By B.L. Azure
John Walsh, Democrat candidate for Lt. Governor, recently stopped by Pablo on a campaign swing to visit with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council.
Democrat gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Steve Bullock was scheduled to meet with the Tribal Council on August 30 but was unable to because of the untimely passing of former Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek. Bullock was participating in the funeral services for Mazurek, who passed away due to complications of Alzheimer's disease at 63 years of age.
In Bullock's stead his running mate Walsh met with the Tribal Council and asked for their support to continue a Democrat hand at the helm of the ship of state.
That top state government hand in the form of the Gov. Brian Schweitzer administration has out-reached, embraced and included the tribal governments and tribal people of Montana in decisions affecting them as tribal citizens and as state citizens.
The Schweitzer administration has appointed more American Indian people to state boards and positions within his administration than have served in similar positions in all the history of the territory and state of Montana.
Schweitzer has established good relationships with all the tribal nations in the state. In historic symbolism this past March 19, Schweitzer took the bull by the horns to transfer 68 quarantined wild bison from the Yellowstone Park herd to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The bison had been in a quarantined Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks facility at Corwin Springs.
The Fort Peck bison were going to be split in half, with half staying at Fort Peck and half going to Fort Belknap Indian Reservation once the fencing there was completed. However, District Judge John McKeon of Chinook issued a restraining order to prevent that. The case is working its way through the legal system.
Walsh said Bullock and he would continue to build upon the historical turn in the state government relationship with the original inhabitants of Montana.
Walsh was accompanied by Jason Smith, Democrat candidate for the House District 15 seat at the Montana Legislature and former Tribal Council Representative Joel Clairmont who now serves as the Deputy Director of the Montana Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Development Division in Helena.
"The major elections are coming up," Clairmont told the Tribal Council. "General Walsh has served in the Schweitzer administration cabinet. I have worked with him and he is a good person to work with."
Walsh recently retired from the Montana National Guard after 33 years of service. General Walsh's last position assignment was as Montana's Adjutant General, which he had held since September 2008.
"I do not want the things that went on in the last Montana Legislative session to happen again. That is why I am running," Walsh said, alluding to the Republican controlled 2011 Montana Legislature that became a dysfunctional right wing-nut political tea party tragicomedy that sowed more ill feelings than it reaped in legislative acts. More than 1,100 bills were introduced but less than one-third were signed into law.
Smith's opponent for the HD 15 seat, incumbent House District Republican Rep. Joe Read of Ronan introduced a bill in the last legislative session that said climate change or global warming was a "natural occurrence and human activity had not accelerated it," and promoted it as "beneficial to the welfare of the business climate of Montana" -- at least our cows still aren't crazy.
Walsh gave kudos to Bullock's accomplishments as the Montana Attorney General. Near the top of the list is the continued attack on the drinking and driving culture of Montana.
"Steve has worked hard to keep repeat DUI (driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol) offenders off the streets," Walsh said. "This week the 100,000th person in Montana has taken the blow test as required by the state's DUI program."
Bullock also wants to take the election process and outcomes out of the hands of corporations and moneyed oligarchs -- the result of the Citizens United 5-4 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that allows for unlimited campaign monetary contributions by people and corporations -- and back into the hands of the electorate.
John Walsh, Democrat candidate for the Lt. Governor and Tribal Council Chair Joe Durglo press the flesh during Walsh's recent stop at the tribal headquarters. Dixon District Councilman Terry Pitts is on the right. (B.L. Azure photo)
The Montana Supreme Court recently upheld a 1912 Montana law that barred direct corporate contributions to political parties and candidates. However the USSC took a different view.
In the American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock the USSC on a 5 to 4 vote struck down the Montana ban on corporate political funding. The USSC majority decision said that the 2010 Citizens United ruling is applicable to state and local elections.
In Citizens United, the USSC ruled that corporate money is a form of speech and as a result corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in the American electoral process -- "Corporations are people too, my friend," says moneyed Republican presidential candidate Willard Mitt Romney.
"The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law," the opinion said. "There can be no serious doubt that it does." Montana's arguments, the opinion continued, "either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case."
In dissent opinion Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, "Even if I were to accept Citizens United this court's legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court's finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana. Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the state had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations."
In addition, Breyer said, "Montana's experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the court's decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the court's supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so."
The Bullock-Walsh candidacy also promotes a well-funded and equitable educational system from pre-school through college and/or technical school.
"Early childhood education is very important," Walsh said. "If a child gets behind to begin with in kindergarten or the 1st grade they remain behind forever."
The view from the back of the line is not good whether in public school, college or technical school. The latter system is in need of upgrading to address the fast changing economic and employment sectors.
"Technology has changed the workforce," Walsh said. "People need a good high school and post high school education to go to work right away."
And a logical part of the work opportunities in Montana and the United States is related to upgrading the infrastructure be it highways, water and sewage systems, electrical transmission systems, bridges, communication, dams and similar needed but often neglected underpinnings critical to the day to day functions of people and the economy.
"Steve and I will be a team, working together to improve schools, help small businesses create jobs, expand opportunities for young Montanans -- especially those returning home from serving their country overseas, and make sure we fulfill the promise made to the men and women who wore the uniform of this country," Walsh said at the announcement of his candidacy. "I've served on many missions -- including leading some of the finest men and women this state has to offer into combat. Today, I'm embarking on a new mission. I know it won't be easy, but the important ones rarely are."
General Walsh led the Montana National Guard 750-soldier strong 1st of the 163rd Infantry Battalion in Iraq in 2004.
"That was the largest deployment of Montana soldiers to Iraq," Walsh said. "Native Americans served in large per capita numbers in the effort and I am thankful of their service."
Approximately 10 percent of the Montana National Guard is American Indians who comprise about 6 to 7 percent of the state population. Many more serve with the active duty branches of the military.
"Steve asked me to serve as the Lt. Governor. The decision was very easy because of his values that will carry over very well to the leadership of the government of Montana. We ask for your support as well as that of the tribal membership," Walsh said. "We have big shoes to fill and you can count on us to continue to improve on the relationship between the tribal nations of Montana and the State of Montana. The tribes of Montana are sovereign elements with rights and laws that we need to know so we can better work together."
Walsh is a graduate of Butte High School and studied at Carroll College. He received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York and a master's degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
General Walsh and his wife Janet, a para-educator, have been married for 27 years and are long-time Helena residents. They have two sons, Michael and Taylor. Michael is married to April Schauer Walsh of Helena, who is graduating from dental school in June.