Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was falling all over himself last week to proclaim "just kidding" after a recording of his July speech to the American Association for Justice circulated on the web. In remarks at the AAJ's annual conference in Philadephia (following Al Franken), the Democratic governor entertained the lawyer crowd with stories of tribal police threatening Republican poll watchers with arrest to drive them off the reservations during the 2006 Senate elections. Schweitzer also chortled about how he called up the county clerk for Butte/Silver Bow and got her to hold off releasing the election results until he had announced Jon Tester's victory over the incumbent Republican, Sen. Conrad Burns.
You can get a sense of the scandalette from the news headlines:
- The Great Falls Tribune, "Schweitzer under fire for fundraiser stories"
- Lee Newspapers, "Will Philly speech cost Schweitzer some votes?"
- The Missoulian, "Schweitzer speech meant as satire, attendee says" (The attendee being a trial lawyer from Great Falls.)
- CBS-TV Montana affiliates, "MT AG won't investigate Schweitzer comments" (A fellow Dem, Attorney General Mike McGrath)
A dicey proposition for any elected official from a rural state, going to the big city and making fun of your constituents. Corruption in Montana, ho, ho. You might also wonder what Schweitzer was doing in Philadelphia in the first place. The nation's leading trial lawyers group is interested in a governor from Montana?
Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, trial lawyers/lobbyists represent the largest source of contributions to his campaign. And Schweitzer was introduced with this warm tribute:
Gov. Schweitzer wants to be introduced as a farmer, rancher and a snake charmer. I'm not sure whether he was a snake charmer or he simply beheaded the snake, because when he became Governor of Montana, he took care of tort reform in Montana. He passed legislation, signed legislation, prohibit secrecy agreements, and he rolled back the so-called tort reform that had passed in Montana. He also has been a great friend of the victims of asbestos and stood up for the victims in Libby, Montana, and really helped change the debate with regard to asbestos.
You can listen to the introduction and the entire speech by clicking here and choosing one of the options.
And who is that doing the introduction? Obviously it's an AAJ eminence, but we couldn't find the attribution online. If you know, drop me a line at cwood -at- nam.org.