By Ron VandenBoom
Mike Fellows, Libertarian candidate for Secretary of State, made a campaign swing through Havre recently to stump for campaign finance reform and expound of Libertarian issues.
Fellows, a 1976 graduate of Havre High School, currently serves as chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party.
"We need to open up the system," Fellows said about campaign financing.
Fellows criticized the $400 ceiling placed on campaign donations in Montana as being too low noting that even Mark O'Keefe, Democratic candidate for governor, had to put some of his own money into his campaign to get the issues out.
Fellows said it's tough for people like him that doesn't have the personal wealth to pour into a campaign to compete.
A more logical approach, according to Fellows, would be to place a ceiling on the amount of money a candidate could spend on a campaign, thereby making a more even playing field.
"After all," Fellows said, "if somebody wants to donate $10,000 or $20,000 to a campaign, why not?"
Fellows also said one of the things Libertarians are pushing for this year is to add "none of the above" to the election ballot.
The reason, Fellows explained, is to give voters a sense that their vote can really make a difference.
"The main thing is to be able to vote your conscience," he said. "They keep saying that the lesser of two evils is still evil so you have to look at all the candidates and the pros and cons ... and then vote your conscience."
To Fellows that means having the option of expressing your displeasure with the status quo by voting none of the above.
Fellows, if elected, would also be one of the five members of the Montana Land Board charged with the responsibility of overseeing state lands. Approximately $40 million annually is earned from state lands to help support Montana's universities and k-12 education.
"We got to get the maximum amount of appraisal value for those lands," he said. "Whether we rent them or lease them or anything else."
Fellows said the overall picture of state lands needs to be looked at, including mining, timber, and grazing and determinations made as to whether it is being used to its greatest potential.
"There's probably some lands we might want to sell off," he said. "We just have to look at the options."
Fellows also serves as the chairman of the Montana Libertarian Party a position he has held since 1995. He said he first became a Libertarian during the 1980 election campaign, but had been exposed to Libertarian ideas as early as 1974.
As chairman Fellows said the party's greatest challenge is getting members to run for political office and the second is to make the party's views more widely known.
In a sense, Fellows said the two goals are closely related in that having a candidate on the ballot is the best way to educate Montanans about the party's views and platform.
"It's pretty tough beating your head against the wall at times, but if you really want to make some changes you have to get involved," he said.
Fellows also admits the party might have an image problem among some voters because of the party's stand on ending the war on drugs and making drugs legal.
He added that he also fears many people might believe that if you legalize drugs there will be an increase in the number of people using drugs.
Fellows emphasizes that these are not the reasons Libertarians want the war on drugs to end and that the position is based on a philosophical principle of freedom.
"If you want to keep your rights then you have to be tolerant of other people's rights," he said. "As long as you want to be free and are not harming me, it is none of my business."