HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced Friday he has picked Jennifer Hensley of Butte over other candidates sent to him by the Legislature to serve as the state’s arbiter of campaign and ethics complaints.
Hensley is the wife of state Sen. Steve Gallus, a Butte Democrat. She replaces current Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth, whose six-year term expires at the end of the year.
Hensley told Schweitzer during an interview earlier this week that her marriage won’t cause a conflict because the term-limited Gallus won’t run for office as long as she holds the post.
“That is why I asked specifically about her spouse,” Schweitzer said. “She made it very clear he was not going to run for office while she was in this position.”
Hensley also assured the governor during the interview that she plans to serve out the full term.
Hensley was one of four names the Legislature sent to the governor. Others were former Republican secretary of state Brad Johnson; a retired corporate lawyer whose law license was suspended during a contentious divorce proceeding; and a law school student graduating this month.
Schweitzer said Hensley showed a strong understanding of the campaign rules, experience gained after working on several political and initiative campaigns herself. She has also been a field representative for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
Schweitzer was not restricted to the suggestions made by a bipartisan group of four legislative leaders, each of whom nominated one name for the governor to consider. Hensley was recommended by outgoing House Speaker Bob Bergren, a Havre Democrat.
Schweitzer said he thought it a good idea to have the Legislature involved in the process.
The governor said he agreed with Hensley that a backlog of complaints at the commissioner of political practice office should be reduced.
“You just can’t have claims sit unresolved for months and years at a time,” Schweitzer said.
The governor said he also thinks it should be easier for people to access campaign finance information submitted by candidates.
Hensley, who faces Senate confirmation, would serve one six-year term and be paid a salary of $57,689.
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