Montana Democrats Win Ethics Complaint Against Corey Stapleton for Misuse of State Resources

Sam Offerdahl2019

Commissioner of Political Practices Finds Stapleton Committed Four Ethics Violations with Unethical Campaign Announcement

Helena—A nonpartisan watchdog organization today found Secretary of State Corey Stapleton committed four ethics violations when he announced his 2020 gubernatorial campaign using a state email address.

The Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) said Stapleton must pay $4,000 for the ethics violations, all four of which the Montana Democratic Party filed in its complaint last month.

From the COPP: “Mr. Stapleton is personally liable to the people of the State of Montana for a total of $4,000 for misuse of state resources.”

The ethics decision from the COPP can be found here, and the text of the Montana Democratic Party’s January complaint can be found here.

“The law is clear: Secretary of State Corey Stapleton owes the people of Montana for misusing their taxpayer dollars to announce his next political campaign,” said Monica Lindeen, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party.“Stapleton’s multiple ethical problems clearly show that Montanans deserve better than a politician who has repeatedly committed ethics violations.”

Stapleton previously used an official email newsletter to go after the media as “obsessed with the sideshows of personality and politically incorrect language of today” instead of focusing on “the policies and impact of leadership decisions.”

His track record during his first two years as Secretary of State has raised additional legal and ethical questions, including his decision to give a $265,000 printing contract to friend and political ally Jake Eaton after the secretary of state’s office mailed a voter guide to Montana voters that was riddled with errors.

Stapleton also hired Jake Eaton’s wife, Emily Smith, to represent Montana during a losing legal challenge last year instead of retaining a lawyer through the Montana Department of Justice.

Additionally, Stapleton made unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in the May 2017 special election before eventually admitting no such fraud took place.

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