HELENA — A newly formed political-action committee called Big Sky Freedom Fund already has spent more than $74,000 to support one candidate in the five-person Republican primary for Montana’s open U.S. House race.
The independent expenditure-only committee, also known as a super PAC, spent that much on ads backing former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings, plus another $9,000 to conduct a poll, according to a filing the group made Monday with the Federal Election Commission.
Stapleton is the second candidate in the competitive race for the GOP nomination to benefit from the support of a super PAC. Special Operations for America has been running television, radio and Internet ads supporting former state Sen. Ryan Zinke of Whitefish since Zinke stepped down as its chairman to announce his candidacy.
Big Sky Freedom Fund formed on April 15. Its Billings address is the same as 47 North Communications, a Republican political consulting and governmental affairs firm, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported Wednesday.
The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for the creation of super PACs in 2010 with its Citizens United ruling that said corporations may make independent expenditures and communications in political campaigns.
The super PACS are allowed to spend money to support or oppose candidates, but they are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates or their campaigns.
Two Washington, D.C.-based advocacy groups have filed an FEC complaint alleging that Zinke has coordinated with SOFA PAC, which his campaign has denied.
The group has spent $130,000 so far this year in the Montana House race.
Stapleton, Zinke, Sens. Elsie Arntzen of Billings and Matt Rosendale of Glendive, along with Drew Turiano of Helena, are seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Steve Daines.
Former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus aide John Lewis and former state Rep. John Driscoll are competing in the Democratic primary.
Daines is running for U.S. Senate.
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