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District Judge Russell Fagg has done nothing wrong by establishing an exploratory committee for a potential U.S. Senate run, an ethics panel has concluded.

Montana's Judicial Standards Commission concluded in late July that Fagg's exploratory committee did not violate ethical standards.

Fagg is a Republican. The Montana Democratic Party insists that Fagg's political activities are unethical. 

In June, Fagg launched an exploratory committee, complete with a website, for a possible challenge to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

Exploratory work by the Yellowstone County District Court Judge has included speaking at a June Montana Republican convention. The judge has also solicited donations for the exploratory committee.

But Fagg hasn't identified himself as a candidate, the commission concluded. The judge has stated he's "testing the waters" and by doing so preserved his non-candidate status.

Fagg will retire from the District Court in October, at which point the judge says he will decide whether to become a Senate candidate.

The current announced GOP candidates are: State Auditor Matt Rosendale; State Sen. Albert Olszewski, a Kalispell orthopedic surgeon; Ronald Murray, a Belgrade businessman and former state House candidate; and Troy Downing, the owner of a California-based storage company who lives in Big Sky.


Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.