From Car Washes to Junkets to New Zealand, Corey Stapleton’s Freely Spending Your Tax Money

Photo from MT SoS web page

As the state considers the need for budget cuts so severe that even funds for diapers for infants in foster care are on the chopping block, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton is treating his office’s budget like the state is not just on firm financial footing, but as if there is so much cash avaiable that he can treat the budget as a slush fund for his personal use. From matters picayune to pricey, an examination of the state’s online checkbook system shows Stapleton’s office has made a series of questionable expenditures that demand scrutiny.

Realizing that this is just a cursory look at the information and that a public records request will follow this evening to get more details about these expenditures, it’s certainly worth asking whether or not Secretary Stapleton is, after finally winning the statewide office he so desperately craved, failing to spend his office’s budget in the interest of the people of the state.

I have a hard time understanding, for instance, why Stapleton’s office needed to pay $5.99 each for two video rentals from Amazon on 5/21/2017.

I assume the state maintains its own automobiles, so a charge for $748.00 at Kolar Tire on January 23, 2017, just weeks after Stapleton took office, seems odd.

It also appears that the Secretary or someone in his office took some rather expensive trips on the taxpayer dime, with hotel charges of $1,400.03 and $1,245.39 at the Westin Hotel in Nova Scotia on May 22 and June 21, 2017 headlining those expenses. On June 21, the Secretary’s office also spent $2,618.96 at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland, New Zealand. Those charges probably go a long way towards explaining the huge amounts Stapleton’s office has spent on air travel, including one charge for $2,153.06 to United on May 22, 2017. Another charge for the Heritage Hotel for $2,066.12 appeared on July 21, 2017 as well.

Back in October, during their now-laughable endorsement of Stapleton, the Montana Standard noted that as Secretary of State, he would spend “half his time” outside of Helena, but I’m not sure that’s what anyone had in mind.

It’s not just air travel, as the rigors of the job have required someone at the Secretary’s office to pay a monthly fee of between $39 and $59 to Woody’s Car Wash every month between March and August of 2017, too.

And all that spending has to make a person tired. Why not spend $38.97 on New Zealand’s Cable Bay Wines on Feb 21, 2017 to kick back and relax?

Whether it’s what appears to be an endless list of breakfasts, coffees, and lunches paid for with the state credit card or farflung travel to expensive locations, Secretary Stapleton’s office seems comfortable pushing the costs of his/their expensive tastes onto the people of Montana.

Secretary Stapleton has long sold himself as a fiscal conservative, but his early tenure in office suggests he’s anything but conservative when it comes to spending taxpayer money in trying fiscal times. I’ll report back on how his office explains these charges and, in the meantime, urge you to do some digging of your own to find out how Republican officials who want to kill government are spending state money.


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 would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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