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From the Commissioner…

November 12, 2014

Dear Fellow Montanans:

Well, except for a few possible recounts the 2014 general election is over. Here are the observations this Office makes about the election.

Montanans thought that the deceptive Stanford/Dartmouth Flyer was the single most improper act of election activity during the 2014 general election. The people of our office took more than 100 phone calls and emails protesting the Flyer, by far more protests than on any other 2014 election activity. You can review the Stanford/Dartmouth Flyer issue by looking at the McCulloch Complaint (posted under Docket) and the partial Decision (McCulloch v. Stanford, posted under Decisions) available for public review on the COPP website.

Candidates thought that the most improper 2014 general election activity consisted of certain Flyers sent through the mail attacking their positions or votes on certain issues. Candidates described the content of the information in flyers as being deceptive or consisting of outright lies. The flyers came from third party groups in and out of Montana, as well as from opposing candidates and the opposing political party.

Some 2014 election activity generated formal complaints to this Office. We responded to complaints over the attribution, timing, reporting and disclosure of the cost of campaign communications. In the last month before the general election we issued 14 prompt campaign practice Decisions on complaints. You can find these Decisions on COPP website beginning with an October 8 Decision (Clark v McDermott) and ending with an October 31, 2014 Decision (Erickson v. Moore). The Stanford/Dartmouth complaint and partial Decision fell in this time span and are available for review on the COPP website

We were not able to similarly respond to (or even accept) candidate complaints concerning the truth of the content of flyers attacking their campaigns. Federal courts have struck down Montana's political libel and voting record statues, leaving the COPP with no authority to investigate the truthfulness or content of campaign literature. The Federal Courts struck down these Montana laws on the basis of interference with the 1st amendment speech rights of the candidate or entity publishing the attack flyers. This means that any future laws dealing with this topic will have to be carefully crafted, likely focusing on notice, reporting and disclosure.

Many scholars and observers postulate that the pervasive negative and unfair tone of recent election campaigning, reflected by electioneering such as the Stanford/Dartmouth Flyer, has caused many voters to abandon political involvement to the extent of choosing not to vote. Montanans did vote to varying degrees in the 2014 general election. Glacier County residents voted at 44.06% of registered voters while McCone County residents voted at 76.42%. All 54 remaining Montana counties fell within that range of percentages. The overall Montana voter turnout of 55.39% indicates many Montanans are disconnected from their government and from governance.

We understand that this Office has a responsibility to Montanans to demonstrate an effective government response to improper campaign practice actions. Accordingly, when this Office had authority to act, we did our best to consider and respond to 2014 campaign practice issues, including the formal complaints, before the election so that candidates and voters would have as much information as possible. We hope and trust that our service, along with other actions by government officials, will be weighed as evidence that government and governance belongs to, and is responsive to, Montanans. 

Sincerely,

Jonathan Motl                                                                                                                                                                                             

Commissioner of Political Practices


 

  • Previous Commissioner Letters 
  • Proposed Lobbying Threshold ARM
  • Statewide Candidate C-5 Reports due November 24th by 5pm
  • Statewide Ballot Issue Committee C-6 reports are due November 24th by 5pm
  • Statewide Incidental Committee C-4 reports are due November 22nd by 5pm 
  • State District & County Candidate C-5 reports due November 24th by 5pm
  • PAC & Party Committee C-6 reports are due November 24th by 5pm
  • New: Public Employee Ethics Training

 

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