Brad Molnar and Ron Tussing may debate as many as 13 times in their race for the Public Service Commission. Molnar forwarded copies to me of a recent e-mail exchange with Tussing in which the Billings mayor proposed at least 10 debates, one in each county, and Molnar replied with a suggestion for 13 debates, including three in Yellowstone County.
"I intend to bring a more balanced approach to our energy needs in Montana," Tussing wrote. "Whereas, I support diversifying our energy portfolio to develop
clean coal technologies, add to wind power generation and smaller energy generating projects throughout the state, you have proven to be reluctant when it comes to alternative, renewable energy sources."
Molnar seemed to regard that comment as a bit of snark, and he fired back some snark of his own: "You got me there. If the developers want the ratepayers to cover all costs and assume all risks. I always say "no". Sometimes 4-1. Sometimes 3-2."
Molnar added this response to the e-mail, which had come from Mary Jo Fox of the Tussing campaign:
"You (Mary Jo Fox) sent this to my government address. That is against the law. Your wife sent out her 360PPM on a government computer. That is against the law. Your son in law sent out an invitation to all lobbyists/attorneys that present before the Commission so you could sell your sevices to them. Properly handled its not against the law. But he sent it into a lot of government computers. Against the law. I only mention this because of your recent action against my conservation education effort and myself in search of a quick negagtive headline. I have not brought action against you or yours because I wish this election dialogue to get out of the gutter and into the real issues and offering real solutions instead of the usual pie in the sky stuff and extreme negativity to cloud the issues. Please get on board with this.
Some explanation: The "recent action" Molnar refers to a complaint Tussing filed against Molnar earlier this summer. "360 PPM" apparently refers to a proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions to their current level of 360 parts per million. I neglected to press for details on what the son-in-law allegation is about.
When I talked to Tussing late Tuesday, he said he didn't remember a "360 PPM." While I was on the phone, he asked his wife, Darlene, and she said she didn't remember either.
He said he wasn't sure that any laws were broken. While government workers can't use government equipment for campaign purposes, they can't control what people send to them. But he agreed that contacting Molnar at his work e-mail wasn't a good idea, and he said his campaign would avoid it in the future.
He seemed to be open to a full 13 debates and to most of the minor changes Molnar suggested in sponsorship and format. However, he said he wasn't optimistic that it would be possible to find a workable date and location in every county.