A group opposing Republican Greg Gianforte in Montana’s special U.S. House race plans to file a complaint Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging Gianforte directed donors to circumvent contribution limits by giving to party groups to help his campaign.
End Citizens United, a political action committee supporting Gianforte’s Democratic opponent, Rob Quist, provided MTN News a copy of the complaint late Monday.
Tiffany Muller, president of the PAC, said in a statement that the FEC should investigate Gianforte’s recent comments on a telephone call to prospective donors and “take appropriate action.”
The Gianforte campaign has denied any wrongdoing, saying Gianforte was merely telling donors they could give to Montana Republican Party if they wanted to help “get-out-the-vote” efforts for the May 25 special congressional election.
Campaign spokesman Brock Lowrance on Monday called End Citizens United a "sham group" and the complaint "bogus."
"This is a 100 percent phony complaint filed by a shady partisan PAC that supports and has contributed to Rob Quist," he told MTN News. "This is not a valid complaint; it's laughable."
Gianforte, a Bozeman businessman, is competing against Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks for Montana’s open congressional seat.
The complaint stems from comments Gianforte made May 4 in a taped telephone call with potential donors to his campaign.
In its complaint, End Citizens United cited a portion of the recording when a donor asked Gianforte if his campaign was accepting money from political-action committees, or PACs.
Gianforte said he’s not accepting money from industry-related PACs, but that if someone wanted to support his “Victory Fund,” it would “allow that money to go to all the get-out-the-vote efforts.”
Gianforte has a Victory Fund, which is a joint fundraising committee for his campaign, the Montana Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Gianforte campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon told MTN News Monday that neither the Victory Fund nor the Gianforte campaign has accepted or is accepting any money from industry PACs.
But the complaint from End Citizens United said regardless of the PAC money statement, Gianforte violated campaign rules by telling donors who had given the maximum amount of money to his campaign that they could help the campaign by giving additional funds to the state party.
“Gianforte was caught attempting to circumvent … (contribution) limitations by soliciting funds to the Gianforte Victory Fund earmarked for his election,” the complaint said.