Friday, August 22, 2008

More reaction on the governor breaking the law

What Western Word said.

LITW comments on the above "crowing" post. (Did Jay read the same post that everyone else did? Or do crows sound different in Missoula than they do in Billings?) A point that should be clarified is that Jay read the MH post to mean that we believe the governor knew in advance that he was breaking the law. That would be a serious charge, and it is not at all what was meant.

A review of MH coverage of this imbroglio will reveal that our position from the beginning was that this was probably an oversight on the part of the governor, and not intentional: seems as though this is probably the result of carelessness on the governor’s part, or on the part of one of his state employees. It probably didn’t even cross anyone’s mind that the governor couldn’t just do what he wanted to — which is a problem in and of itself.

Jay also comments on the very real phenomenon of "weird and obsessive hate" on the part of some Republican stalwarts vis a vis the governor. He seems to realize that it has something to do with the governor's talent for sticking his finger in the collective eye of the Republican Party -- but hey, this is politics, so there is no need to get bent out of shape over that sort of thing.

Anyway, we would note that in our next post on this matter, we specifically criticized the tendency to overblown rhetoric and over-reaction when it comes to the GOP talking about the governor. When the Montana GOP accused the governor of "arrogant, heavy-handed tactics" and implied an intentional breaking of the law, we had this to say:

There is a difference between intentionally arrogant actions in which one knowingly flouts the law and the kind of passive arrogance that is shown by not bothering to think about the fact that there might be rules to be followed. Montanans will understand the difference, and if it is clear that the governor was just being careless, then overstating the case isn't going to help the overall GOP message about the governor and the unsuitability of his style of governance.

Jay still would likely think that this was too harsh, but the point is that while MH still takes a dim view of carelessness or, at worst, "passive arrogance" in the apparent failure of the governor's office in neglecting to notice that maybe Dem. Sen. Joe Tropila's law might just apply to the governor, at no point did we take the view that the governor intentionally set out to break the law.

After it had been drawn to the governor's attention, however, it should have been a no-brainer, upon even the briefest reflection, for the governor and his staff to know they had broken the intent of the law as Sen. Tropila drafted it, even if it was broken unintentionally. What MH criticizes -- unapologetically -- is the inexplicable unwillingness on the part of the governor, after having time to think about it and to review the discussion that surrounded Tropila's legislation, to say "I made a mistake, you're right, my bad, won't happen again."

While the LITW commentary is reasonably thoughtful, the Lamnidae commentary was simply silly, implying that the dastardly Erik Iverson's intent in bringing this complaint forward was to bring Montana economic development grinding to a halt. It couldn't have had anything whatsoever to do with the governor using public employees and state-owned equipment to put out an ad that contained his re-election campaign slogan? Naw...

Seriously, we Republicans should be flattered that Lamnidae credits us with thinking on such a big-picture scale: "Hm, without the governor's PSA's, Montana's economy will come to a standstill, people's bank accounts will empty, they'll blame the governor, Roy Brown will be elected!" (Cue evil, haunting laughter.)

Following Lamnidae's argumentation, such as it is, it is apparently OK to break state law whenever it seems like it would be a good idea to do so. (Or is it only that Democrats can break the law if Democrats think it is a good idea -- it is easy to get confused.) If Lamnidae has a problem with the existence of this law, the complaint should be taken to the guy who drafted it (a Democrat,) the legislature that passed it (controlled by Democrats,) and the guy who signed it into law (also a Democrat.)

And that law can be overturned by any future legislature. But until then, good idea or bad, it is the law that everyone has to adhere to.

Sec. State Brad Johnson's office has done plenty of PSA's, but hasn't used his name, voice or face. If Johnson is bright enough to figure out how to get his job done within the law, surely the governor -- widely acclaimed by his fans to be one of the most brilliant politicians in Montana history -- should be able to manage to figure out how to promote Montana in spite of being hamstrung by what must seem like an eternity of an 8 month blackout on taxpayer funded ads.


Anonymous said...

As anyone who visits MH regularly knows, your comments are always well-reasoned and never over the top. For someone to describe them as "crowing" is just plain silly.

But consider this: A hearing examiner has found that the governor violated an important state law. As near as I remember, no official ever found that Gov. Martz or Sen. Burns violated any laws. Yet Democrats like those at LITW "crowed" and screamed and harped about their "transgressions" for years.

So it really takes a lot of gall for the folks at LITW to complain about "crowing" about the governor's situation. If they are serious--which I doubt--then they owe some big apologies to Martz and Burns.

PS: you say Brad Johnson has done PSAs without his voice, name etc. But have any been done since the legal deadline? I don't recall any.

Also, the argument that the governor is needed for these PSAs is ridiculous. The state's economy is not going to suffer one bit if he's not in any for six months.

Montana Headlines said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for Democrats to apologize to Gov. Martz or Sen. Burns even though, as you note, the score on official findings of wrongdoing are: The Guv - 1, Martz/Burns - 0

Regarding your question, Sec. State Brad Johnson said this in his Montana Headlines interview:

My office undertook a campaign of public service announcements – that never used my name, face or voice, I should add – encouraging voters to register early.

That interview took place in June, three months after the filing deadline. Whether such PSA's were run between March and June, I don't know, but of course it doesn't matter, since it would have been completely legal and following the intent of Sen. Tropila's law.

The point is that any department of government can do their necessary PSA's and promotion of the state of Montana -- either during election season or at any other time -- without using the name, face, or voice of an elected official who wants his political career to be "on the move."

If Johnson went the extra mile and kept his name, face, and voice off PSA's before the filing deadline as well, then good for him. That would be the kind of meticulous care in avoiding the appearance of impropriety that would be nice to see in all elected officials.

Anonymous said...

I commend your generosity in giving the Governor a pass on the possibility that he didn't know the PSA's in question were a violation of the law.

I might be willing to accept that if it weren't for the fact that during the debates on this bill in both the House and Senate, the Governor's staff submitted amendments that would exempt the Governor from the provisions of the bill, especially because it was his responsibility to promote Montana, blah, blah, blah. Both houses firmly - and contrary to the Governor's expressed wishes - denied the amendments and passed the bill which he signed.

It was one of the very few times that the Democrats failed to kowtow to the Governor's demands. I have a hard time accepting that he really didn't remember it.

Montana Headlines said...

Fascinating piece of info, anonymous. Do you have references in the transcripts of legislative proceedings to document that? If there is a paper trail, that would be pretty damning, since it would leave only the "we meant to get it out before the filing deadline, but it got delayed/mixed up" argument.

And that is an argument that, while still leaving the governor's office open to charges of carelessness, would likely have been accepted by the Montana public.

And it is an argument that the governor's office pointedly refused to use.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the references handy, but in the hearing in the Old Supreme Court Chamber about a month ago, Mr. Lovell referred to those proposed amendments and indicated he had included the relevant transcripts of the legislative hearings in his briefs. I'm sure that the information is available from Legislative Services, or possible a copy of the transcript of the hearing and the briefs could be obtained from COPP, the Republican Party, or heck - call the Governor - I'll bet he has every bit of paper related to this matter!

Anonymous said...

By the way - the "We meant to get it out before the deadline" argument wasn't one the governor's attorney brought up in the hearing. Probably because the deadline to file was more than two weeks after the PSAs ran. I think even Meloy would have a hard time keeping a straight face with that one.

Anonymous said...

The Governor knowingly broke the law, it seems to me, especially after reading how he tried to get himself exempted in the legislature. Now, after his staff breaks the law again with ex parte communications to the Commissioner of Political Practices, he frantically mails a check for $750 dollars.

I'm still waiting for that secret indictment that Jay Stevens somewhat libelously, and certainly erroneously, claimed was going to be made public after the Burns/Tester election.

Republicans made a serious error when they attacked JP Pomnichowski with a terrible mailer during the legislature. However, during all the caterwauling about it from the democrats, they neglected to mention they'd done the same thing to a Republican legislator. JP even acknowledged it, refusing to let these odious mailers be a partisan issue.

Point is, the rationalizations and deflections we read from LitW or Lamnidae (sic), highlight the fact that the Democrats feel no need to obey the laws or even stick to the morality they preach, because their cause is so "just" so "great" that mere morality and legal considerations are inconsequential.

This is right out of the far left playbook written in the 1960s, and yes, it's an actual book, and yes, you can buy it on Amazon.

It's all right for the Governor to break the law to get elected, because the need to get the right guy elected is a superior ethic to any consideration of the means to do so.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought -- since the gov sent the check before the order was issued, does that constitute attempted bribery??