While I suppose we should take some meausre of comfort in the fact that Secretary Stapleton did not send a racist screed this time, we all should be quite concerned that he is continuing to abuse his state office as a vehicle (get it?) to support his floundering campaign for the U.S. House of Represenatives.
Over the weekend, Stapleton chose to send an e-mail praising his office to the businesses that have registered with the state. I don’t know whether Stapleton asked the person who submitted the letter if he could blast it across the state, but I am certain that, when I registered my small business with the state, no one asked me if I wanted to receive state-funded campaign material from Mr. Stapleton.
Stapleton just doesn’t seem to understand that his role as a government official is to be a public servant, not to put public dollars in the service of his flagging political ambitions.
In addition to almost endless displays of incompetence, during his time in office, he has:
- committed felony-level theft of state resources for personal travel.
- used the state seal to promote himself.
- produced voter information videos that encouraged Montanans to invalidate their ballots.
- repeatedly transformed the Secretary of State’s web site into a self-promotional site that actually includes a link to a Twitter account he blocks constituents from reading and a campaign logo.
- Given a no-bid contract for well over $200,000 to a personal friend to fix his mistake printing a voter guide.
- stonewalled public records requests about his use of state resources.
- allowed a subordinate to produce and distribute self-promotional videos just as her campaign for office kicked off.
It’s perhaps that last point that matters most now that Stapleton’s political career has likely ended. Stapleton has endorsed Christi Jacobsen, his “Assistant Secretary of State” to succeed him in office, but one has to wonder why someone with such an important position and close personal relationship has failed to act as a check on Stapleton’s misdeeds. Instead, Jacobsen has been a classic enabler, refusing to advise Stapleton to reform and even going so far as to defend his misdeeds when he was too afraid of the Legislature to speak for himself.
The e-mail Stapleton sent us this weekend says that he’s proud of “his team,” and while I have no doubt that the career state workers who have endured the climate of bullying and malfeasance at the SoS office are excellent at their jobs, the coach Stapleton has placed in charge–and now wants to promote–has helped create the corrupt, self-agrandizing culture that Stapleton has brought to the office that oversees our elections and businesses.
Last week, Jacobsen actually told a talk radio station that she’s “very honored” to have received Stapleton’s endorsement for her 2020 bid. If she really want to feel honor–and restore it to the Secretary’s office–she needs to publicly denounce the abuses Stapleton continues to commit and put an end to them.
Stapleton’s tenure at the Secretary’s office is a stain on its legacy. Mrs. Jacobsen has a clear choice: she can continue to enable Stapleton’s partisan abuses or she can stand for the independence and fairness the office must maintain.
We’ll be waiting for the next e-mail to see what she has decided.