Last fall, a number of political observers in Montana were concerned with the dearth of coverage of the Tier B races as the Bullock-Gianforte and Zinke-Juneau races took almost all of the attention of the state’s shrinking political media. The concern was that lesser qualified Republicans like Elsie Artnzen and Matt Rosendale would win races simply because party affiliation would overpower voter knowledge about the individual candidates. While this blog has never considered Corey Stapleton to be a particularly effective candidate or public official, I have to admit I worried least about his potential election because I assumed he could manage to do the core functions of the Secretary of State.
And boy, was I wrong. Stapleton might be the worst of the bunch.
After embarrassing himself in the state media for his shameful effort to demagogue on imaginary voter fraud, Stapleton managed to lose his chief election official in a story that still hasn’t gotten much coverage, alienated County Elections officers, and has driven or marginalized key staffers at the Secretary’s office.
And after those specious claims, those insults to hardworking county officials, and retractions followed by doubling down on claims of voter fraud, the Secretary’s office hasn’t managed to update the voter rolls since August, over two months ago. Who has time to do the basic function of your office when you need to run around the state like Chicken Little, using state resources to promote yourself and crackpot, conservative boogeymen like voter fraud?
Not content to simply fail to do his job, Stapleton moved on this week to continue his practice of using state resources for partisan purposes. In the latest issue of the newsletter he regularly sends out (and that Google regularly identifies as spam), Stapleton didn’t offer businesses tips on using the office’s new electronic filing system or explain how he would improve voting access in Montana. Instead, he offered a partisan assessment of the state’s budget situation and argued against a special session the state so desperately needs to resolve the mess the GOP legislature left the state. Before promising a future update about the problems of the Affordable Care Act (over which his office has no oversight or role), Stapleton offered a striking depiction of what’s wrong with American politics today:
Further compromise is not required, however (emphasis added). The legislature did their job earlier this year, approving a $10.3 billion two-year budget before adjourning. Since then, we’ve learned that revenues are less than previously projected. The governor’s task now is straightforward: make the necessary reductions in spending to accommodate the lower-than-expected revenues.
It takes a pretty small man to argue that no compromise is needed when vital programs to children and the disabled will be on the chopping block without some adult compromise, but it takes an even smaller one to argue that the state needs to cut spending even as he has misappropriated state funds for his personal benefit. Before Secretary Stapleton calls for cuts to programs for children, perhaps he should start buying his own damn tires, coffees, and video rentals.
The $4,000 his office spent making awkward videos of Stapleton promoting himself certainly could have helped a few families in Montana.
And before he uses state time and money to send purely partisan messaging, shouldn’t he do the job he’s been tasked to do? It seems Secretary Stapleton believes that the Secretary of State’s office is nothing more than a stepping stone to his ultimate ambition and he’ll use its budget to promote himself at the expense of Montanans.