A piece by Matt Gouras in the IR today raises the issue of constituency accounts for Montana elected officials raises two troubling issues: the use of largely unregulated “constituency funds” by Montana’s elected officials, and the fact that I might agree with Roy Brown about something.
While the story about constituency funds is hardly new, and Gouras breaks little ground with this story, the lack of regulations for accounts like these is a troubling oversight in Montana law. The existence of accounts that allow elected officials to receive and spend money without public scrutiny seems like a dangerous practice, one that could allow for abuse. Roy Brown, always a paragon of moral consistency, uses a constituency account, but suggests that they should be regulated:
‘‘These accounts are not
reported and could be abused if a candidate or legislator actively
solicited money and used it for personal activities,’’ Brown said. ‘‘A
person could easily solicit corporate funds and use the money for any
reason, even for personal use.’’
I don’t have any reason to believe that Governor Schweitzer, Mike Mcgrath, or Brad Johnson have misused these funds, but there’s no question that these accounts give the appearance of impropriety and should be regulated before abuse does occur–assuming it hasn’t already (cough, Martz administration…cough).
Campaign finance law exists for two reasons: to limit the influence of money on candidates and to require transparency about where politicians receive their money. Secret constituency accounts fail both tests. As nice as it might be for an elected official to send me a Christmas card, I’d rather see them not have slush funds.