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Montana's governor billed the taxpayers for his AAJ speech?

We already know about the speech that Montana's governor, Brian Schweitzer, delivered to the American Association for Justice last July in Philadelphia. (See this post.) Schweitzer entertained the approving audience with tales of voter fraud and intimidation on the Indian reservations and his efforts to rig the vote for Democrat Jon Tester in the 2006 U.S. Senate election.

First a topic at a gubernatorial debate, the trip has now become even more prominent as a campaign issue. From the Missoulian:

HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer should reimburse Montana taxpayers for a July trip to Philadelphia, where he gave his controversial speech suggesting he tampered with the 2006 election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown said Tuesday.

"It's incredibly disappointing that the governor thinks Montana taxpayers should pick up the tab while he travels the country to shatter the public's faith in our electoral process," Brown said. "As he jet-setted to Philadelphia to boast about rigging our election, Montanans were on the hook for over $1,300 while the governor stayed at the Ritz-Carlton."

The $1,300 was part of a $2,200 bill for the entire trip, according to the legislative auditor's office.

We'll not feign outrage at governors mixing politics with business on out-of-state trips. The trial lawyers' annual confab coincided with the National Governors Association centennial celebration and summer meeting. Speaking from personal experience, many governors traditionally schedule fundraisers and political meetings around NGA gatherings (especially the winter meeting here in D.C.).

But have you listened to Schweitzer's speech? It's pure political rock 'n roll, with a shout out to Al Franken, an homage to Paul Wellstone, blasts against Sen. Norm Coleman and, of course, lots of solicitiousness toward the trial lawyers. (Twinned with solicitations for campaign contributions, too, we assume.) Add in the bumptiousness and mocking of Montana's hickness, it's just the kind of remarks that taxpayers should not have to pay a penny for.

In any case, how nice to see trial lawyers emerging as a campaign issue.

Addendum: We asked in our last post who introduced Schweitzer at the AAJ event. Only one e-mailer wrote to say it was definitely Les Weisbrod, president of the AAJ, and a Dallas lawyer. Given the substance of the remarks and the Texas accent, we'd say that's right.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.