HELENA — The Montana Republican Party filed a complaint Thursday against the Montana League of Rural Voters, a Democratic state lawmaker and former candidates alleging they violated campaign practice laws.
Republicans say those named violated Montana’s campaign practice laws in 2014 by failing to disclose names of contributors and amounts of money received, and for illegal coordination.
“MLRV illegally coordinated with candidates for public office and thereby improperly influenced the outcome of elections for public office in this state,” the GOP complaint says.
Richard Parks, chairman of the league board, on Thursday called the complaint “just whistling in the wind.”
“I can’t say as I’m surprised that the Republican Party chooses to try to smear everybody in sight with their tar by way of lessening the taint on them,” he said. “We made independent expenditures and did not coordinate with any candidates.”
Democratic Rep. Margie MacDonald of Billings also is specifically named in the complaint, and Republicans want her unseated in the wake of what they say was illegal campaign coordination with the league.
MacDonald told The Associated Press on Thursday that she hasn’t seen the complaint but no coordination occurred between the league and herself during her 2014 campaign.
“I didn’t know they had done a mailer,” she said about the league’s campaign efforts on her behalf. “Even though their office is located in the building where I work, my campaign was based in my own home with my friends as volunteers. There is absolutely no coordination that took place.”
The complaint also alleges two other Democratic candidates who did not win their races, former lawmaker Greg Jergeson and Steven Muggli, illegally coordinated with the league and failed to report canvassing expenditures.
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said he received the inch-thick hand-delivered complaint Thursday. He said he will review it and likely accept it, meaning it will be investigated. He said he’ll be looking for similarities to another complaint filed last year against the league and said he’ll issue a decision on that complaint in the coming weeks.
“These (complaints) are more about policy and independent expenditure activities, which is kind of a new area,” Motl said, adding that it’s good to be discussing what is allowed in campaigns.
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