- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Ted Cruz campaign may be chatting up Montanans for their vote, but the Texas senator’s alleged robocalls are pushing the wrong buttons for some.

Such automated phone calls are illegal in Montana, and are prompting a few complaints.

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices was alerted to the calls earlier this week but says he doesn’t have the authority to enforce the state law that prohibits political robocalls. His office said they received complaints from at least three callers.

A spokesman for the Cruz campaign in Washington, D.C., Brian Phillips, said the calls did not come from the Texas senator and accused rivals of “attempting to smear our campaign.”

Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are hoping to prevent Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination outright - which means even sparsely populated states like Montana, which awards only 27 delegates, could become crucial.

Greg Trangmoe, a state co-chair for Kasich’s campaign, says the robocalls show that the Cruz campaign isn’t playing by Montana rules. Earlier this year, the Cruz camp explored the possibility of trying to disqualify Kasich from the June primary.

“We’re doing things in the way it should be done in Montana,” Trangmoe said.

One man, a Kasich supporter, said he got two calls earlier this week. That prompted the Kasich campaign to email other supporters to be on the alert for other calls.

Robocalls, political or otherwise, is not unusual in Montana even if against the law.

“Nothing can be done,” said political practices commissioner Jonathan Motl. “I can’t do anything about robocall complaints.”

Under state law, he said, robocalls are the domain of local law enforcement. An offense carries a fine of up to $2,500.

Last year, a bill attempted to give Motl jurisdiction but the effort went nowhere in the state legislature.

Even if granted the authority, he said, his jurisdiction would not encompass federal office seekers, such as Cruz and other presidential candidates.

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