Posted: Jun 3, 2013 9:17 PM by Erin Schermele - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - Backers of a bill that died in the Montana House of Representative during the 2013 legislative session are hoping to get it on the ballots in 2014.
The proposal - known as the "dark money initiative" - would require more transparency during political campaigns.
"Dark money" is the term commonly used to refer to money spent to influence an election that does not disclose the source of the funding.
After MT State Senator Ed Buttrey (R-Great Falls) didn't vote in a way that satisfied so called "dark money" groups during the session, he says that he was threatened: "It was told to me, 'You are dead in the next election...we are coming after you.'"
But despite fear of possible retaliation, Buttrey, along with several Republican lawmakers, are fighting back.
The group is called Montana Business Advocates for Sensible Elections - abbreviated Montana BASE - and their issue is with 501(c)4 organizations, also known as "dark money" groups.
Buttrey said, "Throughout the entire session there was this threat, and purity from the Republican party, and if you weren't pure enough - meaning they told you don't vote that way - then you have this underlying threat. Sometimes it was a vocalized threat that they were going to remove you from office."
Montana BASE says during the election cycle, out of state groups and extremist donors spend thousands of dollars on ads to sway voters, and not always truthfully.
Because of how dark money groups are legally structured, they are not required to reveal who donates to them, which is what this ballot initiative aims to change.
Montana BASE says the dark money ballot Initiative won't have any language about campaign finance limits, just a requirement for any campaign advertisement to disclose the top few donors who paid for the ad.
Not everyone agrees that donor information should be disclosed.
Jake Eaton, a Republican consultant, calls this is a "solution to create a problem," and says that members of Montana Base are hypocritical, trying to hide the truths that dark money ads reveal.
A petition to put the dark money ballot initiative can start to circulate on June 20th.
To qualify for the 2014 ballot, Montana BASE will need to collect more than 24,000 signatures, which includes 5% of voters from each legislative district.