Campaigns Former State Rep. and current Flathead Beacon columnist Mike Jopek (left) (photo: purplefrog.farm).
Former Democratic state Representative and semi-weekly Flathead Beacon opinion columnist Mike Jopek of Whitefish was treasurer of the Democratic Governors Association’s (DGA) Montana operations from 2012 to at least November of 2014 according to DGA reports to the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP).
The DGA’s 2012 C2 “Statement of Organization” – filed on March 5 of that year – lists Jopek as the treasurer. Its most recent campaign finance filing from November 19, 2014, still lists Jopek as the treasurer.
The DGA poured more than $3 million into the 2012 gubernatorial race on behalf of the successful Democratic candidate Steve Bullock, largely through its affiliated Montana Jobs, Education, and Technology (JET) PAC. The DGA also stands poised for a repeat performance in 2016, as Bullock runs for re-election. Bullock is also the current chair of the national DGA organization and his former campaign manager, Kevin O’Brien, was hired earlier this year as a senior policy adviser for the DGA.
In the run-up to the 2012 election, Jopek continued to write his semi-weekly liberal column “Uncommon Ground.” The column often covered election issues and Jopek praised Bullock and criticized Republican candidate Rick Hill. However, Jopek’s columns never disclosed his involvement with the DGA, which was then funneling large amounts of cash – much of it from Big Labor groups who do not disclose their sources – into the race.
In the October 31, 2012 edition of “Uncommon Ground,” which covered healthcare issues, Jopek wrote: “Sen. Tester, Attorney General Steve Bullock and Auditor Monica Lindeen embody trust in service. These pragmatic and fiscally conservative Democrats are proven leaders.” Earlier in the piece he had criticized Hill as “a former insurance executive who oddly campaigned for policies that force women to pay extra in premiums.”
In January of 2012 – albeit before he took his official position with the DGA – Jopek praised Bullock for his efforts to protect Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act which had been struck down in federal court. The 100 year-old law sought to keep corporate money – the same type of money being raised and spent by the DGA – out of Montana elections.
In an email to Media Trackers, Flathead Beacon editor Kellyn Brown told Media Trackers that he was unaware of Jopek’s involvement with the DGA. He noted that both Jopek and his conservative counterpart Dave Skinner – whose column “Closing Range” alternates with Jopek’s in the weekly publication – are freelancers involved in a number of organizations.
“One is liberal and one is conservative and both are involved in a number of organizations, political and otherwise,” Brown stated. “It’s not perfect, but I thought alternating columnists was the best route. The only time I suspended a column was when one of the columnists ran for office (Skinner, political practices commissioner) – we ended up running repeats for a couple weeks. I wasn’t aware of, and don’t know currently, all of Jopek’s roles in the Democratic Party. Nor do I know Skinner’s, although I believe he was involved in Hill’s campaign and works with the Republican Party in some capacity.”
Brown went on to say that he “could do better, though, especially during election season.” He told Media Trackers that he would ask both Jopek and Skinner to disclose “pertinent organizations” that they work for.
Skinner, for his part, denied any formal involvement with the Republican Party in an email to Media Trackers.
Jopek did not respond to Media Trackers’ request for comment.
Correction at 7/20/2015 at 5PM: Changed the 2nd to last paragraph to clarify that Skinner denied any formal involvement with the Republican Party, rather than all involvement as the original version incorrectly stated.
Media Trackers Montana is a conservative non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting accountability in the media and government. Read more at mediatrackers.org/montana. Follow Media Trackers on Twitter @mediatrackersmt.