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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

'Dark Money' Disclosure Bill Narrowly Passes Senate

The Montana Capitol
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio

The Senate gave final approval to a bill that would shine the light on so-called “dark money” donations in Montana’s political campaigns.

Senator Duane Ankney says when neighbors contribute to a political campaign, the candidate is required to report that person’s name, address, and occupation.

"So why should people from out of state or in the shadows be any different from that neighbor who give you the money?" Ankney asked during debate on the bill.

Supporters say this bill is about open, fair, and honest elections.

During his 2012 primary election, Republican Senator Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell was attacked by at least 10 separate campaign mailings. Most came from obscure, out-of-state organizations that didn’t have to disclose their donors.

Tutvedt says that’s confusing for voters.

"These unsigned mailers from 'Taxpayers for Liberty' or 'Gun Owners for Justice' or whatever the name of the week is come in the mail. They don’t know that they’re bought and paid for by out-of-state, dark money and they come and they come. So this makes light on the electioneering. Sign your name. You want to attack? Attack anybody. Sign your name and do it in the light of day."

Sen John Brenden, a Republican from Scobey said dark money attacks also come from in-state.

"You know you talk about being attacked from out of state. I’ve been attacked from in-state for over 50 years in this political game and you know what the only thing I’ve lost is my hair.

"If you’re going to be in politics you got to have broad shoulders because you’re going to take flack no matter what you do, whether you vote yes or no. somebody’s not going to like it."

Other opponents say this bill gives too much authority to the appointed commissioner of political practices.

The bill was approved on a final 28-to-22 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

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