Montanans advocating for political ad transparency are breathing a sigh of relief now that a federal appeals court has upheld their state's campaign disclosure mandate.
To counteract the unlimited political ad spending allowed by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, Gov. Steve Bullock pushed the requirement into law in 2015. He has ceaselessly promoted this accomplishment In his long-shot presidential campaign, citing it as evidence he's uniquely positioned in the giant Democratic field to extinguish dark money's influence in Washington.
The Montana law requires nonprofit organizations to register with the state as political committees and file disclosures if they spend $250 or more in the final two months of a campaign on advertising or mailers referring to a candidate, political party or ballot initiative. The educational and social welfare groups known as 501(c)(4)s, which usually evade disclosure requirements and are often behind dark money activity, are covered by the requirement.
The modernization of Montana's voter registration system won't happen in time for next year's elections, because the state's top election administrator has concluded the new software cannot be installed and its security assured in time.
The decision was made by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who has something of a vested interest in his decision. He's a leading GOP candidate for the state's singular and reliably Republican seat in the House of Representatives in 2020.
But Stapleton was pressed to make the decision by the association of the state's county clerks, who said the system in place for 15 years was good enough for one more election.