HELENA – Speakers at a Big Sky Tea Party Association rally Tuesday decried what they called excessive government spending and taxation and accused the state political practices commissioner of bias.

As it has done in recent years, the group gathered on April 15, the day when federal and state income taxes are due. Several speakers blasted the Internal Revenue Service for its scrutiny of the tea party and other conservative groups.

About 45 people attended the event, some carrying signs that said “Intentional Rip-Off Service,” “Had enough of this train wreck?” “Attention, Washington. You have run out of our money” and “Don’t drone on me.” One sign aimed at Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl said, “Motl – Recuse yourself.”

“The tea party does not hate government,” Jay Anderson of Helena said. “I know that may be a popular perception in the media, but it’s not the fact.”

Anderson said Americans should scrutinize government spending, just as business owners and employees do with businesses.

Former state Rep. Derek Skees, R-Whitefish, now running for the Public Service Commission, said: “Is the tea party dead? The left would love for that to be a reality, and so would many members of our press.”

He said the tea party role is to be a voice for the middle class.

“The tea party is alive and well,” he said. “The tea party is winning victories in Montana and in America, and you guys are winning it by holding people accountable to what they say they’re going to do.”

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John Perkins, a sophomore at Carroll College who chairs the College Republicans, expressed concern over the electronic information about Americans being collected by the National Security Agency and others.

“My taxes have been used to spy on me,” he said.

Perkins called it “absolutely atrocious” that his Google searches, cellphone calls, text messages, Facebook friends and everything he has done online is being stored, used against him and targeted against him to either spend more of his money or make it harder to earn money.

People need to let their governments know they won’t stand for the gathering of this electronic information anymore, he said.

Marissa Stockton, a Republican candidate for state Senate from the Helena area, said: “Did you know that in 2013, your tax dollars covered only 80 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government? The other 20 cents were borrowed from younger generations, mine and up and coming.”

Matthew Monforton, a Bozeman attorney running for the state House, criticized Motl, the political practices commissioner, for “using the power of the state to decapitate the Republican leadership in the Legislature.”

Motl not only is getting help from Democrats, but also from “turncoat Republicans in our own party,” Monforton said.

The petition, signed by 34 people, registered a formal complaint with Motl “for targeting conservative legislators and leaders while ignoring complaints submitted on so-called progressive politicians and legislators.”

It also called on Motl to recuse himself, or step down, when hearing a campaign complaint against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who appointed him.

Upon receiving the petition, Motl thanked the group and said, “I will have to tell you that I won’t be recusing myself from any cases. I’ve already said that in my decisions I’ve issued.”

Former Political Practices Commissioner Ed Argenbright, who was part of the tea party gathering, said he doesn’t agree with Motl’s actions.

“My approach to dealing with the job as commissioner was to assist people with complying with the law,” he said.

Chuck Johnson is chief of the Lee Newspapers State Bureau in Helena. He can be reached by email at chuck.johnson@lee.net or by phone at (406) 447-4066 or (800) 525-4920.

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