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D+

Montana Headlines:
Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar receives record fine for ethics violations – [Political Practices] Commissioner Dennis Unsworth also ordered Molnar to pay nearly $15,000 to partially cover the costs of the investigation. Unsworth found that Molnar improperly solicited and received gifts from NorthWestern Energy and PPL Montana and unlawfully used state resources for political purposes.

Suit filed against new Political Practices commissioner to obtain documents[Dave] Gallik resigned in January after some members of his staff accused him of falsifying his state timesheet and performing private practice attorney work from his state office.

Not the kind of stuff you want to be seeing in large-print just as the Center for Public Integrity releases its report on the corruption risk for state governments. Montana received a D+ due to these and other issues. The good news is that only puts the Treasure State at #27 on the list. So, in a list of states with terrible risk of corruption in state government, Montana is only crappy.

Here’s how we scored:

  • Public Access to Information = F
  • Judicial Accountability = F
  • State Pension Fund Management = F
  • Ethics Enforcement Agencies = F
  • Lobbying Disclosure = F
  • But hey, we got an A for Internal Auditing, so we at least keep good track of our corruption.
  • We got a B for Procurement. We’re good at getting the money, it’s just that nobody knows where it goes.

But the reality in Big Sky country doesn’t always match the image, in part because finding money to boost transparency is a tough sell in light of more basic needs like schools and services for the poor.

Partly as a result, access to public records varies by agency and sometimes lags behind advances in information technology. Weak disclosure requirements and inadequate staffing frustrate efforts to monitor lobbying and track the assets of officials responsible for overseeing public funds.

Ethics laws suffer from ambiguity and weak enforcement, and a rash of top-level hires by the current administration has raised questions of cronyism. Meanwhile, the state’s ban on corporate campaign contributions and its tough disclosure requirements for campaign financing are under legal attack.

So hey, maybe a 68%, D+ rating ain’t so bad, considering that the legislature isn’t even in session for nine months yet.

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