A pack of political watchdogs unleashed its fury on Gov. Judy Martz’s first 100 days in office at a press conference last week, charging her administration with broken promises and a lack of openness on an array of issues ranging from the environment to tobacco prevention.
Gov. Martz’s press secretary Mary Jo Fox responded to the attacks by calling the April 25 press conference, sponsored by the Center For Environmental Politics (CFEP), “nothing more than a political rally hosted by the Montana Democratic Party.”
The most caustic attack came on energy deregulation from Sen. Ken Toole (D-Helena) who accused Martz of cutting “an eleventh-hour backroom deal” with Montana Power Company and Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) without allowing public input into the process.
Fox dismisses the allegations of backroom deals as “innuendo and smear tactics” designed to suggest the governor engaged in criminal activity.
“Sen. Toole is walking a fine line of disrespect and slander in making dangerous allegations against the governor,” says Fox. “If Sen. Toole has a criminal charge against the governor, he should make one. But for him to suggest certain activities with no proof is irresponsible for a senator.”
But CFEP’s Jeff Goin echoes Sen. Toole’s disdain: “[Gov. Martz] got together with representatives of PPL and Montana Power in meetings and discussions that the public was not privy to, and then literally 28 hours before the Legislature was scheduled to adjourn, unveiled their plan and railroaded their bill through,” he says.
CFEP also criticized Martz for dismantling Montana’s tobacco use prevention program, saying that her administration stripped $6 million from the funding levels approved in 1999. Former Secretary of State Verner Bertelsen, a Republican and member of the Governor’s Council on Tobacco Prevention, criticized Martz, saying the move shows “a clear and blatant departure from her commitment to prevention efforts.”
Mary Jo Fox counters that Bertelsen is wrong in saying that the governor dismantled the tobacco use prevention program, arguing that $1.85 million will go into the program over the next two years in a decision made by the Legislature, not Martz. Moreover, she says, “I think most Montanans would say that $1.8 million is a lot of money.”