Feb 14, 2013 6:44 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Bullock, Peterson team up for campaign finance reform in Montana

HELENA - Governor Steve Bullock (D) and MT State Senator Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo) announced on Thursday that they are working together to pass campaign finance reform to take "dark money" - which they say has infiltrated Montana elections in recent years - out of the "shadows."

During a press conference in Helena, Bullock and Peterson introduced the Transparency, Reporting and Accountability in Campaigns and Elections (TRACE) Act.

During his tenure as Montana's Attorney General, Bullock supported Montana's Corrupt Practices Act, and also worked to defend Montana's campaign finance limits and disclosure laws against several lawsuits filed by American Traditions Partnership and other so-called "dark money" groups.

Bullock credited Peterson, the former President of the MT Senate, as a vocal leader in the legislature who has consistently opposed the growing influence of unlimited and sometimes secretive campaign spending.

"This legislation is designed to shed sunlight on our system and ensure integrity in the political process," Peterson said.

The bill, which will be sponsored by Peterson, will include a number of provisions aimed at ensuring greater transparency and accountability.

Among them:

· requiring that communications within 60 days of an election that refer to one or more of the candidates or include their likeness or voice are political communications and the funding for such ads are subject to disclosure.

· requiring that an organization's federal tax status does not impact its obligations to comply with state law.

· prohibits direct corporate and union contributions to candidates, but allows voluntary contributions from an employee of a corporation or a member of an organization.

· requires corporations making independent expenditures to report to the state that they've certified the communication and disclose the members of their board of directors and shareholders holding over 10 percent of the company's stock.

· necessitates that all major donors to incidental committees (more than $2,000 over 24 months) be identified through disclosure.

· allows increases in campaign contribution limits, allowing a candidate for Governor to accept $2,000 per election cycle from a political committee or individual. The limits will be $1,000 for a statewide candidate and $500 for all other candidates.

· removes aggregate contribution limits on what a candidate for the legislature can accept from political committees.

· increases the fine for violating Montana's election laws and instructs the Commissioner of Political Practices to maintain a searchable database of those who have violated the law.

The proposed bill will be submitted to Legislative Services in the coming days.


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