Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law Wednesday a major bill to tighten Montana’s campaign finance laws to require anonymous so-called “dark money” groups to report how they are spending money in state political races. The Democratic governor signed the bill flanked by two Republicans, Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip, who sponsored the bill, and Rep. Frank Garner of Kalispell, who led the debate in the House. Later, a number of legislators who supported the bill and others who worked on it stood behind the governor and two lawmakers for another bill signing. “When it comes to Montanans as individuals having control of our elections, this is the most significant day in the last 112 years since Montanans passed the Corrupt Practices Act,” Bullock told a large crowd in the Governor’s Reception Room.
That initiative, passed by voters in 1912, helped wrest the state’s political power from the Copper Kings, the mining barons who had exerted enormous influence over state politics, Bullock said. That initiative prohibited corporations from making independent expenditures in state political campaigns.
“For a century following, our elections — and the candidates who prevailed in those contests — were responsive not to some anonymous corporation and their millions, but rather to their neighbors who elected them,” Bullock said. “Our campaigns were something we could be proud of, and our democracy worked. That is, until recent anti-democratic decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed unlimited secret money to flood into our elections.”