Did Corey Stapleton Threaten Me Because He Broke the Law?

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As I wait for Corey Stapleton to direct his staff to decide whether to sue me for copyright violation (May 8th deadline for that), I’ve been pondering what would make him so badly overreact to a constituent posting a video he produced. Perhaps it’s something as simple as the Napoleon complex that leads him to abuse his office and send partisan, unprofessional e-mails to constituents and perhaps it’s just that he made an ill-conceived decision to attack a blogger who has been critical of his tenure in office.

Or perhaps Mr. Stapleton took down the video his office prepared and broadcast with state dollars and then tried to have YouTube hurl it into the memory hole because he realized the video he produced and broadcast broke the law.

The Montana Code Annotated makes it a misdemeanor to deliberately misinform voters about election procedures, as Stapleton absolutely did in the video. From MCA 13-25-235:

A person may not knowingly or purposely disseminate to any elector information about election procedures that is incorrect or misleading or gives the impression that the information has been officially disseminated by an election administrator.

The wording of that statute creates quite a bind for Mr. Stapleton were a county prosecutor inclined to pursue the admittedly insignificant misdemeanor charge. Would Stapleton admit that he deliberately misinformed Montana voters about election procedures or would he admit, as the state’s chief election officer, that he simply doesn’t understand the procedures he’s entrusted to oversee?

Neither would be a good luck just a few months after excoriating the hard-working county elections officers across the state on trumped out charges.

Of course, no one is going to charge Mr. Stapleton for this offense, but its existence strikes at the heart of just what’s so dangerous about abusing his office to assert copyright on a work produced for the state’s people by the state’s government. Allowing Mr. Stapleton to claim copyright protection on a public document would certainly embolden other officials, who would no doubt be tempted to withhold public documents that cast them in a negative light, whether that be a matter as simple as personal embarrassment or as serious as potential criminal misconduct.

I’d love to discuss this matter with Mr. Stapleton, but those pesky e-mail problems that only seem to allow his office to send out massive, partisan mailers and not receive e-mail from constituents, reporters, or school officials must be keeping him from responding to my request for information from two weeks ago. I’ll let you know when I do finally receive a response.

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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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