Media waste taxpayer dollars to sling mud
June 18, 2002
I wanted to write to the taxpayers of this state to inform them how $28,000 of their hard-earned money has been wasted in an attempt to sling mud at our governor, and invade my personal privacy.
Recently, Lee Newspapers of Montana and The Associated Press, two major Montana media sources, requested numerous e-mails from the office of the governor, lieutentant governor, and their staffs. They cited the public's right to know as the justification for their request. The public's right to know sometimes conflicts with individuals' right to privacy. State agencies are faced with many delicate legal matters to protect those privacy rights when a request for thousands of personal e-mails is made. Therefore, lawyers were required to review all the records before release.
The cost to you and me, the taxpayers of Montana, for the media's request for e-mails comes to $28,000. That is money out of our pockets. That money will not go into our schools, it will not assist with the costs of health care, and it will not be used to build roads or any other infrastructure that we need. One of the most troubling aspects of the e-mails request is that the media did not pay the $28,000 incurred by the state to provide the e-mails, even though they are reaping huge profits selling papers full of this despicable and biased mudslinging.
And what important information did Montana taxpayers learn by the media spending $28,000 of our money? We learned that I can be a "poophead," which you could have found out for free by calling anyone in Havre, and that the Ramages don't own a silver tea set. Was the information revealed in this witch hunt a bargain for an expenditure of only $28,000? I really do not think there is an overwhelming desire for the taxpayers in this state to care what the governor's staff says about me or my lobbying methods.
I have always been a tireless, dedicated advocate for the causes I believe in. One of the issues I have been in contact with the governor's office about is my desire to see a four-lane road for U.S. Highway 2. I will continue to be a strong advocate for that project and will continue to strongly lobby her office, the Montana Department of Transportation, and anyone else I can. My job as a local political leader is to advance issues important to the voters in my multi-county district and if that prevents me from winning popularity contests, so be it.
The recent media request and subsequent stories about the governor's e-mails have nothing to do with "the public's right to know." It has to do with using taxpayer dollars to compile information that the media believes will sell newspapers. The media's continuous attacks and repeated attempts to tear our elected officials down have a lot to do with the voter apathy we see in our political system. The most recent example is the extremely low turnout in this year's primary election.
I am a private citizen and I believe by mentioning my name in a story by AP reporter Bob Anez, my right of privacy was violated. The most frustrating part of seeing my name in the paper was that Mr. Anez did not have the common decency or professional courtesy to call and ask my opinion or request a comment. If Mr. Anez had bothered calling me I would have told him that I am an avid supporter of the Martz administration and I consider Heather Kiedrowski a dear friend, and still do even though she thinks I can be a "poophead" on occasion. I think the governor is a fine, compassionate, decent and honest lady that would do anything in her power to help a fellow human being. I also would be the first to admit that the governor, a person of incredible integrity, is a terrible politician. She is just physically and mentally incapable of being the dirty rotten, under-handed, back-stabbing type of politician that is able to keep the press in the adoration mode. I will not only again be avidly working to elect a Republican governor come next election in Hill and the surrounding counties, but will also be offering my help to Ms. Kiedroski and the governor's staff for anything I can do to further support their administration.
The media need to remember that they are charged with bringing us fair and balanced reporting, not to be part of an organized effort to pit Republicans against Republicans, neighbors against neighbors, and to turn honorable public service into a three-ring circus. The media, unaccountable to anyone and having shown tremendous arrogance recently, could use a lesson in decency, integrity, and honor like is portrayed by our governor.