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Lawmakers get bogged down with Commissioner of Political Practices

Last week, a committee of four state legislators reached a dead end over who should be Montana’s next Political Practices Commissioner. Now the task of narrowing this field down to his one candidate falls squarely on Greg his governor Gianforte.

The goal of Congress’ COPP Nominating Committee on December 28 was to screen a pool of candidates vying to replace Jeff Mangan and agree on at least two names to forward to Gianforte for consideration. In all, five of his candidates appeared before the commission in person or via Zoom to answer questions about past political affiliations, lobbying, and understanding of commissioners’ responsibilities in state government.

Helena’s attorney, Chris Gallus, has supported many interests of conservatives, including the now-defunct political nonprofit Montana Growth Network and, most recently, grassroots groups opposing former Governor Steve Brock’s COVID-19 restrictions. has represented Mr. Gallus told the nominating committee that his work has resulted in his name appearing in more than a dozen complaints filed with the Committee on Political Practice in the past, although he did not direct such complaints. Asked for his opinion on Montana’s current campaign contribution limit, Gallus said it was not the commissioner’s role to set the policy, but that it was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. He said it was to defend and enforce the law.

The office was later upheld by Brad Johnson, who petitioned to run for the office as a continuation of his “long-standing passion” for the Montana election. Johnson is a Republican who currently holds a seat on the Public Service Commission, the quasi-judicial body that oversees public utilities in Montana, where he previously served as secretary of state from 2005 until 2009. was He challenged former Democratic Rep. Pat Williams in 1990. Johnson also became ethical after using state resources to write an op-ed criticizing his independent PSC candidate in 2016. has been the subject of complaints. Mangan found Johnson had violated state ethics laws and fined him $3,000.


Looking Back on 6 Years as COPP

Looking Back on 6 Years as COPP

Over the past two decades, the Commissioner of Political Practice has become one of Montana’s most high-profile and most controversial posts. Jeff Mangan, a COPP member of his six years, reflects on the challenges posed by his social media, election skepticism, and political neutrality.

“Since 2016, I have learned a lot. Whether or not the Commissioner’s findings are wholly correct, I will tell the Commission that it was my fault in writing the editorial. “I’ll be back,” Johnson told the nomination committee last week.

Another candidate revealed a somewhat more extensive history in partisan politics. Debbie White-Götze, a former contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense, told lawmakers that she worked for Alaska Republican Sarah Palin in the gubernatorial and vice-presidential campaigns, and Republican Joe Miller in 2010. He said he worked for Alaska Senator Lisa Markowski while he was trying to fire him. Despite that background, Mr. White-Goetze has suspended her personal political convictions as her commissioner, noting that her extensive experience of “executive her leadership” and that she He said he felt he could rely on what he described.

“I know this is a nonpartisan position,” she said. “I feel like I can express it very well.”

The remaining two candidates boasted much less politicized histories. and conservative causes, but added that he twice voted for former Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer. .

“I consider myself a Republican, but I don’t hold to that view,” he said. “From my understanding, this role is non-denominational. I take it literally.”

Megan Martin has characterized herself as the only truly nonpartisan applicant to attend the commission. She said she was very familiar with the state laws because she was so familiar with them. But when she was asked, Martin said she never belonged to a political party or political action committee, nor was she involved in lobbying in Congress.

“I think that’s why I’m a little better suited for this position,” she said. “I’m not political in that sense.”

After completing the interviews, two Republicans on the committee (currently former Senate Speaker Mark Blasdell and current former House Speaker Wiley Galt) suggested advancing all five candidates to Gianforte. did. Blasdell said the more candidates the commission screens and interviews with the governor, the “better.” The motion didn’t work out, however, as Democratic minority leaders Sen. Jill Coffner and Rep. Kim Abbott submitted their own motions to send only Martin and Cartamus to Gianforte’s desk. .

“Some people have admitted that they have been very political in the past. Is difficult.

Blasdel and Galt opposed the motion, and the committee stalled. As a result, all five candidates were sent to the governor’s office. Absent the Commission’s recommendation, Gianforte is also free to consider additional applicants. His office did not immediately respond to requests for details on what his next steps would be or when he planned to name the final pick. must be approved by the State Senate.

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