- Associated Press - Thursday, June 29, 2017

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s re-election campaign violated state law by failing to make timely reports on expenses stemming from his use of a state aircraft, the state’s chief political watchdog reported Thursday.

Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan said he was forwarding a report to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for possible prosecution, but said litigation is unlikely.

Mangan told The Associated Press that he and the governor’s campaign committee, Friends of Steve Bullock, were working toward a financial settlement.

“We expect to settle this with the campaign fairly quickly,” Mangan said.

Bullock’s spokeswoman, Ronja Abel, called the late reports a “paperwork error” but said the committee would pay whatever the commissioner deemed an appropriate fine.

The matter became a line of attack by Republicans trying to stymie the governor’s re-election. Bullock, a Democrat, defeated Republican Greg Gianforte, who this year won a special election for Montana’s lone congressional seat.

Bullock eventually reimbursed the state more than $7,000 for campaign related trips, his office said. However, on nine occasions the expenses were reported after relevant deadlines, Mangan said.

Mangan said the governor “correctly subjected his campaign to a reimbursement policy” but did so after coming under fire by Republicans who asserted he was misusing government property for political purposes.

Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton filed the complaint against the governor in October.

Previous governors have used the plane as part of their electioneering but insist that those trips are secondary to previously scheduled official business.

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