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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Senate Committee Declines Political Watchdog Motl's Confirmation

Jonathan Motl, Montana Commissioner of Political Practices.

 The State Administration Committee heard much praise, but also much criticism, of Jonathan Motl, whom Governor Steve Bullock appointed as Commissioner of Political Practices in 2013.

The criticism came mainly from Republicans who gotten into trouble with Motl, including Republican Representative Art Wittich.

“You should not confirm Jon Motl," Wittich told the committee. "He’ll bring further shame to this office and to justice itself. Instead make the governor appoint an objective commissioner, someone with a clear history of unbiased and appropriate conduct."

Wittich faces a court trial next year on charges brought by Motl’s office. He could be removed from office if he’s found guilty.

 State Republican Party Director Chris Schipp asked lawmakers to force Motl out, so someone impartial can get the job instead.

“It should be a position that’s held by somebody that does not have a political axe to grind, or a vindictive attitude towards past political enemies," Schipp said.

The committee voted along straight party lines to table Motl’s nomination. For his part Motl said he expected the hearing to turn out this way, even though he believes he’s been even-handed.

“I’ve never been active in a political party, I’ve never run for political office. And the decisions I’ve made, if you look at them objectively, don’t show any bias toward one political party," Motl said.

The full Senate can “blast” the nomination to the floor if it wants. But as it stands now Motl’s out of a job when the legislature adjourns, which could happen at the end of this week.

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