This week in Montana politics:
The A.P. reported that District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock rejected Sen. Art Wittich's attempt to dismiss campaign finance complaints filed against him. The ruling clears the way for the case against Wittich to proceed.
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl alleges that Wittich and 9 other Republicans violated Montana campaign finance laws by illegally coordinating with "dark money" group Western Tradition Partnership. Wittich faces the possibility of being removed from office if Judge Sherlock upholds Motl's findings.
Seeking credibility as an outsider, Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis pushed his "clean platform" for congress this week. At a press conference where he unveiled his plan, Lewis said “Washington is broken. Congress is creating problems instead of solving them." Lewis called for cutting congressional pay by 10%, withholding pay until congress passes a joint budget resolution, and instituting a two year waiting period before former members of congress could go to work as lobbyists.
Zinke campaign spokesperson Shelby DeMars responded by noting that Lewis spent 12 years working on Capitol Hill with former Sen. Max Baucus, and saying "At a time when Montanans need and deserve real leadership and when Lewis was working on Capitol Hill, Zinke was leading 3,500 troops in Iraq and was a real leader.”
Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette wrote about Sen. Walsh's call for more federal investment in carbon capture technology. According to Lutey, "Walsh said the federal government needs to develop carbon capture technology as it requires polluters to comply with stricter clean air standards. His hope is that carbon-capture technology will keep Montana’s coal energy economy viable. . . The senator said climate change is a threat to Montana and the environment, but any solution that doesn’t involve carbon capture is inadequate."
It's no secret that Montanans love the outdoors, but a survey released this week says Montanans consider conservation decisions as important as issues of the economy, health care and education. The survey found that Montanans are more likely to support decisions that protect public lands and oppose decisions that limit access or develop them at the expense of conservation and recreation values.
"We found Montanans are most likely to point to nature and outdoor recreation as things they like best about the state and this tends to make them care more deeply about its management and stewardship” said pollster Lori Weigel. Other findings include:
- 66% of Montanans are opposed to the selling off of public lands to help reduce the budget deficit.
- 70% of Montanans say private companies should not be allowed to develop public lands if it interferes with public access or enjoyment of the lands.
- 67% support the North Fork Flathead Watershed Protection Act, 68% support the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act and a majority say Congress should take action on these proposals now instead of waiting.