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Montana Campaign Watchdog To Review Political Party Committees

The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess
Montana Public Radio
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — More than two dozen Montana campaign committees currently registered as political party committees may have to be reclassified as independent campaign groups or be re-established as official arms of the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl on Thursday said he would review the status of all 107 committees now classified as party committees. The designation could have broad ramifications because political committees have vastly higher contribution limits than other campaign committees.

A political committee can contribute as much as $23,850 to a gubernatorial candidate under current limits, while independent committees can contribute a maximum of $10,610. Individual donors can give a gubernatorial candidate no more than $1,990 during an election cycle.

The review was prompted by a complaint filed against the Madison County Republican Central Committee and its role in the primary campaign for House District 71 between Republicans Ray Shaw and Robert Wagner.

Motl said his investigation of that complaint led him to clarify the role and functions of political party committees.

Motl said the Madison County Republican Central Committee violated state law when it failed to timely register as a political party committee then failed to report spending on the legislative race.

Political party committees are required to register with the commissioner's office within five days of making an initial expenditure.

Motl referred the matter to the County Attorney's Office in Lewis and Clark County for possible prosecution.

Officials from the state's Democratic and Republican parties had no immediate comment on the broader issues involved in the case.

Montana has three recognized parties: Democratic, Libertarian and Republican.

But the Montana Green Party is also registered as a party committee, as are the Montana Young Republicans League and about 30 other political clubs and organizations.

Motl said he is considering using his authority under the state's Disclose Act to reclassify some party committees as independent committees. Some of the committees, he said, could ask to be designated as official arms of the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties.

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