Questions follow Governor’s Mansion fundraiser

Aaron Flint posted on October 20, 2010 13:41 :: 1143 Views


The invite featured the smiling face of “Jag Schweitzer” and “Duke Van Dyk,” the beloved hounds of Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) and State Senate candidate Kendall Van Dyk (D-Billings), respectively. 

The two hounds now find themselves in the middle of a dog fight for what is on track to be the most expensive state senate race in Montana history, as both State Sen. Roy Brown (R-Billings) and challenger Kendall Van Dyk (D-Billings) are approaching the six figure fundraising mark ahead of the November elections.  

The Governor hosted the fundraiser for Van Dyk Monday night at the Governor’s mansion, raising the legal question: is this a violation of Montana’s “Campaign Practices Law?” 

2-2-121. Rules of conduct for public officers and public employees. (1) Proof of commission of any act enumerated in subsection (2) is proof that the actor has breached a public duty.
     (2) A public officer or a public employee may not:
     (a) subject to subsection (7), use public time, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, or funds for the officer’s or employee’s private business purposes;

Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth said he would have to go through the formal complaint process before he could state whether or not the fundraiser is a violation of Montana law, but added that there are some pretty clear restrictions when it comes to using public resources for campaign purposes.  Those restrictions can be read straight from the Political Practices website by clicking here

Jake Eaton, Senior Advisor to the Montana Republican Legislative Campaign Committee had this to say:

From the very beginning of his campaign Rep. Van Dyk has clearly demonstrated he will stop at nothing to further his grandiose political ambitions,” said Eaton. “This is a new low even for him.  Lying about his opponent’s record by taking quotes out of context and editing them to change their meaning is one thing, but using a facility owned by the public to raise money from special interests is quite another.”

Unfortunately Rep. Van Dyk and the Governor seems to think they have the right to treat state property as their personal property and to use it as they see fit to further themselves. That shows tremendous disrespect for the people of the state of Montana.”

Meanwhile, the Montana Democratic Party and Governor Schweitzer’s office responded to questions Wednesday stating that the Governor’s mansion is separate from other government facilities, as it also duals as his private residence quarters.  Party spokesman Martin Kidston added that former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot held a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion in 1996 for now-Congressman Denny Rehberg. 

“This is another example of Republicans trying to distract Montana voters from the real issues,” said Democratic Party spokesman Martin Kidston in response to the GOP’s latest release. “They’d rather not talk about Roy Brown’s relationship with major insurers, or their party’s lack of ideas. So with just 13 days before Election Day, they’ve resorted to silly accusations.”

Sarah Elliott, spokeswoman for Gov. Schweitzer added this:

We agree with Governor Racicot that the law allows the Governor to use his residence for a candidate reception because under the Montana code such a use is “properly incidental to another activity required or authorized by law.” (MCA 2-2-121 (3) (b) (ii))

No word yet on whether a formal complaint has been filed with the Commissioner of Political Practices.    

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