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Watchdog group says Martz is hard to find

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When it comes to the whereabouts and goings-on of Montana’s governor, a local environmental and citizen watchdog group says Judy Martz has been missing in action.

The Center For Environmental Politics (CFEP) created a big blip on the statewide radar recently with its “Montana Political Accountability Project,” under which the group holds elected public officials accountable to their words and deeds. In March, CFEP blasted Gov. Judy Martz for the first 100 days of her term, charging that she has been both unaccountable and inaccessible to the state’s citizens.

“Our main contention with the Governor is that she professed to having an open and accountable government and she simply does not,” says Dan Funsch, CFEP’s new executive director. “We know of a number of constituent groups, dealing with issues like education, tobacco prevention and environment, that were denied meetings with her. Yet she seems readily available to the industry representatives on those same issues.”

CFEP is now working on a content analysis of Martz’s schedule (which, the group contends, should be readily accessible to the public via the governor’s website) in order to quantify, in substantive detail, the shortcomings of Martz’s comings and goings.

The group made similar waves in June, when it purchased several thousand dollars of radio ads calling to the mat Montana’s congressional delegates who voted in favor of President Bush’s tax cut. CFEP argues that the cut does not benefit most Montanans and that it will have adverse environmental consequences for the state.

On the accountability project, which reaches far beyond environmental issues, Funsch says that his group is attempting to make connections across an extensive scale. “Our goal is to build a broad political base and to be a part of a political movement,” he says, “and to do that, it behooves you to extend your focus beyond a single issue. A lot of times, when public officials break a commitment to the environment, it turns out that they’ve often broken commitments to other interest groups.”

Funsch was just named the new executive director of CFEP, the Missoula-based environmental and political watchdog group founded by Funsch and Jeff Goin in 1998. Goin, who had been top dog at the Center since its inception, is moving to San Diego at the end of the month.

Funsch had logged time with Montana People’s Action and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies before nurturing CFEP into existence. Funsch is currently serving as interim co-director for the Alliance in the wake of the departure of Mike Bader, that group’s longtime leader.

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