New reporting from the Associated Press makes it clear that current Secretary of State and future failed Congressional candidate Corey Stapleton should face charges for his egregious misuse of state resources and his deputy Christi Jacobsen should not be elected to succeed him.
The AP’s investigation shows that Stapleton racked up tens of thousands of miles in the state-owned vehicle and compelling evidence that he used it for family travel, medical appointments, and other personal use–all in contravention of state of law–and despite official notice from the state that the vehicle could only be used for official business.
Stapleton’s misuse of his office certainly shouldn’t surprise anyone as he has used everything from the agency’s web site to television commercials to promote himself, but I am surprised that law enforcement in Helena seems disinterested in pursuing Stapleton. Back in August, I was critical of the City’s decision not to pursue charges, noting that, as the AP investigation found, Stapleton’s misuse of state funds occurred well into the period of time when the statute of limitations would not have expired.
And now, even though Stapleton clearly could be charged for his latest string of thefts–and one could argue they are all part of the same enterprise and he could be charged for them all–the AP story did not suggest there was any urgency to open an investigation and charge Stapleton for his continued misdeeds.
That should change, and the Helena Police Department should charge him. While I believe our society is destructively fixated on a punishment model for crime, Stapleton should face charges for his theft of thousands of dollars from the people of Montana, especially in a town where people face charges for shoplifting a small item from Wal-Mart every day.
Stapleton knew better, had no financial excuse for his crimes, and perhaps most importantly, hasn’t ever expressed an iota of remorse. He should repay the people of Montana and he should face charges for his actions, just like any other thief would.
But the malfeasance doesn’t end with Stapleton. In June, when legislators questioned Stapleton’s misuse of state resources, it wasn’t Stapleton who defended himself: it was recently promoted “Deputy Secretary of State” and current candidate to replace Stapleton, Christi Jacobsen. Rather than acknowledging that Stapleton had broken the law, Jacobsen repeatedly defended him, arguing that he was engaged in “telework,” even though investigators could not account for 27,000 miles Stapleton drove the truck.
Jacobsen’s defense of Stapleton’s unethical and illegal behavior makes it clear that she should not be elected Secretary of State. Either she believes that the theft of state resources is legitimate practice or she lied to protect her boss when questioned by legislators. Either demonstrate that she lacks the ethics to oversee Montana’s elections, something she already proved by creating a toxic culture at the Secretary’s office and using its resources to promote her candidacy.
Stapleton is a crook. In another era, he would have left office in shame by now, but we’ll have to endure his malfeasance until the 2020 elections. The least Montana can do is to ensure that the person who enabled and justified his misdeeds doesn’t succeed him.