Missoula, Montana, is a beautiful city. There are mountains in the distance, tall, deep-green trees everywhere, old buildings – and a rocky, white-swirling river moving through it. No reasonable person seeing Missoula for the first time would think to focus on the city’s current robo-call election law controversy. This month, parents of students enrolled in Missoula’s schools received automated phone calls containing a message from Missoula’s mayor, John Engen. The content of the message is available on Youtube. In short, the message urges parents to vote on an upcoming bond, tells them where and how they can cast their ballot, and ends with this encouragement: “Thank you for everything you do to support your children, and to ensure a positive future for your family – and our wonderful community.”
On October 22, the city paper published an article about the message, noting the call was bankrolled with public funds. The article noted that Montana law forbids the use of public funds to advocate for bond issues, but it does not forbid using public funds to inform voters about where and how to vote.
In the same article, both the school district’s communication director and the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices stated there was no advocacy in the message. The Commissioner also said that the county attorney has jurisdiction over the complaint, and that there is nothing his office can do.
Full Article: Robo-calls, in Montana and Elsewhere |.