Monday, September 29, 2008


Last modified September 18, 2004 - 1:21 am

Schweitzer condemns GOP poll as shady, dirty
Gazette State Bureau

HELENA - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer on Friday denounced as "shady, sneaky, dirty lowdown stuff" a poll by the Republican Governors Association that he said falsely suggests that he is a terrorist and a tax scofflaw.

"If you tell a lie often enough, people are going to believe it," an angry Schweitzer said in a telephone interview. "This is outrageous stuff. They're calling me a terrorist."

Although the poll was conducted by the Republican Governors Association, Schweitzer laid the blame on the campaign of his GOP opponent, Bob Brown.

"If that's what these people will stoop to, it demonstrates they have a failed campaign, they have no good record to run on and no vision for the future," Schweitzer said.

Brown was unavailable for comment Friday; he was driving home to Whitefish.

Jason Thielman, Brown's campaign manager, said the Republican candidate's campaign has absolutely no involvement with the Republican Governors Association's polls. Thielman, however, said previously Brown's campaign would welcome the Republican Governors Association's involvement in the Montana race.

"It's extremely inappropriate for Brian Schweitzer to charge involvement of our campaign in this activity when he knows full well we cannot be involved in the activity of a 527 or some other (political) committee," Thielman said.

Schweitzer charged that this poll is a "push poll," a controversial campaign tactic in which those called are led to believe they are participating in a legitimate public opinion survey. Instead, push polling is an attempt to weaken people's support for a candidate by asking if they would still support the candidate if they knew something that is often a negative description that's false about the candidate.

Harvey Valentine, Republican Governors Association spokesman, confirmed that the Washington, D.C., group paid for the poll, done by the Tarrance Group of Arlington, Va., which subcontracted to Western Watts of Lethbridge, Alberta. He denied it was a push poll.

"We don't engage in that practice nor do we ask the pollster to do it," Valentine said. "The poll is a legitimate, comprehensive poll done by one of the premier pollsters in the business."

He declined to discuss the contents of the poll.

Told about Schweitzer's comments, Valentine said, "For someone who says his life is an open book, he sounds awfully paranoid."

Schweitzer, a Whitefish farmer-rancher, e-mailed those on his mailing list to encourage them to write down the poll questions if called. Several people, including Dennis Hall of Billings and Mike Menahan of Helena, wrote down the questions and provided them to The Gazette State Bureau.

The poll went through questions about the governor's and president's race and then asked: "Considering the following characteristics about Brian Schweitzer, would you be more or less likely to vote for him?"

Here are some of the the statements from the GOP poll and Schweitzer's responses:

nRepublican poll: One of his businesses or a business for which he worked continued to operate in Libya after the ban on U.S. companies doing business there because of terrorism activities.

Schweitzer reply: "I get out of graduate school when I'm 24 (in 1979). Within days I'm on a plane to Libya in the Sahara Desert living in a trailer with a generator beside it. It was 120 degrees. I was developing irrigation and center pivots and planting crops. I was the agronomist. Occidental Petroleum was in Libya. Libya was an ally of the United States. I worked for the Food Development Corp. of Washington state, helping do it with money from the World Bank Corp., financed by the U.S. government. I was only there four months. I was making $2,000 a month and now I'm a terrorist? I was ordering John Deere tractors and Caterpillars. I recommended U.S. equipment and we used it."

nRepublican poll: "Although he claims to be a millionaire, he refused to pay $3,000 in property taxes in Flathead County."

Schweitzer reply: "Absolutely false, all of it. I've never said I was a millionaire. I've paid my property taxes on time 99 percent. I can't tell you if it was 100 percent. There might have been a time I've missed the deadline by a month. Did Bob Brown pay his property taxes on time 100 percent?" Schweitzer said he has owned property in three counties Flathead, Rosebud and Sanders, where he has had ranches.

nRepublican poll: "Although he claims to be a successful businessman with four businesses, the secretary of state's office record can't support the existence of three of those businesses."

Schweitzer reply: He said he has had businesses that are no longer operating and inactive. One called Whitefish Industries imported 2,000 kick sleds from Norway in 1989, and he sold them all. Another was called Consolidated Agriculture International in the early 1990s when he exported seed. Schweitzer said he owns a corporation called Glacier Mint, when he was in the mint business, that's now inactive. "I never said I had four companies ... All of my businesses flow through me."

nRepublican poll: "He's opposed to the gay marriage ban."

Schweitzer reply: "I've always said that's a matter of states' rights. I don't support a national ban. I do support a ban in Montana. I don't believe in gay marriage and civil unions."

Copyright © The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.

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