Posted: Feb 4, 2013 4:12 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - A GOP lawmaker is taking a stand against secret money in Montana politics, but the issue might be dividing the Republican Party.
Montana has seen secretive money flood its political campaigns, thanks to dark money groups that are political organizations that legally do not have to disclose their donors. They came under fire last election as thousands of anonymous mailers were sent to people's homes attacking certain candidates.
The most famous of the groups is American Tradition Partnership, the group who legally challenged Montana's campaign finance laws. Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad) says groups like this must operate with some accountability.
"I guess it's old school, but if you can't put your name on it, you probably shouldn't say it," Cook said.
Cook is carrying two bills which shed some transparency on these groups. The first states all campaign material produced by groups which have secret donors must put disclaimers on their ads.
"This communication has been funded by anonymous sources. It is the responsibility of the voter to determine the veracity of the statements being made and the true character of the organization behind this communication," Cook explained.
Cook's other bill would require anonymous political groups to report how they are spending their money.
"I want to know where you played, who you played against or for, and how much you spent."
The two largest unions in Montana, MEA-MFT and AFL-CIO both support the disclosure. However, one conservative political group does not.
"This is completely unconstitutional because it does violate free speech which is guaranteed by the First Amendment," said Gregg Trude with Montana Right to Life.
American Tradition Partnership angered a group of conservative lawmakers after they attacked several Republicans for not being conservative enough.
ATP is now facing a complaint at the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices and Republicans appear to be divided on how to regulate these groups.