Written by: Monica Lindeen who served as Montana state auditor from 2008-2016.
Take it from me, the job of state auditor is not always easy.
The job requires high ethical standards, an ability to understand complicated regulatory rules, and a strong sense of duty and service to the consumers you are sworn to protect.
As someone who served two terms as Montana’s state auditor, I have first-hand experience about how to navigate these sometimes-difficult waters and the responsibilities of the job.
Current State Auditor Matt Rosendale has failed to uphold the ethical standards of the office.
Montanans learned recently that just eight days after succeeding me as Montana state auditor, Matt Rosendale met with representatives from a company whose family members and employees were some of his top campaign donors. The company that had a pending action against it when I left office.
Instead of continuing the action, which was a long-standing legal battle with my state auditor’s office for nearly four years, Rosendale chose to settle and dismiss most of the allegations against the company.
There’s a phrase we use to describe schemes where politicians dole out favors to their top campaign donors and it’s called “pay to play.” Rosendale’s actions to dismiss this case should be of tremendous concern to any Montanan who cares about government accountability and ethics.
My office had legitimate concerns about the actions of this company. We alleged they violated Montana state law by charging an 18 percent interest rate on their bonds (3 percent higher than the 15 percent allowable by Montana law), illegally issued insurance without being registered with insurers, and charged unfairly exorbitant “recovery fees” without disclosing those fees to clients.
Let’s be clear: This case was all but closed. Allegations had been made—and upheld. Fines had been issued, and the legal battle had all but concluded. However, it appears the company knew it had an opportunity in the 2016 election to make the decision go away and knew that Rosendale was their candidate to make that happen.
In 2016, top representatives from the company dumped cash into Matt Rosendale’s campaign to be state auditor. They also wrote checks for the “debt retirement” of Rosendale’s 2014 failed congressional campaign, money that Rosendale then promptly re-loaned himself for his 2016 state auditor campaign. These individuals continued to be vocal about how they had been held unfairly accountable by our office throughout the election.
To think that Matt Rosendale would not have known about these individuals, their political donations to him, or that they were facing legal action from my office, is far beyond what is credibly possible.
Rather than hold a company that was extorting consumers and breaking Montana state law accountable, Rosendale settled and dismissed most of the allegations against the company.
The people of Montana will decide if it is a coincidence that these same people donated nearly $13,000 to Rosendale’s campaigns. They will also decide if it is a coincidence that Rosendale granted them a sit-down meeting mere days after being sworn in.
Montanans deserve transparency, integrity, and honesty from their elected officials. We also deserve elected officials who will live up to the highest of ethical standards as they serve in office. Matt Rosendale failed his first test when he decided to do a political favor for a top donor at the expense of the consumer.
Serving as Montana’s United States Senator for the next six years will require someone with strong ethics and a willingness to hold wrongdoers accountable. Montanans must be able to trust the person we elect will put us first and not those who funded his campaign.
This November, voters have an opportunity to hold Rosendale accountable at the ballot box.