Montana GOP Senate candidate’s office dropped fines against donor: report

The office of Montana state auditor Matt Rosendale, who’s running for the Senate in November, dismissed fines and dropped sanctions against a donor to his political campaigns, according to a report from the Montana Free Press.

Rosendale’s office dropped the fines and dismissed two of three allegations against Friedell LLC, a bail bond company, a day after the Senate candidate had met representatives of the company in 2017, the newspaper reported.

Kris Hansen, chief legal counsel for the state auditor’s office, which is also known as the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance, told the Montana Free Press she had made the decision to end the longstanding legal action against the company. 

Hansen said she was not aware that family members and employees of Friedell LLC had given Rosendale nearly $13,000 in 2016 in his bid for state auditor and his 2014 campaign for Congress for the purpose of “debt retirement.”

All the contributions were made while the company was facing legal action from the State Auditor’s Office. 

“It was an extremely old and extremely contentious case that needed to end,” Hansen told the Montana Free Press in explaining why she decided to drop the case against Friedell.

“I didn’t know anything about the campaign contributions until recently,” she added.

The Rosendale campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Rosendale declined to comment despite repeated requests, according to the Montana Free Press. 

{mosads} Hansen said she had been asked by Rosendale to attend the meeting with Richard Friedel and his attorney, who were there to represent Friedell LLC.

“Matt [Rosendale] asked me to go to the meeting with him. I think he was concerned about what Friedel was going to ask,” Hansen said of the meeting, according to the newspaper.

Hansen added Friedel and his lawyer told them during the meeting they felt the agency had been “heavy-handed with him” and requested a “re-review of his case outside of the standard procedures.”

“I was very glad I was at the meeting. I wouldn’t let Matt speak, and I ended the meeting quickly when I realized what we were there for,” Hansen told the Montana Free Press.

Hansen also informed Friedel and his lawyer that “we needed to work the case through the standard channels.”

The case against Friedell LLC stemmed from allegations the company violated Montana state law with its interest rate charges on its bond, recovery fees charged in association with it and whether the company was properly registered with state regulators. 

Hansen said she held a review of the Friedell case and determined it wasn’t worth it for the agency to continue litigating the case, believing the agency did not have a strong enough case to win in court.  

Rosendale is running to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), one of 10 Democratic senators running for reelection in states Trump won in 2016. The Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Democratic.”

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