No one showed up to oppose a bill Friday to tighten and make more specific some of Montana’s campaign finance laws after a federal judge struck down some of them as unconstitutionally vague last year. At issue before the House State Administration Committee was House Bill 129 by Rep. Steve Gibson, R-East Helena. The bill came after U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena struck down some state laws last year in a lawsuit filed by American Tradition Partnership. They included the state’s political civil libel law, which made it illegal to misrepresent a candidate’s voting record.
Gibson’s bill deletes the “political civil libel” language from the law. It revises the law to say: “It is unlawful for a person to misrepresent a candidate’s public voting record with knowledge that the assertion is false or with a reckless disregard of whether or not the assertion is false.”
HB129 also limits to five years the length of time an opposing candidate or political committee can go back to contrast an opponent’s voting record. There previously was no limit.
Gibson said the changes are needed.
“I think many in this room, no matter what your party, have experienced blatant accusations that are totally false,” Gibson said. “It’s out of hand.”
The bill drew support from Sean McQuillan, representing the Montana Public Interest Group, and Keith Allen, a union official who clarified he was speaking only for himself.
Officials from the state political practices commissioner’s office, while not taking a stand for or against the bill, said the bill tries to address issues raised by Lovell’s decision.
Full Article: Bill would tighten some Montana campaign finance laws.