By Ron VandenBoom
(Editors note: This is part one of a two-part interview)
Lt. Gov. Judy Martz, Republican candidate for governor, referred to her Democratic opponent Mark O'Keefe Sunday as a liar and reiterated an earlier claim that it was unethical for O'Keefe to have used funds the State Auditor's Office received from settlements and prosecution cases to run public service TV ads featuring himself.
"I think that that money should have gone into the regular general accounting system of the state of Montana," she said.
The State Auditor's Office estimates that $500,000 of approximately $32 million collected from settlements or the prosecution of cases have been used for the TV ads that O'Keefe says were all run prior to his becoming a candidate for governor.
Martz, who was in Havre to attend a fund raiser, said during a pre-event interview that what O'Keefe did was not illegal, but the Legislature must have agreed with her claim that it was unethical because they passed a law in 1999 that forbids the practice of state agencies keeping settlement funds.
"It's not illegal, but we did see (California Insurance Commissioner, Chuck) Quackenbush in California do somewhat the same thing and he was not impeached, but asked to resign," she said.
Martz claims the ads were used to advance O'Keefe's political career and causes for favored constituencies.
"He's been using the funds to run for governor," she said. "You can say that it was for consumer advocacy, but I just think it's highly unethical."
Martz also accused O'Keefe of lying about her views on sales taxes, how she is going to get rid of the business equipment tax, her programs putting the state in budget deficit at the end of four years, and about her spending.
She said he had even lied before the campaign ever began about her spying on his house, taking pictures of the house, and obtaining plans of his house.
"And he knew darned well that I didn't and he has never apologized," she said. "So I just don't trust the guy."
Martz said that as a fourth generation Montanan she calls a spade a spade and although she has tried to find a more polite way of putting it, she can't.
"And I told him that in a debate in Bozeman," she said. "In Montana if you lie, you lie."
Martz said O'Keefe's latest lie concerns the Franklin Company.
"Now he's telling Montanans this Franklin Company is going to bring in $50 million worth of venture capital," she said. "And I think he has misled the people of Montana in this too."
Martz said she has checked on this company and discovered it has three employees and operates out of a townhouse in Virginia.
"Last year they grossed $190,000," she said, adding that this company has worked in Montana before and has never produced what they said they would. "So I have a hard time believing he's really being fair to Montana people."
Martz said her plan for economic development comes from the belief that it is not the government that should create jobs, but the private sector.
"So if we can help them and get out of the way and allow the private sector to do that then you and I and Every other taxpayer in Montana will be much better off," she said.
Martz said she feels he message for Montana is right.
"It's a message of jobs creating jobs to keep Montana's kids home so that they can work here," she said.
O'Keefe's message, she said, it education, education, education.
"And it's almost like we don't already have a good education system," she said. "We're exporting our kids, that the problem, I believe we need jobs and that's what I hear everywhere."
The difference between Martz and O'Keefe boils down to one primary issue she said.
"He's a liberal big spender and I'm not," she said.