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State lawmaker accused of illegal coordination with dark money group

Montana Legislature

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices this week issued a ruling accusing a sitting Republican state lawmaker of illegally coordinating with a “dark money” group during his 2010 campaign, an accusation the lawmaker denies.

The Thursday decision from Commissioner Jonathan Motl says Rep. Mike Miller (R-Helmville) accepted illegal resources from Western Tradition Partnership (now known as American Tradition Partnership, or ATP) to produce attack flyers against his 2010 primary opponent, Joe Dooling, as well as mailers supportive of Miller. The decision also asserts Miller failed to keep proper campaign records. Motl said these campaign practices are a matter of public trust.

“Because this challenges the manner in which candidate Miller was elected, that public trust issue is implicated,” Motl said.

Motl’s office this year has issued several rulingsagainst both ATP and several other legislative candidates involved in the 2010 election. But, Motl described the Miller ruling as the first in this series to come out against a sitting candidate.

Rep. Miller declined a taped interview, instead sending this statement:

I will state again that there was no coordination between myself and any "3rd party" group. My campaign has/had no control over what any organization does with the results of surveys that the campaign answers. My campaign paid a fair market price for every piece of mail that it sent. As I have said before, my campaign did not violate any of Montana's campaign finance laws.

In the ruling, Commissioner Motl alleges Miller did not pay for the total expenses involved in a series of election mailers from Direct Mail and Communications, a Colorado-based for profit printing company associated with ATP.

Motl said he is sending the decision to the courts for a ruling in the Miller case. He said Miller could receive fines or even have to step down.

“A court can remove a sitting public office upon a violation of the public trust,” Motl said.

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