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Fund-raising e-mails probed by department

June 15, 2002 

Ranf cited that investigation in declining to comment on whether she considered the e-mails to be an improper use of a government resource.

The AP's review found one letter signed by Martz that invited supporters to a Palm Springs GOP fund-raiser. The letter was contained in an e-mail that Shane Hedges sent in November - almost three months after he resigned, and while he was serving a sentence of six months in a Helena prerelease center for his role in an auto accident that killed House Majority Leader Paul Sliter - to Mike Foster, Martz's new policy director. Five days later, Foster forwarded the message to Betti Hill, the governor's special projects director at the time.

Hill was organizing the fund-raising event for the Montana Majority Fund from her Capitol office. State law prohibits public employees from using public time or property for any political purpose.

Hill resigned from the governor's staff March 8, the same day Martz resigned as honorary chairwoman of the Montana Majority Fund.

The review also showed that Hill used the state e-mail system to arrange plane transportation to the fund-raiser for Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and to send the schedule of events for the four-day gathering.

Hill also used state e-mail to send Hedges and the treasurer of Martz's campaign for governor financial reports of the 2000 campaign, the 2004 re-election campaign, the Majority Fund and a fourth political account called the "constituency fund."

In that message, Hill expressed reservations about using her state e-mail, saying, "I never use the state e-mail for this work, but I can't get onto AOL, so I'll use this today." AOL, or America On Line, was a reference to her personal e-mail provider.

Hill earlier acknowledged that she made calls on behalf of the Montana Majority Fund from her telephone in the governor's office. She said, however, that the calls were at the direction of Hedges and that she believed at the time they were proper.

She has since declined to discuss the issue further and did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on the e-mails.

Copyright © 2002 Associated Press.

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