GOP lawmakers launch initiative to force disclosure of 'dark money' in Montana

2013-06-03T12:50:00Z 2013-06-30T12:11:07Z GOP lawmakers launch initiative to force disclosure of 'dark money' in MontanaBy MIKE DENNISON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

GREAT FALLS — A Republican-led group Monday launched a campaign for a Montana ballot measure that would require disclosure of political “dark money,” which group members said is corrupting the state’s political system.

The initiative, if it qualifies for the 2014 ballot and is approved by Montana voters, would require any entities that spend money to influence campaigns in Montana to report that spending and the group’s financial supporters.

“We decided we need to do something about dark money, and return the power of the election back to the people,” said Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, at a Great Falls news conference. “We think the people of Montana need to have a voice (on this issue), and we’re confident that they would like to see this dark money reported … so they can follow the money.”

Advertisement: Story Continues Below

Peterson was joined at the conference by a half-dozen other Republican lawmakers, former superintendent of public instruction candidate Sandy Welch, and other supporters of the ballot-measure campaign.

Peterson sponsored a bill during the 2013 Legislature this spring to force disclosure of who’s behind so-called “dark money,” which is spent primarily by nonprofit groups that often aren’t required to reveal their spending or financial supporters.

His bill died in April, when a majority of House Republicans prevented it from coming to the House floor.

Advertisement: Story Continues Below

One of them, Rep. Roger Hagan of Great Falls, said he’s confident the initiative will have bipartisan support, since most Democrats supported the Peterson bill and want disclosure of dark-money finances.

“It may be a Republican group that’s kicking it off, but we think we’ll have good (bipartisan) support,” he said.

The group plans to submit initiative language to the secretary of state within the next 30 days, Peterson said, and will begin gathering signatures once the petition’s language is approved by that office.

To qualify the measure for the 2014 ballot, backers need to gather signatures of at least 24,175 registered Montana voters and from at least 5 percent of the voters in at least 34 of Montana’s 100 House districts. They’ll have until next June to submit the signatures.

Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, supported Peterson’s bill during the 2013 Legislature and has spoken out against dark money.

Peterson said he’s talked to Bullock about the initiative and that the governor is interested in the idea, but hasn’t seen the final wording of the proposal.

Kevin O’Brien, a spokesman Bullock, said Monday that the governor looks forward to seeing the specifics of the proposal and “applauds the work of these statesmen and women.”

Peterson said the ballot measure’s disclosure language will say if a group mentions the name of a candidate or ballot issue in any publicly disseminated material within 90 days of the election, the group then must report its donors, spending and other financial details.

Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, who attended Monday’s news conference, said there “will never be truth in politics until voters can follow the money.”

“Transparency is not a partisan issue,” he said. “It is not partisan that those who speak freely, should have to freely identify themselves. … Lies and half-truths literally were everywhere (in recent election campaigns). This appalled all Montanans, and it brought shame to the process.”

In recent Montana elections, many nonprofit groups have bought media ads or mailed campaign fliers attacking various candidates, but won’t publicly report their finances. They argue they’re merely “educating” voters on an issue, and not directly advocating for or against a candidate, and therefore aren’t required to disclose their financial backers.

Rep. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, also said Monday that money behind these “dark money” ads often comes from out-of-state sources and discourage good people from running for office.

“How do we keep (Montana) as the last, best place, if these outside interests want to chase away the last, best people?” he said.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. Ceithern
    Report Abuse
    Ceithern - June 05, 2013 7:30 am
    If they are on in the same how come the original bill failed in the legislature? The purpose of this bill is to remove the tea party and other similar organizations.

    When was the last time a tea party member blew themselves up in a crowd for a holy war? Why are you in a war on earl grey?
  2. RightDog
    Report Abuse
    RightDog - June 04, 2013 5:11 pm
    One of the reasons why Gibson is using Richlite on the fret boards on their new LP Customs. Thanks B HO.
  3. Ceithern
    Report Abuse
    Ceithern - June 04, 2013 3:41 pm
    Supreme Court: NAACP vs. Alabama? "Compelled disclosure of affiliation with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute an effective restraint on freedom of association."
    People are afraid of the smears that follows the loss of being anonymous. See recetn examples with Frank Vandersloot and Gibson Guitars. Yes, your Les Paul was targeted.
    The goal of this bill is to remove Rino opposition, the Tea Party. 2011 Taxpayer’s Advisory Bulletin (TAB) Scorecard…Jim Peterson and Taylor Brown duke it out for the title of worst republican in the senate.
  4. fidlr
    Report Abuse
    fidlr - June 04, 2013 11:03 am
    C'mon JW. We all know your thinking is limited to a very narrow spectrum. We can understand why YOU would be opposed to "dark money" disclosure. Sometimes you would be wise to refrain from comments although that is your usual compulsion.
  5. Jus Wundrin
    Report Abuse
    Jus Wundrin - June 04, 2013 9:08 am
    The only "dark" money I can think of is the millions in waste fraud and abuse that our gubment dishes out daily.
  6. People's Power
    Report Abuse
    People's Power - June 04, 2013 8:37 am
    History is on our side. Montanans, Republicans and Democrats, can drive the "dark" out of money. Initiatives were powerful tools in 1912 to tame the mining interests who had more money than sense or patriotism.

    Let's ask the 1% to declare themselves when they speak on political issues. Shouldn't they be proud to do so? If they aren't, why are they afraid?
  7. sideoiler
    Report Abuse
    sideoiler - June 04, 2013 8:36 am
    America is ripe for new political parties,since neither current party is worth anything.
  8. Abraham
    Report Abuse
    Abraham - June 04, 2013 7:32 am
    This is breath taking, how blatant, more reason not to vote republican, EVER.
  9. Regular Guy
    Report Abuse
    Regular Guy - June 04, 2013 5:11 am
    Republicans and Teahadists - one in the same!
  10. Regular Guy
    Report Abuse
    Regular Guy - June 04, 2013 5:10 am
    What hypocrisy. Republicans killed dark money disclosure requirements during the legislature! But disclosure is not enough. We need to limit it.
  11. Glaucon
    Report Abuse
    Glaucon - June 03, 2013 3:06 pm
    Lies and half-truths? like the kind that Llew Jones sent out attacking Rollin Roberts?

    I am appalled these self-serving hypocrites have no shame.
  12. CarsonCityKid
    Report Abuse
    CarsonCityKid - June 03, 2013 2:55 pm
    What took you so long to figure this out?
  13. fishon
    Report Abuse
    fishon - June 03, 2013 1:34 pm
    Yes! Good work R's. I bet this will not go over well with the tea party.

Comment policy

We provide this forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the day's news. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and abuse are not. You must be logged into a personal account on Facebook to comment (FAQ). Readers are responsible for their comments and abuse of this privilege will not be tolerated. We reserve the right, without warning or notification, to remove comments and block users we determine violate our Terms of Service. Comments reflect the opinions of the author - not those of The Billings Gazette or its parent company.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

More from the Gazette