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Filing fees would be legit campaign expenses under Senate Bill 3

“This is a little bit of the dark money that, personally, I would like to take out of the equation. It’s very simple,” said state Sen. Doug Kary. (Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service)

By Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – Sen. Doug Kary, R-Helena, admits that he and other lawmakers have broken the law when filing campaign finance reports.

That’s because current statute does not allow lawmakers to include their filing fees in campaign finance reports. Senate Bill 3 would allow elected officials to include the fee along with other expenditures.

Kary is the bill’s sponsor and said legislators need to look beyond their filing fees. He said since campaigns are not open yet, he can contribute to a candidate’s fund for filing fees.

“All campaign finances should be documented,” Kary said.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said however the committee votes, his office would enforce it.

“It is up to this committee to decide whether or not you wish a filing fee to be a personal expense or a campaign expense,” Motl said.

Motl said that in the summer of 2015 a complaint was filed with the commissioner’s office that candidates were filing those fees as expenditures. As a result, Motl’s office now monitors expenditures within the campaign finances.

“We didn’t go retroactive with it. We understood the culture had thought that it was a campaign expense,” Motl said.

The bill would make it easy to see how the money flows in and out of campaigns, Kary said.

“This is a little bit of the dark money that, personally, I would like to take out of the equation. It’s very simple,” Kary said.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation