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As Governor, Bullock Paid Women Less Than Men

The Montana governor previously took an 'equal pay pledge'

Montana governor Steve Bullock / Getty Images
• August 21, 2020 5:00 am

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Montana Democratic governor Steve Bullock has paid female staffers less than their male counterparts during the entirety of his tenure, a Washington Free Beacon analysis shows.

Bullock—who in 2016 urged Montana businesses to put their "commitment to closing the pay gap on display" by signing an "equal pay Montana" pledge—has never achieved gender pay equity since taking office in 2013. Women working in Bullock's office have earned an average hourly rate of $28.71, just 84 percent of the $34.03 average paid to men, state wage disclosures show.

Bullock, a 2020 Senate contender, has long portrayed himself as an ally in the "fight for fair pay." The Democrat launched an equal pay task force in 2013, calling the gender wage gap "absolutely unacceptable." The issue has also bled into his bid to unseat Republican senator Steve Daines. In a June tweet from his campaign account, Bullock stressed the need to "support our local workforce by advocating for equal pay" as businesses began reopening in the state.

Bullock's state executive office, however, did not meet his own standard. The Democrat paid women 81 cents for every dollar men earned in his first year as governor, according to Montana employee pay data. Bullock came closest to achieving pay equity in 2016, when female staffers earned 87 percent of the wages paid to their male counterparts. By 2018, women were paid just 78 cents on the dollar.

Bullock's office told the Free Beacon the state's employee pay data do not account for "different job positions" and "differences in experiences or length of service in state government," adding that the governor has "honored equal pay for equal work." But Bullock has routinely recognized gender pay stats that do not account for such factors. According to a 2018 fact sheet issued by Bullock's task force, the state uses data from the U.S. Census to determine its wage gap by comparing male and female median wages. Such data do not account for "differences in experiences or length of service."

Bullock's pay gap is not the first stain on his record with women. Former senior aide Kevin O'Brien, who worked under Bullock at the Democratic Governors Association in 2015, left the job after an internal investigation found he was credibly accused of sexual harassment. Bullock kept the allegation secret, and O'Brien went on to serve as acting chief of staff under New York City mayor Bill de Blasio (D.) in 2017. O'Brien resigned a year later after investigators confirmed multiple sexual harassment allegations levied against him.

Bullock's office confirmed that it did not warn de Blasio of O'Brien's misconduct, saying the governor "expected that having been held accountable for his actions, Kevin would not repeat this behavior."

In addition, Bullock on Monday was accused of groping a former George Washington University freshman at a Democratic governors' event. In a video posted to TikTok, the student said Bullock "grabbed [her] butt" while taking a photo, adding that she informed her date of the encounter. Bullock's campaign denied the charge, calling it "disgraceful for Republicans to try and use this as a political attack." The student did not respond to a request for comment from the Free Beacon.

Bullock also had a public falling out with former lieutenant governor Angela McLean, who abruptly resigned in November 2015, less than two years after Bullock appointed her. While Bullock claimed he did not force the resignation, saying McLean simply "wasn't that good a fit," internal emails released by his administration contradict the explanation.

In a May 2015 email sent to Bullock, McLean noted that the governor's chief of staff "confirmed for me this morning that you are indeed considering a different running mate." McLean attributed the decision to a contentious private conversation she had with Bullock months earlier.

"From what I understand, this goes back to our conversation in December," McLean wrote. "I guess I am learning ambition is a funny thing and realizing the full consequences of standing up for what you believe is right."