Political strategist arrested on stalking charges

WHITEFISH, Mont. — A Republican political strategist was arrested in Whitefish last weekend on charges that he stalked and harassed a Flathead County resident he had accused of sexual abuse, according to court documents.

Whitefish police arrested Dan Duffey on Feb. 3. He was charged with one misdemeanor count and one felony count of stalking and is being held in county jail on a $50,000 bond.

The arrest was first reported by the Daily Inter Lake Wednesday. The Inter Lake’s story did not note that Duffey was the political director for part of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s 2020 campaign, or that he is still active in Montana politics. Just days before his arrest, he was quoted by Lee newspapers’ Montana State News Bureau as an officer of Montana Policy Action, a 501(c)4 dark money group that purchased $182,000 in television ads criticizing Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale ahead of his expected run for U.S. Senate.

Neither Duffey nor his attorney could be reached for comment by publication time. Montana Policy Action is registered to GOP political consultant Jake Eaton, according to federal tax records. Eaton told Montana Free Press Wednesday that Duffey is no longer with the group as of his arrest.

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According to court documents, a Whitefish couple came to the police on Jan. 21 to report harassment by Duffey. The husband, who is referred to as “SS” in the affidavit supporting the charges against Duffey, told police that he and Duffey had met at a football game in Missoula in November and hung out later that night, connecting over a shared interest in rugby. A few weeks later, Duffey texted the man asking to get a beer. The man did not respond. Duffey then allegedly sent the man a message accusing him of having been “all over” Duffey and forcing Duffey to touch his penis.

The man told police that nothing of the sort had occurred.

“He indicated that Duffey texted [him] for a few weeks and would apologize for the allegations but then would blow up because SS was not responding,” court documents read. “[He] stated Duffey would send messages saying ‘f–k you, I’m gonna take this public, I’m going to ruin your life.’”

Court documents state that in subsequent weeks Duffey attempted to contact the man’s family via text and social media, sent anonymous emails to the man’s rugby team and local businesses that sponsor the team accusing him of sexual assault, and contacted the man’s employer with a similar claim, which indicated that Duffey had not contacted law enforcement about his claims against the man, according to court documents.

In one incident, the man’s now-wife told police that Duffey had sent a letter to her mother claiming the man had committed sexual assault and included “pictures of [Duffey’s] military service and pictures with well-known politicians,” court documents say.

Duffey allegedly also found the website for the couple’s wedding, submitted false RSVPs for guests and included “disturbing messages,” including: “I would not go to this wedding if I were you. The groom sexually assaults men, and he’s going to be disbarred for an ethics violation.”

Court records show that Duffey then began distributing flyers featuring his claims against the man at businesses in Flathead County, in residential areas, and at the lodge where the man and his partner were scheduled to be married.

On Feb. 3, the man’s now-wife told police she received a text from an unknown number that stated, “it should be pretty obvious by now, that this isn’t gonna end tonight when you get married, this goes on for years until I see [the man] either behind bars or paying me so much money, you’ll never be able to do anything nice again.”

Duffey was arrested following a traffic stop later that day. After police obtained a search warrant, they found dozens of flyers, posters and letters in the car concerning Duffey’s claim against the man, as well as a gun in a backpack, according to court records.

This isn’t the first time Duffey has encountered legal trouble. In 2020, the Gianforte campaign fired Duffey after Bozeman police began investigating an accusation that Duffey used his car door to slam a car parked next to him in what appeared to be a road rage incident. No charges were ever filed.

Duffey is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 22.

ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT

akimbel@montanafreepress.org

Raised in Arizona, Arren is no stranger to the issues impacting Western states, having a keen interest in the politics of land, transportation and housing. Prior to moving to Montana, Arren was a statehouse reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times and covered agricultural and trade policy for Politico in Washington, D.C. In Montana, he has carved out a niche in shoe-leather heavy muckraking based on public documents and deep sourcing that keeps elected officials uncomfortable and the public better informed. More by Arren Kimbel-Sannit

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