Missoula Man Says He Will Not Pay to Settle Facebook Page Political Practices Complaint
It’s been weeks since a Political Practices complaint was filed against a Missoula man for posting anonymous criticisms of Mayor John Engen on Facebook and then paying Facebook to boost the posts. Tyler Thiesen claims he was the man behind the Community Facebook Page “Vent Missoula” and says he now feels that the weight of the State Democratic Party has fallen on him and his family.
“We’re just regular people here in town and we’ve had, honestly, it feels like the weight of the Democratic community at a state level just steam roll over us,” Thiesen said. “If I had to stand up and say, here’s my name, here’s where I live, here’s my address, I probably would have thought twice about criticizing John Engen. For a mayoral election, in a town of 100,000 people, comments made by me, just a 27-year-old guy at home, well, that turned into a state-level representative, Bryce Bennett, filing a complaint, a state agency, the COPP with multiple investigators conducting an almost three week long investigation, and the Missoula Independent, with multiple reporters, coming after my wife and I, my family.”
Thiesen claims a reporter from the Independent even followed his wife and posted images of their vehicle on Instagram.
With a decision from Comissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan looming, Theisen says he has been told by attorneys to expect a settlement offer possibly requiring him to come up with thousands of dollars, an offer he says he won’t take.
“I think I would rather pay more and make COPP basically pry it out of my cold, dead hands after a few years of district court cases,” Thiesen said. “At this point, I’ve been through too much to just pay them a couple thousand dollars to make it go away. I mean, if they want it, they can keep coming after me, I’ll make day-trips up to Helena if need be.”
The issue of free speech and anonymity are a persistent political issue in Montana because of the 2015 DISCLOSE Act, which supporters like Governor Steve Bullock celebrated as an effort to ”lessen the corrupting influence of money in politics.”