Matt Rosendale

In this file photo, Securities Commissioner Matt Rosendale appears at the Masonic Lodge in downtown Bozeman on April 25 as part of the statewide Invest in Montana tour.

State Auditor Matt Rosendale said he was doing his job by touring 19 towns and educating people on what his office does, in response to an attack by fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidate Russell Fagg who said the tour seemed “swamp-like.”

Rosendale concluded his Invest in Montana tour in Bozeman at an event in downtown Wednesday that brought out about 25 people.

The tour was meant to encourage business investment and highlight opportunities throughout the state like grants and loans available to people wanting to start a business or invest money in businesses, according to Rosendale’s office. Discussions included guiding Montanans through state laws about receiving money from investors, becoming an investor and exemptions people may be eligible for like crowd funding, among others, the office said.

But the tour was made contentious when Fagg criticized Rosendale at a Tuesday night Republican Senate debate in Billings. Fagg said the tour looked like Rosendale was campaigning on public dollars.

“You talk about reducing spending, and yet you’re in the middle of a 19-city tour using the state slush funds,” Fagg told a crowd in Billings on Tuesday, referring to Rosendale. “I just find it unconscionable during a campaign.”

Rosendale said there was nothing to defend about it, and that his office is mandated by state law to encourage, support and facilitate capital formation in Montana. He said the tour was using money from the investor protection trust fund, which could be used to educate people on the auditor’s office.

“If I wasn’t doing these types of things, then I would just be condemned for not doing my job,” Rosendale said. “I’m trying to do my job and I’m being condemned.”

The discussions he’s had with people who have attended the stops have been exclusively about the auditor’s office and the functions of the office, he said.

Rosendale said that five people have reached out to the office to follow up and learn more about some of the different exemptions to raise money for their companies. It’s a good thing to generate that type of economic activity and additional jobs in Montana, he said.

Rosendale is vying for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018 along with Big Sky businessman Troy Downing, state Sen. Albert Olszewski of Kalispell and Fagg, a former Billings judge.

Freddy Monares can be reached at 406-582-2630, or by email at fmonares@dailychronicle.com.

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