Missoulian: New campaign finance law praised, but some say it needs to be toughened


“My overall view is it’s a pretty good bill that definitely will improve disclosure in Montana,” said Paul Ryan, senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Washington, D.C. group. “Is it the toughest in the nation? No, I wouldn’t characterize it as that.”

Ryan, a University of Montana graduate, added: “I’d put Montana definitely in the top tier with disclosure. All in all, the state Legislature and the governor are to be commended. This is a great step forward for Montana voters to have more disclosure in elections.”

The Campaign Legal Center attorney said he’s hoping the law can be strengthened to require donors to incidental committees to be disclosed.

These are groups involved in Montana elections, for example, but which do not have elections as their primary purpose, Ryan said. They’re known as “non-major purpose groups.”


“When talking about 501(c)(4), social welfare groups, or (c)(6) business groups, what kind of disclosure do these non-major purpose groups have?” Ryan said. “Do they have to disclose where they got their money to make an ad buy, or that they made an ad buy?”

The new law requires them to report their ad buys, which is new information for Montana voters, Ryan said.

“Do they have to say where they got their money?” he asked. “Or will it be a report by an innocuous-sounding group saying we spent $200,000 on a radio buy? Some states require that.”

Ryan went on to say, “There is a big wild card here, which is the rule-making process, which has the potential to strengthen an already-good law.”


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