Monday, April 23, 2012

Schweitzer in 2006: ‘I might support’ Romney presidential bid


Six years ago Gov. Brian Schweitzer raised eyebrows in Big Sky Country and beyond when he made an off-hand remark about then-governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

The Montana governor — who touched off a firestorm of controversy last week when he told a reporter for The Daily Beast that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee might have some trouble with voters because his father was “born on a polygamy commune in Mexico” — didn't use the words "polygamy" or "Mormon" in that interview.

It wasn't even a perceived jab Romney that caught the attention of bloggers and political wonks. In fact it was quite the opposite.

In an Oct. 8, 2006 New York Times profile of Schweitzer, then a rising-star in the Democratic Party, the bombastic Montana governor told Times reporter Mark Sundeen he would consider voting for Romney for president.

Earlier that year Schweitzer, Romney and Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt were part of delegation of governors visiting troops serving in the Middle East as part of "Operation Enduring Freedom."

Schweitzer said he spent a lot of time with Romney on that trip and found him to be a "good guy."

"We talked about all kinds of things, business, family, government, taxes," Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer told Sundeen he supported John McCain's presidential bid in 2000 but soured on McCain because of the way he courted the religious right. Schweitzer went on to say he was intrigued by a possible presidential run by Romney, then the Republican governor of Massachusetts, in 2008.

"If he gets the nomination, I might support him,'" Schweitzer told the Times.

That perceived endorsement of a Republican raise a few Democratic hackles.

A blogger on the national Liberal blog The Daily Kos said he was "appalled" by Schweitzer's comment, writing, "If he keeps saying stuff like this his future in Democratic politics is over."

Closer to home Helena Democratic blogger and one-time Schweitzer primary challenger Don Pogreba wrote: "I know that Schweitzer wants to cultivate an image of independence … but Mitt Romney?"

Romney himself added fuel to the budding gubernatorial  "bromance" in June 2007 when he told a roomful of reporters gathered at the Montana GOP annual convention in Helena: “If any of you see your governor, give him my best. He's a great guy."

Cascade County GOP delegate James Drew, upon hearing the GOP-hopeful's comment about Schweitzer, dropped his support for Romney.

"He said that?” Drew asked me when I was reporter for the Missoula Independent. “Well, he just lost my vote.”

So does Schweitzer — who said in 2006 he'd consider supporting Romney for president — plan to back the Republican in 2012?

Not likely.

"I've watched an evolution in his politics since we traveled together," Schweitzer said in a recent interview. "He's taken a right turn on immigration policy and his recent comments about military expansionism are concerning. I've got concerns about his policies."

Schweitzer said he still thinks Romney is a "good man."

"I haven't met his family, but he's a good family man and he's a warm and good communicator," Schweitzer said. "I just don't really share his vision for the future of America's economic policy."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Judicial panel appointed to investigate Judge Cebull

Judge Cebull2

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals chief judge Alex Kozinski has appointed a special judicial committee to investigate misconduct allegations against Montana chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull.

Cebull in February sent an email from his federal courthouse chambers that contained a racist and misogynistic joke about President Barack Obama's mother.

The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email account on Feb. 20 at 3:42 p.m., reads: "A MOM'S MEMORY."

The forwarded text of the joke contained in the email read:

"A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?' His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"

News of the email set of a national firestorm and calls by human rights groups, civil rights leaders and government watchdog groups for Cebull to resign. It also lead to at least three judicial misconduct complaints filed against the judge.

Travis McAdam is director of the Montana Human Rights Network, a Helena-based nonprofit organization that filed an official judicial misconduct complaint against Cebull and circulated a petition calling on Cebull to resign.

McAdam said he was pleased that Kozinski took the step of appointing an investigative committee.

"We're glad to see that the 9th Circuit is taking up this issue, and taking it up in a pretty timely fashion," McAdam said. "We're very glad to see that movement is happening and that the complaint is going to be considered."

In an interview with the Tribune Cebull denied being racist and said he only sent the joke to his friends because he is "not a fan" of the president. The next day he wrote a letter to Obama apologizing to him and his family for the email.

Cebull initiated the judicial complaint process against himself in a in a March1 letter to Kozinski, the day after the news of the email broke.

On March 23 Kozinski appointed a five-judge panel to investigate the complaint.

Judicial misconduct complaints are usually confidential and thus Kozinski's order does not name Cebull. However, Cebull waived his right to privacy when he initiated the complaint and 9th Circuit assistant circuit executive David Madden on Thursday confirmed that Kozinski's order dealt with the Cebull case.

By rule, Kozinski appointed himself, two circuit court judges and two district court judges to the panel. Judge M. Margaret McKeown will the preside over the case.

According to circuit court rules, the judicial committee has the power to subpoena information and it may hold hearings to take testimony and receive other evidence, to hear argument, or both.

Under the rules Cebull has the right to obtain legal counsel for the proceedings. Cebull also has the right to present evidence, call witnesses, and to compel the production of documents.

When the committee completes its investigation it will file a report, including findings and recommendations for council action, with the judicial council.

The president of a Washington, D.C. civil rights and liberties group People For the American Way said he was encouraged that Kozinski formed a panel to investigate the complaints.

“Judge Cebull has shown through his actions that he does not have the necessary temperament to fulfill his duties as a judge," said Michael Keegan, president of People For the American Way.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

“Code of the West” : Trailer for Montana medical marijuana documentary now online

If you were around the state Capitol last session during any number of legislative hearings on medical marijuana bills you might have noticed a documentary film crew recording nearly every second of the debate.

The filmmakers were also on scene when federal agents raided dozens of medical marijuana caregiver operations across the state on the very same day lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee were in the process of voting on a measure to repeal the 2004 voter-approved Medical Marijuana Act. The panel failed to pass the measure on a 6-6 vote.

Documentary Director, producer and writer Rebecca Richman Cohen – awarding-winning director of “War Don Don” – and her team spent countless hours in Helena and around the state documenting the political and social battles waged over the state’s groundbreaking medical pot law which passed with more than 60 percent of the vote in 2004.

The documentary premiered at SXSW last month. It’s scheduled to screen at the 10th Annual Independent Film Festival in Boston later this month. Excerpts of the film were screened at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula in February, but there’s no word yet when the completed film will be screened in Montana.

Here’s a synopsis of the documentary from the film’s website:

At a time when the country is rethinking its drug policies large and small, one state rises to the forefront of national attention. Once a pioneer in legalizing medical marijuana, the state of Montana is poised to become the first in the nation to repeal its medical marijuana law. Set against the sweeping vistas of the Rockies, the steamy lamplight of marijuana grow houses, and the bustling halls of the State Capitol, CODE OF THE WEST follows the 2011 Montana State Legislature as it debates the fate of medical marijuana. This is the story of the many lives and fraught emotions tied to one of the most heated policy questions facing the country today.

Here’s a snippet of what Cohen’s says the film is all about:

This is a film about the legislative process, but it is also the story of how different communities struggle to construct a universe of shared values. Nomos is an ancient Greek word meaning “human law.” The term is never uttered in our film, but its meaning underlies much of what our crew documented in Montana. Nomos refers not only to the formal laws that legislators draft as legal code, but it also includes the social norms and unwritten codes of conduct that govern our daily life. CODE OF THE WEST is a film about what happens when there are conflicting codes: when our formal laws conflict with each other, when our social norms conflict with our laws, and when different segments of our society hold to divergent norms…

I’ve emailed the production company to find out if/when there are plans to screen the movie in Montana. I'll post an update as soon as I hear back. No doubt the issue will be an epicenter of debate in the 2013 legislative session.