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Independent PACs spending on low-profile MT statewide races

GOP auditor, AG primaries attract outside spending
Posted at 5:22 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 00:15:05-04

Independent political-action committees are lining up to spend money in at least two low-profile state primary races in Montana – a practice usually reserved for big-money statewide contests.

One group has formed to support the candidacy of Republican attorney general candidate Jon Bennion, who’s in a two-way primary, and another is backing Republican state auditor candidate Nelly Nicol in her three-way primary.

The PAC supporting Nicol – Citizens for Government Transparency, based in Miles City – so far has been funded by $45,500 from Victory Insurance Co., the family-owned company that she works for in Billings.

Nicol told MTN News that she has no involvement with the PAC.

Nicol is competing against Bozeman businessman Troy Downing and Missoula insurance broker Scott Tuxbury in the GOP primary for state auditor. The winner of the June 2 primary will compete for an open seat, against the Democratic nominee and a Libertarian candidate.

Citizens for Government Transparency reported last month that it spent money on advertising and other activity to support Nicol’s candidacy.

The PAC supporting Bennion is called Treasure State Conservatives.

Webb Brown, former president of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, where Bennion formerly worked, is one of the PAC’s officers.

Brown told MTN News Tuesday that he and others who support Bennion wanted to do something to help him get elected, beyond just giving to his campaign. The group is raising money and will file its first finance report on Thursday.

“We saw an opportunity to help Jon above and beyond what we’ve already done,” Brown said. “We wanted to do as much as we possibly can.”

Bennion, the chief deputy under Attorney General Tim Fox, is running against former House Speaker Austin Knudsen of Culbertson in the GOP primary. The winner of the June 2 primary will compete against the Democratic nominee and a Green Party candidate in November, for an open seat.