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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Cooney Challenges Opponents To Campaign Spending Limits

Montana Lieutenant Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney.
Montana Governor's Office

Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney is asking his opponents in the Democratic primary race for governor to sign a pledge to limit outside spending and self-funding in their campaigns. The pledge was called a media stunt by one opponent.

Cooney this week offered the pledge to donate to charity half of the value of any independent expenditures made by outside organizations, individuals, or corporations that benefit his campaign.

The pledge also says for every dollar of independent wealth a candidate gives to their campaign, the candidate must also donate 50 cents to a charity of their opponent’s choosing.

Cooney signed the pledge during a press conference Wednesday. But he told MTPR afterward that if the other three candidates in the race don’t agree, he’s not committing to campaign by the pledge’s conditions.

"I don't know why they wouldn’t be willing to sign this, quite honestly. But if they’re not, I also have to run a serious campaign. And we’ll see. We’ll see. I can’t tie my hands to the point where I can’t run a reasonable campaign.”

Cooney raised more than $250,000 over the last fundraising quarter, far more than House Minority Leader Casey Schreiner, who raised more than $37,000, or former-legislator Reilly Neill, who brought in more than $700.

Whitney Williams, the most recent candidate in the Democratic primary for governor, launched her campaign after the last finance reporting deadline.

Neill is the only candidate, outside of Cooney, who says they support the pledge.

The campaign manager for Williams’ campaign accused Cooney of playing political games and called the pledge a media stunt.

Schreiner did not directly say whether he supports the pledge. He pointed to his work in the state legislature supporting campaign finance reform to remove the "detrimental influence of money in politics."

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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