Gov. Bullock, Sen. Ankney announce bills aiming to disclose campaign donations in Montana

Montana's Democratic governor and a Republican state senator are pushing for full disclosure of political donations under proposed legislation.

At a news conference Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip touted four bills that would require political donation disclosures.

"We can't solve all the national problems, but we certainly can make sure that we ensure the integrity of our state elections," Bullock said. "Because dark money does corrupt our elections."

The governor said eight bills to reform various campaign finance laws already have died this session. Ankney said their bills may fare differently given his stamp of approval.

Both parties, Ankney said, have problems with undisclosed donations and unfair political attacks that make puppets out of candidates.

"When somebody's hiding in the shadows and gut-shoots you, you have a right to know who's taking a shot at you," Ankney said.

Three of the four proposals arrived in the Legislature this week.

House Bill 406, sponsored by Republican Rep. Rob Cook of Conrad, would require people and organizations that enter into contracts with the state to acknowledge and comply with Montana campaign finance laws.

House Bill 409, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Bryce Bennett of Missoula, would allow the secretary of state to dissolve Montana corporations that violate the state's campaign finance laws. Bullock said the secretary of state already has the discretion to dissolve corporations for failing to file an annual report or maintain a registered agent.

Senate Bill 267 would require corporations to disclose the group's joint expenditures and communications in support or opposition of any political candidate or ballot issue. Sen. Sue Malek, D-Missoula, is sponsoring the bill, which would make those expenditures public on the Internet.

The widest sweeping of their campaign finance measures likely will be introduced next week. It would require political contributions be disclosed more frequently and despite tax status. Federal law exempts organizations filed under 501(c)(3) tax code, including ones that aim to influence political issues, from disclosing the identity of people or groups that give it money.

Republicans have called Bullock a hypocrite for demanding disclosure of campaign contributions, citing his undisclosed fundraising through the Democratic Governors Association.

"He's saying one thing in Montana then traveling to D.C. and California to raise corporate cash," said Chris Shipp, executive director of the Montana Republican Party.

Bullock promised Thursday that the governors group would not spend any dark money as long as he is chairman.