Commissioner of political practices continues dark money investigation


BOZEMAN, Mont. - New details on dark money in Montana politics -- Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl says he has found evidence another 2010 Republican candidate violated Montana campaign laws. Montana State Senator Scott Sales is accused of coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership. Sales is the seventh candidate Motl says violated campaign laws.

The most recent included Montana Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich. Western Tradition Partnership has been named in the many of the cases. The group has since changed its name to American Tradition Partnership. Last year a judge slapped ATP with a $260,000 fine for failing to disclose campaign spending in the 2008 elections. We looked through the 33-page decision released by Motl. It details what Sales is alleged to have violated back in 2010, when he was running for Gallatin County Commissioner. Motl says Sales failed to report and disclose contributions, took illegal corporate contributions by coordinating with groups like Western Tradition Partnership, and failed to keep adequate campaign records. Motl points to one specific situation involving a letter written by Sales' wife, Sandie Sales. Motl says Western Trade Partnership worked with Sandie and Scott Sales to write, edit and lay out a letter of support. It also discusses how WTP charged Sales less than fair market value. The findings also detail three mailers that went out to Gallatin County voters, attacking Sales' opponent in the commission race, Joe Skinner. Motl says the actual mailers were not the issue, it was the fact that Western Tradition Partnership is alleged to have coordinated with the candidate to create them. Motl says his work on resolving dark money complaints from the 2010 primary elections is not over. He tells us there are still four decisions he has left to send out, and expects some of those to be released in the next few days. As for cases like Scott Sales, he says the next step is bringing the cases to the court, and letting a judge decide what should happen next.