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The Morrison affair

So we finally get Morrison’s response to the Independent article.

At first glance it isn’t bad. When the story broke I had two questions: what else could Morrison have done and can we trust the anonymous sources? The second question is obviously not something that can be answered by Morrison, but the first one is. Here’s what the response says:

The State Auditor’s office in fact didn’t “back off.” The case was settled. In addition, the Auditor’s office doesn’t have the jurisdiction to actually charge Tacke so someone else HAD to do it. They focused on trying to get investors money back and to clean up the securities violations. Their office also referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney early in the investigation and they provided all the information for the criminal charges.

The Montana State Auditor’s office only has administrative authority, and if they want to prosecute criminally, they refer the matter to a criminal prosecutor.

At the administrative level, the auditor’s office can fine Tacke, seek restitution, and issue a cease and desist order, which is exactly what they did.

They never allowed Tacke to continue to operate. Nor did they allow him to raise any additional capital until he complied with the agreement.

It looks to me like they did a lot of what they could do. However, Morrison’s office didn’t seek restitution, did it? Considering they referred the case to federal authorities, I’m not too troubled by that, at least at first glance.

The odd part is something that Matt mentioned in his post, that there was a 1985 Cease and Desist order against Tacke. Issuing another one seems silly when they could simply have referred him for prosecution. That’s certainly a deficiency in their handling of the case. The claim that “[f]undamentally, that occured through the federal prosecution” is nonsense.

The question of whether Morrison acted ethically regarding his involvement in the case is still up in the air. The Independent claims multiply anonymous sources contradicting Morrison. Anonymous or not, that’s a strike against him. Another strike is his apparent failure to disclose the conflict to the commissioner of political practices. That charge is ignored in the response, which is telling.

All in all, I’m more satisfied that Morrison’s office handled the case appropriately but it still looks like Morrison failed to act properly given his conflict of interest. I think that’s the bigger issue in the Senate race, what with Burns’s ethical weaknesses.

Categories: Montana
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