COPP Makes Decision on Krautter Complaint
May 27, 2020 | View PDF
On May 18 Joel Krautter issued the following press release:
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, Jeff Mangan, issued a “Finding of Sufficient Facts to Support a Campaign Finance Violation” ruling on May 15th, in favor of Sidney Representative Joel Krautter in his campaign finance complaint against Doctors for a Healthy Montana. Krautter’s April 7th complaint alleged the political action committee’s name was misleading the public and was in violation of Montana’s Naming and Labeling Act. This statute requires a group to be named in a way that accurately reflects the majority of the group’s contributors, which were politicians not doctors at the time of Krautter’s complaint. The Kalispell based PAC has been attacking Krautter during his re-election campaign.
The Commissioner’s decision states, “The Commissioner hereby issues a ‘sufficient evidence’ Finding and Decision justifying a civil fine or civil prosecution of Doctors for a Healthy Montana. Because of the nature of the violation, this matter is referred to the County Attorney of Lewis and Clark County for his consideration as to prosecution.”
“I’m thankful for the Commissioner’s decision which confirms what I said in my complaint. It’s now been documented that Doctors for a Healthy Montana will lie to the public. This goes to their group’s credibility, just like I previously said, they were misleading the public about my pro-life record,” said Krautter.
The COPP decision stated that the violation was from the time period Feb. 24 to April 19 and the group came into compliance with the naming and labeling statue on April 20. At that time additional doctors contributed to the PAC meeting the requirements for compliance.
The matter has now been turned over to the County Attorney, Lewis & Clark County, for his consideration as to prosecution. If the county attorney waves the right to prosecute or fails to prosecute within 30 days, the matter returns to the COPP for prosecution. Most matters are waved back to the COPP. The Finding and Decision does not necessarily lead civil prosecution as the Commissioner has discretion in regard to legal action.
On April 14 political action committee (PAC), Doctors for a Healthy Montana, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Missoula against MT Attorney General Tim Fox and Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) Jeffery Mangan. The group claims the statute cited by Rep. Joel Krautter, R-Sidney, in his complaint filed with COPP on April 7 serves no useful purpose and should be repealed. The suit asks a judge to declare the statute unconstitutional and award the PAC cost relief including the cost of litigation.
On May 13 the group was denied a prelinary injunction on enforcement of Montana Code 13-37-210 governing the naming of political action committees by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen. The judge has yet to make a final decision on the case. The judge’s ruling could very well impact the action that is taken in regards to the violation.
“We feel the Naming and Labeling Act is unconstitutional. We are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional,” stated Matt Regier (R-HD4) contributor to Doctors for a Healthy Montana.