A recent Billings Gazette editorial, “Stapleton Shows Why He Is Unfit for Any Office” is right on target. What it doesn’t say is that his second in command is just as incompetent.
Christi Jacobsen has been Corey Stapleton’s Deputy Secretary of State for almost four years. And she is now running to replace him. This is not the person you want in that office, for several reasons.
First, they are joined at the hip and their record is atrocious. They have wasted taxpayer money in extraordinary, historic style.
There was Stapleton’s nonexistent charge of voter fraud, blaming the county election administrators of not doing their jobs, having to backtrack on those allegations. There was his attempt to implement new election software before the 2020 election, which the county election administrators deemed putting the election in Montana at risk. Again, he had to backtrack.
There was the illegal expense for a fancy truck he used for personal use, but paid for with state funds. There was his hiring an out of state government legal counsel, the wife of the former Republican Party executive director to represent the office. And he lost the case. There was his proclaiming a bill vetoed that the governor had signed, which was overturned by a court ruling. And there have been trips to New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand. And with fine dining along the way, all paid for by the taxpayer.
Then there was the debacle of the voter guide which contained errors, that the office spent $265,000 to fix. In addition, he gave his political buddy the printing contract without a state bid. There was his using the Secretary of State office resources to announce his bid for governor. There was his very partisan political efforts to keep the Green Party on the election ballot despite the tens of thousands of dollars the Republican Party spent to get the signatures onto the ballot. And on and on and on. A solid record of fiscal waste, political abuse, abuse of staff and abuse of the public trust.
Second, I know Christi Jacobsen because she actually worked for me once. She was the fiscal manager when I entered the Secretary of State office, hired by the previous Secretary of State. It didn’t take long to recognize that she didn’t know anything about accounting or management.
Soon after taking office I had to hire a fiscal expert to consult on setting up the accounting in the office. That expert recommended that I let Jacobsen go as she was incapable of understanding and performing the most basic aspects of budgeting and accounting. I didn’t let her go, but hired a manager above her, hoping to train her. She left a few months later. Christi Jacobsen is the last person Montana business owners should want to entrust with their business registration fees.
I am supporting Bryce Bennett for Secretary of State. He is a man of integrity and honesty. As a Legislator he regularly worked with folks from both parties, Republicans and Democrats. He got things done. He has managed a nonprofit business. He is smart and works hard. He will not shirk his duties, nor will he waste taxpayers money. He will make wise decisions, utilizing the opinions of county clerks and election administrators. He will be a partner with them and the counties. He will listen to businesses across Montana, taking into account what will work best for their business. In short, he is the right person to be the next Montana Secretary of State.
Business owners need to know that the fees they pay are not being wasted. Right now they are, and terribly so. Bryce Bennett will fix that. And he will rise above politics and provide much needed leadership in the office. Montana sorely needs it.
Linda McCulloch served as Secretary of State from 2009-2017.