Engen Campaign Failed to Report Corporate Contributions From Missoulian, Says Complaint
A new complaint sent to the office of Montana Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan today, October 25th, alleges that Mayor John Engen's reelection campaign has failed to report contributions from two corporations, one of which happens to be the owner of the local Missoulian newspaper: Lee Enterprises.
The question at issue revolves around the boosting of a Facebook post. A screenshot in the complaint shows that the Missoulian "sponsored" their article "Vote for most apt mayor of Missoula." While it could be argued the article is balanced and focused on asking if Missoulians like the direction their city is headed, the accompanying Facebook post is focused on praising one of the candidates and reads:
"Looking back over John Engen's three terms as mayor, there are abundant examples of the many ways he has kept the city heading in the right direction."
The complaint claims this is a contribution to Engen's campaign and that this is contrary to Montana Code Annotated 13-35-227, which says that " A corporation or union may not make a contribution to a candidate directly or through an intermediary."
The issue isn't particularly clear-cut one way or the other and Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan says he hopes to have an advisory opinion on the subject out by the end of the week.
The other issue covered in the complaint deals with Engen's campaign headquarters and alleges that while the Engen Campaign may be claiming rents of $300 per month, the actual fair market value of the property at 104 South Fourth Street West, Suite 3 is actually more than five times that. The complaint uses a rent "zestimate" from Zillow to make the case. The rent claims by the Engen campaign are also in the complaint and are made out to Zillastate RE, though the corporation involved is cited as "H O Bell Condominium Association."
The complaint was filed by Missoula attorney Quentin Rhoades.
Political Practices Commissioner Mangan verified that he had received the complaint and said he was in the process of notifying all of the parties involved.