HELENA, Mont. (AP) - For the second consecutive election cycle, someone is paying out-of-state signature gatherers to qualify the Green Party for the Montana ballot. And, as in 2018, the Montana Green Party says it isn’t them.
A conservative political action committee whose fundraiser brought in $250,000 for state Auditor Matt Rosendale’s U.S. House campaign filed campaign finance paperwork last week allowing it to spend money to qualify the Green Party for the 2020 ballot, a spokesman said. They have since changed course.
“For a period of time, Club for Growth Action explored working to put the Green Party on the Montana ballot, but it is not an active project anymore,” spokesman Joe Kildea said Thursday. He said they learned another organization or group was pursuing the effort, but said he did not know who it was.
Democrats believe it’s a Republican-backed effort to draw votes away from Democratic candidates. The Green Party supports environmental and social justice causes and opposes corporate politics.
“It’s outrageous and unacceptable that a D.C. dark money group that has endorsed and spent millions to elect Maryland Matt Rosendale is tampering with Montana elections like this,” Montana Democratic Party executive director Sandi Luckey said in a statement. “Montanans won’t stand for this.” She challenged Rosendale to call for the end of “outside efforts to undermine the integrity of our elections.”
Rosendale’s campaign did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The Montana Green Party posted on its Facebook page Wednesday that it doesn’t have any House, Senate or statewide candidates running in 2020 and it likely won’t be pursuing ballot qualification efforts until the 2022 election cycle. A phone number for a party spokeswoman was disconnected.
A signature-gatherer working in downtown Helena, who declined to give his name, said Thursday that he was hired by Advanced Micro Targeting - the same organization that was paid to qualify the Green Party for the Montana ballot in 2018.
The Montana Democratic Party successfully challenged the validity of dozens of signatures and a judge removed the Green Party from the ballot. It was never disclosed who was behind the qualification effort because state law did not require Advanced Micro Targeting officials to say who hired them.
The 2019 Legislature passed a law requiring anyone who wants to spend money on a minor party qualification effort to file with the Commissioner of Political Practices. Club for Growth Action is the only one that had filed paperwork as of Thursday. Any spending would have to be reported by April 15.
The signature-gatherer told The Associated Press that he’d been in Helena since January and was likely leaving at the end of the week. He said he and others had gathered about 6,500 signatures. The worker said he did not know who had hired Advanced Micro Targeting to gather signatures.
Lewis and Clark County elections officials had not received any Green Party petitions as of Thursday. The deadline to submit the petitions is March 2.
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