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A right-wing candidate for Supreme Court appears to be blatantly disregarding the Judicial Code of Conduct by having a sitting judge solicit donations on her behalf.
Judge Nels Swandal sent out a mailing on his judicial letterhead soliciting campaign contributions for Laurie McKinnon, a hard right district judge running for Montana Supreme Court. This looks like a clear violation of the Judicial Code of Conduct, which states that sitting judges are prohibited from soliciting funds for a judicial candidate or collecting money on their behalf.
Here’s what Swandal writes (click to enlarge, or view the whole letter here):
The entire Swandal letter (Page 1 and 2) and the exact language of the Judicial Code of Conduct (Page 3) can be viewed here.
Swandal is no stranger to shady dealings with right-wingers. He’s the guy who had to recuse himself from the Rehberg/Barkus DUI boating trial in which one of Rehberg’s staff suffered a severe head injury after neither Congressman Rehberg nor former state Senator Greg Barkus bothered to designate a sober driver. Swandal had to recuse himself because he had a record of supporting Barkus and other Republicans. He even hired Rehberg’s former chief of staff after the brain injury to run his campaign against Beth Baker for Supreme Court. Swandal lost but remains a district judge in Livingston.
The other candidates in the non-partisan race include veteran Beth Best, of Great Falls and Ed Sheehy, of Missoula, though Sheehy does not appear to be raising money.
It’s hard to get information about judicial races, especially on the district judge level, but folks around the state will be interested in the race for Judicial District one, which covers Lewis and Clark and Broadwater counties, because this is the first court in Montana where constitutional issues are often heard.
Take, for example, Associated Press v. Senate Republican Caucus: Jim represented 26 newspapers and other media groups to argue that legislative caucuses must be open to the public; he won, promoting transparency in Montana’s government.
Without this, we would have never seen the true colors of Mike Lange, the crazed Republican who went on a profanity laced tirade in a GOP legislative caucus meeting.
In an election year where Montana’s Congressman claims Facebook and Twitter are more reliable than the press because they don’t “filter” his message, and the Abercrombie and Fitch bedbug outbreak is rocketing through the wardrobes of Republican staffers forcing them to do more work from home ‘au naturale’, the messages right-wing candidates and aides send out on social media is coming through loud and clear.
And now, quick peek at the Facebook page of a certain non-partisan judicial candidate finds him the happy fan of a plethora of Republican candidates, far-right causes, and prominent Republican-favoring PACs. If Nels Swandal isn’t a loyal Republican, he’s certainly fooled the Montana GOP.
In his wink-and-a-nod attempt to show party identification, Swandal is aligning himself with partisan organizations and candidates because he wants them to know that if they help him win they can expect his election to pay off dividends down the road. And if he’s elected, it will.