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SEN. Jon Tester hasn't talked to fellow Democrat Brian Schweitzer in half a year, but he's pretty confident the former government will end up running for the US Senate seat that Max Baucus is vacating at the end of the year.
"I don't bet the farm on many things, but I'd bet the farm he's running," Tester said in an interview on MSNBC Thursday.
Schweitzer said several weeks ago that he was considering the possibility of entering the race, but has been quiet since. Instead, he's been focused on efforts to reform the management of Stillwater Mining Co. since he was elected chairman in early May.
THE University of Montana has become ground zero in a national debate over the Obama Administration's plan to expand the definition of sexual harassment on the nation's college campuses.
The feds said they had an agreement with UM in which any "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" would be treated as sexual harassment. They also said their agreement with UM would serve as a "blueprint" for other colleges in the country.
Critics have warned that the guidelines are way too broad and will even criminalize speech. David Moshman, a college professor writing in the Huffington Post, called them an "extraordinary threat to academic freedom." Wendy Kaminer, a feminist writing for The Atlantic, called the policy "mindlessly broad" and an "educational nightmare." Columnist George Will and others say the plan's Alice-in-Wonderland approach -- sentence first, verdict later -- has no place in academia.
There's been plenty of other harsh criticism of the plan. Oddly, there's been little said about it in the Montana media.
IN THE face of objections from critics, the federal government and University of Montana suggested that their new sexual harassment guidelines are not as onerous as they might appear.
UM spokesman Peggy Kuhr promised that any final guidelines will be written with the free speech and due process rights of students in mind.
And the federal Education Department released a letter last week reassuring students, faculty and others that its "regulations and policies do not require or prescribe speech, conduct or harassment codes that impair the exercise of rights protected under the First Amendment."
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said the new letter contradicts the feds' earlier statements of May 9, which called for sexual harassment to include “verbal” conduct and suggested the new guidelines at UM would serve as a “blueprint” for all universities and colleges in the country.
So where will this all end up? Stay tuned.
UP TO this point, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer has sounded an awful lot like he was leaning toward a run for the US Senate. He's touted polls showing he'd be the favorite if he ran. He's courted key constituency groups such as unions that he'd need support from if he did run. And he apparently hasn't rejected the overtures of progressives groups that are mounting efforts to get him into the race.
But now comes word that Schweitzer has been named the chairman of Stillwater Mining Co., and that the company's CEO, Frank McAllister, is stepping down. Presumably, Schweitzer will have his hands full in coming months in finding a new CEO and getting the financial affairs of the struggling company -- Montana's largest -- back on track.
Will that leave time for a Senate campaign? Schweitzer told the AP that he's not ruling out a Senate run, and that he's good at "keeping a couple of balls in the air."
FOR STATE Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich, a favorable Montana Supreme Court ruling may be a case of winning the battle but losing the war.
A four-judge panel ruled May 7 that Wittich was entitled to be paid $93.99 in legal fees by a Bozeman couple he had done legal work for. Not only that, but the judges tacked on almost $3,000 more for the costs Wittich had racked up in trying to collect the $93.99 he was owed by the couple.
Although Justice Beth Baker concurred with the ruling, citing the contract the couple had signed with Wittich, she was not happy with the outcome. She said lawyers such as Wittich should adhere to the court's policy to resolve fee disputes without litigation. And Justice Pat Cotter dissented, bemoaning the "unconscionable result" and the "financial carnage wreaked" on the Bozeman couple.
The situation reminds one of the lawsuit by former Congressman Dennis Rehberg and his wife against the city of Billings and its fire department in 2010 for damage caused to their property. That suit came back to haunt Rehberg politically.
As liberal blogger Montana Cowgirl points out, Wittich's lawsuit likely will come back to haunt him if he ever decides to run for statewide office.
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