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Disclose Act, Nasty Ads In House Race And Election Night Predictions

Campaign Beat, Montana Public Radio's weekly political analysis program.
Campaign Beat, Montana Public Radio's weekly political analysis program.

A federal judge upholds the Disclose Act: what does it mean for the gubernatorial race? Ryan Zinke’s ads get "nasty" in the House race, and the analysts discuss which races are likely to keep us up late Tuesday night. Sally Mauk, Chuck Johnson and Rob Saldin break down the final week before the elections on this episode of "Campaign Beat."

A federal judge upholds the Disclose Act.

Gov. Steve Bullock supports the law and believes his opponent in the gubernatorial race, Greg Gianforte, does not.

Gianforte hedged on whether he supports the law or not, and used interview opportunities to criticize Bullock for raising out-of-state money from PACs and the like, while he did not raise money,” Johnson said. “This is an important decision. It’s the first major challenge of the Disclose Act, there’ll probably be further ones and it’s considered very likely this one may be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by this group that filed it, The Montanans for Community Development.”

During the legislative session, the group that opposed the act is a group called Montana Family Foundation, which has received a lot of funding from Greg Gianforte.

“If you want to know what a guy's going to do in the future, look at what they’ve done in the past,” said Bullock of Gianforte’s funding of opponents of the Disclose Act.

“Gov. Bullock can rightly take credit for this law,” Johnson said. “It was introduced by Duane Ankney, a state senator from Colstrip and Republican. Bullock worked with Ankney and Johnathan Motl, the political practices commissioner, also worked on the bill. It was considered a major accomplishment by Gov. Bullock to get this bill through a Republican-controlled legislature. Some groups with ties to Gianforte stood up and opposed it during committee meetings.”

Gianforte touts his refusal to take PAC money as evidence that he supports campaign disclosure, but he hedged when he was asked if he supports the Disclose Act.

“I’m not an expert on the legislation, I’m not a politician,” Gianforte said. “I’m a business guy. I do know that Steve Bullock spent a year raising money out of state and it got spent here, predominately in negative attack ads that were not truthful.”

Is, ‘I’m not a politician, I’m a business guy,' an adequate answer about law that is already in effect?

The Disclose Act is going to be a big issue the next legislative session, whichever man is elected governor,” Johnson said. “Like I said, there are at least several other challenges in court to the Disclose Act — one in federal, one in state. Then there’s the likelihood that this decision by federal judge Dana Christensen will be appealed to the Ninth Circuit. This will be around for a long time, and it’s going to be very interesting to see if the Montana law survives, or if parts of it are struck down.”

New ads from both candidates in the gubernatorial race.


This ad extends the Bullock campaign narrative that Gianforte opposes public lands and public education, and supports a sales tax. All of these are things that Gianforte adamantly denies.

“Everything Bullock mentions here is designed to remind voters of what his campaign hopes will be liabilities for Greg Gianforte,” Saldin said. “The public lands reference goes to the lawsuit that Gianforte had with the state of Montana. Public schools is a reference to Gianforte’s socially conservative record of charitable donations. The no sales tax bit is a reference to Gianforte’s long ago suggestion that a sales tax might be a good way to restructure Montana’s taxes. And that's probably the weakest of the claims here by Bullock. Back when he voiced support for it, lots of people were talking about a sales tax. In the years since, it's gone out of fashion; in fact, Gianforte's tax plan ... is centered around a no-sales-tax pledge.”


The ad addresses the accusation that Gianforte is a rich carpetbagger.

"By far the best response we’ve seen from Gianforte to this charge,” Saldin said. "This charge about the New Jersey carpetbagger has been around from the very beginning. It is, I think, an unfortunate and cynical charge. It plays to our worst impulses of fear and suspicion of people who aren’t like us. But I also suspect that it is fairly effective. I’m surprised, I guess, that it’s taken the Gianforte campaign this long to respond directly ... I can’t imagine that the way they drew up the campaign a year ago, or whenever, would have them trying to play defense on this issue just a week before elections," Saldin said.

So far Gianforte has run more television ads than any other state-wide candidate in the country. His campaign has run more than 34,000 ads during his race for governor.

Ads get “nasty” in the House race.

Ryan Zinke has a new ad accusing Democratic challenger Denise Juneau of hiring criminals to drive school buses, or being responsible for that hiring. We talked about this last week, but I think it's worth noting how nasty the ads are getting.

“To my surprise, I haven’t seen any real response from the Juneau campaign, or much of any news coverage looking at this,” Johnson said. “It’s my understanding that local school districts are the people that hire the bus drivers for their school districts. To date, there hasn’t been much discussions of the allegations he’s raised against Denise Juneau.”


Juneau has been hammering Zinke over public lands throughout her campaign.

“I think she’s made that the prime issue in this race,” Johnson said. “The facts are a little harder to pin down, Zinke maintains he is not favoring the selling of Montana lands. He did sign a pledge as a candidate for Lt. Gov. called the Montana Constitutional pledge, and that’s what’s referenced in this ad.

Races that will likely keep us up late Tuesday night.

“I think if there is one, it’s going to be the governor’s race,” Saldin said. “One thing I’m thinking about at this stage is that this election cycle, relative to other presidential election cycles, is unusual. There’s a higher than usual degree of uncertainty concerning turnout. I think all the campaigns must be worried about this and wondering what’s going to happen."

Many mysteries will be solved on Tuesday. Tune in to MTPR for national and Montana election results. Local coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. on Election Day, and we'll have live results and updates online and on air throughout the night.

"Campaign Beat" is hosted by MTPR's Sally Mauk, with UM Political Science Professor Rob Saldin, and former Capitol Reporter Chuck Johnson. Listen every Friday between 6:30 & 7:00 p.m. and again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m., or via podcast.

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