Thin-Skinned Senator Files Complaint Over Campaign Rhetoric
Just 2 Weeks Ago, Essman Staged Bogus Lawsuit Threat Against Attorney General
Not satisfied to have decimated patients’ rights, Sen. Jeff Essman is now attacking his critics with a formal complaint to the Commissioner of Political Practices.
The charge: He didn’t like a radio spot that mentioned his name.
Bob Brigham, campaign manager for Patients for Reform, Not Repeal, said, “It looks like the rough and tumble of politics is too much for Senator Essman. Maybe he should find a new career. His complaint against a radio spot of ours is untimely, wrong and desperate.”
Brigham added, “The fact is, the Montana Republican Party platform rejects his bill, SB 423, and calls for new medical marijuana legislation that is both workable and realistic. The writing is on the wall. SB 423 will either be rejected by the voters or rewritten in the next legislature. Senator Essman is in denial over the fact that his handiwork is deeply flawed and won’t be law for much longer.”
The controversy surrounds a radio spot run in Billings three weeks ago by Patients for Reform, Not Repeal. The spot, titled, “Running Away,” mentions many opponents of SB 423 and urges voters to reject it. A version of the spot, which Patients for Reform publicized Oct. 10, contained the line: “The sponsor of the bill, Jeff Essman, knows it must be changed.” (Script of original version copied below.)
Essman complained to radio station KBUL in Billings. While the campaign stood by the language and documented the claim, Essman succeeded in convincing the station to pull the spot. Patients for Reform, Not Repeal remade the spot, referencing the fact that Attorney General Steve Bullock has said SB 423 “doesn’t work” and “wasn’t the answer.”
The scrap should have ended at the radio station. But now Essman wants a legal punishment against his critics. On Oct. 25 he filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices. (Attached.)
Brigham said, “Sen. Essman’s complaint is as frivolous as his attempt to orchestrate an untimely lawsuit against the attorney general over SB 423 just two weeks ago. This is his attempt to criminalize a difference of opinion – campaign rhetoric that he did not like. It is another cheap stunt from a desperate politician, and it will not withstand scrutiny.”
Sen. Essman cannot deny that his bill will be changed. It will be “taken up” and changed. He knows it. He has predicted it. He’s seen the writing on the wall.
Questions for Sen. Essman:
Do you think SB 423 is perfect? Would you make any changes if you could today?
Why do you think the Montana Republican Party took such a strong stand for changes to your medical marijuana next year?
Doesn’t the party’s demand for a “workable and realistic” new law imply that SB 423 is “unworkable and unrealistic?”
Do you think patients have reasonable, safe access to medical marijuana now?
What do you “predict” now? That it will be changed, or not? If you predict that it will not be changed, what is your reasoning?
Beware: Sen. Essman may try to weasel out of answering these questions by saying he has only observed that SB 423 “could” be taken up again – just as any other bill might be proposed or amended in any session. The truth is, Sen. Essman knows the currents running against SB 423. He knows it will be changed. He has predicted it. And if asked, he’ll confirm what he knows to be true.
We recognize that a significant problem exists with Montana’s current laws regarding the medical use of marijuana and we support action by the next legislature to create a workable and realistic regulatory structure.
RADIO SPOT SCRIPT:
PATIENTS FOR REFORM, NOT REPEAL
“Running Away” (studio)
Everyone’s running away from I.R. 124.
The Montana Republican Party says: We can do better. (footsteps)
The sponsor of the bill, Jeff Essman, knows it must be changed.
And most Montanans don’t support I.R. 124. Less than half say they’ll vote for it. (footsteps)
I.R. 124 repeals a voter initiative. It takes away peoples’ rights.