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Gov. Bullock agrees to $3K fine for reporting error on campaign - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Gov. Bullock agrees to $3K fine for reporting error on campaign airplane expense

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Gov. Steve Bullock Gov. Steve Bullock
HELENA -

Gov. Steve Bullock’s campaign has agreed to a $3,000 fine for not timely reporting its expenses for using the governor’s state airplane when attending campaign events during his 2016 re-election effort.

The fine is part of a settlement reached last week with the commissioner of political practices, who ruled earlier this year that the Bullock campaign didn’t properly report about $4,500 in expenses for use of the state airplane at 36 campaign events last year.

The Bullock campaign reported the expenses on its campaign-finance reports, but not always during the period in which they occurred.

For example, the governor attended 17 campaign events in August and September while using the state airplane, but didn’t report the corresponding expenses until his Oct. 24 campaign-finance report. The expenses should have been reported on earlier reports, Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan said.

Ronja Abel, spokeswoman for the governor, said late Tuesday the governor was “happy to correct this error” and called it an “honest misunderstanding” about when to report the expenses.

She also noted that Bullock has “fought for transparency in government and in elections both as attorney general and governor.”

The $3,000 fine has been paid by the Montana Democratic Party, she said.

Bullock, a Democrat, won re-election last year to a second four-year term, defeating Republican Greg Gianforte.

Gianforte and other Republicans made an issue of Bullock’s use of the state airplane during the campaign, saying the governor should not use the plane for attending campaign events.

Bullock said he attended the events only after using the state airplane for official business in the same location. His campaign reimbursed the state for any overtime paid to the pilot and co-pilot caused by the governor staying longer to attend the campaign event.

Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton filed a complaint against Bullock last October, arguing that the governor’s campaign should reimburse the state for the full cost of the flights.

Mangan rejected that element of the complaint in a June 28 decision, saying Bullock “correctly subjected his campaign to a reimbursement policy when use of the state airplane involves a campaign event while on official state business.”        

However, Mangan did rule that the Bullock campaign didn’t timely report the reimbursement expenses.

The 2017 Legislature passed a bill, on mostly party-line votes with Republicans in favor, to require any governor to reimburse the state for the full cost of a charter flight if he or she used the state airplane for attending any campaign event. Bullock vetoed the bill.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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