Montana Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock included high-dollar donors on his coronavirus task force; the donors then reportedly lobbied the governor on how to distribute $1 billion in federal aid, according to a report released on Friday.
Fox News released a report that detailed that the news organization reviewed records that detail that Bullock, a Montana Senate Democrat aiming to oust Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), included several high-dollar donors as part of his coronavirus task force, otherwise known as the Coronavirus Relief Fund Advisory Council.
Fox News wrote that the task force, which included members of the hospitality and tourism industries, “could stand to benefit from the task force’s recommendations in their final report for the state to provide ‘direct, immediate and mid-term assistance’” to those industries.
Bullock’s task force included his supporters and detractors, and they often suggested “direct grant assistance” to Montana nonprofits.
Republicans attacked Bullock for handing out influential positions on the coronavirus task force to his donors.
Senate Leadership Fund Direct Communications Director Jack Pandol told Fox News, “This is part of a disappointing pattern with Steve Bullock, where he talks about political purity while taking corporate money through the back door and handing out valuable slots on a powerful coronavirus committee to his top donors.”
Montana’s federal stimulus money has remained largely unspent, which has engendered concerns from ethics experts.
Adam Laxalt, the outside counsel to the Americans for Public Trust and a former Nevada attorney general, said:
What is clear is the public deserves answers as to why his donors are helping to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars of pandemic money, and they deserve full transparency. Using a pandemic to curry political favor with wealthy contributors is exactly the cynical swampiness that Americans can’t stand about Washington. We will look into whether or not the closed door meetings violated Montana’s open meetings law, but Governor Bullock owes the citizens of Montana as much transparency as possible when there’s a potential public health emergency.
Bullock’s office countered the thought that the task force contained an excessive number of Bullock donors. A Bullock spokesperson said:
Governor Bullock’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Advisory Group included representation from small business, agriculture, non-profits, economic development organizations, financial institutions, and others, to share their expertise and guidance on ways to deploy these funds responsibly. The advisory group examined all sectors of the economy, considering the needs of each region of the state to ensure no area or sector is left out in Montana’s path to economic recovery.
Julia Doyle, a spokesperson for Daines’s campaign, told Breitbart News that the governor should have consulted the state lawmakers over his donors on how to direct federal coronavirus aid.
“The governor should be consulting with the elected representatives in the Montana State Legislature — not his campaign supporters,” Doyle told Breitbart News.