- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - An attorney for the Montana Senate majority leader asked a state judge Monday to dismiss allegations that the lawmaker failed to report illegal campaign contributions and coordinated his campaign with a conservative group.

Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl did not follow proper procedure in his complaint against Sen. Art Wittich, attorney Carrie Wassenburger said at a hearing in district court in Helena.

Motl’s complaint should have been filed in Gallatin County, where the alleged violations occurred, she said.

Motl responded that he followed state law in filing his civil action against Wittich. The Bozeman Republican’s improper campaign finance reports were filed in Lewis and Clark County, where Motl filed the action, Motl said.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock did not immediately make a ruling on the request to dismiss the case.

If Sherlock upholds Motl’s findings that Wittich illegally coordinated with Western Tradition Partnership, the Republican could be removed from office and struck from the 2014 ballot.

Motl has filed several similar civil actions against 2010 Republican legislative candidates accused of illegal campaign practices with Western Tradition Partnership, a group that purported to be an educational organization but which Sherlock previously found was active in campaigns to elect or defeat candidates.

In the only other case against a sitting legislator, Sherlock denied a request by Rep. Mike Miller of Helmville to move the legal proceedings against him to Powell County.

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