Uh Oh…Conflict of Interest from MT Sec of State’s Office?

Aaron Flint posted on October 29, 2014 14:51 :: 1721 Views

Secretary McCulloch…call your office.  As The New York Times jumps into the Mailergate controversy in Montana, top GOP leaders are calling out Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and the un-confirmed Commissioner of Political Practices Jon Motl for hypocrisy.  

From The New York Times:  Professors’ Research Project Stirs Political Outrage in Montana

Harvard political scientists have examined the effect of independent groups on ballot initiatives, for example, and like the Stanford-Dartmouth study, did so during a real election. The political scientists send different messages to different voters to test their effectiveness, a practice also used by political operatives.

The size of this experiment — with mailers sent to nearly 15 percent of Montana’s registered voters — might be perceived as a large enough sample to directly sway the outcome. But nearly all field experiments conducted during elections affect the outcome in some way.

McCulloch and Motl have been launching a very public campaign against Stanford and Dartmouth University researchers after a mailer bearing the Montana state seal was sent to households concerning Montana’s Supreme Court race between liberal Mike Wheat and conservative Lawrence VanDyke.  McCulloch and Motl say the academic researchers attempted to make the mailer look like an official voter guide, and criticized the use of the state seal.  

So why didn’t McCulloch and Motl launch a public campaign against a Democratic legislative candidate from Missoula for using the state seal?  And, why didn’t McCulloch and Motl say anything about Montana trial lawyer’s mailers and videos for doing the same types of activities as what the two officials are charging above? 

Could it have anything to do with top staffers to McCulloch donating to the campaigns to elect Mike Wheat?  Could it have anything with Jon Motl’s law firm also donating $10,000 to the effort?  

Here’s what State Senator Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) and the MT GOP have to say:

(Note- the above “Cowboy/girl” line by Wittich is a reference to widely held speculation that former Schweitzer advisor Eric Stern is the main blogger behind the anonymous MT Cowgirl blog)  

MT GOP notes Motl’s law firm involvement with pro-Wheat campaign:

Notably, the law firm Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson and Deola gave a staggering $10,000 to this liberal PAC. Commissioner Motl is on sabbatical from this very firm and is featured prominently on the firm’s website. The Commissioner’s clear conflict of interest in this matter prevents him from issuing an unbiased opinion and would also call into question the impartiality of any substitute he might select to rule on the complaint.

How far was Motl willing to go? He even suggested using taxpayer dollars in order to send out what he, the state, deemed to be corrective materials to the voters.


In an unprecedented abuse of power, CPP Motl has suggested that he intends to utilize taxpayer dollars to send mail pieces to 100,000 Montanans to educate the public about the hotly contested Supreme Court race between Lawrence Vandyke and Mike Wheat. According to an interview published last night:

“Motl says… that voters will receive some kind of communication, probably another mailer, before the election, explaining what happened. He says that his office will send that on it’s own if it has to…”

Former Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas was shocked by the news. “I can’t imagine what he is thinking. I have never heard of anything like this. He has no legal authority to try and influence an election outcome and he especially can’t use taxpayer dollars to do it.”

The Western Word: The Great Seal

I would suggest McCulloch do some checking and research into who is currently using the “Great Seal.” McCulloch’s job is “to serve as keeper of the Great Seal of the State of Montana” so do it and quit being so partisan about it. 


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