Secretary of State Stapleton Uses State Resources to Lie Again

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Surely Montana’s top election official should understand that state resources are not meant to be used for political purposes, but for some reason, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton just can’t help using his office, its time, and its resources to promote his political ambition. The latest missive from his office, another grammatical nightmare of dishonest and self-serving claims, was sent out today to those of us who have signed up for the state’s business services and deserves almost as much scrutiny as Stapleton’s waste of public resources and his use of state dollars to tell voters to invalidate their ballots.

In the e-mail, Stapleton claims that he sponsored legislation that will lead to $5 billion dollars of economic activity for the state of Montana. Even Stapleton knows that Secretaries of State don’t sponsor legislation, so the piece admits that these bills to develop coal resources at Otter Creek took place fifteen and seventeen years ago, in 2001 and 2003. What the piece doesn’t mention is that when Stapleton ran for Governor in 2012, he admitted that “not a single piece of coal had been dug” since the bills were passed.

He also fails to mention that Arch Coal, who bid for the right to develop the Otter Creek tracts, abandoned the project in 2016, because they lacked the capital to develop the mines and understood that the market for coal is weak:

Arch Coal, Inc. today announced that it is suspending efforts to secure a mining permit for the Otter Creek coal reserves near Ashland in southeastern Montana, due to capital constraints, near-term weakness in coal markets and an extended and uncertain permitting outlook.

Later, Stapleton goes on to claim that coal is not only America’s top source of energy, but that it will be for decades to come. He writes:

Coal will be America’s primary source of energy for the coming decades. That is a fact. Montana has some of the largest coal reserves in the world. Developing these assets in Montana, realizing the return on our investments, does not mean that we deny that energy markets are changing. Someday coal will be replaced as our nation’s primary source of energy. But that day is not now, not tomorrow, not for many years.

That’s just not true. Natural gas has already supplanted coal as the primary source of electricity production in the United States and the long-term outlook for it just isn’t promising:

The long-term prospects for coal, however, have not changed much, she added. Absent some major action that would “interfere with price dynamics” of current energy markets, Zubets-Anderson said coal will likely continue to decline as it is replaced by natural gas and other energy sources.

So, of course, Secretary Stapleton is having more of his typical trouble telling the truth. While he wants Montanans to believe that he was (or will be) somehow responsible for “The Otter Creek coal tracts [and] economic activity of $5 billion to Montana. Billion. Billion. Billion,” the truth is that his self-serving claims have come up quite short of reality.

Worse yet, Stapleton can’t seem to understand, despite the outrage his politically-charged and personally-motivated missives on the state’s dime, that he shouldn’t be using his office to promote himself. Stapleton may dream of one day becoming governor, a job that will afford him the opportunity to spend tens of thousands of state dollars redecorating another part of the Capitol building, but he needs to campaign for that position on his own time—and his own dime.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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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