Helena – Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan issued a ruling Thursday that Governor Steve Bullock violated campaign finance rules in his 2016 re-election bid and should be fined.
At issue in the complaint was the Bullock campaign’s failure to timely report the Governor’s use of the state airplane to fly to more than 37 campaign events.
According to KTVQ, the Governor’s spokeswoman Ronja Abel tried to minimize the issue, calling it a “paperwork error”.
Bullock has been a hawk on campaign finance issues, boasting of Montana’s vigorous prosecution of campaign finance cases in speeches and interviews to national publications.
Bullock appointed Democrat campaign lawyer Jonathan Motl as Commissioner of Political Practices in 2013.
Mr. Motl’s time as Montana’s top political cop was marked by allegations of unethical behavior, partisan chicanery, and numerous lawsuits over his conduct.
Mr. Motl was a controversial figure from the time his name first surfaced as a possible nominee for the position. Opponents often pointed to Mr. Motl’s past activism in liberal causes, heavy financial support of Democrat candidates, and the fact that he had been previously cited for campaign finance violations as reasons why he should not be appointed.
Much as his critics feared, once in office Mr. Motl’s enforcement actions proved to be a mostly one-sided affair – against Republicans. Mr. Motl took the highly unusual step of prosecuting several Republican candidates and groups in district court while taking much less severe actions or completely dismissing complaints filed against Democrats, including a case that involved his own lawyer, John Heenan of Billings.
Mr. Motl’s conduct sparked five lawsuits that were filed against him, including one case in which Mr. Motl refused to rescue himself from an ethics complaint filed against him personally.
Jeff Mangan, a former Democrat legislator from Great Falls, was appointed by Bullock to replace Mr. Motl in the final days of the 2017 legislative session.
The decision against Bullock is one of the first issued by Mangan and many campaign insiders believe it may signal a shift to a less partisan tone from the Political Practices office.
By: Big Sky Headlines staff