Guest opinion: Bushman thinks for himself on Montana PSC

Recently in Billings, the chairman, vice chairman and another sitting member of the Public Service Commission held a meet-and-greet fundraiser for an individual they had recruited to run for the commission against sitting Commissioner Kirk Bushman.

They do have the right to promote anyone they wish, even though it could be considered ethically questionable. What makes it truly unethical is the motivation for the action. To quote the fundraiser letter written by the vice chairman, “I need your help to achieve my efforts to”, etc. He then proceeds to discredit the work of Kirk Bushman because Bushman doesn’t want to rubber-stamp the agenda-driven decisions of the vice chair and his majority-reaching cohorts.

The desire to have a total consensus is neither in the best interest of the commission itself nor the ratepayers of Montana. Healthy discourse is needed in any regulating body. Bushman and I do not agree on many issues and even after discussion may not share the same belief in the final vote.

I have spent more than 38 years in business, 10 years in the Legislature, four years as chairman of the Taxation Committee and have served on many boards and committees, including chairing the Montana Chamber of Commerce. Without exception, diverse opinions are critical to achieving the correct final decision. Any decision made without input from many different points of view will most certainly be biased and have errors.

The makeup of the Montana Public Service Commission by nature is diverse and consists of individuals with varied backgrounds, talents and experiences. Because commissioners are elected by popular vote, we have to work with the victors of the five district elections and that can sometimes result in a mix of backgrounds not necessarily trained in utility regulation.

Currently, Bushman is the only commissioner with an engineering background. He has worked worldwide and locally on projects including some of Montana’s largest energy users and providers. It is rare that someone so qualified to analyze the issues of the PSC sits as a commissioner. The Montana commission currently has a journalist, an employment agency owner, a former secretary of state, myself from the business/legislative world and Bushman.

The PSC needs the expertise of an engineer as a voting member. To even suggest that he should be replaced simply because he will not rubber-stamp every majority-agreed-to decision presented, is ludicrous.

I am disappointed in the actions of the majority and anticipate similar personal attacks and tactics may be used against me in my election because I, like Bushman, do not toe the line on some votes. The Montana Public Service Commission must remain diverse, and maintain an open and active dialogue. Our statutory obligation is to assure the ratepayers of Montana, legal, stable, fair and equitable regulation.

The ratepayer and voters of PSC district 2 deserve quality representation. I urge you to retain Bushman. He has represented you well for the last three years and brings the knowledge and background needed to make the difficult decisions. District 2 deserves a commissioner who will think for himself.