UPDATE: Governor Schweitzer Appoints Ex-Labor Leader to Ethics Job

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer quickly appointed a former labor leader Monday to be the next commissioner over political ethics and campaign complaints, the fourth in the last two years to serve in a post that has become mired in partisan wrangling and internal strife.

The Democratic governor announced Monday that he had selected Jim Murry over three others recommended by legislative leaders to be commissioner of political practices.

Murry was executive secretary of the Montana State AFL-CIO from 1968 to 1991. He was recommended by Democratic legislative leaders, as was Susan Witte, a Democrat active in political campaigns.

Republicans nominated Colleen Urquhart-Fillner, a former staffer to Republican Gov. Marc Racicot, and Johnny Walker, a former federal law enforcement officer.

Schweitzer only interviewed Murry and Urquhart-Fillner. He announced his decision within two hours of the interviews Monday afternoon.

The governor’s office said in a statement that Murry will bring a “wealth of knowledge and experience for the position” with a lot of experience through campaigns of working with the political practices office.

The commissioner is appointed to fill the remainder of a six-year term that ends in December 2016.

But the applicant faces Senate confirmation next year when it convenes. That GOP-dominated chamber rejected Schweitzer’s last appointment for the position, the wife of a Democratic senator, by not even bringing the nomination up for a floor vote.

Murry replaces former Commissioner of Political Practices Dave Gallik, who resigned last month amid a dispute with staff over his work time. Gallik was a former Democratic legislator.

But last week Republican House Speaker Mike Milburn said he would be comfortable with the governor selecting any of the suggestions that legislative leaders sent to the governor this time, including those like Murry that came from the Democrats.