The President of the MTA Says It Won’t Back Down From Political Sophistry.
On September 17, 2015 a sufficiency finding report was issued by Jonathan R. Motl the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices (COPP) supporting accusations against the Montana Trappers Association (MTA) that the organization had violated campaign reporting practices while opposing two failed ballot issues launched in 2013 and 2014.
The President of the MTA, Toby Walrath says after reviewing the documentation that the filed complaint and subsequent report failed to cite a single specific ARM rule as required. “It’s tough to know what Motl’s report is really saying because there are no listed violations in his documents. In 2010 a member of the MTA filed a complaint to the COPP and it was originally rejected because it was non-specific. We had to list the specific ARM rule for each of the 41 allegations before the complaint would even be accepted. Neither the complaint nor the report list any specific ARM rule violations because there aren’t any.” Walrath said.
The sufficiency finding report signed by Jonathan R. Motl last month does not contain any specific ARM rule violations yet Motl’s report states, “Having determined that sufficient evidence of a campaign practice violation exists, the next step is to determine whether there are circumstances or explanations that may affect prosecution of the violation and/or the amount of the fine.”
In 2010 Motl served as legal counsel for the complainants in this case where he used the de minims principle to defend 16 of 41 legitimate specific allegations filed against his clients by James Buell. Now as the current appointed COPP Motl states that, “…the Commissioner does not accept that failures to file or report can normally be excused as de minimis.”
Motl’s report also claims that the MTA used its website to launch a fund raising campaign. Factually the website that raised money for the MTA is www.trapperman.com which is in no way affiliated with the MTA or its ballot Issue Committee, Montanan’s for Effective Wildlife Management (MEWM). Further, his report cites an internet chat room as sufficiency evidence that the MTA raised money for campaign purposes. The MTA’s records show a donation to the MTA for their long standing Sportsmen’s Rights Protection Fund.
Page 12 – FOF No. 14(a) Alleges that MEWM failed to disclose seven contributions of over $35.00; Rangitsch Bros LLC ($90); CT Farms/Tom Barnes ($155); Kenneth Simpson ($50); Brian Gartner ($80); CT Farms/Tom Barnes ($150); John Gartner ($200); and Thomas Jackson ($75).
Had Motl actually reviewed the bank statements his report would show that the amounts listed are aggregate totals sent in by the listed individuals and had been reported in the proper manner on the appropriate C 6 as per Montana finance reporting laws.
Motl goes on to accuse the MTA and MEWM of failing to report “grassroots efforts” and “expenditures” during a period of time between Novemebr 2013 and February 2014 stating that;
“In the total 20 expenses reported by the two political committees, almost all of which are for fixed costs such as printing or advertising. There were no expenses reported for grassroots or organizing costs, including copy or mailing costs.ro As FOF No. l1(c) states, there were months (November of 2013
through February of 2Ol4) when the two committees reported no expenditures at all in opposition to I-169. This sparse reporting of ballot campaign expenditures by the two political committees is rejected as inaccurate by the COPP because, as set out below, the two committees engaged in consistent campaign activity that is not reflected by the expenses.”
A look at the ballot issues that were open between November 2013 through February 2014 shows that there weren’t any open because I-167 was cancelled in November and I-169 was opened in February. “What would the MTA or MEWM spend money on exactly when there wasn’t an open ballot issue?” Walrath wonders.
Additional claims by Motl that the MTA’s financial records showed reimbursements paid during that time that weren’t reflected on campaign expense reporting ignores the fact that the MTA was founded in 1979 and spends a lot of money on trapper education, outreach and legal expenses outside of sporadic ballot issues.
Motl also added a complaint of his own stating in his report that, “Montana law requires that a PAC name itself using a name that “clearly identifies the economic or special interest, if identifiable, of a majority of its contributors.”
Motl doesn’t like the name of the MTA’s PAC so he writes, “It was trappers, in and out of Montana, who opposed I-169 and Montanans for Effective Wildlife Management was required
by law to include the descriptive word “trappers” in its name.
This is especially interesting since the name “Montanan’s for Effective Wildlife Management” was registered with the Secretary of State’s Office nearly 7 years ago.
The MTA and MEWM have retained an attorney and plans to appeal this decision made by Jonathan R. Motl on the grounds that his report is based on sophistry, and was written with the intent to demonize the MTA and MEWM in support of his former clients’ campaign. Additionally Motl should have recused himself from the case because of his intimate history with the animal rights activist group that filed the complaint against James Buell. Under Motls own volition, Motl changed the complaint from one complaint against James Buell to two complaints against the MTA and MEWM without notifying James Buell.
Of the three non-specific allegations listed in Motl’s report Walrath says; “Motl’s report is absolutely ridiculous.”
Let us Know if you agree.