News Release

MT Sportsmen Sue FWP to Enforce Law - Prevent Lobbying
(for immediate release - February 1, 2007)

MISSOULA - The Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) filed suit on Wednesday, and requested a temporary restraining order today, seeking enforcement of a state law that prohibits Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) employees from lobbying the Legislature to press the FWP political agenda.  It is common for FWP personnel to testify at legislative hearings as proponents or opponents of bills, many introduced at the request of FWP to seek more mission, money or authority for the agency.

87-1-204. M.C.A. states, "Political activity of employees. While retaining the right to vote as he may please and to express his opinions on all political questions, no employee of the department may use his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or affecting the results thereof or for the purpose of coercing or influencing the political actions of any person or body."

Title 87 applies specifically to FWP.  Stripped to language essential to this lawsuit, this law says, "… no employee of the department may use his official authority or influence for the purpose of … influencing the political actions of any person or body."

It seems clear to any reader that this provision of state law prevents FWP employees from appearing as proponents or opponents to bills up for political decision by legislators, and from trying to persuade individual legislators to support or oppose bills.

The Legislature needs information about FWP operation from FWP employees.  This suit does not seek to restrict that flow of factual information, nor does it seek to prevent any First Amendment exercise by FWP employees when they are not on working time and not holding themselves out to be FWP officials.

MSSA president Gary Marbut commented, "We are angry that FWP employees continue breaking the law, and who think they are above the law.  FWP has been warned repeatedly that they are in violation of the law.  Tom Clancy says there is a name for people who break the law, including government employees - criminals." (Clear and Present Danger, page 432)

"There is no reason why Montana people should have to put up with criminal conduct by public employees." Marbut continued.  "The Legislature is the people's voice for public policy formulation, not the designated political playground for every public employee with a political agenda and idle, taxpayer-paid time on his hands.  It is terribly unfair for public employees to haunt the Legislature on the taxpayer dollar lobbying incessantly for more power, money and mission.  It is a maxim of government that bureaucracies' first priority becomes the needs of the bureaucracy, notwithstanding any rhetoric about serving people.  This current problem is yet another example of a government agency run amok, willing to break the law to pursue the political agenda of the agency."

MSSA should learn within days if it's request for an immediate temporary restraining order will be granted by the court requiring FWP to comply with Montana law.  FWP is expected to fight against the TRO to preserve its effective lobbying influence with the Legislature.

MSSA is the primary political action entity asserting the rights and prerogatives of gun owners and hunters in Montana.  MSSA has achieved passage of many citizen-initiated bills over the years, including one putting the right to hunt and fish on the ballot for the people of Montana to amend into the Constitution, an effort strenuously opposed by FWP for many years.  Even after approval of this measure by the largest popular vote in the history of constitutional changes in Montana, FWP denies this choice by Montana people, claiming that there is no right to hunt and fish in the Montana Constitution.

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Information:    Gary Marbut, 549-1252
        John Mercer, 489-1776

Lawsuit documents at