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Stapleton ordered to pay fine for ethics violation in campaign for governor announcement

Posted at 10:00 AM, Feb 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-12 12:00:43-05

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has been ordered to pay the state $4,000 for ethics violations related to his campaign for governor.

In a letter dated Feb. 11, Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan said the violations stem from the Republican’s Jan. 2 press release announcing his candidacy.

An employee from the Secretary of State’s office sent the release on Stapleton’s campaign from her state email account, and the document featured the Montana state seal.

The Montana Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices on Jan. 9, saying the announcement misused state resources.

Stapleton can ask for a review of the fine.

To read Mangan’s letter, click here.

-Reported by Evelyn Schultz/MTN News

(January 10, 2019) The Montana Democratic Party has filed a complaint against Secretary of State Corey Stapleton claiming he violated state law by announcing his campaign for governor using an official state email account.

Stapleton, a Republican, announced last week that he would run for governor in 2020. An employee from the Secretary of State’s Office sent out a press release on Stapleton’s campaign from her state email account. The document also featured the Montana state seal.

State Democrats say those actions go against a state law prohibiting the use of “public time, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, or funds” to support or oppose a political campaign. On Wednesday, the party filed an ethics complaint against Stapleton with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

“Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s conduct constitutes a serious breach of public trust and is clearly prohibited by law,” said executive director Monica Lindeen in an attached letter.

The complaint cites a Montana Supreme Court case from 2013, in which justices wrote, “It is improper for an elected official to send a campaign email from a State account at any time of the day.”

Representatives for the Commissioner of Political Practices’ Office confirmed they received the complaint. They said they have asked Stapleton to provide additional information before they decide whether to accept the complaint.

Stapleton was elected Secretary of State in 2016. He was the first high-profile candidate to enter the 2020 race to succeed Steve Bullock as governor.

-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News