Brian Schweitzer

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Brian Schweitzer
Governor of Montana
Former officeholder
In office
2005 - January 7, 2013
Base salary$108,167
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2008
First electedNovember 2, 2004
Term limits2 terms
Bachelor'sColorado State University (1978)
Master'sMontana State University (1980)
Date of birthSeptember 4, 1955
Place of birthHavre, Montana
Brian David Schweitzer (born September 4, 1955) was the Democratic Governor of Montana from 2005 to 2013. He was also the Recruitment Chair for the Democratic Governors Association for 2006-2007. He was re-elected to a second term in 2008.[1]

Schweitzer was prevented by term limits from seeking re-election in 2012. He was succeeded by Attorney General of Montana Steve Bullock (D), who won election on November 6, 2012.


Schweitzer was born in Havre, Montana. He was the fourth of six children born to a German-Russian father, Adam, and an Irish mother, Kay. Schweitzer earned his Bachelor of Science degree in international agronomy from Colorado State University in 1978 and a Master of Science in soil science from Montana State University in 1980. Upon finishing school, he worked as an irrigation developer on projects in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, spending much of his time in Saudi Arabia before returning to Montana in 1986 to launch a ranching and irrigation business in Whitefish.

Bill Clinton appointed Schweitzer to the United States Department of Agriculture as a member of the Montana USDA Farm Service Agency committee, where he worked for seven years. While working for the USDA, he was appointed to the Montana Rural Development Board (1996), and the National Drought Task Force (1999).

Schweitzer married Nancy Hupp in 1981; they began a family after returning to Montana and have three children: Ben, Khai, and Katrina.


  • MS, Soil Science, Montana State University, 1980
  • B.S., International Agronomy, Colorado State University, 1978

Political career

Montana Governor (2005-2013)

In 2000, Schweitzer ran for U.S. Senate against the Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. In a close race, Schweitzer lost by the surprisingly small margin of 51 percent to 47 percent. When incumbent Governor Judy Martz announced she would not run for re-election in 2004, Schweitzer announced his candidacy. His running mate was John Bohlinger, a Republican state Senator. He won the general election by a margin of 50 percent to 46 percent over Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown. Both while campaigning and as governor, Schweitzer became known for an easy-going and folksy public persona. The governor's dog, a Border Collie named Jag, regularly accompanies him on work days at the capitol, as well as some other official occasions.

Schweitzer campaigning in Billings, Montana

National Guard

In March 2005, Schweitzer sparked controversy by suggesting that Montana's National Guard troops be recalled from service in Iraq to assist firefighting during Montana's wildfire season. He has also gained national attention for his focus on converting Montana's coal reserves into fuel, which he has said is one way to wean America off of foreign oil. Schweitzer has been interviewed by 60 Minutes (first aired on February 26, 2006),[2], and Charlie Rose (March 7, 2007) regarding his work in this field.

Posthumous pardons

On May 3, 2006, Schweitzer granted posthumous pardons to forty persons convicted of sedition during World War I for making comments that were critical of the war. These were the first posthumous pardons in Montana history, but the convictions had become notorious in recent years because Montana's sedition law had been one of the broadest and harshest of its time: one man went to prison for calling food rationing "a joke," while others were targeted because they refused to physically kiss a U.S. flag or to buy Liberty Bonds. At a public ceremony attended by family members of the pardon recipients, Schweitzer said "[i]n times when our country is pushed to our limits, those are the times when it is most important to remember individual rights."[3][4]

Election tampering

In July 2008, Schweitzer gave a speech in Philadelphia to the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, during which he said that he tampered with the 2006 U.S. Senate election in Montana to help Democrat Jon Tester win. When the text of his remarks surfaced September 3, 2008 on the internet in a blog called MT Pundit, the state and then national media covered the story. Schweitzer eventually said that the remarks had been meant as a joke.[5][6]

A conservative columnist in Montana, Tamara Hall, asked Mike McGrath, the state's attorney general, to investigate, but McGrath declined. In response, Erik Iverson, the chair of the Montana Republican Party, alleged that McGrath had refused to investigate "without so much as even lifting a finger in an effort to ascertain the facts." The U.S. attorney's office is reviewing Schweitzer's comments to see if a federal investigation is warranted. [7][8]

Schweitzer's comments about election tampering stem from the close U.S. Senate race in 2006 between Jon Tester and Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. He said that he had used his influence to try and delay the announcement of Butte Silver Bow county's results, used tribal police to intimidate poll watchers off the reservations, and manipulated the Associated Press into declaring Tester the winner.


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar invited Schweitzer, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal to meet in Denver, CO to discuss management of wolves.

Montana wanted to double the number of wolves hunted in 2010 to 186. However, in August a federal judge banned wolf hunts and restored endangered species protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. Ranchers and hunters say wolf of their killing of livestock and wildlife are in high numbers.

“That threw things out of kilter and now they think Congress will act (on wolf kills),” Schweitzer said. “That is the longest shot I have heard of. But that would be great if Congress could pass legislation that would override the opinion of a federal judge.”

“I would like them to honor the deal they made with Idaho and Montana a few years ago,” he said, which was “when you get to certain number of wolves and breeding pairs, you manage them.”

“We are now three to four times that number.”

State officials said the original deal in 2004 was 153 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. State Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials said the 153 wolves was a minimum count and they needed to add 30 percent to reach more than 200 wolves. An estimated 1,700 wolves reportedly live in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.[9]

Prison budget

A budget hearing in early 2011 brought up the idea of prisons earning their own money rather than relying on taxpayer funds. Members of the panel asked about privatizing some services at prisons and how could the state increase restitution payments from prisoners.

State prison officials told the joint subcommittee on Judicial Branch, Law Enforcement and Justice that the department would need $170 million in 2012 and $180 million in 2013 to operate. There are about 12,000 people who are wards of the state in Montana with 8,000 of those on paroled supervision, officials said.

“Montana is tough on crime,” Gov. Schweitzer's Budget Director David Ewer said. “We’re very compassionate people but we’re tough.”

Rep. Kenneth Peterson asked if privatizing some services had been considered and Ewer did not offer him much hope.

“We believe it is appropriate for government employees to deliver something as important as public safety,” Peterson said.

Peterson pointed out that the administration of Gov. Schweitzer does not traditionally advocate for private prisons or for shipping prisoners out of Montana to other facilities.

Mike Ferriter, director of the Department of Corrections, said it cost the private-run prison in Shelby $67.86 a day to keep a prisoner whereas Montana state prisons have a cost of $87.91 a day.

However, Ferriter added, Montana State Prison was becoming a prison that dealt with people who were sex offenders or had medical issues.

Peterson said he'd be interested in privatizing some prison services, but would not push the issue.

“I thought it would be good for the agency (DOC) to pursue,” Peterson said, adding that the state could privatize the prison ranch in Deer Lodge and send low-level offenders there to work.

Rep. Michael More suggested the DOC look at ways to make prisoners pay restitution for their own incarceration.[10]

Lawsuit against Legislature

In late 2010, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley dismissed a lawsuit Schweitzer filed against the Legislature in September. Gov. Schweitzer claimed a bill, HP 676, passed in 2009 was unconstitutional because it "limited his veto power.

Sarah J. Elliot, communications director for the governor, said: “We questioned the constitutionality of the bill and the judge didn’t disagree with us on that. The Montana legislature shouldn’t act like Congress and should not send us unconstitutional bills.”[11]


Schweitzer and his wife flew to meet with company representatives and government officials in Israel and Spain from October 4-16, 2010; his trip was paid for by a non-profit organization.

He and first lady Nancy Schweitzer traveled as part of a delegation with the Solomon Project that regularly takes government officials and business and academic leaders to Israel on educational missions. The Solomon Project, a non-profit organization, is funding the trip, said Sarah J. Elliott, communications director for Schweitzer.

“This is an opportunity to build and grow business in Montana and create more high paying jobs for workers in our state,” Schweitzer said in a press release.

Meetings in Spain included: Alan Solomont, U.S. Ambassador to Spain; Elecnor SA and Enerfin (these two companies are working with Grasslands Renewable Energy LLC, a Montana firm on renewable energy transmission line development, pump storage and the Sweet Grass/Coyote Wind Farm); Grupo NaturEner SA and NaturEner USA LLC (NaturEner is the largest wind farm developer in Montana with Glacier wind farm, a 210 megawatt wind farm located between Shelby and Cut Bank. The company is also moving forward on the Rimrock project, a 309 megawatt wind farm which will utilize the Montana Alberta Tie Line when construction of both projects is complete).

In Israel, the delegation will meet with President Shimon Peres, Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Department of Agriculture; Eyal Erlich (interested in purchasing Montana cattle); Moshe Bornstein, President/CEO of National Coal Supply Corporation (interested in purchasing Montana coal); Dan Meridor, Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy; James Cunningham, U.S. Ambassador to Israel; Ormat Technologies, Inc. (geothermal energy company); Zenith Solar and Better Place (electric vehicle network and services).[12]


As reported in the Montana Policy Institute's Montana Pig Tales (2012), the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) gave Montana an "F" for online transparency, noting that the state lacked an "online checkbook" for citizens to use to track state spending. The Department of Administration (DOA) worked with Representative Tom Burnett (R) to draft House Bill 444, a bill to increase transparency which was passed by the legislature in 2011. However, the bill did not provide any funding, so Schweitzer vetoed it, saying the $400,000 cost would not be a good use of taxpayer money.[13]


U.S. Senate

Schweitzer was widely expected to make a run in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Democrat Max Baucus. However, on July 13, 2013, he announced that he would not enter the race.[14]

According to Politico:

"Schweitzer had been hit with a series of damaging stories about his ties to 'secret money' and a nonprofit group run by former aides. But sources said the laundry list of opposition research went much deeper — and could have crippled a Schweitzer campaign for Senate. Moreover, there was fear that Schweitzer’s penchant for off-the-cuff remarks would hurt his ability to respond effectively to the barrage of GOP attacks."[14]


See also: Montana gubernatorial election, 2012

Due to term limits, Schweitzer was not able to run for a third term consecutive term in 2012. Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) won election on November 6, 2012.


On November 4, 2008, Schweitzer easily won re-election as Governor on a ticket with John Bohlinger.[15]

Governor/Lt. Governor of Montana, 2008
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngBrian Schweitzer/John Bohlinger Incumbent 65.5% 318,670
     Republican Roy Brown/Steve Daines 32.5% 158,268
     Libertarian Stan Jones/Michael Baker 2% 9,796
Total Votes 486,734


On November 2, 2004, Schweitzer won election as Governor on a ticket with John Bohlinger.[16]

Governor/Lt. Governor of Montana, 2004
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngBrian Schweitzer/John Bohlinger 50.4% 225,016
     Republican Bob Brown/Dave Lewis 46% 205,313
     Green Bob Kelleher/Colleen Little Thunder 1.9% 8,393
     Libertarian Stanley Jones/Mike Kaszula 1.7% 7,424
Total Votes 446,146

Campaign donors

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Brian Schweiter/John Bohlinger's donors each year.[17] Click [show] for more information.

See also

External links

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Political offices
Preceded by
Montana Governor
2005 - 2013
Succeeded by
Steve Bullock (D)