Public Service Commission Chair, James Brown, announced that he is running for State Auditor in the 2024 election cycle.  Last cycle he ran unsuccessfully for the Supreme Court in one of the sleaziest campaigns in recent memory.  In that race, Brown was dogged by allegations that he repeatedly violated the rules prohibiting partisan endorsements in judicial races.

The court race was not the first time Brown played fast and loose with campaign law.  When he ran for PSC in 2020, there were questions raised about his claiming residence in Dillon. Specifically,  Brown owned a home and operated a law practice in Helena, which is outside his PSC district. But in his candidate filing, he used a Dillon post office box. In Brown’s candidate filing, he lists a Dillon post office box as his mailing address. In his corporate filing for his law practice, he wrote that his home address was in Helena. He argued that he lived in a house in Dillon with his cousin.  But when asked how much time he spent in Dillon by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, he refused to answer, saying it was not “relevant.”

After winning election to the PSC and being chosen as PSC chair, Brown was caught up in a scandal regarding audit exceptions found at the PSC by legislative auditors. While the allegations in the audit report occurred before Brown was on the commission, he was called to legislative committee hearings to respond to questions from legislators about what was going on at the PSC. He initially refused to provide the name of a fellow commissioner who had booked a $1,400 first class plane ticket to Washington DC. He later identified the commissioner, former chairman Brad Johnson.  (Johnson is currently running for US Senate.)

In addition to Brown’s adventures in the electoral arena, he has a long history of activity in the world of dark money in politics.  He was the attorney for a group called the Western Tradition Partnership.  The activities of this group came to light when a box of documents were found in a meth house in Colorado, which detailed a laundry list of political dirty tricks in Montana and was the subject for a PBS documentary titled Dark Money. Brown also served as the lawyer for the Montana Republican Party from 2009 to 2015. (

For those who think these kinds of things are just politics as usual consider this. Brown was the chair of the Public Service Commission when it approved a 28% rate increase for consumers, siding with NorthWestern Energy over numerous public interest organizations. He now wants the State Auditor’s job regulating the insurance industry in Montana.  Elections really do matter.