The GOP and Dark Money

Apparently, most Montana Republican legislators support huge amounts of anonymous money buying elections.

Forty-nine members of the Montana House, all Republicans, endorsed “dark money.” This, despite the fact that 75 percent of Montanans voted to reject Citizens United in a 2012 ballot referendum.

Are dark money and Citizens United a related topic? MSNBC thinks so:

Thanks to Citizens United, outside spending skyrocketed in 2012 to more than $1 billion, including $400 million from dark money groups that don’t disclose their donors.

Senate Bill 289 would require dark money groups to disclose donor sources and campaign spending. It passed in the senate, 28-22, before heading to the house, where it passed 51-49. Ten moderate Republicans voted with all the Democrats (after 16 Republican amendments were offered up and just one passed).  Rep. Frank Garner (R-Kalispell) is responsible for keeping the amendments at bay.

Most of the amendments were submitted by Rep. Greg Hertz (R-Polson). He went on to pen this spurious guest column in Tuesday’s Missoulian, excerpted here:

The bill and its journey is a reflection of what hard-working, honest Montanans don’t like about politics. It was crafted by the governor’s attorney in conjunction with a handful of legislators to benefit their individual campaigns.

What “hard-working, honest Montanans don’t like about politics” are nasty, anonymous attack ads and mailers at the close of an election cycle.  And it may have been crafted by the governor’s office, as Hertz contends, but it was introduced by a Republican senator out of Colstrip, Duane Ankney. He said that it “aims to shed light” on anonymous money that began flowing into elections after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United.

Hertz also complains that “political maneuvering” is what led to the success of this bill. I’m sure that Republicans, if they were in the minority, would never attempt to get a bill heard in a favorable committee or use a “silver bullet” to blast legislation to the floor.

It should be noted that both the Montana Family Foundation and the NRA opposed the bill.  From the MFF:

If SB 289 were to become law, Montana houses of worship would be at risk of having to publicize every single tithe they receive. We would have to post on the Internet the name of the giver, their home address, where they work, and more.

This is, of course, hogwash, unless the church is actively and anonymously campaigning for a candidate or issue.  Apparently the NRA also likes the idea of large, anonymous donations influencing elections.

Finally, for Missoula readers, the two Republican members of the house from Missoula County, Reps. David “Doc” Moore and Brad Tschida, like dark money, too.  Keep in mind that the 2016 primary and general elections aren’t that far away.

UPDATE AND CLARIFICATION: Because a minor amendment was tacked on by Rep. Rob Cook (R-Conrad), SB 289 will go back to the senate.  Flathead Memo has a spreadsheet on how the votes went down in both the house and senate.  Mr. Conner also writes that disclaimers on literature could become onerous.  As he suggests, a footnote and a website link should be adequate.

Also, I raked the GOP over the coals for its votes on this bill but it needs to be acknowledged that 17 Republicans in the house and senate stood up to their leadership and voted against dark money.


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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • Go to Flathead Memo for links to List
    Of Representatives’s also Senators’s
    Voting record on SB. 289

    Appears to be lots of ?heavy lifting up?
    by both sides.

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