McGrath declines to probe governor's comments to trial lawyers

Chris Rizo Sep. 12, 2008, 12:37pm

Mike McGrath (D)

Brian Schweitzer (D)

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline)-Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath has declined to investigate Gov. Brian Schweitzer over his comments that suggest he influenced the outcome of the 2006 Senate race in favor of fellow Democrat Jon Tester.

In July, the Democratic governor said at the American Association for Justice convention in Philadelphia that he once delayed the release of Butte-Silver Bow County's mid-term election results and talked of tribal police running off Republican poll watchers on reservations.

He has since said he was speaking in jest before the group of plaintiffs' lawyers. Schweitzer's comments surfaced this week on the Internet.

Montana Secretary of State Brad Johnson on Thursday asked McGrath to investigate a citizen complaint over Schweitzer's comments.

"I believe the people of Montana expect and deserve to know for certain that our elections are run cleanly and fairly," Johnson wrote to McGrath. "Any question at all about the integrity of our election officials and workers cannot go unanswered."

McGrath, who is seeking to be the state's next chief justice, said he would not investigate the claims, saying "the accusations contain no allegation supported by fact."

The complaint was "solely based on the admittedly intemperate remarks of a speaker trying to be funny," McGrath said.

The Democratic attorney general also took aim at Johnson, a Republican, for seeking an investigation into the Democratic governor.

"The misuse of the criminal justice system for political purposes is a serious matter," McGrath wrote. "It is inappropriate to use a public office as election-season PR for a political blogger or any other special interest."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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American Association for Justice
777 6th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

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