The Billings Gazette took to their editorial board today to rip Bullock for campaigning on the taxpayers’ dime scheduling “questionable” and “weak” official state business trips to mask his true intentions of flying on the State plane to raise campaign money. They also note that more than a month has gone by and Bullock refuses to fulfill information requests made by the media about his State plane travels and emails related to his fundraisers. Bullock’s stonewalling the media by refusing to provide transparency about his taxpayer funded campaign trips. Bullock really does believe he’s above the law and accountable to no one– even the people he was elected to represent.
The Billings Gazette raised a number of important questions that Montanans deserve to have answered:
- Will Bullock stop abusing taxpayer dollars and pay for his campaign travels like other Montana governors have done in the past?
- The State plane cost $1,650/hour so why can’t Bullock make the drive from Helena to Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula and save taxpayers money?
- Does Bullock plan to ever honor the media’s information requests about his plane travels and emails related to his campaign fundraising trips?
Excerpts from the Billings Gazette–
Gazette opinion: Plane-gate may mean more rules necessary
Last week, Gazette reporter Tom Lutey reported a series of questionable trips taken by Bullock around the state which conveniently had fundraising stops attached.
Questionable because the official business — besides the fundraising — seemed rather weak, especially at $1,650 per hour of airplane cost at taxpayer expense.
It seems to us Bullock’s trips across the state that seem to magically coincide with fund-raising events aren’t just accidental. And, it makes sense from a time and resource perspective to pair those events. However, it raises the question: Should the taxpayers of Montana be on the hook to foot Bullock’s expense as he tries to raise more money? Why should he get a free ride when his opponents don’t get the same opportunity? And, just saying that Bullock is doing what others before him have done is a lousy excuse that we shouldn’t tolerate. Because someone else did the wrong thing shouldn’t excuse it forever into the future.
Other governors in Montana have paid for part of their trips when a fundraising event was scheduled out of their campaign. Marc Racicot paid for part of the costs when he would “piggyback” fundraising events onto official business. When the trip was completely for fundraising, Racicot took a private plane.
Just as questionable as running around in the state plane for fundraising is Bullock’s need to fire it up to go from Helena to Butte. We imagine that there’s hardly a time savings for such a short trip (less than 70 miles), by the time you figure out shuttling to the airport and getting ready to fly.
Both of these cases seem to have a common theme: Taking advantage of a taxpayer resource.
Yet, examples like flying from Helena to Butte have us rethinking the position. Is Bullock — or any governor — so important that he or she can’t spare the extra time to drive between those two communities?
Life in Montana means roads and roads mean driving. We’re not sure why the governor doesn’t have the same sensibility, especially for short distances.
And if he is using the state plane for fundraising, why not reimburse Montana for the expense? It saves on the charade of trying to explain why making sandwiches is essential state business.
The Gazette began asking for the governor’s travel itinerary and emails related to this trip more than a month ago. We’d point out that a simple calendar request should not take this long.
We’re not certain what is so cumbersome about releasing Bullock’s schedules or his email.
It only gives the appearance that Bullock has something to hide, or that it looks exactly like he’s taking advantage of a taxpayer resource.