MTPR

Jonathan Motl

Jeff Mangan is Montana's new commissioner of political practices.
Corin Cates-Carney

Montana’s commissioner of political practices basically serves as the state’s top political cop. The commissioner oversees campaign finance and ethics laws. It’s a complicated, sometimes controversial job.

In this interview with MTPR's Edward O'Brien, Montana’s brand new Political Practices Commissioner Jeff Mangan says he believes most Montanans are glad the position is there:

Montana Capitol, Helena.
William Marcus

Montana Governor Steve Bullock has nominated former democratic lawmaker Jeff Mangan from Great Falls to serve as the state’s next top political cop.

The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

Governor Steve Bullock and members of his staff interviewed candidates for the job of Montana’s next Commissioner of Political Practices, this afternoon.

Governor Bullock spent a little over ten minutes in each of his interviews with Ben Tiller, an attorney with the State Auditor’s office, and Jeff Mangan, a former Democratic legislator.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

The search for nominees to be Montana’s next top political cop ended this afternoon during a short meeting of legislative leaders.

The majority and minority leaders of the Montana House and Senate approved Jeff Mangan, a former Democratic legislator who owns a consulting firm in Great Falls, to join the Commissioner of Political Practices nominee list.

Rep. Derek Skees (R) HD-11 is the sponsor of a bill that would close the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.
Montana Legislature

Allegations of corruption and partisanship were scattered throughout a meeting of lawmakers today in the House Judiciary Committee as they discussed a bill (HB-340) that would dismantle the current office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.

Bill Would Eliminate Montana Office Of Commissioner Of Political Practices

Feb 2, 2017
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

HELENA - A bill in the Montana House would get rid of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices and split the duties between two elected officials — the Attorney General and Secretary of State — rather than one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

House Bill 340’s sponsor, Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, said the office wields too much power for one person.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl testifies in his lawsuit against Republican Rep. Art Wittich, March 31, 2016.
Kimberly Reed

The Montana Supreme Court ruled today that Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl's term has expired, but he can remain in office until a successor is found.

Montana Standard Editor David McCumber.
Mike Albans

Montana Standard Editor David McCumber joins MTPR's Nora Saks to talk about his paper's reaction to President Trump's gag-order covering several federal agencies like EPA and USDA. McCumber talks about how his newspaper plans to hold government agencies accountable.

Republican Lawmakers Try To Cut Off Campaign Regulator's Pay

Jan 12, 2017
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's Republican legislative leaders asked state officials Thursday to cut off Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl's pay amid a legal dispute over the commissioner's term of office.

While the maneuver appears to be an attempt to force Motl out of office, Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, said the issue isn't about the commissioner himself.

Keith Regier (R) SD-3
Montana Legislature

A new bill in Montana's Senate would decrease the amount of information people who donate to political campaigns must reveal to the public.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Keith Regier from Kalispell says he doesn’t think donors should have to share their employer or occupation when giving money to a political candidate or committee:

Montana FWP Appeals Ethics Ruling Over Trapping Initiative

Jan 3, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's fish and wildlife agency is appealing a ruling that it violated the state's ethics laws by allowing equipment it owns to be used to advocate against a ballot initiative.

In November, Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl fined Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks $1,500 after finding the Montana Trappers Association used an FWP trailer and state-owned displays of furbearing animals to oppose the 2014 anti-trapping initiative. The measure never made it on the ballot, but was revived in 2016 and rejected by Montana voters.

Senate Republicans Seek To Push Motl Out As Commissioner

Jan 3, 2017
Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl testifies in his lawsuit against Republican Rep. Art Wittich, March 31, 2016.
Kimberly Reed

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Senate Republicans who oppose giving Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl a full six-year term in office want to intervene in a lawsuit that aims to do just that.

Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, told his GOP caucus Tuesday that a resolution will be introduced as early as Wednesday defending the Senate's confirmation process, which set Jan. 1 as the expiration of Motl's term.

(Un)Truth in Political Advertising

Nov 2, 2016

Lies. 

That’s how political candidates often describe their opponent’s advertisements that are saturating television, mailboxes, and social media.

What does the laws says about truth in political ads?

Not much, says Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, because the content is protected by the Constitution’s free speech provisions.

“That is where the argument that you are interfering with the First Amendment speech right is strongest,” he says.  

Montana's May 25 special election will be held with both mail ballots and polling places available.
Josh Burnham

The Montana Supreme Court has ruled to keep a Libertarian candidate for secretary of state on November's election ballots. The justices, in a 5-to-1 decision, denied Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essmann's request to remove Roger Roots as a candidate.

Groups Change Ad Strategies Before Campaign Finance Deadline

Aug 12, 2016
"Issue advocacy" from the 2012 Montana elections.
Josh Burnham

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Representatives from three organizations say they will either change or cease running issue ads that mention Montana political candidates ahead of a deadline Tuesday that would require them to register as political committees and make financial disclosures to the state.

Montana Lawmaker Seeks New Trial In Dark Money Case

Jul 22, 2016
Rep. Art Wittich (R) HD68
Montana Legislature

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana lawmaker is asking for a new trial after a jury ruled he took illegal corporate contributions from an anti-union organization in 2010.

Montana Campaign Watchdog To Review Political Party Committees

Jul 7, 2016
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — More than two dozen Montana campaign committees currently registered as political party committees may have to be reclassified as independent campaign groups or be re-established as official arms of the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian parties.

Rep. Art Wittich (R) HD68
Montana Legislature

  Today a judge fined state Representative Art Wittich $68,000 for campaign finance violations from 2010 that a jury found him guilty of in April. But the judge said Wittich does not have to give up his seat in the legislature.

District Judge Ray Dayton handed down the penalty today in Anaconda.

(PD)

Candidates in the primary election can gather signatures for ballot initiatives at polling places, but they'd better be careful about it. That’s the word today from Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, Jonathan Motl.

The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices is asking a federal court to put on hold a ruling that would allow political parties to donate unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

A federal court has ruled that Montana's campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell on the limits passed in 1994 comes less than a month before the state's June 7 primary.

Judge To Decide Penalties In Next Phase Of Dark Money Case

Apr 11, 2016
Rep. Art Wittich
Montana Legislature

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Now that a jury has ruled a Montana legislator took $19,599 in illegal contributions, a judge now must decide whether to impose the ultimate penalty — the removal of an elected official from office, which hasn't been done by court order in 75 years.

Jury: Wittich Guilty Of Campaign Finance Violations

Apr 2, 2016
Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, testifies on the forth day of his corruption trial in Helena.
Kimberly Reed

It took a jury of six men and six women four hours Friday to find Bozeman Republican lawmaker Art Wittich illegally coordinated with non-profit third-party political groups during his 2010 primary election campaign.

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, the state elections enforcer who brought the civil lawsuit against Wittich for violations of campaign finances laws, told reporters after the trial that the jury’s decision will have lasting impacts on Montana elections.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl reflects during a break in the final day of his lawsuit against Bozeman Republican Rep. Art Wittich.
Kimberly Reed.

Testimony and arguments in the civil trial of State Representative Art Wittich wrapped up today. The jury is now deliberating the campaign finance charge against him. The Bozeman Republican has been on trial all week, sued by Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl. Motl says Wittich failed to report substantial contributions of campaign services provided by a national anti-union group in 2010. We spoke with John S. Adams, editor-in-chief of Montana Free Press about the trial's final day, and what happens next.


This week on "Campaign Beat": Regardless of the verdict, the Wittich trial could have long lasting implications for Montana politics. The Gianforte campaign continues to avoid questions about the candidate's charitable giving and positions on social issues. How long can that continue? And Attorney General Tim Fox saves they day when a belligerent drunk gets rowdy.

Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, testifies on the forth day of his corruption trial in Helena.
Kimberly Reed

State representative Art Wittich took the stand Thursday in the civil trial against him for allegedly violating state campaign finance law. Wittich is being sued by Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl. Motl says Wittich failed to report thousands of dollars of campaign services that he received from a nation anti-unton group when he ran for state senate in 2010. Wittich says he did pay for the services, and denies any wrongdoing. We spoke with John S. Adams, editor-in-chief of Montana Free Press about Wittich's testimony on Thursday.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl testifies in his lawsuit against Republican Rep. Art Wittich, March 31, 2016.
Kimberly Reed

The third day of the civil trial against Republican State Representative Art Wittich included testimony from the man who's suing him — that's Montana's Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl. Motl says Wittich didn't report campaign contributions in the form of thousands of dollars of campaign services that he received from a national anti-union group in 2010. Montana Free Press Editor-in-Chief John S. Adams brings us up to speed on what happened at the trial on Wednesday.


The testimony of Sarah Arnold resumed in the Wittich campaign practices trial, revealing inner workings of the National Right to Work campaign operation in MT.
John S. Adams - Montana Free Press

The jury hearing the case against Bozeman Republican Art Wittich has now heard two days of testimony. State Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl's case against Wittich charges the lawmaker with failing to report thousands of dollars in campaign services he allegedly received from the National Right To Work Committee when he was running for state senate in 2010. We spoke with Montana Free Press Editor-in-Chief John S. Adams who's covering the trial from Helena.


Wittich Campaign Finance Trial Underway

Mar 28, 2016
Special attorney general Gene Jarussi, center, listens during jury selection. COPP Jonathan Motl, far right, is suing Bozeman Republican Rep. Art Wittich, far left, for campaign practice violations. Also pictured is Wittic’hs attorney, Lucinda Luetkemeyer
Courtesy Kimberly Reed

HELENA — A highly anticipated civil trial to determine whether Bozeman Republican Rep. Art Wittich violated campaign practice laws during his 2010 primary campaign got underway in Helena on Monday.

Rep. Wittich To Get His Day In Court

Mar 25, 2016
Rep. Art Wittich
Montana Legislature

After more than two years of allegations, counter-claims, investigations, and back-and-forth legal maneuverings, the high-profile campaign practices lawsuit between a Democratic appointee and a Republican state lawmaker will finally go before a jury on Monday.

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