Montana Politics The Media

Morrison’s “Fact Check” On the Tacke Affair

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Cathy Siegner relates an interesting discussion with John Morrison and Tylynn Gordon, campaign manager for the Morrison campaign. Finally, the mystery of Morrison’s claim of a factual error in the Independent article was revealed:

Telling me after the debate that the Independent article suggests “the state auditor’s office dropped the ball and the feds picked it up,” Mr. Morrison indicated that’s an incorrect assessment because a securities analyst with his office worked on the case with key federal agents from the start.

That’s nothing more than a head fake, and certainly not some critical factual element of the article that eliminates concerns about Morrison’s actions–lenient treatment of Tacke, direct involvement in settlement talks, and a failure to disclose his personal conflict until a year after the investigation began. To suggest that this issue invalidates the piece is misleading at best.
Gordon gave Siegner an eight page “Fact Check” document, that Gordon claims is available for anyone who wants it, but “no one has asked.” Sounds like the major papers in the state are really deeply looking into this, doesn’t it? Siegner cites one example from the document:

the article asserts that federal prosecutors “stepped in where the auditor had backed off” and indicted Mr. Tacke on mail and wire fraud and money laundering. (He is serving nine years in a federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., but has appealed the conviction.)

The auditor’s office didn’t “back off” and the case was settled, counters the Morrison campaign’s “Fact Check” document. “In addition, the Auditor’s Office doesn’t have the jurisdiction to actually charge Tacke criminally, so someone else HAD to do it,” the document states.

Another head fake. The allegation in The Independent is not that Morrison or the Auditor’s office failed to criminally prosecute Tacke, but that the settlement was deeply flawed, riddled with loopholes and extensions that allowed Tacke to continue doing business. What’s more, according to Karen Powell, deputy auditor and deputy securities commissioner, Morrison was involved in discussions about extensions:

Morrison had a direct role in that decision. Her letter states that she “met yesterday with Commissioner Morrison and Beth Baker” and discussed the “failure of Venue Tech and David Tacke to meet the time lines…We agreed at that time to grant the eight week extension…”

I’ve written and asked for a copy of this Fact Check document, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Thus far, its criticisms of the Independent article don’t seem terribly convincing, but it sure makes for good copy to suggest there are eight pages of errors in the piece.

Right after you write or call the Morrison people, you might want to call your local newspaper and ask them why they’re not continuing to look into this story. At the point when one major candidate for the Democratic nomination has levelled a serious set of ethical charges against a candidate who has prepared an 8 page rebuttal to the claim, don’t the Lee papers have to look more deeply into this story? I just don’t understand their refusal to do more reporting than telling about the ads run by the Tester and Morrison campaigns. Is the refusal pride over being scooped by the Independent? Perhaps someone more knowlegeable can tell me.

Montana’s voters deserve a full examination of this issue before they vote.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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