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Election 2020 Governors Woes

In this Sept. 12, 2019, photo, Democratic presidential candidate Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks during a meet and greet in Clive, Iowa. With governors struggling under new party rules, Bullock is the last governor standing in the crowded Democratic presidential field.

Under an agreement reached earlier this year, the presidential campaign of Gov. Steve Bullock has reimbursed the Montana Highway Patrol for at least $2,500 in expenses related to accompanying the governor on campaign trips as he makes a bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

A reimbursement of $1,685.30 was reported on Bullock's third quarter campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission last month.

The state Department of Justice, which oversees the Highway Patrol, said last week that covered July expenses that the patrol invoiced Sept. 3. Finance records show the reimbursement was paid by the campaign Sept. 6.

The security detail's travel with Bullock had been a source of dispute between Bullock and several Republicans in Montana, who said he was abusing state resources.

MHP billed the campaign for $114 in meals, $63.30 in cab fares and $1,508 for the cost of flights, according to the DOJ. In July, Bullock spent eight days campaigning in Iowa, as well as a day in Washington, D.C., and another in New York City, according to records kept by Lee Newspapers.

On Sept. 25, MHP sent the campaign an invoice for August expenses of $804.48, which included $720 in meals and $84.48 in Uber charges. Bullock spent at least 15 days out of state on campaign travel in August, according to records. The DOJ said that invoice was paid Oct. 8.

A spokesman for the DOJ said last week the campaign has also been paying for some expenses up front, so MHP has not invoiced the campaign for those costs. That could include airfare, rental cars, lodging and meals. Bullock's campaign did not respond to emails seeing further information about MHP expenses it has paid.

More detailed information was not available about MHP's travel with Bullock. The DOJ spokesman said the patrol does not release information that could be used to establish travel patterns for the governor or his security detail.

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On May 31, Montana Public Radio reported that Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, a 2020 candidate for governor, sent Bullock, who is termed out from running for reelection, an email telling him the protection detail would stop traveling with him on the campaign trail. By July 2, however, the attorney general and governor reached an agreement where the campaign would reimburse the cost for the security detail to travel with the governor to campaign at out-of-state events.

On July 15, the Montana Republican State Central Committee filed a complaint, which was rejected, with the state Commissioner of Political Practices claiming that the governor used state resources during his campaign for president.

Bullock moved to have the complaint dismissed, saying the protection detail made its own decisions about when its officers were used. A memorandum of understanding authorizing the security detail also notes the governor must have security "regardless of his physical location or the nature of his activities ... including ... during times that he is engaged with political activities."

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