Montana Governor Steve Bullock is leveraging the pandemic to pay back his political donors, raising ethical questions about Bullock’s handling of his state’s response and whether he is making decisions in the best interests of Montanans, or in the best interests of himself and his donors.
A new report details how Bullock gave a large amount of coronavirus relief task force spots to his political donors, defended their right to hold secret meetings in violation of the Montana open records law, and praised his donors’ report that included kickbacks to their own industries and businesses.
A senior ethics attorney said of Bullock’s self-dealing: “Using a pandemic to curry political favor with wealthy contributors is exactly the cynical swampiness that Americans can’t stand about Washington.”
Bullock is betting on his ability to navigate his official duties as Governor during a pandemic while balancing running for Senate. This report raises all kinds of questions about Bullock’s priorities that need answering – like whether his political prospects are affecting his decisions in the Governor’s office. And it raises fresh concerns over recent revelations that only a tiny percentage of aid has been disbursed by the Bullock Administration to struggling small businesses in Montana.
To start, Bullock must immediately make the meetings of the coronavirus relief task force public in accordance with the Montana open records law. If Bullock has nothing to hide, there should be no issue with exposing this process to public scrutiny.