By Ron VandenBoom
A standing-room-only crowd of supporters greeted Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Brian Schweitzer Sunday during a campaign stop and pep rally Sunday.
Extra tables and chairs had to be added to the meeting room at the Park Restaurant to accommodate the overflow, but some guests still had to stand during the 90 minute meeting.
Schweitzer opened his remarks by telling the crowd that his Republican opponent, incumbent Conrad Burns, has spent about $1 million running ads against him during the campaign.
"But it hasn't worked," he said. "Because we've had the truth on our side."
Schweitzer reminded the crowd that two major Montana newspapers had already investigated claims made by Burns against Schweitzer and announced they were untrue.
"But this election isn't about Brian Schweitzer and it isn't about Conrad Burns it's about every family in Montana," he said.
He reminded the audience that he would not take money from the tobacco companies, insurance companies, or pharmaceutical companies despite claims to the contrary by his Republican rival.
"The big special interests already have their senator and they don't want a change," he said.
Schweitzer did admit that one donation was received from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, but he said he returned it telling the company he would not accept money from big corporations.
Schweitzer responded to a question about campaign finance reform saying, "we all agree there is too much money in politics today and elections last too long."
"And when we're all done and ready to vote we know too little about the candidates and where they stand," he said.
Campaign ads tell the voter nothing about what they need to know, Schweitzer said, adding that they fail to tell the voter who's going to be a good leader and who's going to work for them.
"I'm committed to campaign finance reform," he said.
Schweitzer acknowledged that many Democrats as well as Republicans are against reform. The reason, he said, is because there are many special interests in Washington D.C. that are driven by money and they need votes.
"And those votes can come from Republicans and those votes can come from Democrats," he said.
Schweitzer continued his attack on the high cost of prescription drugs by reminding the crowd that America spends about $125 billion a year for medication.
"If we paid the average of what they pay in Canada, Germany, France, and England we would save ourselves about $50 billion to $70 billion a year," he said.
Schweitzer said two pieces of legislation would solve the problem.
The first would be a bill that would tell pharmaceutical companies they would not get any more tax credits for research and development or manufacturing if they continued to sell overseas for half price. The second would allow for the importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada and other countries.
After the rally Schweitzer did admit that it was a Democratic Congress that in 1988 passed the ban on the foreign importation of drugs from other countries.
Schweitzer told the crowd the aftereffect of bringing prices into line would be that approximately $30 billion a year less would be spent when the time comes when a prescription drug benefit is offered by Social Security.
A new idea Schweitzer promoted during the meeting was the Montana Senate Committee.
He described the committee as consisting of about 100 Montanans from all walks of life and political parties that would attend public meeting and serve as Schweitzer's eyes and ears on the home front. The group could keep him informed and give him a way to inform the people of legislation and concerns.