Montana Politics

Cry Me a River

Written by Pete Talbot
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Poor Art Wittich, so persecuted by the press and the commissioner of political practices.

In a recent Missoulian guest column, Rep. Wittich (R-Bozeman) calls Commissioner Jonathan Motl “the thought police” and the press stories “one-sided.”

The “one-sided” stories paint a pretty damning picture of the 2010 Wittich campaign for the Montana Senate.  From the Helena Independent Record:

… (Wittich) secretly received aid from several corporations that paid for staff members, direct mailings, attack ads and more, according to Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl.

In court documents filed Nov. 16, Motl said Wittich participated in quid pro quo corruption by receiving secret and improper contributions from corporate groups “and in return he pledged primary fealty to that corporate group of special interests rather than to the people of his district.”

I’ll wait for the jury’s decision before pronouncing Wittich guilty.  In a similar case, however, here’s what happened:

(Former Rep. Joel) Boniek (R-Livingston) was fined $54,362 for campaign corruption in 2010 for collaborating with four corporations on attack mailers and promising “unswerving fealty to the corporations carrying out the direct mail campaign,” ruled District Judge Gregory Pinski.

There are a number of the same players in both the Wittich and Boniek cases: specifically Western Tradition Partnership, and Direct Mail and Communications Inc.  I’m sure you remember Western Tradition Partnership, which morphed into American Tradition Partnership.  From Wikipedia:

In 2012 the group was scrutinized in a PBS Frontline documentary, Big Sky, Big Money, which showed that the group was not registered with Montana as a political committee, and illuminated several charges against its activities. After that, the group maintained low visibility until the 2014 election cycle in the state.

Wittich claims that Motl is targeting him for purely political reasons.  It’s worth noting these quotes:

The commissioner declined to respond to Wittich or otherwise comment on the case.

“This is an important decision for the people of Montana, and I can’t comment other than what I have in legal documents because the case needs to be tried before the jury,” Motl told The Associated Press.

As opposed to a Wittich comment:

“He’s basing it on speculation and opinion,” he said. “He’s continuing this bizarre political persecution.”

“It’s all opinion and it’s because of my conservative voting record.”

So it looks like Wittich is playing the political persecution card and getting guest columns to influence public opinion.  I appreciate the fact that Motl is letting it play out in the courts.

Perhaps Wittich’s next column can quote The Coasters’ 1959 Charlie Brown song, “why is everybody always picking on me?”

 

 

 

 

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