Campaign finance: Man fined $100 for Missoula school election 'reward'

2013-12-18T06:15:00Z 2014-08-04T19:10:02Z Campaign finance: Man fined $100 for Missoula school election 'reward' missoulian.com

The Montana commissioner of political practices has found Missoula businessman John Suprock in violation of the state’s campaign finance and practices laws and rules – and fined him $100.

A settlement was reached last week in a case set in motion nine months ago by Scott Bixler, a former Missoula County Public Schools board member.

The matter concerns a newspaper advertisement Suprock paid for in March that offered a campaign contribution of up to $10,000, which he called a “reward,” to candidates interested in unseating four MCPS trustees he identified by name and who were up for re-election, including Bixler.

Outraged that someone would try to “buy” the election, Bixler alerted the commissioner’s office.

The commissioner responded by contacting Suprock, who then changed the wording for successive ads that ran during the election.

Bixler took the next step and filed a formal complaint with the commissioner of political practices, focusing on the original ad’s lack of full “paid for by” disclosure.

In the end, Commissioner Jonathan Motl agreed with Bixler’s complaint and found Suprock in violation of Montana Code Annotated 13-35-225, wherein election materials may not to be anonymous.

“This ends the matter for the people of Montana,” Motl said on Tuesday. “Mr. Suprock admitted he did wrong and is paying a fine and owes society a debt for what happened.”

Suprock’s debt is a civil fine of $100 paid by check to the commissioner’s office.

“The lesson is that in the future, people should not engage in this type of activity,” Motl said.

***

Of the many complaints that come before him, Motl said the case of Bixler v. Suprock was unique.

In his complaint, Bixler protested that Suprock was in violation of the nominations statute, in which “a person may not pay or promise valuable consideration to another, in any manner or form, for the purpose of inducing the other person to be or to refrain from or to cease being a candidate, and a person my not solicit or receive any payment or promise from another for that purpose.”

Although there was not enough evidence to find Suprock violated the statue, Motl said, “nevertheless, it warranted a good look.”

“There was social good that came out of the complaint filed by Mr. Bixler,” Motl said. “We owe Mr. Bixler a debt of gratitude for filing the complaint and a debt of gratitude to Mr. Suprock who was open and honest enough to admit his mistake and pay his social debt.”

Bixler said he is pleased his complaint was settled.

“I’m really happy,” Bixler said. “Mr. Suprock took responsibility for his actions.”

Although $100 is not a large fine, Bixler said the settlement addresses a much larger issue.

“The size of the fine doesn’t really matter – it’s the principle of the thing,” he said. “Campaign finance law is to preserve and protect the soul of democracy.

“The laws are there to keep people who aren’t willing to serve the public, who are not willing to be a candidate but who have a lot of money to spend from subverting the democratic process by using their money.”

When reached for comment by email, Suprock did not have a lot to say about the settlement.

Suprock implied that he wasn’t through getting involved with elections or local issues, and was interested in MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle and Missoula Mayor John Engen.

Suprock wrote: “I guess my quote would be I’m looking at Alex or Engen next.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. Amabo
    Report Abuse
    Amabo - December 18, 2013 9:14 am
    Just to balance out your comment, I support BOTH of these wise, intelligent public servants!
  2. nemo
    Report Abuse
    nemo - December 18, 2013 8:08 am
    “The lesson is that in the future, people should not engage in this type of activity,” Motl said. I daresay you shall be proven wrong Mr. Motl. Your condescension is most sickening.
  3. Kojack
    Report Abuse
    Kojack - December 18, 2013 7:21 am
    John I would gladly contribute to the removal of Engen and Taft. If someone is doing such a good job in office then they really have nothing to fear, right?
Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Dave Erickson presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in abou…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Dave Erickson presents the latest news you need to know about today's he…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

All about the bees-knees

All about the bees-knees

Jeff the Nature Guy shares some cool facts about honey bees.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Dave Erickson presents the latest news you need to know about today's he…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

loading...

Search our events calendar