Group Accused of Violating Campaign Law in Montana Court Race

The Montana Growth Network, a tax-exempt group that made advertising expenditures in a 2012 state Supreme Court race, failed to disclose certain spending and violated disclosure laws, said Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl.

The Associated Press reported on Motl’s findings and said it will be up to prosecutors whether to bring charges in the matter. The Montana Growth Network, a non-profit and pro-business group,  funded a radio ad accusing state Supreme Court candidate Ed Sheehy of having worked as an activist against the death penalty (see Gavel Grab). Sheehy dismissed the charge as a falsehood and asked his rival, District Judge Laurie McKinnon, to denounce the advertisement and demand its withdrawal. McKinnon won election.

Motl has found the ads to constitute advocacy focusing on Sheehy, and not about a public policy issue as the group had contended, according to the AP article. A lawyer for the group said, “Montana laws are complex, but we made a painstaking effort to follow all of the laws every step along the way.” The Billings Gazette had a lengthy article about the new development.