Campaign spending on three ballot initiatives neared $1 million over the past six weeks, despite the fact that legal issues mean votes on the initiatives may not even be counted. A state district judge on Sept. 13 tossed three conservative-leaning measures from the Nov. 7 ballot, saying signature gatherers for Constitutional Initiatives 97 and 98 and Initiative 154 tricked people into signing petitions. That ruling has been appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. The high court has yet to rule, leaving supporters and opponents of the three measures little choice but to campaign as though votes on the measures will count. “I don’t know that we have a choice,” said Eric Feaver, president of MEA-MFT, the union helping lead the campaign against CI- 97, which would create a constitutional limit on increases in most state spending. “We’ve been telling people that you’ve got to vote like you mean it, and not presume the (high) court is going to concur with (keeping it off the ballot).” CI-97 opponents have spent $640,000 in the past six weeks, including $570,000 on TV and other broadcast advertising. Most of that money $560,000 came from The National Education Association and AARP-Montana. NEA, the national umbrella group for public school teachers’ unions, contributed $310,000 to the Not in Montana-No on CI-97 campaign, and AARP-Montana, a consumer group with 150,000 members 50 years or older, added another $250,000. Opponents say CI-97 would needlessly restrict government spending and that the state constitution already requires a balanced budget. Supporters of CI-97, CI-98 and I-154 have reported campaign spending of $315,000 in the past six weeks, including about $151,000 on broadcast advertising. CI-98 would make it easier for residents to attempt to recall judges, and I-154 would allow property owners to demand payment from government if they think government action has devalued their property. The campaign coordinator for all three measures is Trevis Butcher, a rancher and political activist from Winifred. Nearly all of the funding in support of the three measures has come from Montanans in Action, a group formed this year. Butcher is the group’s treasurer. Montanans in Action has contributed a total of $1.1 million to the campaigns of CI- 97, CI-98 and I-154. Butcher has said the group is not required by law to reveal its donors. That assertion has been challenged by a rival group and is being investigated by the state political practices commissioner. Gov. Brian Schweitzer has named New York real estate investor Howard Rich as a principal financial backer of the three initiatives. I-154 opponents, led by conservation and environmental groups, are going ahead with their campaign as well. But the confusing legal status of the measure has made it tough to raise money, said Janet Ellis, executive director of Montana Audubon and a steering committee member for Property Owners Against I-154. “People don’t think it’s on the ballot, and then you have to explain that it is on the ballot, and that it may be off the ballot,” she said Tuesday. “It becomes a lot more difficult to raise funds with that kind of a message.” Nonetheless, the group raised $30,000 from 300 individuals in the past six weeks, has sent postcards to absentee voters and has produced some radio and TV ads, Ellis said. Opponents are arguing that I-154 will stop all land-use planning in Montana. “The fact that out-of-state money is pushing Montana to allow out-of-state developers to shape our communities outrages people,” Ellis said.