COPP Dismisses Complaints Filed Against Engen Campaign
The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices has dismissed two complaints filed against the reelection campaign of Mayor John Engen.
The complaints were filed by Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades, and dealt with what he termed as two in-kind corporate campaign contributions.
The first complaint alleged that the Engen campaign was provided an additional 1.921 square feet of office space by a corporation and should have been valued at $1,650 per month; however, the commissioner found that the $300 per month paid by the campaign was a fair market value for the commercial office space.
The second complaint focused on an alleged in-kind contribution from the Missoulian newspaper, and its parent company, Lee Enterprises.
The allegation was that the Missoulian provided advertising by promoting a Facebook post of the Missoulian’s endorsement of John Engen. The commissioner ruled that the Facebook post was automatically boosted and appeared in users Facebook feeds as a ‘sponsored’ post, however, the Engen campaign did not request or coordinate with Lee Enterprises in the decision to boost the post, and were unaware that the post would be sponsored.’
In closing, the report stated: ‘The Commissioner finds the Engen for Mayor Campaign did not violate Montana political practice campaign finance laws as set herein’.
On October 20, Engen's opponent, Lisa Triepke, was found by the commissioner to have filed incomplete and inaccurate campaign finance reports, and could face a fine.
RESPONSE FROM ATTORNEY QUENTIN RHOADES:
'I must say I am disappointed on how little effort went into the investigation. The finance report the Engen campaign filed said it had rented “suite 3”, which was consistent with the announcement of the open house in the community webpage announcement. Meanwhile, it told the investigator, it seems, it is in reality renting only a tiny portion of suite 3. Yet, according to the attached decision, no investigator bothered to even visit the space to resolve the contradiction in evidence. Candidly, the lack of deliberation is troubling.'
RESPONSE FROM ENGEN FOR MAYOR CAMPAIGN:
Melanie Brock, Campaign Manager for Engen For Mayor
“We knew the complaint didn’t have any merit, and we’re definitely pleased at the outcome,” Brock said. “It was likely intended to be a distraction, but we’re very pleased that the COPP was able to review it in a timely manner, and set the record straight. Just so everyone knows, we rent a small space within an office space and there are other businesses doing the same thing within the suite. We’re actually spending $20 per square foot which is Class A fair market value downtown. We are following the campaign laws to the letter which we work hard to do.”