AG candidate Bucy urges campaign spending ban on groups that harm consumers

This item originally appeared in: The Missoulian


Charles S. Johnson

 HELENA – If elected as attorney general, Democrat Pam Bucy said Tuesday she will propose a law to ban campaign spending in Montana by outside groups that have been found guilty of or settled cases with the state for harming consumers.

Bucy, who faces Republican Tim Fox in the race for attorney general, said the ban would apply to groups spending money to influence an attorney general election – like the GOP group that has bought ads supporting Fox and attacking her.

She called for strengthening campaign disclosure laws so Montanans can learn which groups are financially supporting the candidates.

Fox’s campaign manager, Tyler Matthews, denounced Bucy’s proposals as an “absurd, last-minute political attack” and “a new low from a former lobbyist who is willing to say anything to win.”

Bucy said she favors a campaign ethics pledge for attorney general candidates to agree to denounce spending from “special interests seeking to influence justice in Montana.”

“The barrage of out-of-state special interest cash in the Montana attorney general race is unprecedented,” she said at a Capitol news conference. “This attempt to buy an attorney general is the single largest threat to consumer protection in Montana.”

Bucy’s comments are aimed at the Republican State Leadership Committee Inc., a Washington, D.C., group that she said has bought more than $580,000 worth of broadcast advertising to support Fox.

The GOP group’s top five donors include two tobacco companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bucy said some of these groups have been found guilty of consumer fraud or settled with the state “for harming Montana citizens.” Most settlements, however, don’t include an admission of guilt or liability.

“The U.S. Supreme Court may have opened Montana elections up to a flood of special interest money, but we need to hold our justice system to a higher standard,” Bucy said. “We do not allow bribes in the courtroom, and we cannot allow political bribes to tip the scales of justice in favor of special interests who have harmed Montanans.”

Physician Richard Sargent of Helena, a leading advocate of Montana’s indoor smoking ban, praised Bucy’s proposed legislation. Consumers will be protected, he said, and “special interests can’t buy an election in order to avoid paying for their harm in Montana.”

Matthews said Bucy “is more concerned about finding her next job than helping Montanans find their next job.”

“Montanans know the single largest threat to consumer protection is not political campaigns,” he added. “It’s our out-of-control federal government that has given us ‘Obamacare’ to increase our health care and health insurance costs, a $16 trillion debt that threatens the future of generations of Americans and over-burdensome EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) rules that are killing Montana jobs.”