HELENA – The Montana Republican Party bankrolled the signature-gathering effort to get the Montana Green Party certified for the 2020 election ballot, an official for a political committee said Tuesday.
Democrats — who last week asked the state commissioner of political practices to find out who paid for the signature gathering effort — immediately accused the GOP of election fraud and of propping up a leftist political party as a means to siphon votes from Democratic candidates this fall.
Montanans for Conservation’s April 15 campaign finance report will show it received a $100,000 in-kind donation from the Montana Republican Party, committee treasurer Katie Wenetta said in an email to Commissioner Jeff Mangan. She was responding to Mangan after he asked if Montanans for Conservation — the committee working to qualify the party — contracted with Advanced Micro Targeting to gather signatures.
The GOP paid Advanced Micro Targeting, Wenetta said.
Workers hired by Advanced Micro Targeting turned in enough signatures for the Green Party to qualify for the Montana ballot, and several people filed as Green Party candidates on March 9, the filing deadline.
Green Party officials have disavowed most of those candidates. Party officials did not respond to a message seeking comment on Tuesday.
Chuck Denowh, a lobbyist and consultant who set up the Montanans for Conservation committee, also confirmed the GOP spending, which was first reported by the Montana Television Network.
“The Montana GOP is so scared that (U.S. Sen.) Steve Daines and (U.S. Rep.) Greg Gianforte can’t win a fair election that they’ve resorted to election fraud,” said Sandi Luckey, executive director of the Montana Democratic Party.
Democrats called for Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton to remove the Green Party from the ballot.
The state law that requires parties and committees to report their spending on signature gathering efforts includes financial penalties for violators, but not disqualification.
Republican party officials released a statement that said the GOP was only supporting ballot access for a minor political party.
“While Montana Democrat candidates and their liberal allies have worked to limit ballot access for other minor political parties for a long time, the Montana Republican Party is supporting efforts that create additional options at the ballot box,” the statement said.
The Green Party’s ascent to the election ballot this year is a repeat of what happened in 2018, though it was never discovered then who paid for Advanced Micro Targeting’s signature gatherers.
The Democratic Party successfully challenged the Montana Green Party’s ballot access in 2018 after a judge disqualified several signatures.
The 2019 Montana Legislature passed a law requiring spending on signature gathering efforts to be reported.
The Montana Green Party has said it was not behind either signature gathering effort.
Montana Republican Party spokeswoman Brooke Stroyke said Tuesday the party did not fund the 2018 effort.
“As always, everything MTGOP does is disclosed in financial reports,” she wrote in an email to the AP.