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Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Uncovers Illegal Campaign Finance Activity in Opposition to I-185

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) has found two multi-billionaire out of state tobacco corporations have violated Montana campaign finance laws as part of their massive campaign in opposition to I-185. Altria (parent company of Philip Morris USA)and RAI (RJ Reynolds Tobacco) are funding a nearly $9 million campaign designed to protect big tobacco’s profits over the health of Montanans.

The Commissioner found that Altria and RAI both failed to file as an incidental committee within 5 days of engaging in campaign activity in opposition to I-185, which is a campaign finance violation. COPP also found that Altria Client Services failed to report travel-related expenses to lobby the Montana Chamber of Commerce in opposition to I-185.

“This Commissioner, having been charged to investigate and decide, hereby determines that there is sufficient evidence to show that Altria Client Services LLC and RAI Services Company violated Montana’s campaign practice laws,” wrote Jeffrey Mangan, Commissioner of Political Practices, in his decision.

COPP has referred this campaign violation to the Lewis & Clark County Attorney.

“The world’s largest tobacco companies have lied to the American people about how addictive and deadly their products are, they have lied about marketing to kids and now they are willing to violate Montana’s campaign finance laws to protect their profits. All Montanans are currently paying for the toll of Big Tobacco in Montana – it’s time these large multinational corporations pay their fair share. And with I-185, if you don’t smoke, you won’t pay,” said Chris Laslovich, Healthy Montana I-185 campaign manager.

Facts about I-185

  • If passed, I-185 would raise the state tobacco tax to ensure 100,000 Montanans including thousands of veterans and their families don’t lose their current healthcare through Medicaid.
  • Some of the funds will go directly to veterans’ nursing homes and also provide for unmet needs such as suicide prevention for veterans.
  • I-185 is supported by the Billings Chamber of Commerce, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, Montana Hospital Association, family doctors and school nurses throughout the state.

Increasing the state cigarette tax by $2 per pack will:

>  decrease youth smoking rates by 20.6 percent;

>  prevent 8,000 Montana kids from becoming adult smokers; and

>  help 9,300 adults quit smoking.

A recent Bureau of Business and Economic Research economic analysis of Medicaid expansion in Montana shows it has infused more than $500 million into Montana’s economy while reducing state spending to the tune of more than $40 million to date. The report details very clearly that Medicaid expansion in Montana has:

  1. Reduced medical debts
  2. Prevented bankruptcies
  3. Improved credit scores among working families

Fewer Montanans are going into bankruptcy because of a medical emergency and are able to continue working thanks to Medicaid expansion.

Learn more at www.healthymontana.org.

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Nathan Kosted

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