The American Democracy Legal Fund has filed a federal complaint against Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg, alleging he violated federal campaign finance laws that include campaigning for the U.S. Senate without filing for the seat.
The complaint, filed with the Federal Election Commission, contends that while Fagg has not yet filed for office or resigned his seat from the bench, he has actively distributed campaign literature and launched a campaign website with a donation platform.
It also contends that Fagg has widely discussed his candidacy and touted his endorsements while attacking the current officeholder, Sen. Jon Tester, in public statements typically reserved for actual challengers.
“Russell Fagg is running a shadow campaign, breaking federal election law, and violating Montana’s judicial ethical guidelines,” said Brad Woodhouse of ADLF. “He’s made it crystal clear that he’s running for U.S. Senate and he should immediately step down from the bench and register as a candidate so that Montanans get the transparency in this election that they deserve.”
According to the complaint, Fagg announced in June that he would resign from the bench this fall. At the time, he established the Russ Fagg Senate Exploratory Committee and began distributing printed fliers.
The complaint says he also has attended a number of political events, including a Montana Republican Party gathering and the Billings Petroleum Club, where he said, “I certainly would appreciate your support.”
“It is unmistakable from these public comments that Fagg has decided to run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Montana,” the complaint states. “(He) has clearly exceeded the threshold for candidacy and is operating a shadow campaign that deprives the public of information about his campaign contributions and expenditures.”
While Fagg could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday, his website said he will announce the results of his exploratory committee and Montana’s U.S. Senate race on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“In 20 years as a judge, Russ Fagg has seen just about every form of human suffering come before his court,” his website states. “From families breaking up to young people turning to a life of crime, almost all cases trace their roots to the same cause – poverty and economics.
“Montana needs more jobs. That’s why Russ is considering a run for the U.S. Senate.”