Political group fined $260K for disregarding Montana disclosure laws

2013-11-26T18:45:00Z 2014-05-12T18:14:29Z Political group fined $260K for disregarding Montana disclosure lawsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
November 26, 2013 6:45 pm  • 

HELENA – A political group that has gained notoriety for challenging campaign restrictions on corporations was fined $260,000 on Tuesday after a judge said it failed to disclose spending.

The civil penalty levied against American Tradition Partnership, which is organized as a nonprofit corporation, demonstrated that new campaign freedoms extended to corporations don’t make them immune to state disclosure laws.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock said in his order that the group has shown “complete disregard” for the laws of Montana, its courts, and the tradition of free and open elections.

The case involves attack ads mailed by the group in 2008 denouncing candidates. Officials say it did not report the spending as political activity to the state commissioner of political practices.

The group, which was headquartered in Montana, then Colorado and the Washington, D.C., area, has challenged state campaign finance laws and targeted moderate Republican legislators and Democrats with harsh campaign ads.

The group was part of an effort that resulted in the 2012 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that nullified Montana’s century-old law that limited election spending. It also has won recent legal battles over political advertising, prompting a federal judge to strike down a Montana law requiring attack ads to list associated voting records and other state regulations.

It also asked Sherlock in 2010, when it was called Western Tradition Partnership, to declare as unconstitutional several other laws requiring disclosure of campaign spending. The request came as the commissioner of political practices was investigating the group for failing to disclose.

The case turned against American Tradition Partnership when the attorney general’s office, representing the state, sought fines in the commissioner’s eventual findings.

Sherlock said Tuesday that ATP failed to follow up on its own case and disregarded court orders during the discovery process.

“Although ATP has cloaked itself in a patriotic and appealing name, it would appear its actions are anything but,” Sherlock wrote. “While ATP is a partnership, it is not acting in the American tradition.”

Earlier this year, the group’s former attorney, James Brown, said it was no longer active, and its operations were in flux. He suggested it could be hard to collect any potential penalties.

The group’s website was still functioning Tuesday, but a phone number was disconnected. It did not respond to an email request seeking comment.

The commissioner of political practices has recently opened investigations into activities involving the group in more recent elections. The commissioner has warned he could penalize candidates who received help from the group.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. Objective observer
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    Objective observer - November 28, 2013 6:57 am
    Then you attack Democrats in a totally disconnected fashion calling them despots and then pile on with COMPLETELY unsubstantiated "suitcases full of cash" claptrap. Pot, meet kettle. [rolls eyes]
  2. LosandfoundT
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    LosandfoundT - November 27, 2013 10:50 pm
    There are no GOP/Republicans, just minions owned, operated and silenced by the Tea-Party Extremists !

    I find amusing that Americans enjoy getting nothing... No Voice/No Votes from the GOP/Republicans... so it appears that the GOP/Republicans are not missed even by their own constituents... in the least bit!
  3. Leadfoot
    Report Abuse
    Leadfoot - November 27, 2013 6:39 pm
    MM: you attack voraciously, the unfairness of inaccurate and false ads against your chosen candidates. Then, you attack Daines in a totally disconnected fashion and call him an idiot. Contrary to your accusations, he is anything but an idiot. It will be proven when he defeats the onslaught of Democrat unknowns and despots that your party throws at him. These despicable candidates will, of course, be secretly financed to the hilt by the Montana Bar Assoc. & individual attys, with briefcases full of cash, who will expect payback compensation in the form of favors. It is truly amazing just how indignant a Democrat can become when he accuses a Republican of doing what Democrats have done for decades, without disclosure or even reporting by the supporting Montana press. Even more amazing is how a Democrat will vote for a vastly inferior & unknown Democrat candidate for any office by just voting for the man on the ballot with a D after his name.
  4. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - November 27, 2013 6:26 pm
    Senate Republicans Fight to Protect Secret Donors:

    Voter suppression the new GOP strategy:

    Democracy gone Astray:

    Senate Republicans fight to protect Secret Donors:

    Senate Republicans filibustered The Discloser Act...:

    Senate Republicans fight to protect Secret Donors-Videos:

    Moron Secret Donors:
  5. jus wundrin
    Report Abuse
    jus wundrin - November 27, 2013 9:26 am
    Thats nice judge.

    Now, when are you going to go after the other dark money contributors such as unions, especially those of the public sector variety?
  6. BWO
    Report Abuse
    BWO - November 27, 2013 7:33 am
    Throw them in jail.
  7. LosandfoundT
    Report Abuse
    LosandfoundT - November 27, 2013 7:28 am
    Senate Republicans Fight to Protect Secret Donors:
  8. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - November 27, 2013 7:02 am
    Time for all 401(c) groups to go away on both sides. It is just a vehicle for dark money groups to use. Dark money = anonymous donors. These groups are supposed to "primarily" for social welfare purposes. As far as I'm concerned if you're spending 49% of the money on political advertising, it's not primarily being used for social welfare purposes.
  9. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - November 27, 2013 5:13 am
    Not to mention the attack ads were irresponsible and totally inaccurate. I wish something could be done to ensure accuracy in campaign ads. Both sides are guilty but the Mr. Potter Party and affiliated groups like this one are by far the worst offenders and will say anything to get support. Ignoring the campaign laws is just the tip for these groups who will support idiots like Daines which is another reason to vote against that moron next year.
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