Triepke, candidate for mayor, says campaign complaint is a political smear

Missoula mayoral candidate Lisa Triepke.

The candidate looking to unseat Missoula’s longtime mayor on Thursday labeled a campaign finance complaint filed against her with the state as political ploy intended to smear her election bid.

Lisa Triepke, who’s challenging incumbent Mayor John Engen, said her campaign has and will continue to run a transparent race.

“It seems like a political move for the news outlets to know and/or report on something prior to us receiving any notice from the Commissioner of Political Practices,” Triepke said. “My guess is the complaint was leaked to the media by the person who filed it since we had no knowledge of it.”

The complaint was filed with the state on Wednesday by Rep. Ellie Hill, a prominent Missoula Democrat who helped craft the Montana Disclose Act in 2015.

Hill believes that Triepke’s campaign is hiding more than $10,000 in “pass-through” expenditures made to Spiker Communications, a conservative-leaning advertising firm in Missoula.

An earlier campaign finance report filed by Triepke identified a $10,923 expenditure to Spiker, labeling it as an “advertising” expense. However, Hill and others contend that Spiker is playing a larger role in Triepke’s campaign.

Triepke denied that allegation.

“Spiker Communications is helping us with media placement, coordination and marketing materials,” Triepke said. “We will and have always done our best to be transparent.”

Triepke said she didn’t know about Hill’s complaint until after the close of business on Wednesday when she was called by the media. She still hadn’t received notice on Thursday morning when the calls continued.

Triepke labeled Hill as an “Engen contributor” who was attempting to undermine her campaign.

“We have been checking diligently to find any information on it (the complaint) and could not find anything online or otherwise,” Triepke said. “Around 10:30 this morning, we were notified by the Commissioner of Political Practices that there was, in fact, a complaint filed.”

Among other things, the complaint alleges that Triepke has failed to detail expenditures related to Spiker Communications, and has not disclosed the designer and printer behind her yard signs.

The complaint also suggests that Triepke had not filed the correct documents with the state for checks she has received over $100.

“I have observed numerous fundraisers for the Triepke campaign based on her pictures on social media, however, she omits all traditional campaign expenditures related to such fundraisers,” Hill states in her complaint. “Accurate campaign finance accounting is the responsibility of every candidate in Montana and it should certainly be a necessary requirement for a candidate for mayor.”

Triepke said Thursday that her campaign has held fundraisers and reported them.

“We have had a small number of fundraisers – and have reported all contributions and most of the expenses,” Triepke said. “We are still waiting on a small number of receipts and will submit those as soon as we have them.”