Healthy Montana Initiative Files Political Practices Complaint Against Dark Money
(Helena, Mont.) – In a complaint filed today (June 4, 2018) with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP), the Healthy Montana Initiative, I-185, exposed illegal campaign activities by groups that appear to be working to fight against tobacco taxes.
In the combined complaint against Decision Point Consulting, Montanans Against Tax Hikes (MATH), and any unknown groups that have illegally failed to report, the Healthy Montana group urged Commissioner Jeff Mangan to immediately investigate illegal activities such as robocalling and failing to report expenditures by interests seeking to influence Montana’s elections. The severe violations of the state’s campaign finance and reporting laws denigrate the integrity of the electoral process and represent a clear disregard for transparency laws that aim to protect Montanans from the dangerous influence of dark money.
According to the complaint, “Montanans have a right to know what interests are funding those efforts, how much money is being dumped into our political system, and what other tactics they are utilizing. As part of a global industry with revenues approaching half a trillion dollars annually, Big Tobacco will likely attempt to protect their profits at the expense of Montanans’ health. Montana voters are counting on the Commissioner of Political Practices to shed light on the money and tactics used to influence this election.”
“There is a well-financed playbook of deception designed to stop tobacco taxes across the country. Meanwhile, 1,600 Montanans die from tobacco-related diseases every year. I-185 deserves to be put to voters without influence from out-of-state multi-billion-dollar corporations,” said Tara Veazey, Healthy Montana Initiative campaign manager.
The I-185 initiative gives Montana voters the opportunity to raise the state fees on all tobacco products in order to fund important health services for veterans, seniors and people with disabilities while preventing cuts to Medicaid that would leave roughly 100,000 Montanans without health coverage.
Montana has a long history of standing up to dark money groups attempting to manipulate our elections, and Big Tobacco companies have a long history of spending millions of dollars to attempt to defeat publicly popular tobacco tax initiatives in other states.
Although the failure to provide timely reports to COPP makes it impossible to know for certain what entities have been funding opposition research and activities, it is worth noting that the Treasurer of the only opposition ballot committee to be filed to date (MATH) also filed a letter with the Montana Attorney General on April 9, 2018, opposing the proposed ballot statements for I-185 on behalf of Altria Client Services LLC and RAI Services Company, whose parent companies dominate the tobacco market, controlling roughly 86% of the market share in 2016.
The complaint outlines multiple illegal elections activities including violations of campaign finance reporting laws including failure to report expenditures and contributions, and illegal robocalling by the out of state company, Decision Point Consulting, with the purpose of swaying voters against I-185. It also asks for Montanans Against Tax Hikes, Decision Point Consulting and any other unknown, undisclosed out-of-state actors attempting to influence Montanans be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.