Today at 4:00 p.m. Judge Russ Fagg will unveil the big secret that he is, in fact, running for the Senate against Jon Tester. It’s a strange announcement, one not only marred by the fact that everyone vaguely aware of Montana politics has known for months that Fagg would but also for a stinging condemnation from his local paper calling out Fagg for running for office (and lying about) while still acting as a judge.
A Gazette editorial noted that Fagg has violated the Montana Judicial Canons that prohibit a sitting judge from identifying themselves as candidates for political office or opposing a candidate for a non-judicial office.
And Fagg has done both, attacking Senator Tester, attending fundraisers for his own candidacy calling himself “Judge” Fagg in his donation brochure and materials. Worse yet, Fagg has a big D.C. political firm working to raise money for him and implausibly claimed to the Gazette that they are “sending communications on his behalf” without a contract with the firm.
It’s bad enough to lie to Montana voters before you’ve even begun a campaign, but to act like we’re stupid enough to swallow that story? That’s just insulting.
Fagg’s faux candidacy is so egregious that the American Democracy Legal Fund has filed an FEC complaint against him for “engaging in extensive campaign activities for U..S Senate in Montana without filing as a candidate for any office.”
The ADLF is right: Fagg is running a “shadow campaign” designed to let him raise money, attack Senator Tester, and gain all the advantages of candidacy without the pesky reporting requirements that every other candidate must face.
And that he’s done all of this as a sitting judge is especially troublesome. Back in 2016, Judge Fagg himself wrote in the Missoulian:
The rule of law, in its simplest form, is that nobody is above the law. All people, presidents and kings included, are treated the same under the law….For a just society to exist, these core principles are essential.
Judge candidate Fagg has put his personal ambition ahead of protecting the integrity of the judiciary and the rule of law is telling; that he’s abandoning his job in Yellowstone County despite a huge backlog of cases is damning.
I guess he’s making some sort of announcement today, but Mr. Fagg has managed to make it clear already that he’s not someone who can be trusted to tell the truth to Montanans, much less represent them in Washington.