Commissioner: Senate leader broke campaign laws


Last updated 4/1/2014 at 3:41pm

HELENA — The Montana commissioner of political practices said Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich broke state campaign laws by coordinating with and failing to report contributions from a conservative group during his 2010 primary election campaign.

Commissioner Jonathan Motl said he intends to have a judge weigh his findings and decide whether Wittich's actions merit removal from the 2014 election ballot.

"That would be the big penalty," Motl said. "Is this significant enough to establish a public trust violation? If it is, the court decides whether or not to take the next step."

The Bozeman Republican is running for the open state House District 68 seat against Democrat Ashley Stevick.

Wittich did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday, though he has previously denied coordination between his campaign and any third-party group. He has accused Motl of trying to "gag and silence conservatives."

Motl's findings are part of an ongoing investigation into Western Tradition Partnership involvement with dozens of Republican candidates in the 2010 and 2012 primary elections. Motl has concluded so far that at least a half-dozen candidates, including Wittich, did not report in-kind campaign contributions from and coordinated attack ads with the secretive conservative group in 2010.


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