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Special for the Missoulian Political briefs

HELENA - The state should fine telemarketers calling Montana residents who don't want solicitation, Democratic state auditor candidate Sen. Barry "Spook" Stang, D-St. Regis, said.

Stang wants lawmakers to pass legislation, similar to that in Tennessee and Kentucky, where residents put their name on a list of people who don't want calls from telephone salespeople. Telemarketing companies then must buy these lists and if they call a person on it, the state would issue a fine.

Fines can range from $100 to $500, Stang said. He adds that Montana should double the fine when the elderly are involved.

The veteran lawmaker said this would be more effective way of protecting consumers than establishing a toll-free telephone line for people to call with complaints.

Stang's Democratic challenger John Morrison, a Helena attorney, has advocated a Senior Fraud Protection Hotline. Stang said these numbers already exists and do nothing to stop fraud.

Rep. David Ewer, D-Helena, is also vying for the seat being vacated by State Auditor Mark O'Keefe. Republicans Rep. Bruce Simon of Billings and Gallatin County Auditor Joyce Schmidt of Bozeman are also in the race along with Natural Law Party candidate Rebecca Scott of Great Falls.

Missoulian State Bureau

Butte company settles campaign violation

HELENA - A Butte company has announced that it will plead guilty and pay $117,000 in fines to settle criminal violations of federal election law two years ago.

MSE Inc., an engineering company, will accept a misdemeanor violation for funneling corporate contributions through company employees into the campaign of a Missouri senator in 1998. The company also agreed to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service in which it will educate Montanans about campaign finance laws.

As part of the plea agreement, struck with the U.S. attorney's office in Missoula, the company will pay a $97,500 penalty and voluntarily will pay an additional fine of $19,500 to the Federal Election Commission. The company appeared Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leif B. Erickson to enter the plea agreement.

The case stems from a 1998 tour of MSE and fund-raising luncheon for Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond of Missouri, who was seeking re-election then.

Court records say Don Peoples, MSE president and chief executive officer, had, before Bond's visit to Butte, given $750 bonuses to 13 MSE executives. Those executives later were invited by Peoples to attend a fund-raiser for Bond and contribute between $100-$500. Twelve of those 13 employees gave $750 contributions to Bond's campaign; one gave $1,000.

The settlement documents say that as a result of MSE's conduct, those contributions were not individual, but corporate contributions "funneled through conduits."

Missoulian State Bureau

Session includes judicial appointments

HELENA (AP) - Lawmakers will use next month's special legislative session to decide whether to confirm three judicial appointments made since the 1999 session adjourned a year ago.

Stewart E. Stadler of Kalispell was appointed as the third judge in the 11th District, which encompasses Flathead County.

Willis B. Jones Jr. of Columbus was named the first judge for the newly created 22nd Judicial District made up of Big Horn, Carbon and Stillwater counties.

The appointments were made last September by Gov. Marc Racicot after the last Legislature, citing an increased judicial workload, created the new district and authorized the additional judge for Flathead County.

Last June, Racicot reappointed Mike McCarter as judge of the state Workers' Compensation Court. He was the only applicant for the job.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the three appointments May 8 at 10:30 a.m. in the Supreme Court chambers. That is the opening day of the session, which is expected to last up to six days.

If endorsed by the panel, the names will be sent to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote.

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