Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PSC Commissioner Brad Molnar -- Montana Headlines interview (Part 2 of 2)


Read Part I here.

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MH: Let's touch on a few specifics, starting with your public comments condemning the "right to work" plank inserted into the platform at the recent GOP convention. For the record, MH opposes such laws, too. What on earth happened up in Missoula that this plank got shoved into the party platform?

Brad Molnar: That is what happens when people do not pay attention. I was not on the floor when it took place and it is so cloaked that...well, it happened. True conservatives cannot accept government intervening in private sector contracts. Period.

MH: Agreed. How do PSC Commissioners affect the interests of labor union members, and what specifically have you done to look out for them while on the PSC?

Brad Molnar: As you know I was the first Republican in the history of Montana to represent Laurel in the legislature. Some said that the union influence made it impossible. I figured that railroaders did not have enough money to be liberal so talked about what we had in common (which is most things) and they kept me in till term limits.
I actually enjoy working with union guys. They are long on doing and short on pussy footing. But more directly, when the Judith Gap wind farm was being started they wanted to use out of state, non-union contractors. There are no in-state non-union contractors that could have built the project.

At the PSC level I made a motion to place in our docket that "Little Davis Bacon" would apply. Still not sure if it would have applied but I tried. Only got one vote, Raney's. The other D's took a powder.

MH: "Little Davis Bacon?"

Brad Molnar: State version of Federal "prevailing wage."

MH: Got it. So is it possible that Republicans, if they don't insist on blowing it, have the opportunity to win the support of traditional unions in Montana and elsewhere?

Brad Molnar: Of course. Under Jerry Driscoll the AFL-CIO dropped their participation in slime ball politics and focused on jobs for their people. Republicans tend to like that concept so it was symbiotic.

I have encountered a strong union sentiment to that in my PSC campaign. The trade unions pulled Tussing's endorsement to fight for me. (No resolution of that yet. Railroaders in Forsyth recognized me at a cafe, and walked up to offer their support).

Union workers are just individuals. Approach them as such and all things are possible. Don't attack their union. After all it is their union. Let them change its policies if they so desire. They vote on this stuff and their leaders. If you don't like it then join and vote.

How tough is this? It's called freedom. Not every fight requires war. I have noticed that Republicans that complain about union money and "bus loads" of volunteers have not donated a dime to local candidates or even a few afternoons stumping for a candidate.

If we are being out-organized, out-donated, and out-volunteered by a minority, why do we have the right to be critical of others for digging out their pocketbooks and getting off the couch?

MH: You’re preaching to the choir. No whining about unions allowed around here.

Next up is energy deregulation.

Brad Molnar: OH BOY!!!

MH: Well, you knew it was coming. Listening to your opposition, the evil state legislator Brad Molnar was single-handily responsible for deregulation, ensuing high energy prices, and general chaos, mayhem, and destruction. Did we leave anything out?

Brad Molnar: And I did it at the request of my corporate masters....

I was such a powerful legislator that Bob Gannon handpicked me. I didn't even have to show up at the hearings. If you have nothing to say, but an election to win...make it up.
Considering Tussing's history why would this surprise anyone?

MH: You’ve got a point there. But leaving aside the fact that this argument is so… so 1990, are we correct in suspecting that this is, just maybe, a bit of over-wrought election year shrillness?

Brad Molnar: Actually since they have decided that conservation efforts are the root of all evil they have pretty much left this cut and paste argument alone. But I'm sure we will see more of it.

It's really a stupid argument to raise. I'm the one that took my own time and money trying to sue to get it overturned. The D's on the Commission actually took a public vote to try and block the suit to keep the facts from coming to court.

The facts are clear. The PSC acted in collusion with MPC and PPL, and lied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to facilitate the sale of MPC generation assets as quickly as possible. They had to ignore a dozen brakes put on them by the legislature. The document they did this with is the first one under my pic on the PSC website.

Notice that they clearly state that the federal government does not allow states to deregulate –rather, only a Commission can request the state's generation be granted (EWG status.)

MH: Is there a "rest of the story?"

Brad Molnar: I was absolutely shocked when the Repub party did not even ask if they could help. I was shocked when the Demo party refused to even discuss how to reregulate and I was shocked when my fellow Commissioners ordered our legal staff to stand with the PPL attorney (He has donated to Tussing) and defend our deregulated status.

I never asked them to help or give money. Just stay out of the way. When Raney switched to oppose the reregulation effort he publicly stated it was for "partisan political considerations" from the bench. (last entry below my pic on the PSC website).

Not a word in the press. An unbiased study of the causations, the issue, the process are a gold mine on how to have a better future and not make the same mistakes again (state and federal) but alas, the issue is better political fodder. Geez, it even happened before Tussing moved to Montana to claim the title Most Failed Chief of Police/Mayor Billings Has Ever Known...but it seems to be the only thing he knows anything about.

MH: Let’s turn to some more dirty stuff. We've had an annoying commenter who periodically shows up on MH threads that deal either with you or Ron Tussing, saying that you were convicted of felony assault and battery.

Knowing how devoted Mayor Tussing's fawning admirers are, this sort of anonymous charge will probably continue to appear on various blogs and in the comments section of the Gazette during this campaign. Would you like to enlighten MH readers regarding your past felonious activities?

Brad Molnar: I would rather talk about my future felonious activities but my compatriots would prefer that I not. Such stories will probably continue to surface in the blogosphere but not on the editorial page because they would be actionable and could not muster a defense onnaconna taint true.

Actually a felony would preclude me from serving would it not?

MH: We tried making that logical point, along with pointing out the absence of anything in the press about it in the last election cycle, but some people are logically challenged.

Brad Molnar: Yes, I've had a few scrapes but never seen a judge... plainly self defense.

Sorry, but I can't match Tussing man-handling a reporter at his announcement for mayor when he dared ask why Tussing thought he could break the $160,000 settlement agreement. Apparently Tussing claimed self defense and said he was afraid the man was armed (he had a camera and is 1/3 the size of Tussing)

He has not assaulted anyone for carrying a camera before or since. Charges dropped. Had that been me I would still be in the clink. It amazes me when they know they are vulnerable yet go forward with their cowardly attacks. They don't even care if they hurt their own candidate. Very poorly thought out. Tussing should be avoiding these issues like sumac.

MH: Enough on that – if we continue, our readers will be forced to go take a shower and won’t be able to finish reading this most engaging interview.

Let’s talk some specifics of how the PSC works. How do PSC commissioners interact with the state legislature -- do you have an advisory role in the crafting of legislation?

Brad Molnar: We often craft our own. For example the PSC crafted the legislation to increase the USB (consumer tax) on natural gas by 300%. I was the only commissioner to oppose it.

MH: Do you testify before committees?

Brad Molnar: There is at least one Commissioner present for just about any piece of legislation that concerns what we do. Often just to answer technical questions. Just as often we offer pro and con positions as determined by our votes to support or oppose various pieces legislation.

For example Mood (the other R) and I have, for the past two sessions supported legislation to mandate that the PSC put together a "lowest cost possible" energy portfolio for utility customers with the option for "green power" aficionados to pay more for their chosen color of electrons.

The three Democrat commissioners have always stood with the enviro lobby and opposed same. All of us agreed that Gov. Schweitzer’s HB3 Special Session was patently illegal. Ergo none of the D's went to testify so they could not be questioned.

MH: Most interesting – we’ll have to pay attention in the next session to see who testifies and when.

Can you give examples of laws that have passed or nearly passed in the legislature in the last couple of sessions that were injurious to Montana citizens -- ones that a Republican legislature should overturn in the coming session?

Brad Molnar: Of course the aforementioned 300% increase in USB taxes (it was made far worse in committee at the request of MDU).

HB 25 has a moratorium on new coal-fired plants and created a new 3.5% tax on energy. If we repeal the Renewable Energy Portfolio (SB 415 Schweitzer/Tester) we could save about $50M immediately and millions more per year.

MH: How about any that need to be fought and kept from passing in the next legislative session?

Brad Molnar: Have been a little preoccupied with the next couple of months to worry about the next session but I assume that everyone agrees that the people of SE Mont would be represented very differently before legislative committees if Tussing should win.

MH: Fair enough, but still, is there legislation that you as a PSC Commissioner would like to see introduced and debated in the next legislative session?

Brad Molnar: Along with Rep Everett I tried to make fraud by, or before, the Commission the same as fraud anywhere (punishable up to two years after discovery) rather than you have thirty days after a ruling to file an action.

Only the three D's on the Commission and NWE opposed it in committee. It got clobbered in Committee and twice on the floor just to get a rehearing.

Listen to the tapes. Jergeson went berserk to kill it. Totally berserk. It was amazing. My jaw dropped. It would have allowed the Commission to be held responsible for the fraud and collusion they committed (and admitted to) when they asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to deregulate Montana Power and PPL.

Dems really hate the truth on this subject. I'll bet they quote Justice Nelson on this topic when they blog. Four justices refused to sign his dissent so they naturally quote him like he actually represented someone other than himself and his loathing for my conservative politics and our many years running feud over his judicial activism.

MH: Well, that spares us from having to ask for a comment or two about the role of the judiciary.


Next up, what kind of a grade would you give the current governor when it comes to the basic pocketbook issues of utility rates?

Brad Molnar: A+ for taking credit for the efforts of others.

D-minus for what he has done to consumers and the cost causers he has planted.

When I nailed him on imploring us to help low-income ratepayers with their increasing utility bills, when he promoted every cost causer in the legislature he said, "Yes, but my concern was for the jobs it creates."

Six months building wind mills and 20 years of higher rates. Make that an "F."

Same, exactly the same, answer from his transmission guy (Tuttle) at the Colstrip meeting of the interim ETIC when he was asked by Weisman (D-Great Falls) about the impact of the Montana Idaho Intertie.

So it is definitely Schweitzer’s policy to ignore costs if he gets a good headline about jobs. He is a very bright guy so I assume he knows he is guilty. It's just that the press prefers to not ask any follow up questions. Just quote the press agent...or they might not be invited to the next wine tasting.

Same thing when Barret told legislators to resist my amendment to HB 3 (special session) that would have saved consumers $38.85M on electricity bills (That reminds me. We should try that one again.)

ZERO dems voted for it. Why doesn't Schweitzer say what he has done to lower energy bills (not counting subsidizing the poor with other people’s money)...make that F-minus.

Republicans put price caps on the renewables in SB 415 2005 in House Committee. The amendments to pull off the consumer protections were called the governor’s Amendments...mainly because they were. Hell of a floor fight. Nothing in the press.

What is lower than F-minus? Add $10,000 to the war chest against me.

MH: Let us know if there is a spike in fundraising from Helena after this interview appears.
Let’s move on to a different intra-governmental relationship. How do PSC commissioners interact with the federal government?


Brad Molnar: Constantly. Directly via meetings with FERC and FCC top personnel at NARUC meetings and teleconferences and through regional stake holder issues (BPA) and transmission issues to the east. The commissioners you must work with are "no nonsense" professionals. They Googled me before I got there and judged if I had anything to add to the issue.

If not, you will just be a placeholder and cannot represent Montana. Very judgmental and very hard working group. They wouldn't let Tussing carry the donuts.

MH: As entertaining as it is to pull a visual of Mayor Tussing fetching donuts and coffee for the big boys, let’s hope we don’t have to deal with that. How has the change to Democratic control in the U.S. Congress affected things in the last couple of years?

Brad Molnar: It appears to me that the people voted to end the war. They still have the war but got stuck with a freshman congress controlled by a bunch of enviro zealots that simply refuse to have a holistic approach to energy and the environment.

I never thought that there would be a working majority in congress that was willing to perform great violence on families in the US via their utility bills (Cap and Trade/carbon tax) (a crafty tax hidden in utility bills that we will never get rid of.). I must now concede the possibility and work to mitigate the harm.

MH: Will the outcome of the Presidential race this year affect what you do at the PSC?

Brad Molnar: Both Obama and McCain have signaled that they will sign Cap and Trade. They are both willing to sell this country down the river for a sound bite.

Maybe Sarah can get McCain to moderate but I doubt it. Before it was Warner-Lieberman it was McCain-Lieberman. Either way we are screwed and, if I am in the majority, will write rules to mitigate the damage they will do.

If not in the majority I will use the position to inform consumers....actually a pretty good weapon....which is why I am so heavily targeted.

Add another $10,000 to Tussings war chest. I'm joking -- it will be independent expenditures.

MH: We’ll look forward to getting those mailers. Let's turn back to the specifics of energy for a final question. Is it safe to assume that we are in agreement that for now, drilling for more oil, building more oil refineries, and mining and using more coal are the irreducible minimum in relieving the burdensome cost of energy?

Brad Molnar: Those that argue against more drilling are just plain goofy....but may get elected president. It's a purist environmentalist argument..."No carbon at any cost -- but confuse the issue at every turn."

MH: And would we also be in agreement that the "all of the above" approach to attacking the energy supply issue on every front is essential to meeting our energy needs in the long run?

Brad Molnar: And the short run. Look how fast Bakken turned the argument. Even Tester is taking credit for it now.

MH: Moving on from that, what alternative energy source is the most promising for Montana -- and what makes it the most promising technology?

Brad Molnar: Wind, though not as a stand-alone generation. But wind with compressed air storage (still in R&D), tied to hydro, tied to EXISTING natural gas.

As a nation we have 205,000 megawatts of natural gas baseload. We would be generations tying it to wind and the results would be astoundingly good. Building gas generation to support wind....totally political and wildly anti-consumer.

And when you say "for Montana"...the only winners are those that sell wind power. That's why people have to be forced to buy it i.e. thru renewable energy portfolios etc and that's why they are forced to pay a $16 BILLION dollar subsidy. Montana is often called the Saudi Arabia of wind (so is No Dak. So Dak. Texas etc etc...it's what people say when they think a vacuous statement will work better than facts...usually on the 6 o'clock news).

Do the Arabs have to mandate the use of oil? Do Arabs subsidize its sales to help hide the true costs? If wind is mandated why subsidize it? The least complicated to authorize is "cogeneration" on a case by case basis as long as it is not a Qualified Facility. We have plenty of affordable/reliable energy in Montana. Why we are convincing ourselves that greater investment in subsidized/unreliable energy is a winning argument is beyond me. We have not and cannot curtail one megawatt of electricity from Colstrip since we built Judith Gap with its 135MW capacity. Know why?

MH: I think that is pretty obvious, and can be summarized in one word: demand -- which is only going up.

Brad Molnar: And you would be wrong. Have a nice day.

MH: That's a cliffhanger of a note to end on. We'll have to find the real answer to that one another time, then.

Commissioner Brad Molnar, thank you again for taking the time to talk with us here at Montana Headlines. Good luck in your campaign – and while we may regret this, you can have the last word.


Brad Molnar: Luck? I'm up against a discredited cop, that became a discredited mayor, that admits he would be a know-nothing Commissioner. How tough could it be.....INCOMING!!!!

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Tomorrow -- Full text of the entire interview for convenience in linking.

10 comments:

ed kemmick said...

I don't know who the anonymous sniper is, but could I ask Mr. Molnar to elaborate on those felony assault rumors? OK, maybe he never went before a judge (is that true?) but he was charged with assault, was he not? If so, why can't we hear details from the horse's mouth? He said it was self-defense. Where did the incident take place?

As for Tussing, I won't defend him on other charges, but when it comes to Don Cyphers, I will. He didn't assault the gentleman, he pushed him aside because Cyphers was doing what he had done at least half a dozen times before, and that was intentionally getting in Tussing's way, hoping to provoke him. When the movie stars get fed up with the bottom-feeding paparazzi and finally throw a punch, don't we all cheer? In this case, Tussing didn't throw a punch, but he was clearly fed up with Cyphers' harassment.

I'm sorry to go on about this, but there is no political race so important that giving Don Cyphers a break is worth it. I dare say Molnar, if subjected to the same treatment, would have indulged in a little "self-defense" a lot sooner than Tussing did.

James said...

Good interview and thanks MH and Mr. Molnar. BTW Brad, why is MH wrong when answering 'Demand' when you stated then asked why we 'cannot curtail one megawatt of electricity from Colstrip since we built Judith Gap with its 135MW capacity.'??

Anonymous said...

Only MH has described the alleged assault as a felony. Looking back at March posts, I saw only MH setting up a false premise of a "felony," thereby giving Molnar plausible deniability. MH appears to want to hype the accusation to render them impossible, when actually Mr. Molnar was charged with misdemeanor assault by Yellowstone County Attorney Dennis Paxinos, who also happens to be a Republican. So much for the "political hatchet job" claimed by Molnar when he described the county attorney's charges at the time. The affidavit says Molnar went to the home of the young man's aunt. He called the kid out and proceeded to kick him in the groin and beat him up. He then promised to keep coming back to beat him up until he got money for a bill he decided that the kid owed him. The kid was in the military and left town. The county attorney couldn't subpoena the kid to come back and testify for a misdemeanor.

Russ Doty said...

James: You don't have to curtail electricity from the Colstrip complex under the current contracts because of wind from Judith Gap. Northwestern buys about 30% if its power on the open market, so the wind displaces that when it is blowing. Since the price is high for what is being replaced, wind is a good deal. Again Molnar either doesn't know or he doesn't care to get it right in his representations.

Montana Headlines said...

Ed, I understand and share your distaste for Cyphers, and yes, I do cheer when a movie star pops a member of the paparazzi who is harrassing him.

But don't those movie stars generally get charged, arrested, or the like, even if those charges end up getting dropped?

Can a public figure always "push aside" a photographer or reporter who is deliberately standing in his way without worry that misdemeanor assault or other charges might be brought against him? Just asking.

As I recall, it was the commenter on that thread who stated that Molnar was guilty of assault and battery. So, I asked how a convicted felon could vote, let alone run for office.

That commenter then said that Molnaer could vote and run because it was a state offense, not a federal one.

Now, we are all the way down to a misdemeanor assault charge that was dropped, for whatever reason.

Not saying there isn't anything there -- only that Mr. Molnar's detractors need to decide exactly which version of their story they want to put out here on the web and maybe try to refrain from embellishing it.

I asked Molnar about this because it might as well be hashed out here (and because it would get brought up in comments if I didn't.)

Also on this question, I asked the obvious question of why this hadn't hit the press. I couldn't find anything in the Gazette archives or anywhere else in the on-line Montana press. If I understand the timing, he has been up for election at least once since that time. So I asked why such a serious matter hadn't been raised by his last opponent.

I went ahead and published the comment by anonymous, who claims to know the details of the case -- but it still remains unsourced, so readers can take that into consideration.

And I'm still trying to figure out what any of this has to do with utilities and the PSC. Since Tussing losing this race, we'll probably be hearing more of this negative campaigning, and voters will have to decide if it matters to them.

Josh said...

This is a comment for "anonymous." I am a member of the press and would be interested to learn more about this assault issue, if it did indeed occur. If you have any more information, you should e-mail me as soon as you can at xul63@hotmail.com. Thanks.

Montana Headlines said...

Josh, I notice that unlike other members of the mainstream press who frequently post comments on MH (such as Ed Kemmick of the Gazette, David Crisp of the Outpost, and Dave Rye of Northern Broadcasting,) you do not identify yourself fully.

I think you will get a better response from "anonymous" if you identify exactly what your role in the press is, and who you are working for. For all we know, you could be working for Molnar and doing damage control -- or working for Tussing and doing opposition research.

Anonymity has its downsides (as we well know here at anonymous MH,) and one of them is that the trust factor goes down.

ChazM said...

Check out the Billings Gazette archives from January 20th and
30th, 1996. The assault stories on Molnar are available at any public library that has the Billings Gazette archives--probably on microfiche. The photo of Molnar is noteworthy. County Attorney Dennis Paxinos (Republican) might also have some recollection of the formal charges filed against Molnar. The affidavit may also be available still for public review.

Moses said...

MH would never embellish or negatively comment about anyone he dislikes or disagrees with. That would be hypocritical, no? And any research that would require an intrepid reporter to step away from the computer screen and seek it elsewhere must not be worth the delving? Just asking.

Montana Headlines said...

chazm -- thanks for being the first person ever on this forum to cite chapter and verse. Those who are interested can look it up.

Moses -- glad to see you've dropped your "anonymous" and taken up a new handle. As you may have suspected, the reason I don't go down to the library to look these things up is that I am too fat to get out my front door, and besides my pajamas don't look all that good in public.

Sitting in front of my computer all day doing nothing particularly productive is one of my few joys in life (that and Twinkies,) so don't knock it.

And as I've pointed out before, I am a blogger, not a reporter. And one of the rules of blogging is that if you want to make an accusation, you need to come up with a link to a reputable source. Which is all I ever asked you to do.

The Gazette online archives go back to Molnar's last PSC race, and it seemed as though if there was something negative about a Republican candidate worth reporting, we would find it in those pages.

It seems that the only reports are more than 12 years old. They may very well be true, and exactly as "anonymous" describes above, which would not make Mr. Molnar look pretty. Or they could be as Molnar depicts it. Absent a trial, it will be outside the bounds of the provable one way or another.

It will be up to Tussing to decide whether he wants to bring this up as an official part of his campaign (so far it seems to be delegated to on-line surrogates) and up to the voters to decide if they care more about a 12 year old charge over a domestic dispute that was dropped than they care about Tussing reneging on his quarter-million dollar payoff agreement to get out of the hair of the City of Billings or his central role in getting the City of Billings sued for millions of dollars.