Montana’s Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale and Democratic former state legislator Kathleen Williams meet tonight in their first debate for the Treasure State’s sole House seat. The moderators should ask Williams about her suspicious use of campaign funds, despite her many statements denouncing the very behavior in which she seems to be engaging.
Williams presents herself as a paragon of personal virtue and fiduciary probity.
‘Reforming our broken campaign finance system will be a top priority for her in Congress,’ her campaign website declares. ‘She leads by example and never forgets who she’ll work for — you.’
What’s important, she explained in an interview on her Facebook page, is ‘who we elect, and it’s getting the right people to run who care about being a public servant and not lining their pockets.’
Williams also has specified that contributions to her effort would be devoted strictly to fighting until the last ballot is cast. As she said in a Facebook video appeal: ‘Every dollar donated goes right back to the campaign, to make sure we have the strength to win this November.’
But Federal Election Commission records suggest that Williams falls short of her own sky-high standards.
Williams has taken donors’ money and channeled it somewhere other than ‘right back to the campaign’, — namely her personal bank account. Specifically, Kathleen Williams for Montana handed Kathleen Williams six salary payments between April 3 and June 19, 2020. These transfers total at least $7,742.30. Additional disbursements, if they exist, will remain unknown until the Federal Election Commission releases its next tranche of disclosures on October 15.
FEC rules permit a candidate to pay herself a salary. But even before this, it seems Williams was using donors’ checks for personal purposes before the filing deadline for this 2020 race. By jumping the gun, it appears Williams violated federal rules. As the FEC states: ‘The first payment of salary shall be made no sooner than the filing deadline for access to the primary election ballot in the state in which the candidate is running for office.’ Montana’s Secretary of State designated March 9, 2020 as this year’s ‘deadline for candidates to file for office.’
However, Williams’s campaign sent her nine fortnightly salary payments (five at $1,099.72 each and four at $1,099.73 each) between April 19, 2019 and August 20, 2019. The most-recent such outlay reached Williams more than six months before it could do so within the rules.
Even earlier, Williams took a paycheck, backed by campaign-donor funds, after Greg Gianforte defeated her in their 2018 run for the same statewide US House seat. This, too, seems verboten. According to the FEC, such payments must stop after Election Day — in this instance, November 6, 2018. These expenditures only are permitted ‘until the date of the general election or general election runoff.’
But a payment of $1,098.73 was made 13 days later on November 19, 2018, from Kathleen Williams for Montana to Kathleen Williams.
On September 30, 2019 the Democrat congressional hopeful took $12,150.00 and poured that sum back into her campaign war chest. This covered the nine improper paychecks from 2019 and the one from November 2018. Taxes included.
The Williams campaign had not responded to multiple requests for comment at the time of publication.
These details and documents should be among the topics that Kathleen Williams and Matt Rosendale debate tonight at 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time, live from Missoula, on Montana Public Broadcasting.
Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributing editor with National Review Online and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.