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Commissioner Responds to Concerns Over Political Robotexts

Texts without Attribution Violate Montana Law

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The Commissioner of Political Practice’s (COPP) office has received an increasing number of complaints about unsolicited political robotexts over the past few days.

 

“We’ve received one formal complaint and numerous other complaints about campaign-related text messages,” said Commissioner Jeff Mangan. “Complaints have come in about federal, state, and local political texts and concern the campaign communications of candidates, political parties, and committees.”

 

Montana law requires that all election communications, electioneering communications, and independent expenditures include an attribution disclosing who the communication is funded by, and contact information for the source (Mont. Code Ann. § 13-35-225).  The Commissioner will enforce the requirements of the attribution laws on all political communications including text messages.

 

Candidates and committees should be aware of a separate federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which regulates telephone communications.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces the TCPA, and Montanans can file a complaint with

Commissioner of Political Practices Addresses Concerns Surrounding Absentee Ballot Mailers

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Mailers urging Montanans to apply for an absentee ballot—regardless of whether they were already registered to vote by mail— have prompted many concerned Montanans to reach out to the Commissioner of Political Practice’s office. “We’ve had inquiries about the funding behind the mailers, possible political nature of the messaging, voter privacy, and the use of the state seal,” said Commissioner Jeff Mangan. “In reviewing these concerns, the mailers do not appear to violate Montana’s campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws.” 

 

The funding for the mailers is traceable through the Federal Election Commission and does not come from a dark money source. Under Montana law, the mailers do not qualify as an election or electioneering communication because they do not support or oppose a candidate or ballot issue, nor do they refer to a candidate, political party or ballot issue on the November ballot.  Rather, the mailers encourage registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot. Other states, such as Wisconsin, have also had third-party groups send voters absentee ballot registration materials that contained confusing information.

 

New American Jobs Fund, a federally registered super political action committee, sent the Montana mailers and used a Voter File purchased from the Secretary of

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