Bitterroot Politics

You get what you vote for…

Bitterroot Politics - You get what you vote for…

What a difference in responses

Turns out that race between Connell and Boulanger was just full of campaign finance violations. First we learned that Boulanger was pretty lax in his reporting of nearly $7,000 but now we also find out that Connell had a few violations of his own.

Namely, he used cash to pay for campaign expenses instead of writing a check from the campaign account. Additionally he didn’t have separate accounts for the primary race and the general election.

The majority of the complaint against Connell was dismissed by the political practices commissioner. The complaint was, of course, filed by a fellow Republican who doesn’t think Connell is Republican enough.

It’s amazing to see the difference in responses to the findings. Boulanger called the report on his violations trivial and blamed it all on a political vendetta from the governor’s office. He expressed no regrets for the mistakes that were made or any desire to fix the problem.

Connell on the other hand expressed his regret that mistakes had been made and owned up to the fact that he’d handled some campaign expenditures poorly. He didn’t blame it on partisanship and acknowledged that the commissioner of political practices was simply doing his job. He also said he would accept his fine and make sure he corrected any errors in the future.

While it’s hard to support Connell for violating campaign finance laws, it’s easy to respect him for owning up to his mistakes and being cooperative with the commissioner of political practices. Boulanger on the other hand, showed he’s not interested in serving the people but rather serving himself and his donors who apparently want to remain anonymous.

Montana’s campaign finance laws are there to provide transparency so voters can know who is supporting candidates and watch for any corruption in government. Boulanger and Connell showed remarkably different responses to the importance of these laws. One (Connell) showed a respect for the people’s right to know who is paying for a candidate’s campaign and the other (Boulanger) showed he doesn’t care what the laws are if they get in his way or cause a modicum of inconvenience to his plans.

Thankfully, the better of the two came out on top in all of this.

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Boulanger thinks $7,000 is insignificant

We found out this week that local Republican Scott Boulanger violated a number of different campaign laws including not reporting around $7,000 of donations. He called the charges trivial and blamed the errors on being busy during the campaign.

That may be true during the campaign, but once it was over, he also failed to file a closing report.Once the election was over he had plenty of time to get the records up to date and file his closing finance report. Instead, he apparently gave up and didn’t bother with it at all.

Montana’s Political Practices Commissioner, Jonathan Motl, ruled that Boulanger shouldn’t be allowed to appear on any ballot until these violations are resolved. That means that the people of Ravalli County won’t be subjected to another Boulanger campaign anytime soon since he doesn’t appear all that motivated to do anything to clear things up.

Of course, he’s still pushing the Republican Central Committee’s lawsuit to close primaries in Montana since that’s what he blames for his election loss. It’s probably good that he did lose though since he apparently doesn’t do so good with money when he’s under a lot of pressure. It’s scary to think about what he would do with the state’s checkbook when working within the 90-day legislative session.

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Special treatment for Burrows

The current commissioners are fond of stating their political beliefs hold that a person should take personal responsibility for their actions and not receive special treatment from the government. That’s their belief anyway unless they are the people that want special treatment.

Jeff Burrows recently received some of that special treatment from his fellow Republican commissioners.

Several years ago, Burrows was appointed to fill the vacated seat of Matt Kanenwisher. At the time, Burrows elected to not join the state pension plan. The problem he’s stuck with now however is that once you decline it, you don’t get another chance to get in later. He made a choice, knowing that you only get one opportunity, and, according to his political philosophy, should accept the consequences. He’d just have to set up his own, private, retirement account separate from the county’s plan.

That’s not how it played out though. First, Burrows asked all of the county’s legislators to go to the Legislature and change the rules, thus allowing him to get in on that pension plan. When that didn’t work, he got his commissioner buddies to set up a way for him to get in  on a county-sponsored retirement plan just for him! While he did recuse himself from the vote, there really wasn’t a need as all four of his buddies voted to do him this favor.

This act shows how little Burrows really believes in his political philosophy. He’s just in it to get what he can for himself. His $60k-plus salary plus full benefits isn’t enough, he’s got to have as much as he can. He wasn’t interested in taking responsibility for his mistakes. He was interested in getting as much out of the taxpayers as he can.

This is the problem with a homogenous board of commissioners. They quietly slip this one through when no one is looking and help their buddy take more money from the people, knowing they’ll get the same treatment when they need it later.

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