By Matt B. Walen
Candidates in the many Montana political races generally follow the rules, according to the commissioner of Political Practices.
Linda Vaughey, a former Havre resident, told the North Central Pachyderm Club Friday that her office receives calls questioning campaign sign placement or advertising slamming opponents.
Candidates generally want to do the right thing, Vaughey told the crowd at 15 West. We tell them they cant influence the outcome of an election without playing by the same rules.
Were here to assist the candidates.
Vaughey, who was appointed as the Political Practices commissioner Jan. 1 by Gov. Marc Racicot, said her responsibilities as political practices commissioner include monitoring and enforcing, in a fair and impartial manner, campaign practices and campaign finance disclosure, lobbying disclosure, business interest disclosure of statewide and state district candidates, elected state officials and state department directors, ethical standards of conduct for legislators, public officers and state employees, and to investigate legitimate complaints if any.
Full disclosure has to be the focus in her office because the voter has the right to know where the candidates are receiving funding, Vaughey said. Eventually, the material will be available online as soon as it is registered with her office, she said.
One of the difficulties in the job is the amount of paperwork and records the office is required to keep, Vaughey said. There are four workers in the office and the amount of paperwork for each candidate or lobbying effort must be kept, she said.
I was amazed by the shear volume of election documents, she said.
But one of her specialties is organization, Vaughey said. She said she was required to appear before the Montana Legislature a couple of days after taking office and immediately began reorganizing the paperwork in the office.
Vaughey said she jumped right in once she was appointed and is glad for the chance to experience the rigors of the job before the big election year coming in 2000 when there will be many state offices up for grab.
Ive spent the last six months in office getting prepared for this onslaught, she said. I see lots and lots of phone calls in the future from candidates seeking information about what needs to be done when running for office.
Prior to her appointment as commissioner, Vaughey was appointed in March 1998 by Racicot as a member of the state Tax Appeal Board. She helped hear property tax appeals from decisions of county tax appeal boards and appeals from decisions of the department of revenue in regard to business licenses, property assessments, income taxes and penalties.
While in Havre, Vaughey served on many local boards and organizations including the Havre Schools Board of Trustees, board of directors of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce. She was a member of the state Board of Education, the board of directors of the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory, Portland, Ore., and served as a consultant for on-site school board training for six years.
Vaughey earned a bachelor of science degree in education from Northern Montana College in 1991 and was co-owner with her late husband, Bill, of an oil and gas exploration business.