While Montana Democrats and his Republican opponents have rightly criticized Matt Rosendale for not seeming to spend any time at the office he’s been elected to do, a recent report from John Adams at the Montana Free Press reveals that might just be a good thing for Montanans as Rosendale has personally authorized settling a claim against a business whose principals donated heavily to his campaign for Auditor and, through his money laundering scheme involving his old race for the U.S. House, to his Senate campaign.
I urge readers to read the whole Adams piece to understand how, eight days into his tenure as Auditor, Rosendale personally met with Billings bail bondsman and Richard Friedel before personally approving a settlement deal that involved penalties far les serious than the state originally sought to impose:
The final agreement, signed by Rosendale the day after the Dec. 12 meeting, eliminated the fine and dismissed two of the allegations, but included the finding that the company had charged illegal interest rates.
And that chain of events: a meeting attended by Rosendale, followed by a settlement benefiting people who had never donated to a Montana political candidate before Rosendale
is an ethical nightmare. Again from the piece, Bob Stern, former president of the California-based Center for Governmental Studies says that it’s inappropriate for Rosendale to have taken a meeting with a donor just days after taking office:
Stern said it is less common for elected officials—particularly those in regulatory or quasi-judicial positions such as the state auditor—to take such actions immediately after a face-to-face meeting with a campaign donor, especially when the action involves an individual or organization directly in conflict with the agency.
“The problem is, it looks like he is making the decision in exchange for the campaign contributions. He will deny that he did, but the appearance is terrible,” Stern said. “The appearance is that he made the decision to drop the lawsuit because these people gave his campaign a bunch of money.”
And, as always, no matter the issue, no matter the scandal, Rosendale’s inept, angry campaign couldn’t even bother to respond to the Montana Free Press with a comment, perhaps because there’s just no defense for his actions.
I’ve heard a lot of rumors about what’s going on at the State Auditor’s office, from allegations that the office has gone soft on securities violations to concerns about staff members failing to do the basic duties of their job because supervisors don’t demand that they come to work. Rosendale appointed a former insurance industry lobbyist as deputy insurance commissioner, solidifying his position as someone more interested in protecting his relationship with donors that ensuring that Montana law is followed.
As the election moves closer, I hope those staffers in the Auditor’s Office will come forward with more information about just what is happening in the office of chief watchdog whose job it is to see that Montanans are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses.