though), but in the process he drew attention to his techniques of manipulating the reservation vote in South Dakota and galvanized the Republican party into being determined not to let it happen again.

The unintended consequence was that Daschle ended up losing his own seat to John Thune two years later, with the Thune team treating the campaign like a do-over, in which they had plenty of time to watch and analyze all of the plays on game-film -- preparing the necessary defensive and offensive strategies to win.

Sen. Sam Kitzenberg, D-Glasgow did a slick move this past year by being given an unadvertised Montana state government job, and then switching parties to throw control of the Senate to the Democrats. This in turn drew attention to the fact that Senate President Mike Cooney, D-Helena, had been awarded a similar unadvertised state job that pays over $75,000 a year -- roughly three times what the average Montanan makes (we know that Montana Democrats care about such things, since Sen. Conrad Burns' Senate salary was repeatedly compared to the income of the average Montanan in the recent Tester campaign.)

Legislative attention is now being drawn to conflicts of interest in state employees serving in the legislature, as it should be. Not surprisingly, 7 of the 9 legislators in such a position this session are Democrats.

Republicans are proposing a bill, which, "should it become law, would outlaw precisely the kind of job Cooney took. Asked about the bill Tuesday, Cooney said he doesn't 'have any thoughts.'"