Schweitzer: Corporation Lobbyists a ‘Row of Vultures’

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer didn’t commit Thursday to helping environmentalists with their top three legislative priorities, but urged them to keep doing battle against corporate lobbyists — referred to by Schweitzer as that “row of vultures.”

Conservation groups met with Schweitzer and asked for his help on several issues during the legislative session. But Schweitzer did not explicitly offer his support.

The governor said sometimes he thinks it is best if he doesn’t publicly back certain issues because his involvement can complicate matters. He also said he likes to see items percolate through the legislative process before jumping in.

But he urged more than a dozen environmental activists and lobbyists to keep up the work they do, especially beating back what he characterized as self-serving bills meant to enrich corporations.

“They have an agenda that is probably not in tune with Montanans in most cases,” Schweitzer said.

The coalition said they want a drastic improvement in statewide energy efficiency, and are also pushing for statewide protection for a list of 10 rivers by restricting development on water’s edge.

The group also asked the governor to help them kill bills they view as hostile to environmental protections, such as those that attempt to limit lawsuits over development permits.

Republicans are hoping to advance such bills this session, saying they are needed to spur energy and business development and believe the public supports them.

Schweitzer said in an interview that he is less certain any changes are needed.

But Schweitzer also shied away from specifically supporting the legislative plans of the environmental groups.

“In most cases, we are going to play the cards as we go forward,” the governor told them. “Our strategy is to just let things unfold.”