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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Loopholes Remain In Montana's 'Dark Money' Disclosure Law

Jonathan Motl, Montana Commissioner of Political Practices speaks during a forum in Missoula, MT
Josh Burnham
Jonathan Motl, Montana Commissioner of Political Practices speaks during a forum about the "Disclose Act" in Missoula, MT

Montana’s new campaign finance law still has at least one loophole that needs to be addressed. That’s according to state Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl.

Speaking at a forum in Missoula Thursday night, Motl said the Montana "disclose" act still allows some corporations and non-profits to hide the source of the money they’re spending in campaigns.

Committees that are set up specifically to campaign have to report both where their contributions come from, and their expenditures. But existing organizations whose main purpose is not campaigning - they can declare themselves “incidental,” and only report spending...not the source of their money.

Motl says his office is working on new rules to implement the new law to eliminate that loophole.

"To the greatest degree we can, we are going to try to move those corporate entities engaged in the political process, whether for non-profit or profit, into the position of disclosing both the contributions and the expenditures."

Motl called the "Disclose" act the most important campaign finance reform bill passed in Montana since 1983. It was sponsored by Republican Senator Duane Ankney, and backed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. Motl says it vastly increases transparency in campaign spending by requiring earlier reporting of campaign contributions and spending, and by making those reports available electronically.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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