Just halfway through his first term as Montana's secretary of state, serial candidate Corey Stapleton is at it again.
Not only is he jumping in more races than he can possibly win, but a new legislative audit report shows more problems with the job he currently has.
Stapleton, whose unsuccessful bids include a run at the U.S. House and Montana governor, had previously stated he was going to run in the gubernatorial race. Again.
But when the field became too crowded with other more viable GOP candidates, Stapleton wilted under the pressure, and jumped to the less populated U.S. House race.
In the GOP game of musical chairs, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who is term-limited, will take on current U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte for governor. Sensing too many big names (or "awesome people" as Stapleton put it) he moved to the House race.
But Stapleton seems more focused on winning an office — any office — than doing a job. That's probably true of state auditor and GOP rerun Matt Rosendale who has also only held his position for a little more than a couple of years. He's decided to enter the House race, too. In 2018, he lost the U.S. Senate race to Jon Tester.
Especially in today's off-putting political climate, Stapleton seems more a political parasite than statesman, wanting to latch onto whatever office he can win, regardless of the job.
Yet, if his past performance is any indication, Stapleton moving to Washington, D.C., would likely produce a torrent of unfavorable headlines with a much bigger audience, and embarrass Montana. That's saying something seeing how our current House member assaulted a person and still got elected — twice.
During Stapleton's brief tenure, he's had headlines aplenty ranging from high turnover in his office to his baseless accusations of voter fraud which he had to walk back. Then there was a botched voters' guide and a costly correction that he had printed at a friend's business.
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That was before a legislative report that showed he had spent thousands of dollars on a "big truck" to travel back and forth from Billings to Helena at taxpayer expense, even though he's required to be in Helena. The legislative auditors said he was breaking the law by doing so.
According to the audit, Stapleton traveled back and forth from his Billings residence from Jan. 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, on 69 days and racked up 27,000 excess miles. The report also shows an astonishing 406 days where the auditor could not determine why a vehicle was used.
Because Stapleton and his office were not complying with the law, the auditors made a referral to the attorney general's office.
When Stapleton was pressed about this, his office told the auditors that working remotely from his "non-Helena" home provided great benefit to the state. Montana auditors responded that even if that was true, it was still illegal.
It's another amazing example of Stapleton trying to will his own desires into existence rather than following the law. You may remember that just last week, Stapleton was in trouble for trying to arbitrarily place into law a bill that Gov. Steve Bullock had vetoed. Only intervention by the court — at, ahem, taxpayer expense — stopped Stapleton's antics.
Now, he's trying to justify thousands of dollars in questionable vehicle expense.
The point isn't just that Stapleton has shown an astounding cluelessness when it comes to making decisions that would seem to personally benefit him or his aspiring political career, but it's that he hasn't been very good at doing the job to which he's been elected. This should give anyone contemplating voting for him enough evidence to look to a different candidate.
If that weren't enough, the auditors didn't stop with the mileage reports. It found three examples of employees of the office who were related by birth or marriage, which raises the question of nepotism, and how things operate.
Stapleton's political career seems to be an example of him always looking for the next best thing. Well, the voters of Montana should do the same. We should retire Stapleton from public office and look for the next best thing.