Dark money in Montana: Another GOP candidate admits taking illegal contributions

Another Montana politician accused of illegally accepting campaign contributions from corporations has admitted his guilt and agreed to pay a fine.

Pat Wagman

Pat M. Wagman signed a settlement agreement in which he agreed to pay a civil fine of $19,599 by Oct. 1 and to pay $100 a day for every day after that if the fine is not paid in full. Wagman signed the settlement on Aug. 8 and it was signed Friday by state Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Magnan.

Wagman was one of nine Republican legislative candidates charged with breaking campaign finance laws in the 2010 elections. Wagman, of Livingston, was running for the state Senate in District 31 and lost to Ron Arthun in the primary.

Like other candidates charged by then-Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, Wagman was accused of accepting services, and failing to report them, from National Right to Work, a Virginia corporation, and other groups affiliated with that organization.

Those services included provision of a mailing list; campaign training; letter writing, production and mailing; website development; and document production.

“The services received were substantial,” Wagman said in a settlement affidavit, “involving thousands of letters, documents and the identities of voters and the issues they supported.”

He further acknowledged “that these services and goods that I received and accepted were in-kind contributions made to me by corporations and that I violated Montana law by accepting them and failing to report and disclose them.”

The settlement was filed in Lewis and Clark County District Court, Judge Michael McMahon presiding.

Motl eventually filed lawsuits against nine legislative candidates, eight of whom have now either signed similar agreements or were found guilty after trial or by default judgment.

The most recent development before Friday’s settlement occurred on Wednesday, when the Montana Supreme Court turned down an appeal from former state Sen. Art Wittich, one of the nine charged by Motl.

Only one of the nine cases remains unresolved. That involves Terry E. Bannan, a resident of Gallatin County who ran unsuccessfully for House District 68 in the 2010 primary.