Republicans Call for Gov’s Financials

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – The Montana Republican party and some GOP legislators said Friday they will be pushing ethics issues, such as calling for increased financial disclosure from the governor – a Democrat.

Republicans said they were trying to lead on important issues and said the ethics call was not politically motivated. Democrats called it a hypocritical attempt by Republicans to talk about issues they ignored for years when they were in charge.

The Republican call did not include full financial disclosures from statewide officeholders other than Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

New GOP Chairman Erik Iverson, also U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg’s chief of staff, pointed to a recent survey that showed Montana was one of just a few states that don’t require a financial disclosure from its governor.

Iverson said Republicans would consider the disclosures for lower offices if they can get the legislation advanced in the 2009 Legislature.

“This is not about picking on anyone in particular, this is about sunshine and light bulbs,” he said.

Schweitzer’s office pointed out that the governor already releases his annual tax return to members of the media who request it.

“The governor goes above and beyond what is required of him and releases his income taxes,” said spokeswoman Sarah Elliott. “If the Legislature passes a law, he will comply with it.”

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Jim Farrell said Republicans were being hypocrites. He pointed out that a Republican lawmaker earlier this year introduced legislation, which failed, to undo the lobbying ethics initiative passed by voters last November.

He said Republicans dominated state government for more than a decade before Schweitzer’s 2004 win.

“Republicans just talk about talking when it comes to these constituency accounts and ethics in government,” he said. “When they had the chance, they took no action.”

The GOP state lawmakers attending a Friday news conference on the issue included new House Majority Leader Dennis Himmelberger, Sen. Roy Brown and Rep. Tom McGillvray – all of Billings.

They said they will be asking for four ethics initiatives, including a ban on constituency accounts. Brown carried a similar bill earlier this year, but it failed in favor of a bill backed by Democrats that regulates the accounts instead.

Other initiatives include a ban on sitting legislators from taking state jobs, and a call for publishing campaign finance reports on the Internet. The state is scheduled to have such filings on the Internet late this fall.