It’s not often that it feels like blogging and tweeting have a direct impact on Montana’s elected officials, so it was very gratifying to read last night that Secretary of State Corey Stapleton finally managed to do one of the most basic functions of his office and updated the county-by-county voter rolls. It’s hard to have a huge degree of confidence in the report, run at 10:45 p.m. last night, but it feels good to know that Secretary Stapleton was so moved by online criticism that he decided it was time to do his job.
Secretary Stapleton has had a rough start to his tenure as Montana’s elections chief, a position he clearly sees as a stepping stone to his ultimate ambition to become governor. Helena insiders tell me that Stapleton is receiving “Rasputin-like” advice from a very close staffer that he “is governor material,” which would explain why his office has spent thousands of dollars on self-promotional videos and transformed the official Secretary of State’s web page into the kind of online narcissism I haven’t seen since the early days of MySpace.
That kind of narcissism extends to the kind of work Mr. Stapleton expects his staff to do. In September, when voter rolls had not been updated, the Secretary of State was asking his staff to spend state time tweeting photos of himself to his Twitter page (even though his Twitter account actually blocks some constituents from reading if they’ve had the temerity to be critical of Stapleton.
That’s certainly small regard for the taxpayers of the state, but reflective of Mr. Stapleton’s priority, which is promoting himself at the expense of focusing his office on the needs of the people of Montana.
I’m told by source after source that the atmosphere at the Secretary’s office is unbearable for the workers who’ve been there ensuring the smooth operations of business and election services. The turnover is so bad in Stapleton’s shop that some workers have chosen to move over to work for Matt Rosendale. Imagine that.
The plan to use the Secretary of State’s office as a platform from which to launch a bid for the east wing of the Capitol, though, depends on something Stapleton just seems to lack: the basic competence to do his job. Whether it’s been alienating the county election officers, badly mishandling a nakedly political effort to suggest voter fraud, or even maintaining the staff necessary to do the work of his office, Stapleton has failed every test.
I’m glad that Secretary Stapleton responded to our criticism of his work, but it’s pretty hard to feel confident that someone who has to be shamed into doing the task he was elected to do will continue to get that work done. While Secretary Stapleton seems to think that campaigning on the public’s dime is among the “things that matter,” shouldn’t doing the job we pay him to do matter just a bit more?