Political Maneuvering Brings Bad Bill to House Floor

"Dark Money Bill" will face court challenges, limit free speech and violate privacy rights

By Greg Hertz

On the House of Representatives Floor last week we debated SB289, otherwise known as the “Dark Money Bill.” A group of legislators used parliamentary maneuvers to get this bill passed and the end result will face court challenges, limit free speech and violate privacy rights.

In fact, this supposed dark money fix from Gov. Steve Bullock still allows him to raise unlimited, undisclosed corporate cash in his role as chair of the Democrat Governors Association. Bullock continues to fundraise for his campaign advisors’ 501 (c)(4) group that advocates for his agenda, all without revealing donors. Bullock’s hypocritical actions show that this legislation is simply a self-serving ploy designed to give him an edge in his reelection campaign.

The bill and its journey is a reflection of what hardworking, 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.

The bill was removed from the speaker’s desk before he had a chance to assign it to a committee and was then voted into a committee, which has nothing to do with election law and is made up of several of the legislators who are working with the governor. But when the governor realized that some amendments he didn’t like would be placed on the bill in committee he teamed up with House Democrats and used one of the six silver bullets to “blast” the bill from the committee to the House Floor. This does two things – it strips all amendments off, and requires only a simple majority to pass. Exactly what the governor wanted.

This bill is in terrible shape and desperately needs to be amended – work that a committee would generally do. However, since this bill did not follow the normal process we spent almost two hours on the House floor trying to amend and improve the bill. Sixteen amendments were presented and only one passed. Most amendments failed on a 49 to 51 vote with 10 Republicans who cut a deal with the governor joining the 41 Democrats.

Even more amendments were prepared that could have improved the “Dark Money Bill” but it was obvious that the deal had been made and no matter how good an amendment was it would not be accepted.

One of my final amendments would have no longer allowed political candidates or political committees to call you at home if you are on a state or federal do not call list. Most Montanans I talk with do not want to receive these unwanted phone calls interrupting their personal time at home. So the next time you receive a political call you can thank those 51 legislators (10 Republicans and 41 Democrats) who believe that their ability to get elected and to play backroom politics is more important than your personal privacy at home.

Greg Hertz is a Republican representative from Polson.