Montana Dems: Stapleton violated state law by using office to announce bid for governor

The Montana Democratic Party on Wednesday filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Political Practices alleging Secretary of State Corey Stapleton violated the law by announcing his bid for governor via a state email address.

Stapleton announced his candidacy for governor last week in what will be his second bid for the office. He made the announcement first by Facebook then by an official letter sent from a state email address.

It also included the Montana state seal.

“Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s use of official state resources to announce his next political campaign is only the latest example of how he has repeatedly injected partisan politics into his official duties over the past two years,” Monica Lindeen, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party, said Wednesday.

According to the party’s complaint, state law prohibits the use of facilities to support or oppose a political candidate. The Montana Supreme Court has already ruled that use of a state email account to announce a candidate’s campaign constitutes a violation of that statute.

“Stapleton must be held accountable for his actions because Montanans deserve better than politicians who manipulate their public office for personal gain,” Lindeen said.

Stapleton couldn’t be immediately reach for comment on the issue Wednesday. Last week, however, he denied that use of the state email account broke state law.

“No – absolutely not. It’s not campaigning,” he said in a text message to another newspaper.

The Democratic Party took issue with that response as well.

“Stapleton is a longtime politician, and it is extremely difficult to believe that he is ignorant of Montana law prohibiting him from using official state resources to announce his next political campaign,” the party’s complaint reads.