Republican Legislator proposes bills to bring some light to dark money

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad)

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad)

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad) has introduced two bills he calls a “necessary first step on the long road to true campaign reform.”

After the deluge of anonymous political spending in the 2012 election, campaign finance has become a top issue of the 2013 Legislature.

Representative Cook’s bills are modest compared to other reforms suggested by lawmakers. His first bill (HB254) would require election materials such as flyers to include disclaimers if they were paid for with anonymous funds through Political Action Committees.

As it stands, the disclaimer would look like this:

“This communication has been funded by anonymous sources. It is the responsibility of the voter to determine the veracity of the statements being made and the true character of the organization behind this communication.”

Representative Cook says he is amenable to making that disclaimer shorter.

Cook’s second bill (HB255) would require certain PACs to submit expense summaries to the Commissioner of Political Practices detailing money spent opposing or supporting candidates or issues. The Commissioner would then make this report public and offer it to the donors to that particular PAC.

Cook cited the dark-money group American Tradition Partnership as an example of the organizations about which he is trying to find more information.

“I wanna know where you played, who you played against or for, and how much you spent,” Cook said.
State Director of Right to Life Montana Greg Trude opposes both bills.
“Is this going to absolutely make it so someone like ATP is going to disclose,” Trude said about Cook’s first bill. “Or is somebody going to have to hunt them down. It’s going to be a big waste of time as far as I’m concerned.”
He also argued both bills unfairly encroach on First Amendment rights. No action was taken on either bill Monday.

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